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How We Deal with Post Election Blues on Our Farm

Apart from being bouyed Elizabeth May’s decisive win in our riding (go, go Green Power!), the rise of the NDP and celebrating Michelle’s birthday, I was incredibly depressed by yesterday’s election results.

This morning in an effort to repurpose abandoned election flotsam for good, I gathered election signs.We will eventually transform their heavy wire frames into wickets, which we use to elevate protective remay covers above our crops during the cooler fall and winter months.

Freshly gathered bag-type signs - it's the wire wicket frames we're after.

Transformed election signs (from the previous federal election) that have been rebent and shortened so that they straddle a 36" wide bed.

Repurposed election signs keeping the remay covers above and off of winter planted carrots.

Ploughing with the Grillo

The recently ploughed chicken pen area with the new Gillo tractor avec the cool but frustrating Berta rotary plough attachment.

It’s been dry enough to take the Grillo and the Bertha rotary plough out for a spin on the small patch (18′ x 25′) that has been recently vacated by our chickens.

For the past 7 years we have moved chickens around the gardens at Hope Bay to improve our poor (class 5) soils. This involves penning the chooks up in an area we want “improved” and feeding them a steady supply of kitchen scraps, garden gleanings, weeds and waste hay from the sheep  over the next 12 months. At the end of that period a layer of up to 8 – 10″ of organic matter has been accumulated that is partially composted and “blended” with nitrogen-rich chicken poop. After the chickens are moved on to a new plot, we till up the  area, lift it with a broad fork and then seed with fall rye. We allow the rye to grow for up to a month before mowing it down and tilling it in. We then plant the area with nitrogen-loving crops like sweet corn and squash. In the fall, the area is planted with garlic.

This year I wanted to use our newly acquired rotary plough for the initial or primary tillage over these “chickened” areas as it can be quite a bear using a tiller – the layers of organic matter can bind up the tines and you can’t to any great depth.

Well I’m happy to report that the rotary plough worked well. However, the area was a bit too small to really operate the machine effectively in. I also discovered quite quickly that using a plough is much different than using a tiller. A plough leave a furrow, which you not only have to account for but deal with as the tractor has a tendency to high center and get stuck if you don’t approach the furrow the right way. This issue was exacerbated by the depth and softness of the 10′ organic layer. To make a long story short, the result was I spent over an hour literally wrestling the machine around the plot, high centering at least 20-30 times. By the end of the “session” I was beet-red and sweating like a pig. The experience increased my appreciation and desire for long, straight beds. More room – I need more room!

Prior to starting the “wrestling” match  I discovered a fairly extensive patch of Calystegia sepium L. R. Br. or hedge bindweed – an incredibly invasive weed. To avoid spreading it with the plough I spent a good half hour hand digging the rhizomes up which if cut up and scattered, say by a plough or tiller, can parent a completely new plant. Horrible stuff. To be avoided at all cost.

A pile of Calystegia sepium L. R. Br. rhizomes.

Homemade Season Extension Tube Bender

Been working on an alternative tube bending device that would allow us to bend electrical conduit tubing in a similar manner to that done by the device sold by Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Was able to borrow a Johnny’s 4′ diameter bender to trace the curve. Used three pieces of scrap plywood to make the form and a U-bolt at the end to trap the tube. Now that I know it works I’m going to build some large diameter forms.

Why do this when the benders sold by Johnny’s are fairly affordable? Well up here in Canada, the shipping costs to bring larger items in from the States are prohibitively expensive. It’s also nice to make things for oneself out of scrap.

The new plywood tube bending form alongside its slicker, commercially-produced American cousin.

Our Gillo has Landed – Part III

Here she is being modeled by our friend Jodi Schamberger with the Berta Franco rotary plough attachment. Note the spinning blades. The plough has a vertical shaft with four yellow spiral blades -essentially the ploughshares – that turn at approximately 300 rpm.  As the tractor pulls the plough forward, the plough cuts into the soil and immediately centrifugally discharges and apparently also inverts it to the side.  According to the literature “in a single pass through sod, the plow will leave 10-12 inches of worked soil.” This remains to be seen. I have heard that for compacted areas it helps to have them initially ripped with a tractor before using the plough.

One of the main reasons we purchased this type of implement is because it supposedly work tough, rocky soils and because the soil is not trapped under a hood and repeatedly pulverized – which is what happens with a tiller – the soil’s structure is not beat to death and the one can avoid creating a tiller pan. Take a look at the following video to see the beast in action.

I’m looking forward to our soils drying out so we can put ‘er to work and see if she lives up to the hype.

Our Grillo has Landed – Part II

Spent part of the afternoon putting our new Grillo (grillo  is Italian for cricket ) together, getting her started, and attaching the newly expanded BCS tiller box. Everything went smoothly. She purrs like the cricket that she is. Can’t wait to put her to work.

The new Grillo 85D complete with the expanded BC tiller box from our deceased BCS 715.

The underside of the expanded BCS tiller box. Extra 'spacers with tines were bolted on to the ends of the existing tine assemblies. Note the newly attached quick-coupler PTO fitting (the black thingy on the left side).

A close-up of the new quick coupling PTO attachment.

Close up of the additional tine assembly.

Our Grillo has Landed – Part I

Just returned from picking up our new Grillo 85D walk-behind tractor and Berta rotary plow from the shipper in Blaine WA. I am very excited about opening it up and putting it all together. However, the snow today was a reminder that it is not quiet spring yet.

The new machine safety ensconced in the back of the pickup, waiting for the return ferry to Pender.

Big kudos to Joel and Chris at Earth Tools for putting the tractor package together for us, to R & L Carriers for shipping it across the US in great time, to Kevin Powell of KP Transport and Belle Rucker of A & A Contract Customs Brokers for being so helpful receiving and storing the package (Kevin especially), and finally to the pleasant and helpful folks at US and Canada Customs. So many things could have gone wrong and didn’t…

That all said, I still have to open the package and get the thing put together and started. Stay tuned!

Along with the tractor I also received some irrigation supplies from DripWorks and picked up our annual seed order from West Coast Seeds. I’ll be writing about both of these companies in future posts.