Repairs

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Tiny tractor: More rototiller repair, taking it apart to replace a bearing housing. These jobs either go fast or take exactly 5x as long as your worst case expectation because of little snags. (It would be quicker if I did this stuff all the time!) Here, I’m fixing the chain, a straightforward mission that involves lots of little nuts and bolts (remove and replace the housing) and a lot of grease. The caulking gun is for running a bead of silicone to between the two halves of the housing to seal it up.  Concrete blocks and cardboard make a surprisingly workable  instant workshop.

Praying mantis visit

Praying mantis

It came with the greens. A praying mantis perched on the edge of a lettuce mix harvest basket and took the ride in. Kool kat, with a wraparound look. Friendly, too, if insects can be, calm at least, let it walk on my hand to transfer it to a fence post. Don’t see them often, so I looked ’em up and…yikes! “Sexual cannibalism is common among mantises in captivity, and under some circumstances may also be observed in the field. The female may begin feeding by biting off the male’s head (as they do with regular prey), and if mating has begun, the male’s movements may become even more vigorous in its delivery of sperm.” Kinky and kinda brutal. But reading on, it seems this behavior may be induced by the distractions of being constantly observed in the lab, and not a normal practice. There we go again, messin’ with stuff. Well, this one got away. In the wild, it’s considered a beneficial insect for the veg patch, a massive hunter that eats “most pest insects, mites, eggs, or any insect in reach.” Nice. And it’s apparently the only insect to hunt moths at night, and the only one fast enough to catch flies and mosquitoes. Go, mantis!

Fueling up

Fueling the tractor

Always satisfying to fill up the Kubota compact tractor. A little under five gallons of diesel does the trick. It’s quite amazing what you can do on just one tank, like till up 2-3 acres with fuel to spare. Depending on what’s going on, I’ll use somewhere between three and six tanks in a season, so for the amount of work the tiny tractor does, the oil-reliant portion of the program is really kinda small.

Saved by the barrel

Water barrels

No luck with the dug well—at this point, the standing level has dropped around 10 ft. since spring, and the replenish rate is barely a foot in 24 hours—so it’s on to other water sources and delivery methods. As with most things on this tiny farm, the ultimate fallback tends to be something really labor-intensive. (Hahahahaha. I have to laugh.) In this case: WATER BARRELS. In a thankfully typical seek-and-ye-shall-find situation, there is a supplier of used barrels just down the road. Who’d have thought! These are standard 55 gallon, available in steel or plastic, and only about $10 a pop, with optional lids for a couple bucks more. Of course, they’re food-grade, which means, coated on the inside and used only for food, with those weathered white labels telling the story: pickles, perhaps. Strategically located around newly seeded beds, the barrels are filled from the house well (via the former dead well pipe) and then, 2-gallon watering cans do the final job. We still need rain as things grow, but this will work for germination and seedlings. Whatever it takes!

Seed store

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My current seed bank is around 60 Ziploc freezer bags. In alphabetical order. I haven’t been as careful lately with storage conditions as at times in the past, these plastic bins with lids (there is third one with bigger bags of larger seed, like beans and peas) are kept out of sunlight and away from heat. I could do a lot more, but I’m not going for long term storage, and most of the time there seems to be no critical difference in germination time and rate for seed 1-2 years old, which is the longest I keep anything in any sort of quantity. Fresh seed may pop up a little quicker, but with the many other variables based mainly on the weather, it all seems to even out by the time harvest day rolls around!

Rinse station icon (the white plastic laundry sink)

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Friday is harvest day and we turn to the almost iconic white plastic laundry sink as veggie washing station. It’s a one-tub day today, with only beet greens to hydrocool (sometimes dunking in water is to wash off dirt, usually, and especially with above-ground crops, it’s to cool them down to keep ’em fresh, and the term for that is, yep, hydrocooling). The legs on this one gave out, so Jon replaced plastic with wood—a fair bit heavier overall for something we move around and stack, but then, still in service. Make do!