Bluebird Grain Farms

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Planting a cover crop of buckwheat.

June, sweet June indeed.  I can think of a few sweeter than this June.  Although it comes as some sort of irony in the midst of COVID, weather-wise I can’t think of a finer spring than this in the 27 years now I’ve been fortunate enough to call the Methow home.  The typical dry April was very sunny and never hot or cold.  May kept that groove going until the rains began, on and off, toward the end.  Now we are already on the sling side of the summer solstice!  June – typically our wetter of the spring/summer months – did not disappoint and we are ever the more grateful as ground moisture was low following the meager valley snowpack.  

Although June brings the longest light, some call it Junuary around here and true enough as it was cool right up to solstice where, as if on cue, temperatures warmed and all the crops jumped.  Our cover crop peas planted way back in April grew up that fast,  into a tangle, and are now beginning to flower.  We will need to mow them soon, then put them down into the soil.  Our spring wheat filled in, but just in the last 3 days has jumped with some plants headed to the 4th leaf stage.  We just finished sowing buckwheat and it completely rowed in just 5 days!

Pasayten Hard White Spring Wheat in its early stage of growth.

Mother always sets the stage; us farmers are the ones that fret and think about all the things that can go wrong and although they most certainly do at times, it seems Nature always gives us a chance. And so, on this heavy year of cover crops for us here at Bluebird, we’re hoping to add back nutrition that went with the harvest, and help set the stage for next year’s crop.  This has been our practice since the beginning. Call it “carbon sequestering”, “sustainable Ag”, or “Regenerative Ag”… it is simply organic farming 101.  Or at least the premise behind it so I believe – always trying to put back at least what one has taken.  Trust me, results vary!

Perhaps the best bird story of the month involves a goofy bank swallow that decided to take up nesting activities in the soffit of our old John Deere cab.  Previously, this was wren territory, and the past few springs the wren that began this ritual always returned and tried to raise up a brood by stuffing the vented exterior ceiling full of sticks. Seems like this only takes a wren about a half hour!  However, this year a swallow must have beat the wren to the spot.  Wrens and swallows are very competitive with one another. So every time one climbed into the cab to use the JD which almost always stays around the granary here, a swallow would come flying out of the left cab soffit. This was all well and good until one morning we moved the JD out to Big Valley so we could load the seed drill with buckwheat.  It wasn’t until that evening when I was trying to finish and loaded the last of the seed that I heard the faint but distinct chirping… of the chicks inside. Or at least 1 chick.  Sh——-!

There was but one thing to do. Instead of finishing up the field, I drove up to the highway in the tractor and joined the fray of “essential travelers” boiling over the Pass to the Methow, and revved the poor old tractor full bore. As soon as I turned down to the granaries 45 minutes later, and came to a stop, Mumma swallow circled 3 times then swooped right into her nest!

But the flycatchers and bluebirds and grouse all seem to have had their young in more conventional places as many young are learning to fly and find food and some quail already are on brood 2!  They all are terrific and even the natty wrens are forgivable if they – not by accident – wake me at 4.

We’ve enjoyed nighthawks, nightjars, cooper and sharp-shin hawks very close in. As well as a pack of coyotes – mostly young – which may explain why I’ve only seen one fawn this year?

Now we’ve had a day hit 90, and several in the 80’s to come. Now the long light is bringing full strength to the soil. Now our orders for products have slowed and given our new crew time to orient at a slower pace, and get ready for… well… who knows?  We do know the crops are in and doing well and folks need to eat. We do know that the past 4 months may never be repeated, and yet could easily be. We do know many are still in dire straits and this COVID 19 is not finished.  By any means.  So, Continue on with common sense.  Continue to contribute to graceful fashion what we all can.  Continue to be diligent toward settled down days ahead?  Fresh air, good countryside, and healthy foods I wish were available to all.  These past few months has me thinking of ways we could possibly make this happen. I’ll keep thinking…

Yours, Farmer Sam

COVID home project #25, making room for the fruit trees in our home orchard.