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No Till Frming

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  • Raju Titus
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    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 10, 2009
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      Field and Table
      :thoughts on food from field to table:


      Thoughts from Week 3:

      June 9, 2009 by scochenour

      The rhythm of the season is starting to kick in. Transplanted crops
      are stretching their roots in to deeper soil and overcoming the stress
      of transitioning from a controlled environment to the wild and
      unpredictable climate of the farm. Crops that were direct seeded are
      showing themselves for the first time. With one month left before our
      first CSA pickup, things feel like they are shaping up for a great
      season. These good feelings do not get rid of all the other work that
      still needs to be done. We have a row in which we will be doing some
      no-till research on. Last year rye and a vetch crop were sown in the
      row as a green manure, and soon we will knock down the rye and vetch
      and use a no-till drill to plant peppers, tomatoes, lettuces, melons,
      cucumbers, and a few other crops. The potential for no-till methods
      has yet to reach it’s peak, so we are really interested in the results
      we get. I would love to see large farms exclusively use no-till
      methods one day, but I feel like that is still a bit down the road.

      Last week was split between being rained out of working in the fields
      and pulling weeds. We are at that time of the season when everything
      in the fields is growing like crazy, including the weeds. Oh, the
      weeds! The pigweed and the mallow and spurge and nap weed and thistle
      and bind-weed. Weeds are an expected chore when working on an organic
      farm, and for the folks I’m working with we’ve tried to make some
      games out of it. We have a “longest root” challenge, where we see who
      can pull the longest weed’s root out of the ground. At this point in
      the season we have pulled an 8 inch bind-weed root, a 7.5 inch thistle
      root, and 6.5 inch pigweed root. It’s a silly game we play, but it
      helps us not get too bogged down with the work we are actually doing.
      There are really two main methods of weeding that are used on small
      organic farms: hand weeding and tool weeding. Using a stirrup hoe or
      wheel hoe works great if the soil is dry, but as soon as the soil gets
      significant moisture on it using a tool to weed with doesn’t do much
      good. One method of weeding that doesn’t seem to be used too often is
      that of flame weeding. The process is pretty self-explanatory in that
      you are weeding with a flame. At the farm we use a propane tank (like
      the one hooked up to your BBQ grill) with a hose hooked up to it.
      Open the valve, put a flame near the gas, and start burning weeds
      down. For smaller, annual weeds you don’t need much heat…just enough
      to the cell walls of the plant to burst, but for more established,
      perennial weeds you might need to leave the flame on them enough to
      actually torch them. The nice thing about flame weeding is that you
      can do it when the soil is too wet to use a hoe or other cultivator.

      I spent almost two days last week flame weeding. It became a
      relatively mindless task, provided I was watching what I was aiming
      the flame at, and so I spent a good part of the two days questioning
      the use of a propane torch as a form of weed control. Using a small
      tank like we were using is not very economical. Part of the reason is
      that we are purchasing propane in small quantities, which cause the
      per unit price to be considerably higher. There are some flame
      weeding systems that are pulled behind a tractor, but we don’t have
      one of those. I spent a good deal of time thinking about whether or
      not flame weeding could have a place on a farm that was striving to be
      “sustainable.” Our farm might be organic, but by it’s very nature of
      being a research based farm we aren’t sustainable. For research
      purposes we might choose to use methods, like black plastic mulch or
      flame weeding, to offer data to local small farms. There’s a farm
      just down the road a bit from my house that has chosen to rely very
      little on gas. They choose to drive as little as possible, forgo a
      washing machine and clothes dryer, and use a tractor for as little as
      work as possible. They are wonderful consistent in their convictions
      of being a sustainable farm. I thought about them as I was flame
      weeding and wondered what they might say about it. I guess I’ll have
      to ask them.

      I guess that’s about it for week 3. It’s hard to believe how quickly
      the season is moving along. Soon it will be August and I will be
      ready to pass out from all the harvesting. I suppose I should enjoy
      the meditative nature of weeding while it’s still cool outside.

      Posted in CSU CSA, In The Field | No Comments

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      o RT @GrantFarms Farm folks and fans of farms connect
      through social media http://tinyurl.com/krsadw 2 hours ago
      o RT@RodaleInstitute WI farmer sticking with organics,
      despite painful economic times http://bit.ly/Ipa7L Way to represent
      WI! 2 hours ago
      o @HomeGrownFood Mulberry Garden has access to peppers &
      tomatoes they’d like to donate to hail relief.need replacement plants,
      pls contact us 3 hours ago
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