“The week was suffused with the urgency that always comes with the first dry weather of spring. The opportunity to be in the field must not be squandered. The light! It’s coming up fast and its tenure is so brief. When it falls on fields without plants in them, it hurts.
Mark and I spent daybreaks and evenings squeezing clods in our fists, judging moisture and texture, and walking through the machine yard, considering tools. How to make that clay ground sing? We took good care of it last year. It was well-weeded, and cover cropped to radish, pea and oat, and thickly spread with compost in the fall. There is drainage underneath it, too. But what to do about the cover crop residue and the clumpy, lumpy surface? The transplants, and especially the direct seeded crops like spinach and peas, want a fine, even seed bed. You would think there would be a ready answer, after 12 years of tillage here, but every year is different.
This time, Mike went over it once with Jake and Abby hitched to the two-gang disk, to break up the residue and turn some of it under the surface. After that, Mark used the John Deere to hit it with the 12’ spring tine harrow. Then we put two fresh horses on the pulver-mulcher – a tool with crow foot cultipackers on the front and back, and a spring tine harrow in the middle. Next step was to hook the horses to the hydraulic forecart, to pull the 4 row, 3-point-hitch cultivator with S tines, to mark the rows. Finally, we ran the dibbler down the furrows, to mark the spacing. Then the field was ready and the wagon of plants came down from the greenhouse. We had all hands in the field, pressing plants into the dirt, until the sun dipped low to the west…” Continue reading this Essex Farm Note.