2005. We are planting in our 2-acre Frankfort
field (land used to grow conventional soybeans in 2004). The
soil here in Frankfort is very different from that on our
1/2-acre Mokena field only 5 miles away. The Frankfort soil
crusts over pretty quickly and is powdery in many places.
It seems as though there is no organic matter in the soil
In early May, I had a semi-truck load (30 yards) of compost
delivered from a large, local organic herb farm. We sent out
an urgent plea to the CSA members asking for their assistance
in spreading the compost and had a few volunteers offer to
help out. The day before we were scheduled to work, it rained
(the only rain we got in all of May). We cancelled the volunteer
date and have been faced with that mountain of compost ever
Now we are applying compost as we plant (transplants get
a shovelful in their planting hole). For seeded crops, I am
laying down a line of compost and coming back over with the
Earthway seeder, hoping to have the compost incorporated into
the soil a little through this process. The tomato and pepper
transplants are looking good in their little compost beds.
When all is planted, I will distribute any remaining compost
over the top of the field by wheelbarrow and shovel.
Irrigation and refrigeration are very urgent concerns right
now. The drip irrigation system in Mokena is installed and
worked fine for one cycle, after which the pump started acting
weird and is now not drawing water at all. It turns on OK
but pulls no water from the creek. After doing all the troubleshooting
I can think of – which certainly isn’t much; cleaning
the filter and checking to be sure the pump is primed –
it is still dead in the water (so to speak). My brother-in-law
Steve is a pipe fitter and helped install the system last
year. He thinks that the impeller may be loose and has offered
to come out and take a look. Thank goodness for handy brother-in-laws.
Irrigation at the Frankfort field is a whole different issue.
Our water source (a well of unknown capacity) is 1,000 feet
away up at the barn. The spigot puts out about 600 gallons
per hour. There is a 1,000-gallon stock tank right next to
the spigot, and we will be able to use that as a holding tank.
I plan to push the water down to the field through 2-inch
aboveground PVC pipe assembled with a union every 40 feet
so that it can be taken apart and stored for winter. I should
be able to run 24-100-foot drip tapes continually and am cogitating
on the best way to make the them moveable and the system flexible.
Our first pickup will be next week—peas, lettuce and
radishes—but I still don’t have refrigeration.
Yikes. I thought that one or two used, reach-in type restaurant
coolers housed on my back porch would be a good solution,
but the units won’t fit through the door. The only other
home for such a unit on my property would be our one-car garage,
and installing a cooler would eliminate forever the possibility
of parking a car in there. As it is, I commandeer the garage
for tool storage and staging of landscape jobs in the summer
and then clear everything out in the fall so we can at least
get the car out of the winter weather.
Plan B for refrigeration was to turn an existing backyard
shed into a cooler using a window air conditioner, and my
Dad agreed to help with the project. Unfortunately, I have
since learned that the thermostat on the AC unit will only
allow the temperature to go down to 60 degrees. Plan B, Shed-to-Cooler
Conversion, Revision 1: Dad is working on insulating the shed
with polystyrene while Pipe-Fitter Steve and I hunt for a
condenser and coil that is within budget ($400). If this shed-to-cooler
conversion works, I will still be able to use the shed for
winter storage of tools and get the car in the garage.
This certainly is a time of long days, short nights and to-do
lists that have no end. I feel as though I am hanging on by
a thread and praying that the thread is made of some newfangled,
space-age material that is incredibly strong and resilient.