Well here we go…the great “blogging” experience has begun for your dear farmer. If I can keep the darn page from jumping around every two seconds we might just be able to “connect.” Never too late to learn new tricks and what better time than here in the fresh springtime? Where this will lead is anyone’s guess.
To be sure, springtime it is here in the Methow foothills! The rapid change we saw from no snow prior to February, to 4 feet by March, we’ve now seen in reverse. Now, the robins indeed have it right. As do the towhees, the northbound geese, the meadowlarks and, of course, the mountain bluebirds! I saw the first group of brilliant males a week ago – nothing more stunning than their brilliant blue against the brown hillsides of by-gone winter. With the show of bluebirds comes the beginning of one more farming season.
As I’d speculated, spring field work has begun as we send out our April news…I mean, “blog.” This means I’ve been out and taken a variety of soil plugs from all our fields and sent them to our soil folks so we can see whether we were naughty or nice the past growing season.
The grains that we’ve been milling has been very pleasing all winter long so I’m confident the crop was healthy. However, the goal is not to run out the goodies in one year’s harvest.
As Bruce Tainio once stated, ideally your soils should be in as good if not better shape after harvest than they were before. Soon we will know.
Next, we’ll be evaluating what minerals we might need to apply, and where. I like to do our main nutrient applications before we perform any spring-tillage.
This way, we get a more thorough amendment mix in the soil with each pass of cultivation, also, there will be less risk of compaction caused by a heavy amendment wagon on freshly tilled soil.
We’re looking forward to getting our new Big Valley lease into production. Last fall we left Big Valley plowed and only packed and therefore, this lease will require the most work as we now need to prepare a new seedbed, and on ground that has not been farmed in a long, long time. The rest of the fields are in good shape and will only require the couple rounds of tillage/cultivation before packing and planting.
Because the ground froze deeply and prior to any snow-pack last year, much of the snow we finally received in February either evaporated or ran-off before actually sinking into the profile. The down-side here is the obvious moisture deficit to an extent in the upper profile. The better side is, we should be able to get right on the fields for work, despite that rather late, and extensive snow-pack. While out taking soil samples, I was pleased with the early tilth of most soils. They were pliant and just about the right moisture content to get on. If for some reason we should get into early rains, this, of course, could all change.
So, when will we plant? Ahh, I like to quote Dorthy Evans, one of the older farmers here in the valley, who when asked the planting question gave pause and replied something like: “Well… when we get the time to, I suppose.” For us, this means we lay out a plan but Mother Nature always has the final word. Do I look to have some crops in by the month’s end? Yes. Could it be as late as the end of next month? Yes. I will say that if I knew we were to have a dry fall, I wouldn’t bother planting until the first week in June. Our heaviest crops have been June planted, but that leaves us pushed up against even more uncertain harvesting weather in Sept and even October. Generally, harvesting weather is more predictable in August/early September.
Our seed selection has begun and we’ll be stock-piling our seed this month. We look forward to planting back our own einka seed this year as well as the customary emmer, hard red and white wheats. I’ve taken a quick glance at our fall rye and our fall peas – our only fall seeded crops. They are barely awake and it is too early to judge how they are doing. We’ll know more in the next couple weeks as the 60 degree days and longer nights add up. The cold, snow-less weather we had in the early winter certainly will be a test!
Meanwhile, the granary has been humming. I got the chance to work in there quite a bit last month as Walt was down for a spell, and I was impressed with the interest in our goods. As always, we would not be doing this without all of you and we sure are grateful. It was good for me to complete the circle again, wherein the processing of fresh grains and flours reminded me of just what it is we are up to here: growing and delivering nutritious food.
Mariah and Larkin were thrilled to have the trampoline back up! The lawn is raked, trees pruned, Brooke has been happily planting more trees around the place here and the Labs are happy to be back swimming. I hope this finds all of you enjoying the early days of sweet spring wherever this may find you. “Blog on…!”
Yours, Farmer Sam