Thursday, January 28, 2010

What's New At The Farm? 1/27/10

This week I'll talk about what is going on at the farm this time of year and what we're planning on for the upcoming growing season, and also some tidbits of info someone may find useful.

Earlier this week, Monday morning to be exact, the 25th of January, it was 44 degrees outside and raining. Now it's cooled off which is good. The days are getting noticeably longer and I can get my chores done in the last light of the day and not under the lights; I'm sure the hens like that as well as I do - they don't have to get up on the roosts twice a day!

The snow banks were high but the ground still isn't frozen. Chances are it won't freeze now anyways; it would take a unique set of circumstances to freeze the ground now and I just don't see that happening. There's good and bad about the ground freezing; the best thing is when the snow melts the water will percolate down through the soil and the ground will be workable early on the spring. We like working the soil as early as we can; getting everything fertilized and plowed early in the spring frees us up for other activities associated with running a research farm. There's always plenty to keep us busy and being the first ones on the ground locally instills a certain amount of pride with us. That is, being on the ground early and not doing any damage just to be in the field first.

Most farmers in our area are dairy farmers whom don't need to get on the ground early. We are blessed with well draining soil on many of our plots; ones without much clay. Many of our fields can be worked in April before the big planting "push" is on. I like to stale bed many of our fields and getting on the ground early assures we can. Stale bedding is the practice of making beds long before they are needed , then concentrating our efforts on killing off a few flushes or early weeds before we plant. This greatly saves time as when we do plant or transplant, many of the weeds have been killed. This practice is best when we can get on the fields early enough to kill off two or three flushes of weeds. This doesn't work in a wet spring.

Another advantage to working the soil early is in establishing cover crops early in the season when it's still cool. Clovers like cool weather so planting them as soon as the ground can be worked makes sense. There isn't much competition from weeds when the soil is cool; not as much at least as once the soil warms.

Of course the bad thing about the ground not freezing is the lack of pest control as many species will simply overwinter instead of being killed by the cold temps. The insect that comes to mind first and foremost are ticks. If you have dogs you will have ticks; nasty little blood sucking devils that they are. Unless they die off in the winter, they'll start right up again in the spring. The age old question is how to kill ticks without killing everything else. I have of read many people using a broad spectrum insecticide to cover their yards to eliminate ticks. I, however, must protest as I see this method killing everything in the yard including ticks. On the other hand, I prefer to use an easier and "just as effective" method of tick control: chickens, ducks and guineas. I think Guineas are the best insect eaters with chickens coming in second and ducks coming in third. Of course this is just my opinion. There are some things we can do to keep the pests at bay including keeping the grass mowed short, cutting the tall grass down next to the pond where the dogs lay, and be ever vigilant to looking one's self over for hitchhikers. And of course adding more guineas to the home flock.

Until next week, I'm going to thumb through the poultry catalogs.



Paul said...

Lack of ground freezing also means late Blight might return this year?

Anonymous said...

You spoke of getting the beds ready for planting early so you could kill off any early weeds. What do you use to kill them off? I always have a weed; my mother called it chicweed, that takes over my garden and I fight with it all season. Help! Lyn

Kelly said...

We treat our lawn twice yearly to kill the nasty little buggers, it works. My 3 dogs only get frontline when /if the tick season gets really bad. I hear ya on the poison bit, it is the only toxic stuff you will find in my house and yard, BUT I don't want my kids getting Lyme.

We have lots of hawks in our yard, do you ever have trouble with your birds being preyed upon?

Brian said...

Late blight only survives on living tomato tissue so I think Late Blight on tomatoes won't be an issue, however since Late blight survives on potato tubers, yes, this could be a problem. Look for volunteer potato plants and discard them if found. Also, use only certified seed potatoes to plant this spring.

Stale bedding - We kill the early sprouted weeds off with shallow cultivation - we use a Lely tine weeder. Small weeds can be raked during a sunny, warm day to kill them and they may be sprayed with a non-selective herbicide. We sell Nature's Avenger and Matratec AG; both excellant, organic herbicides. The key is to not disturb the soil after killing the weeds anyomre than needed. This will keep weed seed from deeper than one inch from sprouting. Chickweed grows under dense canopies like under carrots tops. It thrives in moist, nutrients rich habitats. Chickweed spreads by seed usually in the fall or early spring - two key times to control it. Stale bedding will help to control chickweed, perserverance will control it.

Ticks - see this weeks' column for more info on the tick outlook for this year. Our two dogs tested positive for Lyme disease last week; they're on antibiotics now. The vet didn't seem overly concerned - said it's quite common with dogs and cats. Guess we'll go back to Frontline or another pesticide this year. Hawks and birds; we have both although I think the hawks are mostly small ones chasing the sparows that feed in the barn. If hawks took a chicken now and then we probably wouldn't nortice right off. The birds I keep count on are the geese, ducks, guineas and turkeys; they're all there. Nothing really bothers them. Of course only letting any of the birds out to run around when I'm home probably helps keep the predation down.