April Farmer Notes

Farmer Notes

Spring! Sort of. Truth to tell, the birds all seem to think spring is here though April has come along begrudgingly.  I’ve begun the seasonal habit of taking coffee on the south porch as opposed to fireside, to better hear and see what really is going on.  From this perch I’ve been listening to both ruff and blue grouse in their separate drumming rituals: The Ruff down along the creek; the Blues up along the greening hills.  Robins galore, towhees, flycatchers, meadowlarks, and our beloved bluebirds. Geese honk about along the valley below. We had the first hummingbird show yesterday and today all at once, swallows!  These early arrivals have worked hard to set my mind at ease after the winter’s peculiar sightings. Alas, perhaps “the world” has not lost total alignment after all?

That fast right around the Spring Equinox, winter let go.  The mercury rose to the 60’s and during the final week of March, almost all of the snow here at the granary disappeared.  The good news is that the moisture went right into the soil profile. The not-so-good, there wasn’t a lot of moisture content in our mostly cold, fluffy snow.  That goes not only for here in the foothills, but up in the North Cascades as well. Quite different than the past couple springs indeed, when we had large volumes of surface water.

Once again, however, we’ve had a delayed beginning to the farming season, just as with the past two springs. This April we’ve had enough consistent rain showers to keep the awakening fields just a tad too wet for travel.  To be sure, we could run the machines out there but one can go backward in a hurry by getting on the soil when it is too moist still.

Compaction is the main concern. On the whole, compaction is a major issue with soils worldwide.  What I look for when I check the soil is to collect a bunch in my hand and squeeze it in my fists.  The ball I make I want to be moist, but it should crumble apart fairly easily. If it sticks tight together and doesn’t have any crumbling qualities, it is still too wet. Not only will tractor tires exacerbate the compaction, but the soil must flow through whatever implement we are running, too. If the soil sticks to the discs or plugs up in cultivators or worse, the seed drill,  then unevenly distributed soil or seed inevitably will come back to haunt.

The worst issue with compaction is an anaerobic soil profile. This results when oxygen and biology are smashed from the soil. Correcting compaction can be a long process, too. Sometimes it takes several seasons.  Here again, if we start with good biology, our soils are less susceptible to compaction.  Let’s not forget plants need water and adding water, either through supplemental irrigation or from the sky, is also the main contributor to compaction. Look up the impact of one raindrop sometime if you are curious.

With that dissertation behind us now, we’ll likely be able to get on our fields this week! Which is about when we did last year and the year before. Both of which proved to be good crop years and so…

It’s been a busy week here at Bluebird, as we cleaned up our first batch of einka seed. My goal is to get some grain planting done during the latter half of the month, as close to the full moon as possible.  Alas, I’ve got to sow some early season cover crop on a couple of our smaller fields, first. I missed the winter peas window on these fields last fall. Then, I’m hoping to sow in some einka after a couple of rounds of light cultivation and then adding our nutrients. I’ll move up the valley from there, and keep rolling with the same program. At least that is the hope! By the next newsletter, I’ll be able to report!

We had a very strong first quarter here at the granary thanks to many of you. People just can’t seem to get enough of our einka flour, our whole grain emmer, our cereals, and the likes!  We love it!

Here’s to enjoying the awakening once again, of Mother Earth. Please keep her always in mind and tread lightly.

Yours, Farmer Sam