Friday, August 31, 2012

Clearing Land in the West

Our family took an extended vacation to the west this summer. We spent several days in Idaho and helped friends clear some forest land for their future garden plot.

The soil of the west seems very different than the soil where we currently live. Of course it was dry the time of year we visited. The soil in some areas of the west seems very fine, and perhaps of high clay content. It would readily make billowing dust with each foot step. In disturbed areas that were dry, it seemed there was 6 inches of fine dust powder.

 The forest we were clearing was almost entirely conifer. There was a mix of young and old trees in the span. Based on several days of work on it, I estimated that there were about 20 trees in a 20 x 20 foot grid. We were able to process around 4 trees per hour not counting the stump. These 4 hours included the felling of the tree with a chain saw, getting it dislodged from nearby trees and on the ground, de-limbing it, and rounding the trunk to specific lengths for stacking. The effort involved in working with the stump is much as in the East. The larger the stump, the more effort required to pull it out of the ground. With light to medium equipment, I would estimate that you could extract a stump and hour.

So to total this up: for a 20 x 20 plot, you would need to spend 5 hrs removing the trees, 1 hr for stacking the logs, 20 hrs to remove the stumps and smooth the ground. If you could keep this up, to clear a 90 x 90 garden plot would take around 10 weeks.

Our experience in the West matched what we found when we cleared land in the East. The more machine muscle you can put into the process, the faster it can be done. Now is the time to get available land cleared and ready for garden production, while you have the potential of getting large equipment in to assist in the hard tasks such as stump removal. It is possible that in some areas you could swap the equipment work for the trees / lumber removed from the land, lowering your costs.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Garden Record - 2012

Aug 6         Most everything from the garden is coming on for harvest now. Large tomatoes, okra, corn and beans. Picked about 1/2 of the first planting of corn, with a frozen yield of ___ qts. Picked 2 bu of string beans, with a frozen yield of ___ qts.

July 26         Counted up the potato early harvest: 560 lbs. This represents 6/10 of our harvest (the 15 bushels picked on the 17th.) We sorted all of the potatoes and only the firm, uncut and completely dry potatoes went into the seller for longer term storage. Our rows are 90' and 6 rows equals 540 feet, yielding just over a pound of potatoes per foot of planted row.

July 17         Harvested 15 bushels of potatoes from 6/10 of our plantings. (4/10 was planted later and is still maturing.)

July 4           We have almost completed install of our drip irrigation system. We have needed it with all the heat and dry weather! Our corn is knee high on the 4th of July.

June 1          Planted more lettuce in the shaded garden. Finished planting water mellon and cucumbers in the field.

May 20        Picked up 7 round bales of old alfalfa hay to use as mulch. With a week of no rain, and hot temps into the lower 90's, we need mulch to keep moisture in the soil. We planted 5 rows of lettuce in our forest garden plot.

May 17         We planted 12 of 15 fruit trees to complete our small orchard. We planted our beans plot, and are looking forward to see when some of them will poke through the ground. We have tilled a garden area under the forest canopy for salads and tender greens to thrive in the cooler temperatures and shade through the summer heat. We hope to plant in this area soon.

May 11         Started our orchard. Planted 3 of 15 trees. Two cherry's and one peach tree.

April 24         Bees have arrived and are installed in their two hives. First load of compost for this season: 6 yards, wet. It did not want to come out of the dump trailer, so lots of shoveling.

April 18         Planted 55 lbs of seed potatoes, 500 onion plants, 20 grape vines. Used our "middle buster" tractor implement for the first time, and like it. It makes a nice deep furrow, perfect for planting potatoes.

Chitting watermelon seeds just prior to planting.
April 17          We now have on hand 80 lbs of seed potatoes to plant. We have 500 onion plants ready to set out. We ate our first meal of morel mushrooms this year. News reports confirm our fears of weather related fruit crop damage. "Michigan Fruit Production Devastated by Bizarre Weather" is one current news title.

April 13          Planted the blueberries and strawberries today. Thanks to some friends who helped us plant!

April 10          We had snow falling today, but all melted on the ground. The wind is cold and has a bite to it! Tonight is predicted to be a hard frost, so we pray for the fruit farmers. We do not have any sensitive plants out right now, but all of the trees have leafed out, and fruit is in flower or has set. Today we pick up 300 strawberry plants, 30 blueberry plants and 30 grape vines. We trenched for the planting of our blueberry plants. Planting will be on Friday when it is predicted to be warmer.

March 29        We have beets and mach to transplant to the garden. These were started in 288 plug trays. The Lord answered, and a killing frost was averted in our immediate area. His will be done for the month of April. It may be that if the fruit trees pass the delicate flower stage without a freeze, that the setting fruit may be slightly more hardy to a light frost. Today we have been blessed by the gift of MANY raspberry plants from friends who cleaned up their patch.

March 26        Tonight, a killing frost is forecast. All tender plants need to be covered. How does a farmer cover acres of orchard? We may likely loose all flowering fruit in the next 24 hours. Pray frost damage will be minimized. We could easily loose all tree leaves this spring due to frost. Trees would be forced to reform leaves if the tender tissue is frosted. Not all trees have leafed out in our area, but April is a long month. There will likely be another or many more frosts before our normal last frost date in May arrives.

March 22         We continue to have unusually warm temps. The local fruit trees are in bloom, and this is too early, considering the likelihood of an April frost. Field seed beds are coming along nicely. We would like to get some leaf compost before we finish all seed beds. Plants started indoors: beets, lettuce, brocholli, swis chard, cabbage.

March 13-16   Transplanted lettuce and arrugula to formal 4 foot beds. Chitting peas. 1 lb of dry peas rendered over 1/2 gal volume of soaked seeds. This volume planted 2x 4 x 60 foot beds. Each bed had 2 fences of 2 rows each. (4 rows total per 4 foot bed.)