Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nice crop of algae growing in the fields

The canoe that washed down the creek and ended up in our pasture is back home to its owner, but not without a little bit of drama.  I figured that I would head down to the neighbor's house this past weekend to let them know where their canoe ended up.  Then last Wednesday in the middle of the night it stormed and rained to the tuned of 1.25 inches.  When I got up Thursday morning, the creek was full and the canoe was gone.  So I started having pangs of guilt about not going down the neighbors sooner.  Canoes are not cheap after all.  All I could picture was the canoe traveling down little Peters Creek and into much larger Mill Creek and then to the Grand River and into Lake Erie.  It took until Friday for the water in the creek to go down enough, but then I took the dogs for a walk and went looking.  I found it hung up on a log sideways in the creek about 30 yards from our property line.  Whew!  I went straight down and told the neighbors who did not even realize it was missing because it has been raining so much that they had not been outside in their backyard.  The boys drove the truck over and went and rescued the canoe from the creek.  End of the canoe saga.

We have had almost 2 inches of rain this past week.  Just unbelievable.  As Mike said, the delay in planting crops is transitioning over from annoying to a little scary.  Hopefully we won't find out what a lot scary is like.  Again the USDA crop report that came out today shows just how bad things are in the entire state of Ohio.  Last week 11 % of the corn crop had been planted and this week it jumped to a whopping 19%.  Average is 93% planted.  See, it is getting scary.

So instead of working to make money, we spent the last week spending money.  It was determined that the tiller that broke was terminal.  Mike took a trip over to Pennsylvania and bought a brand new one.  Here it is all shiny and pretty.

Then on Sunday we went and picked up our tractor that just had the new front end loader installed on it.  Mike has been having a tremendous amount of fun driving it around and using it to lift heavy stuff (like the new tiller off the trailer).  I think he is in love with his new loader.  Here is the tractor with the loader and the new tiller on the back.  Ready to rock and roll as the saying goes.  As soon as the rain quits.

I finally got around to taking a garden progress report photograph.  The idea is to stand in the same location on the edge of the field and take a picture to show how the field changes over the course of the growing season.  Just to refresh memories, here is the photo I took on May 11th.

And the picture I took on May 30th

Pretty much the only difference is the trees in the background have more leaves on them and the standing water in the foreground has been there so long that there is quite the proliferation of algae.  I'm thinking though that algae is green and organic and it should add some nutrients to the soil right? 

On a much more happy note, the resident birds seem to be having a good nesting season.  I enjoy watching the wildlife on the farm so very very much. There is a hen turkey that has been hanging out in the front garden area almost every morning this week.  I see her when I go out to feed chickens every morning.  She must have a nest nearby.  And then here is a picture of one of our resident tree swallows that is using one of the nest boxes I put up.  Such beautiful and graceful little birds.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It ain't much, but planting has begun......

We've had a few dry days that have allowed Mike to get into the fields.  By dry, I mean days where it has rained less than a tenth of inch.  Every time a quick shower passes by, we resort to one of our favorite sayings: gee, I'm glad it rained again because the mud was starting to get tacky.  The entire state of Ohio sat last week with 7% of the corn planted (normal is 70%) and this week the number jumped to a whopping 11%.  Whoohoo!  Let's break out the wine glasses and celebrate.  Or perhaps more appropriately, pop the top on a Miller Lite.  Still it is progress.

Of course as soon as the weather gives us farmers minuscule weather windows to get things done, stuff like this happens.

See tiller on tractor

See tiller with hole in side that shouldn't be there

MAJOR MALFUNCTION.  Something big broke inside.  A gear.  The shaft.  Something.  This is NOT the time for this major piece of equipment to go down.  But it is what it is and we are awaiting word whether this is fixable or we will need to make a new equipment purchase.  Either way, the timing stinks.

Now Mike did get some of the garden area tilled before the tiller broke down.  So he worked hard to get his new planter set up and was able to get some spinach, beets and carrot seeds planted.  Finally!  Crops have been planted!

Today, Bill came over and finished fixing one of the tractors.  Needed a new hydraulic line.  Then he replaced some of the wheels that had gone flat on the disc.  So that is ready to go.  When it dries out.  In August.  Let's hope not.

Mike got the chisel plowing done.  Yay!

Meanwhile the baby meat chicks are growing leaps and bound.  This picture is from 4 days ago and it is amazing how much they have changed in just those few days.  They are 2 weeks old now and have reached the stage where I feed in the morning and when I come home at night, I swear they look bigger.  I'm glad they are not out on pasture yet in all this rain.  I usually get them outside somewhere around 3-4 weeks of age depending on the weather. 

And to finish off today's blog .............. you know you've had a lot of rain when ................

Peters Creek is a little (mostly) seasonal creek that runs behind our house.  It does run full during times of flood, but mostly dries out during the summer.  Well last week, a canoe showed up next to the culvert that goes underneath the roadway back to the fields.  I think I know which neighbor this came from, but I have to say seeing a canoe on our little stream is a first.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Screeching halt!

