Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Boistfort Valley Farm Gets Plowed

After getting our first round of seeds and transplants in we began to plow in earnest. Very few people plow any more, it is a real lost art. When you see it done correctly it can give you shivers. Here is a view from the seat of the John Deere 3020. We are working about 12 acres here; trying to plow straight and true and flop all the grass from this winter's cover crop under so we can follow with discing and tilling.

Much like with the transplanter I keep my eye on the furrows and endeavor to keeps things straight straight straight. There are a few jokes around here regarding plowing; 1) Always plow parallel to the road so people can't see your furrows, and 2) Plow after people are home from work and disk in the morning.

The tractor we use for plowing and disking is a 1969 John Deere 3020 Diesel. If you close your eyes and picture a tractor, that's the JD 3020. She is in beautiful condition and builds horsepower based on displacement rather than any of that newfangled gimmickry. A very simple machine that sounds great and is a joy to run. Many old timers will tell you that the 30 series is the last real tractor. I don't know about that but I do know this, it is the only tractor we own with a factory hood ornament and cigarette lighter.

When you're plowing you should always look forward. When you turn in the seat you naturally turn the wheel slightly in the direction that you are twisting your body as you look over your shoulder. If you do turn around you should definitely not hold and focus a camera, however if you did, you would get a glimpse at the plows as they fold the top layer of soil over and under the soil below.

Here's what we did for lunch that day. While plowing one of my plows "tripped", which means.....Well on a set of "breaking plows" they are held in place by a big old pin, if you hook something large enough and are moving with enough force, the plow will trip and sort of flop up out of the ground. They can easily be reset by backing up with the plows on the ground. However, then you are obligated to find out what did it. In this case it was an old cedar tree that finally decided to surface. You can see the pile of limbs forming just behind and to the right of the loader bucket. It was a crying shame to dig a big hole in middle of this field but well, we had no choice.

It started me thinking about farming and all other things I suppose. It seems to me that you can teach anyone to plow in a straight line, that the technical skills of any occupation can be developed, even mastered. But the true measure of ones achievement has to be how they handle adversity, how they get the job done under conditions that are unpredictable and sometimes downright unpleasant.

So how did we do?
I think we did real well.
I finished plowing this field yesterday while Patrick mowed the cover crop of the next. By 6pm I had plowed three acres at our third field and Patrick had finished all the field mowing and even spruced up around the edges. We had a short day today as the rain that I have been hoping for to water in all our transplants came late last night and into morning.

We have enough ground ready now that we can start fertilizing, and getting ready for the next round of seeds, and transplanting onions.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Veiw from the Seat

On the 17th after a few days without real precip, we got started. We filled all the fallow ground we had at the farm with potatoes, early peas, lettuce transplants, cilantro, carrots and beets then a planting of what we refer to as Asian misc; arugala, tatsoi, hon tsai tai, radishes, and boc choy. We finished under tractor light expecting rain the next day, we were not disappointed. We got almost an inch two days later. Here, the crew has finished planting potatoes and they are walking back as the tractor prepares to cover the spuds with a set of furrowers.

Then we set in plowing and disking and in short order covered the rest of the ground here at the "home place". We have about nine acres cultivated at the house. We have three other locations leased. We will cultivate a total of about 45 acres this year.

On the 20th we started planting the Kahout Rd. This field totals about 12 acres and is a beautiful secluded site which is ,for better or worse, loaded with wildlife; elk, deer, the occasional bear, and myriad raptors and other birds.
This picture was taken early Monday morning. I am showing off our list of transplants to go in. We set 11,000 plants that day; mostly broccoli, cabbage and kale.

Here is the view from the seat of the transplant tractor. Looking between Liana and Jesus you can see Heidi back there "kicking"; making sure the plants are going in at the proper depth and setting well. To the left is Patrick "Home Sweet" Homa staying ahead of the crew on the tiller. We kept him busy that day.

This is what I am focused on all day. I strive for the straightest rows possible and follow my tire tracks five feet across at a time as we make our way over the acreage, moving at between 2 and .5 miles per hour. Things get a little boring in the seat on days like this, but the finished product is nothing short of miraculous.

When the smoke cleared at about 5pm on the afternoon of the 21st we had finished with the most critical transplant and had set out over 30,000 plants. Patrick and I went back this morning and seeded some early snap beans, and as I write this he is out finishing transplanting artichokes with Liana. Jesus and Francisco are in the greenhouse potting up lettuce and tomatoes. Tomorrow we will start plowing again and the cycle will repeat itself until mid September.

As my friend Nil says: "It's a great life, if you don't weaken."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

In Loving Memory of Manny Pups 9/9/1995 - 4/6/2009

More than 13 years ago on October 30th 1995 I drove up to a home in the Nissqually Valley to look at puppies. I had decided to get a dog having mourned the loss of my Golden Retriever "Candles" for long enough to feel ready to invite another pet into my life. I had decided on a Labrador Retriever and had looked at several litters already.

When I arrived, there they were, 11 total brothers and sisters yapping and wagging in a kennel with their mother. One pup caught my eye, he seemed to posses the kind of intelligence and sensitivity that you cannot train into a dog. The qualities that make for a remarkable companion. He must have thought the same of me, because the attraction was immediate and enthusiastic. We played for a bit, then not wanting to be impulsive, I left. I was back the next day, and the owner took all the pups into the house as we discussed details. Manny climbed immediately into my lap and and went to sleep as the other pups clamored around the kitchen.

On the drive home he settled under the seat of my old pickup and into a deep sleep that lasted the entire drive. This truck would become his home away from home. He went everywhere with me until age and arthritis made it too difficult for him to get in and out.

As a young dog Manny enjoyed running around, sniffing, and swimming. His greatest passion in life was fetching sticks thrown into the river. His love of female companionship as a young dog gave way to more refined interests later in life. His appreciation of sausage remains unparalleled in my experience. He enjoyed a long full life with all the canine benefits of living on a riverfront farm.

On the afternoon of April 6th Heidi came and got me. Manny was in one of our greenhouses breathing heavily and unable to get up. I went to him. He was weak. I picked him up and carried him to the shade behind the shop. We sat down together in the grass. He laid his head in my lap much like he had done over a decade ago. He closed his eyes. His breathing got shallower and shallower and then he drifted off; dieing with the same dignity and grace with which he had lived.

Dear friend, you will be sorely missed.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Roof is all but On

Against all odds, braving rain and high winds that seemed to start the moment these guys showed up, JR roofing has all but finished the barn. The metal is screwed down and part of the hardworking crew will return tomorrow to finish the trim at the gable ends.

Like I said before, I am ready to finish this project, but now that the roof is on it is easy to start getting excited about trim and paint. Patrick, our new farm manager and I will continue to repair the remaining rot in the side walls. We should be finished in just enough time to start farming. Then we will solicit the state to stop in and provide us with a punch list to finish this phase of the project to their satisfaction, and begin to start to think about preparing to plan for the replacement and repair of the aesthetic components of the old barn.