Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Pre-mow rye (get it?).
I know, I know, I can't seem to stop talking about the rye in the high tunnel, but it's just too gorgeous not to. And besides, it's really the only thing growing right now. We can't work the field because it isn't dry enough, so I'm going to keep blabbing on and on about the rye until something else distracts me.
Mow rye (get it?).
I mowed down the remaining west half of the high tunnel. I'll rototill it in then plant more greens, hopefully tonight.
I'm in love with the rye.
Post-mow rye (nothing to get here).
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Green, green, green.
On Sunday, after hauling my auction loot home (see here), Clyde was out at the farm to help me figure out the water conundrum. I hooked up the air compressor to the hydrant by the valve and very quickly, air backed up and leaked back out, which seemed to indicate a block and not a leak somewhere. Also, given how quickly the air back up, the block seemed to be very close to that hydrant. Before I go on, I have a bit more explaining of the water system to do.
As I said earlier, the water line comes down from the reservoir to a valve which controls the greenhouse hydrant after running through a loop in the quonset. But before the line gets to the valve, it branches off and a line goes to the brooder. For this, there is no valve or exposed pipe, so this line has water in it all year round. Now back to Sunday.
Since there was still no water to the greenhouse or high tunnel, we bought 350' of 3/4" black plastic pipe to run from the hydrant in the brooder (year round water, independent of the stupid loop in the quonset) to the hydrant by the high tunnel. We connected this line to the actual high tunnel hydrant, opened it up, turned on the brooder hydrant, and essentially back filled the pipe that is blocked. In this way, I was able to use the drip irrigation setup I had in the high tunnel. As much as I enjoyed the hand watering, I was glad to turn a couple of knobs and let the drip tape do its work.
The things we do and the expenses we incur.
Yesterday evening, in order to get the tractor into the garden, I had to turn off the hydrant in the brooder and disconnect the black plastic pipe from the high tunnel hydrant. When I peeked in the high tunnel, I noticed the water was still flowing, which indicates the line to the greenhouse and high tunnel appears to be unblocked and working again. Hallelujah.
Drip, drip, drip.
Posted by Jacob at 6:28 AM
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Sunny, muddy day.
A couple years ago, I went to my first auction (see this post) and was too nervous to even raise my hand once. All these old guys were confidently sticking one finger up or nodding ever so slightly, back and forth, back and forth, as though they had pots of gold in the backs of their barns.
I had another chance last weekend just north of Conrad. It was a smaller auction and fewer pieces of farm equipment, but two items immediately caught my attention: an old John Deere manure spreader and an A.T. Ferrell Company No. 27 Clipper fanning mill seed cleaner.
Early in the auction, I bid on a little garden cart then dropped out. I figured it served as my warm-up. When the auctioneer got around to the manure spreader, my heart was racing. How high should I go? Who will bid against me? Will somebody be willing to pay top dollar so they can park it in their front yard and plant flowers in the box? Or put a mailbox on the end of it? What is the maximum I'm willing to shell out?
After observing the auctioneer selling off the previous items, I knew that he would start high, wait for somebody to bid, then drop the opening bid. This is what happened and when he dropped the opening price, I threw my arm in the air. Somebody countered, though I couldn't see who. We went back and forth in $25 increments until he quit and it was left to me. "Going once, twice, sold to the young man right there. What's your number son?" Bidder number 80 wins the spreader and I won it for far less than I thought. That was almost too easy. I have to admit, I felt a little cocky and walked with a bit more strut. Never mind I just won a 1930s or 1940s manure spreader that nobody else wanted.
Now for the Clipper seed cleaner. The Clipper was near the end of the last line of stuff, so I had to wait through all the tractors and vehicles before we got to it. In the meantime, my lovely wife and lovely daughter stopped by to have lunch with me from our friends Steve and Lisa's hamburger stand (A Land of Grass Ranch). It was Willa's first, but definitely not last, auction. She even flapped her arm and squealed during some bidding. She didn't win anything, though.
Finally the Clipper came around and again, my heart jumped. And again, the auctioneer started high, then dropped. And again, it was just me and one other guy. And again, it didn't last long, and I walked away with an old farm-scale two deck fanning mill.
Our dirty seeds' savior?
A successful day, to say the least, and the beginning of a lifetime of springtime auctions on the high plains.
Hey now, humm-a-na- humm-a-na, SOLD!
Posted by Jacob at 6:11 AM
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Sunday I planted the first food crops in the high tunnel. The rye is small enough that it was easy to work it up with the little rototiller. I seeded beets, radishes, leeks, scallions, spinach, a greens mix, and a lettuce mix.
Then it came time to turn on the water, but first I need to explain just how we get water to begin with. On the south side of the farm, about 1/2 mile away, is a reservoir that gets filled from the irrigation ditch. From the reservoir, there is underground pipe that flows downhill to the farmstead buildings. It flows to a valve and a hydrant behind the house. From there it branches two directions. The direction I care about, to the greenhouse, high tunnel, and garden, first goes into the quonset, where many years ago it was used for something or another. For whatever reason, this something or another required the water line to leave the safety of being buried 6 feet deep below the frost line, come out of the ground, make a loop and go back into the ground, safely 6 feet deep. Ultimately it doesn't really matter how deep the rest of the line is buried, that one short exposed loop in the quonset causes all sorts of problems. It will freeze and break in the late fall, winter, and early spring. So each fall, we have to shut the water off and blow the line out so there is no standing water in the loop over winter. Come spring (right now!), we turn the water on, and hope the days and nights aren't too cold for too long.
With our new high tunnel, we now have early season water requirements, so I turned the water on and waited for it to come flowing out of the hydrant by the high tunnel. It did not. After such a successful planting session, I spent about 2 hours wandering all over, trying to figure out why there was no water. Water flowed from the hydrant by the valve, but no water was even getting to the loop. So that seemed to indicate a blockage or break somewhere between the valve and the loop, about 300 feet. It remains a mystery, but until it's solved, all those seeds I sowed need water. So water them I did, and again last night and will again today and tomorrow and for the foreseeable future until water flows again or I find a break somewhere.
The pipe that delivers the water.
The complex, labor-saving irrigation system.