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Archive for May 19th, 2008

Letter from Farmer John: May 19 2008

Farm Update #2

Hi Everyone,

It’s hard to believe 2 weeks has gone by since my last update; time flies when you have too much to do! It’s shaping up to be another dry spring similar to last year. Various predicted rains have failed to materialize or perhaps I should say, have vaporized. Drought is difficult in any season but it is worse in the spring because so many seeds are being planted that require consistent moisture to germinate well, and so many transplants are being set out that require adequate water to take root and begin growing.

Another complication is with field preparation which involves plowing under cover crops or weeds (nature’s cover crops) and debris from last years crops to decompose. The microorganisms that perform this brilliant act of recycling require water for their activities and without moisture decomposition grinds to a halt. This has me particularly worried because I rented, and have just plowed an additional 6 acres of field that has been in hay for many years. The thick sod gets flipped over by a mull board plow to lay face down and rot, which will take weeks or even months. The process can be accelerated by rototilling, but in dry conditions this is less effective and also creates clouds of dust and windborne soil loss. But don’t worry too much (that’s my job!) there’s rain in the forecast and maybe the weatherman isn’t lying this time.

In any event the first planting of peas is up and growing as are the fava beans, in spite of having there beds severely trampled by the neighbor’s escaped horses. We’ve planted thousands of brassicas (were you paying attention during that class?) and lettuces these past 2 weeks, watering them in with hoses and watering cans. We’ve also been planting tens of thousands of onions in the past weeks, these at least are a bit easier to irrigate since they are planted on black plastic mulch with drip lines. It’s only a matter of hooking up the lines and opening a valve, a task that needed to be done anyway.

A couple of good rain days will also allow us to catch up on greenhouse work, and begin cutting up seed potatoes. We have thousands of tomato, eggplant and pepper plants that need to be moved into larger soil cells and it’s time for another round of greenhouse seeding. Cutting up seed potatoes into small pieces for planting is a daunting task when you’re sowing over 2000 lbs. This will likely be one of the jobs that I will be requesting help with during the upcoming volunteer work days.

That’s all for now, pray for some rain, but not too much!

Farmer John

Update to the update: In between writing the update and sending it out we got about an inch and a half of rain, so I’m sorry I ever mentioned the D word. Now the forecast is for a rainy week ahead, and I’m hoping they’re wrong this time!

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