Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #3, 3/24/10

What’s been going on?

It appears as if we have quickly settled into an April weather pattern, 40’s and 70’s. It is always interesting to see how we come out of these cold winters, will we have a pleasant gentle climb towards summer or jump right into it and race up into the 90’s? Let’s hope it’s the former and not the later, in any case the current days are mostly sublime and conducive to over work. Missed the newsletter last week for just that reason, too many spring projects going on and it slipped right by me.

Several large projects going on this week and last. On the cooler days, after the tiny rains we’ve had, we are pushing to finish up chain saw season. We try every year to trim/fight back some section of the woods at the edges of the field. It is a constant battle and if not trimmed up high enough we lose the ability to mow close to the trees and then it is a fast down hill slide into chaos. So in the last week we have worked the about two thirds of the bottom field edge and a section up near the blueberries.

Some of these tree lines we have not done much with since we cleared those fields back in the mid 80’s, that combined with the still lingering effects of downed trees from Hurricane Fran (1996) they were a mess. Lots of little trees grown up in areas we couldn’t mow, grape vines tangling in the branches, cat claw and blackberry briar, a difficult job. I run the chain saw and the guys drag the brush to the fire. It is a dirty, scratchy job to be done only with gloves and long sleeves so that is why we save it for the cooler mornings and days.

The other project that we are rushing to get done is the sliding of the moveable tunnels. Really should have been done last week but we were rushing to try and get things planted before the rain (that really didn’t materialize). Every year we have to replace some of the wooden parts that have succumbed to rot and this year there is fair amount that has to be done before we can slide. Today I will get the remaining boards replaced while the guys get the landscape fabric and trellis for the earliest tomatoes set up. Tomorrow we will move four of the six houses to their 2010 position (the other two get moved in January over the Anemones and Ranunculus). Maybe we’ll plant tomatoes on Friday!

Picture of the Week

Cov with a big ball of grapevine headed to the fire

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Chain Saw Season

Among the tools that most people equate with farming like tractors and plows and hoes, none is probably as universal as a chainsaw.  We owned a chainsaw before we owned land and a tractor because we knew it would be essential.  Most farmers have one because inevitably trees fall down; on fence lines, across roadways, into fields.  Many also heat something with wood like their house or greenhouse.

We have used ours for all those reasons but we have also personally cleared more than 3 acres of land here on the farm.  When we bought this place we knew we needed more cleared land and so the cheapest way to do it was to cut the trees down ourselves.  We have spent months behind hot chain saws, to the point where we had his and hers chain saws.  A big one for Alex to drop and cut up the big trees and a small one for Betsy to drop the small trees and help limb up the big ones.

From 1981-1986 we almost always had a clearing project underway, first the blueberry field up on the hill and then the whole bottom field along the creek.   Our process was to first have the pulp wood cutters come in and take the sweet gums, smaller poplars, and other junk wood.  Some years this would actually result in money from the sales of the wood, usually not but it got the trees out of the way.  We would then take out the large trees for either firewood or lumber.  This would result in lots of brush that needed to be burned.  During some winters it looked like the Dark Ages around here with fires burning constantly. Finally we would have nothing but stumps left that required a bulldozer to remove.

The bottom field waiting for the bulldozer

My brother Jon, who helped clear the bottom field, said the first chapter in the book will be titled “Buy Cleared Land!”

The bottom field just months after the bulldozer

No matter what the reason we have a rule around here that chain saws will not be used when the leaves are on the trees (storm damage aside), hence chain saw season.  Chain saw work is physically hard, loud, and dirty.  If combined with warm weather it is debilitating and dangerous

Fortunately these days our needs are reduced to keeping the edges of the fields trimmed back and for firewood to heat the house.  We try and cut firewood the winter before so it has an entire year to dry.  So this past week we began cutting for next year.  It always seems that we start with the hardest trees.  This year it was a large dead oak leaning towards the house, well and heat pump.  Betsy lobbied for hiring someone to take this one down as we have managed to drop trees on things by mistake but I was sure we could do it.  After some careful rigging and the usual nervous last cuts, it fell beautifully in the correct direction.  Only a few months left in chain saw season, thankfully.

This tree leaned directly on a line from the stump, over the little well house, the heat pump and on to the house!