Monday, April 28, 2008

Ah, Spring ... sort of

We hear a lot of these little guys at night now. Ever since the snow melted the spring peepers have made nights very loud and exotic. The sound is similar to Maryland's insect chorus on August nights, but maybe louder. I'm sure we have plenty of tadpoles in the vernal pools in the back 6. The ducks and geese are eating something.

We've begun excavating the garden and planting some cold-tolerant crops (we're still a good 4 weeks from the first frost-free night). So far we have planted sugar peas, two types of chard, mesculin mix, spinach, kale, arugula, broccoli, two types of lettuce, mache, mizuna, and beets. The peas, chard, and arugula are all up. Hopefully they will stay up; we're supposed to have overnight lows in the lower 20s tonight.

Digging the garden beds has been a useful exercise. There is a lot of rock. So far the biggest boulder we've unearthed was the size of a soccer ball. The good news is that there is plenty of quality soil between the boulders. The soil maps were generally correct -- most of the soil we've worked so far is silt-loam, but there is a band of heavy clay towards the eastern end of the plot that the soil maps did not mention. We have submitted a sample for detailed analysis, and are waiting the results before we start guessing at soil amendments.

Our intention this year is to grow crops chiefly for our own use, and to get to know the place better. To that end, hand digging the garden beds is possible, even enjoyable for the first several hours. But larger scale production will demand a little more mechanization. That's where this baby comes in:

This is an Italian made "walking" tractor. It's a two wheeled tractor powered by an 8hp Lombardini diesel engine, with pivoting controls and mounts a standard set of implements on quick connectors. Ours is coming with a rotary plow, tiller (pictured), 53" sickle bar, and a chipper/shredder. The advantage of this system is that we buy and maintain a single power plant, rather than buying a separate engine with each implement. In time we can also add other implements -- log splitter and snow blower spring to mind, but they make all kinds of things for these tractors like carts, spaders, finish mowers, and even balers. We could have gone with a small, conventional tractor, but the neighbors have plenty of those for borrow or hire if we need them, and we wanted to be as miserly with fuel use as possible. Here is a link to just such a tractor in action with a rotary plow. I'll let you know how they are at handling rock.

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