Sunday, April 27, 2014

planting: hurry up and wait

plowing is pretty satisfying, but I'm going to phase it out for most of the acreage
 This year is the first full year on the farm, and it's the first planting season I've been here for.  I'm starting to learn the planting math, or rather, the planting calendar.

The first part is pretty fun, and pretty easy.  Going through the seed catalogs for things that look like they'll sell, or will grow well.  Then checking with the local agricultural extension to confirm what grows well, taking some soil samples for testing to see what the soil is like, if there's something that would make it better for plants, and then ordering.

I looked up the date of last frost, and built my initial schedule around that; ideally I want to have my fields prepped and ready just before the optimum planting date, but the weather has something to say about that, and it's been raining.  A lot.  If it rains enough I can't plow or disk; the problem plowing is that the tractor doesn't have enough traction to pull the plow through the soil if it's wet, and the problem with disking is in the picture right below.    
disk with added mud
Most of the fields are sandy loam, but there's bands of clay and fine silt out there, and when it gets wet it turns into butter, and butter is slippery and sticky.  So I can't plow when it rains, and I can't disk, so for the last two weeks or so I've been doing various other things -- I fabricated some brackets to hang the scrapers on the plow, for instance -- when I found out that each bracket from John Deere was $110, and I needed 8 of them.  The steel cost me $70, and the U bolts cost me $130, and for $200 and some careful work with a cutting torch, the scrapers are on the disk, but it's still too wet.

This coming week I've got 5 or 6 days of sun and warmer, so I should be able to get all of the seedbed preparation done and get it planted.

I had a good example across the road about how another farmer did this.  there was a period of 2 or 3 days when the weather was right; and he ran his tractors for 18 to 20 hours a day during that time.  The result?  He got his seedbed in, and he's now two weeks ahead of me in terms of planting, which can make the difference between 2 cuttings and 3 of hay this year.  Big difference.  So next year, or later this year, when there's a weather window that allows me to work, I'm going to work longer and harder to fit into that schedule that mother nature provides me.
scrapers before installation.  Had to make brackets before I could hang them

1 comment: said...

Yes, I often think farming is about windows. You have a window of time to get your work done, and then you wait until the next time its fit. I love the feeling of working very hard and getting a job done before rain.
Recently I debated rototilling my rye cover crop or waiting until the next time its fit, (week of rain forecast here). I waited, but I'm unsure of myself because I don't have much experience with rye or rototilling.