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 at all.
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 since.
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
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.