April Farmer Notes

Farmer Notes

WOW… What a difference a month can make!  Just days after putting up the skis in late March prior to “Spring Break” our still chilly early spring disappeared. March went out like a warm, fuzzy lamb indeed. April arrived and no token snow-squalls came through, in fact, we never even experienced a frost until last night! It has been on the porch for morning coffee most all month and the mornings are all about birds. Robins, quail, geese, ducks, grouse, finches, towhees, swallows, hummingbirds and not the least, bluebirds… to mention a few.  Just this spring I discovered that robins will sometimes sing before actual dawn. Though I’ve not yet noticed this to be true, perhaps there is a shortage of worms this year and the early bird just needs to be earlier?

Shoulder season… NOT as ‘they’ say these days. We’ve not had a shoulder season, just a leap right to spring and despite a very healthy, long winter, things are actually about where they were last spring and last spring was 3 weeks earlier than usual. That fast, the aspen were budded, leaved out and full.  All the fruit trees, except apples, have blossomed or gone by and the balsam-root is as full and prolific as any year we can recall.  I told you this spring would be a dandy once it arrived, but had no idea it would be this vibrant, this early!  And so…

Yes, the scramble to field work began second week of the month and has been on-going since. Weeks of 70-80 degree days drove the surface moisture away and by the time we got cultivating, the fields were about perfect. When I say this what I mean is there is moisture not far down, but the soil surface is dry enough so we are not causing any compaction when we run out machinery, yet we bring moisture up when we do so. We’ve already drilled in a solid 50 acres of spring cover crop on fields that needed a break and a season of rotational nourishment. This year we went back to a nitrogen building vetch variety that not only fixes N but also spreads laterally and puts on a lot of green mass to mow and turn under. The bees LOVE the blossoms as well. We were able to sow this cover right on April’s full moon which feels good. We should see it coming up here by May.

We had wash-out issues on a couple of our other fields due to such a high volume of ground moisture this year. Not big areas at all, but some areas of these fields are still wet so it makes planning a little tricky, to avoid “sticky”!  That said, we do need to mold-board plow one of our bigger fields and I think we’ll be able to do that soon. The others will get spring disking then either the field cultivator or chisel plow  before seed bed prep and plant. I’ve taken spring soil tests and soon will be planning our fertility program. We’ve begun selecting seed stock so as to have ready for sowing hopefully around May’s full moon.

My wish list for tools is as full as a month ago. That said, we’ve got a lot of good tools and will rely on the ones we have for at least one more  season. I like the fact that we know we have plenty of supplemental water this year and really, it is early yet. In fact today the good old northwest wind kicked up, temps came down lower than they’d been all month and the clock seemed to get re-set more to the feel of true spring in the Methow! In other words, there is plenty of time.  Yeah…

Our granary has been steady and to be sure, the crew in there seems happy with the product they are delivering to all of you. Our einka flour is really turning heads and we’ve decided to put in an even bigger crop of the einka this year. As well, we’ll be putting in an average amount of emmer. Given the quality of last year’s crop, our seed stock should be very strong this year.

Of course, big MN will have the final say… each spring I’m reminded what an honor it is to try and work with Mother Nature and, more importantly, try and learn from her – mimic her the best I can – while actually farming her soils.  We appease ourselves many ways, in many ways wherein it is convenient to justify what we do.  However, in reality, to paraphrase one of my favorite writers who passed away last month on his 78th birthday:  “Everywhere we go we do harm… ”  What I try and do, most days, is to do less harm.  By doing so, maybe “least harm” turns into “some” good…

Happy Spring, Yours Farmer Sam