O, the luxury!

Riding mower + trailer = luxury

No sooner fixed than in the field! This combo of little riding mower and old snowmobile trailer is possibly my favorite tiny farming tool, a decadent* alternative to walking up and down the garden plot.

Around here, you can walk miles in a day, especially if you forget things and have to go back—although, walking around, taking different routes each time to check stuff out, is one of the big pleasures, too… What a simple life. :)

Anyhow, after trying a couple of different garden utility belts, overalls with 50 pockets, and a pull-along garden cart, nothing has come close to being able to toss all the stuff you need onto the trailer and go.

I use it whenever there’s too much to carry. Here, I’ve just finished the second seeding of mesclun and spinach, four beds each (on the trailer: Earthway seeders with plates in the coffee can, my most used rake, measuring tape and stakes for marking new beds, a pail for rocks, and seed in the green trug; the empty trays just happen to be there).

Up until I took this pic, it was a gloriously sunny day, after three days or so of cloud and drizzle (which added up to 20cm of rain). Little luxuries.

*The mower is actually pretty energy efficient: it uses maybe 30 gallons (114 l) of gas in an entire season, and that includes mowing paths and hauling harvests.

Fixed it

Repairing the riding mower

The riding mower finally got a new transmission belt, putting it back in commission. It had been sorely missed all spring. This little workhorse, designed to sedately trim suburban lawns, has over the last three years done some serious small-farming duty. It’s used to mow the garden paths, chop up big crop residue like corn, and haul everything around the field: gear, compost, rocks, building materials, harvest bins and baskets. Elsewhere, more gray drizzle and lots of potting up and moving seedlings to the greenhouse. The rain’s been great. Sun, please.

Getting busy

Hot peppers, and tomatoes behind. They’re some of the last set of seedlings, a bit of an experiment to see how late I can start ’em without slowing down later growth in the field. Outdoors, it’s been warm, gray and drizzling for two days now, things are starting to emerge, crops and weeds both, and it’s already time for a second planting of spinach and mesclun. Inside, the last several hundred seedlings are ready to be potted up and moved out to the greenhouse. We’re right at the point when things suddenly start to get intensely busy!

Carrot science

Carrots under burlap

Welcome to my carrot lab! Carrots have been my biggest early spring headache. In cool weather, they take forever to germinate, 2 or 3 weeks, and by that time, the chance of weed competition is pretty good, and just about anything growing around the tiny seedlings makes excruciatingly time-consuming surgical hand weeding a necessity. What to do? Last year, I tried IRT (plastic) mulch over the bed. This worked great, heating up the soil, speeding germination to 7 days, and keeping weeds down. Problem was, miss the germination window (when a good number have emerged) by a few hours or a day, and the seedlings got toasted in the heat. Too delicate a balance. So, a new approach, something I’d read about. It involves a double layer of (untreated!) burlap. Simple. The burlap acts as a mulch to retain moisture and increase soil temperature, and it also allows in water and some light. What could be easier?!?! Now, all it has to do is WORK! (Update: it worked like a charm…)

Off to the hoophouse

The semiheated hoophouse

The first set of tomatoes is now in the unheated (but heatable!) hoophouse. They’re freshly installed in 3″ Jiffy pots (peat pots that can be planted), watered in, and awaiting the first night’s cold. It’s supposed to go down to 3°C (37°F), which isn’t bad, but it’s always chillier in the field than in the forecast. Peeking out from under the table, two fat little propane tanks: round about midnight, I’ll be on temperature patrol, ready to fire up the propane construction heater if it looks like a freeze. Working the night shift. Farming after dark!