This September, even before falls arrival, we have been enjoying fall like temperatures, and finally plenty of sunshine. We’ve spent a good bit of time setting up irrigation and cleaning up our spring and summer fields in preparation for seeding cover crops. Cover crops on an organic farm, are just as important as growing food for our shareholders and market customers, and these crops are seeded and grown to reduce erosion, add nutrients and organic matter to the soil and suppress weeds among many other benefits.
With the new deer fence, running irrigation to our fall field is more challenging, so we had to come up with a plan quickly since it had not rained in 10 days, the first that we recall since early April. So we scrambled to set up irrigation where these crops are growing because we have not yet irrigated that field since an 8 foot high deer fence has been installed. That required Carl, using our front end loader, to clear and level an area along the creek, just so we were able to back our PTO Pump and Tractor near the creek. Then we laid pipe, installed risers, and were finally able to irrigate the field. Would you believe that once we were in the midst of irrigating it rained? And still while we were irrigating, we received a text message with a flood warning for Meadow Fork Creek, which is the creek that is providing the much needed water for our fall crops. So we turned off irrigation, then pulled our intake pipe out of the creek, because surely enough after we removed the pipe Meadow Fork Creek rose a couple of feet. Had we left the intake pipe in the creek, it might have washed away, clear down into Hot Springs.
Cleaning up our fields means removing rocks that were used to secure our landscape fabric to the ground preventing the wind from blowing it up into the trees. Chris was primarily responsible for removing the rocks that Carl is sitting on. We have placed these near where we will be building the pavilion and pizza oven because we hope to grade these rocks and use the best suited for facing our dream pizza oven.
After removing a few tons of rocks from the fields, we must pull up all the landscape fabric that was used to prevent weed growth. This requires us to pull the weeds from each of the holes where our winter squash/strawberries were growing, then loosen the fabric from the earth, and finally roll it up. Even though the plastic is a bit of work to put down and take up, it beats continually having to weed the crops throughout the season, and in the end saves us time. The landscape fabric also helps to prevent the plant from getting soil born diseases during rain storms because it keeps soil from splashing up onto the foliage.
George loosening the landscape fabric from the earth so that we can roll the fabric up and store it in the barn for the winter. Prior to George being able to pull up the landscape fabric, we pulled weeds from each of the holes where our crops were growing.
Once the fabric has been loosened from the earth, we roll up each of the sections. For easy management we have cut our fabric into 100 foot sections. After the fabric has been removed from the field, we roll up the drip tape, then store both the fabric and the drip tape in the barn for use next season.
Julie is mowing down the old crops. Look closely and you will see red cabbage that never matured because of our extremely wet Spring. Also, notice the weeds are as tall as the tractor! One can look at the positive and believe that the weeds will decay back into the soil creating biomass or one can look at the weeds as another 20 years of weed seed germinating in the fields with us having to remove them from the crops. However, weeds are Mother Nature's cover crop so if the ground is left bare, the weeds will grow and flourish as a means of preventing soil erosion.
After the ground has been mowed, we use the disc to mulch up any spent crops or weeds, and stir up the soil so that our cover crop seed is certain to come into contact with the soil. We also use the disc harrow to bury the large cover crop seeds so that they get better germination.
Above is our PTO (Power Take Off) operated spreader and loaded into the spreader is cereal rye. This season we are mostly seeding a bi-culture of two different cover crop seeds: Cereal Rye that puts down deep roots to help keep our soil aerated and Crimson Clover that adds nitrogen to our soil. In our previous 14 years of farming we also seeded Hairy Vetch but have found the seed toxic to livestock so we have decided to cut that out of our production schedule
Sassy spends her day in the pasture with the pigs. She loves it when we bring her up to the pasture first thing in the morning where she can eat some of the pigs grain and whey.