March 19, 2006

I won’t claim that this weekend was the most productive, but it had its moments. Saturday blew with another of those north winds that is less than fun to work in (but better than rain anyday). I worked on the berries, a little. I weeded, a little. We executed squirrels, worked on equipment, did this and that. By midday I was feeling hopelessly unfocused, so I climbed into one of our big trees, lay back on a huge limb, and looked up at the new green leaves while the wind howled. That was nice. Then I dug up some nutsedge, troddled off into a grassy area, thought “why not?”, and decided to lay down on the grass. It doesn’t seem so windy, down on the grass. The sun feels warm. I saw some loose dirt and picked up a handful, it felt cool but not cold. Very crumbly. You could pick up a thousand handfuls of dirt and never have quite the same feeling twice, I’m learning that the soil composition varies more than I thought from location to location. For some reason all this brought up a memory about farmers testing the soil for planting by dropping their trousers and assessing the soil warmth the good old fashioned way….cheek power. I’m feeling rather done with winter, and I want to move on to other things. Like planting seeds and more berries. But it’s going to rain tomorrow, and the area for this summer’s garden lies empty, not even vaguely ready for planting. I’m impatient and I’ll just have to get over myself.

This weekend Ken was at long last able to repair our flail mower, it is back in business. So within a day, he managed to run over a piece of wire fencing hidden on the ground. It was my fault for leaving the wire there, so I made it my problem to fix the mower. The mower weighs I would guess about 600 pounds. (A flail mower is different than what most people envision as a mower. The part that gets the job done is a long shaft that runs horizontally under the cowling of the mower. Lots of little metal pieces that look something like upside down number 1 s hang in rows on the shaft. A belt spins this shaft at very high speeds, and the grass is cut by the flailing action of the metal. So if you run over something long, like twine or wire, it’s the same as vacuuming shoelaces or cord with the rotary brush of the vacuum cleaner, just ever so much harder to undo) Even lifted as high as it can go, the tractor can only get the mower about 14″ off the ground. We put big pieces of wood under the edges in case the hydraulics decided to fail. The next 90 minutes were spent with cutting tools (we have been loaned a good wire cutter for reasons unrelated to this episode, and it’s a good thing, because there was NO WAY this would have been possible without it) while I was on my back in a truly uncomfortable position, with you-name-it falling on my face while I tried to cut and work that mess out of there. To top it off, the mower had taken up some baling twine, so that was wrapped around the wire fencing as well. Another farm lesson: if you notice something should be taken care of, and you ignore it, your choice will be rewarded down the road by causing you at least twenty times the work of the original task. And you’ll have no one to blame but yourself!

I called Pamela, a fellow turkey breeder on Oregon today, having found myself in the upsetting situation of having to turn away an order for turkey hatching eggs on account of….the turkeys are being turkeys. I needed to turn my customer over to Pamela for assistance. She told me about the rain and the snow, and I thought I detected a hint of surprise and annoyance that our birds are actually sitting on eggs already. I have to remember that in most places that are not California, it’s not even close to the time to think about warm weather activities. Our birds are rapidly going outta control. Nests are popping up everywhere, turkey hens are hissing like dragons, and even our loose tom Ishmael has gone off the deep end. Ishmael has it in for our neighbor, Drew. Ishmael just hates him, and will seek him out like a bee to a flower in order to harass him. It’s embarrassing, we have a mentally unstable turkey. I’ve studied a lot of avian behavior, and this one has me baffled. I am just hoping that his hormones are getting the better of him and that after breeding season, he behaves a bit better. I petted him today, there’s a lot of nice breast meat there…. Egg production has begun, I will be moving 4 flats of eggs (that’s 120 eggs) out tomorrow. I think we are at about 35 eggs a day…this is what happens when you order 25 chicks.

Our seedlings indoors are doing okay. On one hand, I think we finally have the lights set right this year. The tomatoes are putting out their first true leaves, and the stems are less than 2″ tall. A new record! However, I’m disappointed with these tomato seeds so far, as a group. I bought from a different provider, and the germination rate is not what I’m used to. I will likely replant the pots that aren’t showing anything by midweek. I am really pround of an idea I tried, that appears to be successful. I’ve been reading a lot about capillary mats for starting seeds. The idea is, you purchase this mat, which is made of a special fiber. The seed pots/trays are placed on the mat. The end of the mat sits in water, below the level of the pots. Everything is moistened at the start, and then the surface tension of water acts to draw the water into the little seed pots as the plants need them. The plants are kept at just the right state of moisture, since seedlings they can’t be dry or too wet. I thought about it for a long time, and wondered about using pretty much any fabric with a decent moisture absorbing property. I have lots of these things they use at vet clinics, they are disposable barrier pads with cotton on one side and a plastic backing. I laid them out in a tray of aluminum foil and trimmed them so that the cotton surfaces had contact with each other. I set one end into a tray of water and….it works. Nearly as good as the real stuff, and totally free. I would like to get the “real stuff” at some point, but I like proving to myself that all those expensive things in the garden catalogs can be done without.

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