5/10/06 Vol. 3 #9

So busy yesterday that I couldn’t get this done until this morning (after chasing yet more roaming turkeys), see you at market!

The big pepper plant is today and I hope we are ready for it.  It is a challenge this year as we are planting into maybe the most difficult field we have, as far as soil is concerned.  This is the field that we call “the Top” as it is the highest point on the farm and the farthest away from everything.  When we started going to Farmers’ Market in 1986 this was the only piece of ground that wasn’t planted to blackberries and raspberries so we turned it over and began the experiment with vegetables and cut flowers.  My brother Jon was here at that time and vegetables were his area of expertise.  He and Betsy borrowed a neighbors plow and turned over this far corner of the farm and found a mixed bag.  The field is long and irregular in shape (you know those of use who are members of the straight line police hate that) and the soil changes from one end to the other.  Marvelous sandy loam on the bottom end but the top end is the most difficult red clay we own, very slow to dry out and almost impossible to work into a good seed bed.  Joann is still scarred from having to plant tomatoes into that red clay and having to stack what amounted to pieces of brick around the root balls.  This spring, however, the beds worked up as nicely as they ever have so we don’t have to fight that problem, at least on half of the 1600 feet of pepper beds.  The other half we always plant without tilling the soil, right into thick cover crop of grain rye and hairy vetch that we have killed and flattened down by rolling it.  It is like growing our fertilizer and mulch right in place.  After we roll it down we cut slits into the mulch and the soil, with the the tractor, to set the plants into.  If it is too dry the cutting wheels can’t cut through.  If it is too wet, especially in red clay, it can make a mess that is hard to plant into.  With all of the rain in the last two weeks I am a bit worried that it could be a bit too wet.  We’ll find out later today if that is the case!  None-the-less Rachel and Will (the newest staff member) will be charged with carefully interpreting my diagram of which pepper varieties go where.  Just like the tomatoes there is a strategy as to which ones like or will do better in the different soil types.  The hot peppers definitely need to be in the warmer sandy loam soil while the more disease resistant sweet bells can stand up better to the red clay.  No matter what it will be one at time until the over 2000 plants are tucked into the ground whether it be sandy or clayey.

Late graduation day for the turkeys this week.  Usually we start letting them out to get used to the idea at three weeks of age.  This year because we got them earlier and it has been cold we just let them out yesterday for the first time.  Now five weeks old and full of extra energy from being cooped up they have been acting up already!  We pull one of the shelters up in front of the brooder building, about five feet away and then put up some chicken wire between the two.  There is a ramp/door on the front of the brooder so they can come in and out.  Usually they are very tentative and take a day or so to get used to going out, into the new shelter, and eating grass.  These guys came out and started flying over the chicken wire almost immediately.  I had to chase some down into the woods to catch them.  We clipped the wing feathers on these bad actors after they flew out a second time.  I hope we can get them calmed down or it will be a long summer of rounding up escapees.

Picture of the Week
Tentative about the outdoors just before going wild in flight

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