Saturday, April 25, 2015

2015 crop plan, planting season

Sorry I haven't blogged much in the last few days or week.  Couple of farm projects have been calling me, and now it's planting time.  This is the time of year when my schedule isn't really in my control; I'm mostly out trying to get any dirt work done in short weather windows.

The weather this year has been unseasonably warm; we've had days in the 70s, which for april is unusual; and a little bit of rain, but not as much as usual.  That means that the conditions are right for seed-bed preparation, which for me means good quality tractor-time.

It's my chance to listen to that audio book or podcast that I made a note of; i try to save them up so that I can slip on the earphones and drive in straight rows.

Here's the 2014 crop plan

Here's the 2015 crop plan
click on the picture for a bigger version
you'll notice that there's a big patch in the middle that isn't marked as a crop; that's because the alfalfa-grass and alfalfa that I planted in 2014 are doing great; very happy with the growth, plenty of good forage potential, got 4 cuttings off of it last year, can't say enough good stuff about it.  So for this year there's no planting or tilling activity there at all; grazing and harvesting the forage is about it.
On the far left-side is a long thin strip labeld buckwheat test.  Now that my neighbor to the west and I have reached an agreement on where the property line is, I'll be adjusting my fence to it, and the strip of ground that opens up I'll till and plant buckwheat on.  I don't know what I'll do to harvest it; I may plow it under, or graze it off, or even try harvesting a little as grain, but that's something I'll decide later.  I want a fast-growing crop that I can use to cover disturbed ground, like around water troughs, and I want to see how it grows.

The vinyard is new, and it's a little tiny purple square at the lower left hand corner.  It'll be 3 years before I see grapes, but I did put some berries in while I was at it, so I'll see some marionberries next year.  love marion berries.

Winter squash grow pretty well around here and I'm putting in a couple of acres of them.  Last year I spaced the squash at 6 to 8' intervals, this  year I'm going with 4' intervals in the rows, with 8' between the rows.  I'm also going to be trying black plastic mulch to surpress as many weeds as possible without hand-weeding, which is what I did last year and it sucked.

Grain corn experiment is the yellow square right above the squash.  I'm going to plant a different variety of corn, and hope that it ripens enough that I can harvest it as grain corn.  I can harvest it by hand into a corn crib, or find someone with a combine around here, or maybe buy me a john deere 6600 type combine and do it myself.  But I don't have to do anything until fall; just plant it now and come up with some scheme to weed it.  Thinking about locating a rotary hoe and trying that.

Rework area (in red, left bottom) is a difficult area of ground for me.  Unlike the rest of the tillable ground, there's a lot of rocks and not much soil and we drove the tractors around there when the soil was wet so there's some big ruts and dips.  I've been stockpiling my manure solids there and encouraging the pigs to root in that area.  The plan is to see if I can't borrow the vibratory screen the neighbor has and remove a bunch of the rocks, and then spread the manure and till it all in and add some topsoil depth.  Smooth and pack it, and then plant with something.   Probably grass/alfalfa, but it'll depend if I can get the ground in a shape that I feel happy with.   There's a bunch of thistles around there that I really want gone, and a good green cover will help that.

30/70 alfalfa/grass is where I grew silage corn last year.  Soil tests say it could use a bit of nitrogen and a bit of lime, so I'll add the lime and the alfalfa will help with the nitrogen.  It'll probably be alfalfa for 2 to 4 years, depending on how long the stand lasts.  I'm choosing 30/70 because the cows have indicated what they prefer by where they graze.  It's pretty simple -- the dissapearance test.  3 or 4 times a day I look out on the field and note where the cows are grazing, and every day or two I'll walk out and check the grass condition.  they have clearly indicated they like that mix of grass and alfalfa, and the butter they're producing is a lovely lemon/sun yellow as a result.

 Silage corn was fallow last year (I didn't get to the wheat/alfalfa planting last in the time that I wanted, and by the time I did it was covered with clover, so I just left it.  the cows like that clover, and I saw a lot of insects and other life that I didn't see in the grass/alfalfa, so I left it fallow.  I'll use a portion of that for silage corn,

Woodlot is in the far right hand corner.  It's 5 acres of mostly-alder.  Pretty big trees, maybe 25" in diameter, and enough of them fall over every year that it will supply wood for the wood stove that I'll be installing this year.  I have propane heat, but I honestly prefer wood heat and wood heat works when the power fails, which it does with unfortunate regularity.

Finally there's an area marked fallow.  I'm going to leave a portion fallow for a second year because i'm curious what will happen.  Clover adds to the soil fertility, and it's volunteer, and doesn't cost me anything.  If it persists I may not need a cover crop.  Just let the seedbank in the soil provide my cover crop.

I will also be farming a neighboring property, about 45 more acres.  the previous lessor had allowed blackberries and other stuff to encroach on the tillable area, so it will take some work to figure out the final shape of the fields, but my intention is to plant them in the same 30/70 mix that has worked well for me on my land.   Depending on soil tests I may plant corn on a portion - move the grain corn experiement here, or a portion of the silage corn.   Here's the map of that property

My total farmed acreage will go up from 70 to 110.  Depending on how this neighbor feels about my work on his fields I may be able to add another 50 to 70 acres next year.


George said...

Keep an eye on your sulfur content on those alfalfa fields as well. It is can be one of the first nutrient deficiencies you'll see, along w/ potassium. A foliar feeding right after baling off will help quite a bit.

Have you been chopping and ensiling the forages for your pigs? How are they getting along with it, growth wise and time to finish for market?

Bruce King said...

thank you for the heads up on the sulfur. I did not test for it and it wasn't suggested - almost no one in my area grows alfalfa, so people are more used to testing for other crops.

I haven't done a grass/alfalfa cutting so far this spring; it's a timing thing. It takes about 30 days for it to regrow after a cutting, and the haying weather around here doesn't appear until mid-june to early july on a typical year (might be a little earlier this year, forecast says it will be warm) so I'm waiting a bit so that the regrowth will correspond to the average haying weather, or when I start getting bloom. I'm hoping to do a cutting in mid-may, and am grazing pigs and cows on it to try to retard the growth a little. with only 100 pigs and 25 cows it's growing faster than they can eat it.

I've never used teh forage head for that chopper, so that's on the list for this coming week -- grease and inspect and hook it up and test it.