One major problem we had starting out was how to get the ground prepared for seeds and transplants. At the farm in washington, Steve the farmer had two tractors for working the ground. One larger to pull a twelve foot disc plow, which is small by most standards, and another to run a six-foot roto-tiller. The larger tractor wasn’t small though. In wet Washington you need a large tractor to get into the ground and get out. In a wet spring like last year, a tractor without four wheel drive would typically get stuck in the mud unless the farmer waited until the ground had dried out. To give you some prespective of how wet and cold it was last year in Washington, this day last year we mudded in our cole crops- kale, broccoli, cauliflower, romanesco, kohlrabi – and that was only possible because they worked up bare ground; it was where the previous years squash patch was and the cover crop didn’t take. We started to put in our cole crops two weeks ago here and just put in two hundred more plants yesterday.
I got sidetracked there… anyways the farm last year had some big equipment. Here we don’t, but we are making it work. We have a 1930s Ford 9N tractor with a two bottom plow to turnover the sod, a one way to cut up the sod, and a Troybilt garden tractor to make a seed bed. I am still trying to figure out the best way to use these implements to make the best seed bed but it takes me about four passes with the ford to prepare it for bed making and six to eight passes with the Troybilt to make each bed. It takes a long time. This first year it is slow but eventually we will have this soil worked into shape. With some cover crops to penetrate the subsoil, more organic matter, and some well-aged manure we will be in great shape. Actually we are very fortunate to have the ground we have. In part because seven years ago Jim, Hannah’s dad, decided to put in an alfalfa patch which not only fixes nitrogen because it is a legume but also has roots over twenty feet long, giving our heavy clay soil an intial boost.
This week I prepared about four thousand square feet of beds due mostly to the Troybilt Horse Rototiller. Though it is older than me, an 1985, it is a champ. The eight horse power engine runs great and other than an oil leak from the transmission seals it is perfect. It takes a twenty-two inch cut and bucks about a little if I lower the depth gauge too much, but like any well-made machine it is worth its weight in gold. I hope one day this farm grows up from the small garden tractor but for now me and my red Troybilt will be breaking up the ground here at twenty-sixth street.