Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Real farming 101

Last week was another busy one for us on the farm.  The Harms' tenant farmer had just finished harvesting the corn off of the land around our house so we could finally start prepping our 10 acres for next year. Out of these ten acres we will be using 6 acres for pasture and 4 for vegetable fields.
Our original plan was to cover crop all 10 acres with rye and vetch to build up the organic matter and nutrients in the soil and let the root growth alleviate some of the soil compaction.  However since the corn did not get harvested until the middle of October we didn't want to take the risk of having all 10 acres of cover crop fail to germinate due to cold weather.  So we decided to plant just the 4 acres we will be using for vegetable fields.
Of course none of this went according to plan.  First we couldn't find nearly enough rye seed to cover 4 acres.  We needed 200lbs but ended up with only 125.  Because of this we could only seed 2 acres. 
Next we needed a manure spreader to spread some compost we had purchased from our neighbors' dairy farm.  Amazingly, our neighbors at South Pork Ranch happened to have one taking up space on their farm so they just told us we could have it!  We were excited to use it so we filled it up and drove it out to the field.  But as soon as we fired up the tractor's PTO (power take off) a vital piece of the spreader just fell off.  So much for spreading compost.  Next we used Mr. Harms' tractor and disc harrow to cut up the corn stalks and till the field.  That went smoothly but there was so much crop residue on top of the field that running the disc over it a couple times did not expose much soil.  For the final step of seeding the rye and vetch the plan was for us to use a couple of push seeders that we got for cheap at the Champaign Habitat for Humanity store.  As soon as we pushed them out onto the field we realized that wasn't going to happen.  The terrain was just too rough for the seeders to work properly.  So Emma and I spent the whole morning walking back and forth across our 2 acre field, tossing seeds out of a bucket.  Now we just hope the seeds actually manage to grow in spite of all the crop residue and the cold, having been planted so late in the fall.
Emma discing in the corn stalks with Mr. Harms' tractor and disc harrow
Rye and vetch seeds
Seeding our cover crops

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