After 3 days in a row last week with actual sunshine, the rain has started again.  We are on our 5th day in a row of rain with at least 2 more days of rain in the forecast before we get a sunny day.  Followed by?  More rain!  Puhleeeeeeeze!  To add insult to injury, the highs the last 2 days have been in the mid 40's when our normal highs should be upper 60's. 

And so we wait and twiddle our thumbs.  Or in my case I baked a couple loaves of bread and some dark chocolate chocolate chip cookies.  Home cooked food is always a good way to beat the weather blues.

Of course when things are looking bleak, it is always nice when someone points out that you are not alone.  Up here in the northeast tundra as we like to call it, we expect delays in planting, but not in the ENTIRE state of Ohio.  The Farm and Dairy publishes a crop report story every week and things are mighty slow getting planted in Ohio in the May 17th story.

The Ohio results are vastly different, however. We are at 7 percent, up from just 2 percent last week. Our average is 70 percent, so we are only a tenth done compared to a normal year.
Ok, so there are other farmers as worse off as us.  And of course we cannot forget the total devastation that has and is occuring along the Mississippi River this year.  We don't have that here.  I imagine that we will get things planted at some point.  Heck it was just 2008 when I remember the guys out planting in the first couple of weeks of July.  So there is precedence.

But let's focus on what actually got done last week.  The "big" fields got chisel plowed.  These are the fields where soybeans will be planted this year.  Wish we could plant corn again as corn prices are surely going to remain high, but we've had back to back corn in the fields and it is time to grow some beans.  Anyway, the fields will need disked and/or tilled and then they will be ready to plant.

Mike got part of the "lower" garden plowed and also tilled so that is ready to plant.  This area will have rhubarb, horseradish and onions.

Mike got started on the main garden area too.  He plowed up the areas where cover crop was planted last year and got a lot of that tilled.  This will be planted with potatoes and various greens (mustard, spinach and such).

Then I got what is probably not that bright of idea to take a photo of the main garden from one spot and show the transformation over time.  Not very bright because now I have to remember to take a picture from this spot on a regular basis and I can't even seem to blog on a regular basis.  The view is taken on May 11th from the tractor path at the corner of the pasture.  I think this area had cantaloupe last year.  You can hardly see the plastic mulch covering the rows because of all the weeds that have grown up.  The plastic needs lifted (we have a machine for this) and then the weeds plowed under. 

And in addition to the gardening activities that took place last week, the first batch of meat chicks arrived last Wednesday.  They are all settled in under their heat lamp and doing well. 

 The only ones that don't seem to mind the weather around here are the 4 pet hens that wander the farm.  There sure has been a bumper crop of worms for them to eat this spring.  This is Blackie and Mama Chicken.  I'll try to get pics of Whitey and Brownie later.

At the rate we are going, the next blog update will be June.  Seriously though, I hope not.  This is spring and things should be rockin' and rollin'.  Maybe next week.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

2011 farming season has officially opened

Farming really goes on year round.  Winter is filled with planning and ordering seeds and maintenance whenever possible.  Early spring brings the start of growing the greenhouse started plants such is tomatoes and peppers and broccoli.  And of course more maintenance.  But I never really consider the farming season "started" until the first plow touches the ground.  Today I pulled in the driveway as I was coming home from work in the evening and was greeted by Mike driving the tractor up to the house from the fields.

The plowing has begun.  It's been so nice to see the sunshine after the past month of rain and clouds and below normal temperatures.  Every year the weather brings a new challenge.  No two years are alike just like snowflakes.  Here's my handsome man parking his tractor in the driveway.

Mike has been diligently working a new piece of equipment for this year too.  It is a combination plastic laying machine/planter.  The machine will plant corn or beans and then lay a row of biodegradable clear plastic over top.  The plastic holds in warmth from the sun and heats the soil faster so that we can plant corn or beans earlier than if we planted in the open air.  When the plants reach a certain height, the plastic will be split so they plants can continue growing.  Pretty cool, eh?

I was FINALLY able to get the three month old layer chicks moved from the brooding pen to the adult pen.  The don't look very "baby" any more.  They are fully feathered and look like miniature full grown hens.  It must be tough to be a prey species though.  The chicks are quite fast and hard to catch and so when I went to move them, I caught them when it was just starting to get dark in the evening.  Most of them were up on the small roost in the brooder pen and you would not believe the squawking and carrying on they would do when I picked them up off the roost in the semi-darkness.  And being in the wide open spaces of the adult pen is a new experience for them too.  The ceiling of the pen is much higher and there is more room so that when I walk in the pen to feed, the chicks all go running and a squawking into the back corner.  Oh, in a week or two they will start to settle down.  They are already starting to look forward to the vegetable trimmings I bring to them to eat as a treat.  Before I know it, they will be following me all over the place like the older hens do.

As I am sitting here typing, there is thunder and lightning moving in from the north.  Funny how there was a near zero percent chance of rain today.  Let's hope we don't get much out of this or the plowing will come to a screeching halt.  Weather and its challenges.  It is what it is.