Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring planting season

 The alfalfa/grass that I planted last year didn't produce a stand that I liked enough to keep, so I'm plowing it under and trying again.   The previous owner of this farm would contract out the work, but I have the equipment and the tractors, so I'm doing it in-house to save a bit of money.

It does save money, but it also is a lot of work.  My equipment isn't as big as the custom guys -- my disk is 12' wide, not 30, and my plow is a 4 bottom instead of an 8,  and my tractor is only 125hp instead of 200, so each step takes me a little longer, but for the cost of maintenance and some diesel, I can get my 60 acres prepped and planted.  It takes 22 hours to plow the ground as the first pass, but I spent some time grading before I started plowing -- removing little hills and valleys that some flood in the past had put into the ground.  When I hay the ground later this year I don't want the mower to hit the ground, so I spent a day rounding all of the little hills and smoothing the valleys out so that all of the slope are gentle and mower-friendly.  

I'm choosing to plow the ground because it got packed hard by the harvesting of the corn last year; the corn chopper weighs a lot, and the semi-trucks loaded with 20 tons of silage each also contributed.   When it's hard-packed there's no space for water, and it's harder for plants to thrive.  Plowing increases the water holding capacity and softens the dirt for root development.
 Smoothing, then plowing, gives results that look like the picture above; it's not in condition to plant into; to break up the clods you need to go over it at least once with a disk harrow; once is best-case; you actually continue to run the harrow over the ground until you're satisfied with the texture of the dirt.  Plowing is relatively slow; discing is pretty fast, about 4x faster than plowing.

can you see the cows?
 This shot is when i'm halfway done with plowing.  It's a big field.

closeup of the same shot, showing cows

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