Monday, May 18, 2009

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

There is so much to get done this time of year. At times I don't know how we get it all done especially with day jobs! In the last couple of weeks, we've had about three sunny days with the rest rainy and glum. Not that I'm complaining about the rain. Over the last few years, we've been increasingly dry in late summer. I guess we're going to have more of a wet season in the Spring, at least in this weather pattern. My grandfather has told me since I was a child that the weather goes in cycles, often time the cycles last well more than a decade.

Last week I brought home another new addition to the farm tractor fleet. I've been making do in the vineyards with the tractors we had and while it worked when it had to, I would put off mowing and spraying because the Massey Ferguson 245 was really too large for the Naked Creek Vineyard. The rows there are spaced 8 feet apart. Now imagine vines hanging towards the inside of the rows and try to drive a tractor that's 6 feet wide down the rows. At very least, the tires gently caressed the vines on the way through. So, I've been looking for a small tractor that would suit both my needs and my tight budget. I've found a Kubota L245H, which is only 5 feet wide. I mowed the Spring Mill Farm Vineyard on Friday and the Naked Creek Vineyard on Saturday. The little Kubota was AWESOME! I sprayed my second round of Manzate in the Naked Creek Vineyard Sunday evening.

getting ready to spray fungicide at the Naked Creek Vineyard with the "new" Kubota

After what seems like weeks of rain, the weatherman is forecasting blue skies all week, so Dad and I headed to the hayfield today. Dad mowed with the Massey Ferguson 245 and I mowed with the John Deere 2010 (which is about twice my age). It seems like all the neighbors watched the same weather forecast as we did. I met Danielle at Napolis for pizza tonight and it seemed like in every field along the way (13 miles) there was a tractor mowing hay. Everyone's first cut hay crop is looking great. All the rain has really helped. Hopefully the rain will hold off for the rest of the week now. This time of the year when the daytime temperatures average in the mid 70's, it will take most of the week for the hay to dry. Hopefully we can begin baling maybe on Thursday, but more likely on Friday.

hay on the ground

I managed to snap a couple pics of the Chambourcin vines in the Naked Creek Vineyard. Things are looking great there. I've been scouting for evidence of fungal disease and haven't noticed anything to be alarmed about. I did notice a light amount of spotting on a couple canes of one Chambourcin vine that looks like phomopsis. Considering how much phomopsis we've seen there in the last couple of years, I'm expecting to see some occurrence. I'm trying to be very proactive in preventative measures this year.

Chambourcin vines at Naked Creek Vineyard 5/18/09

Chambourcin flowers forming in the Naked Creek Vineyard

Monday, May 11, 2009

Spring in Full Swing

Spring is here with a vengeance and I think we're on the way to making up for our rain fall shortfall, which is a great thing; but it seems like we're going to get it all in a months time! There have been lots of happenings around the farm over the last couple weeks (even between showers). I forget how fast the grass can grow here in the Spring with an abundance of rainfall. Along with the grass we're now seeing lots of color coming from a few flowers planted last Summer.

Check out this columbine we planted last year. Its amazing that this thing come in a 3 inch pot last year now look at it! Last year it had a few blooms and we thought it was beautiful, but this year its blown us away with blooms.

This evening, Danielle and I planted some herb and tomato slips we purchased from at the Lynchburg Community Market. We planted four varieties of basil - sweet, lemon, cinnamon, and purple basil. We also planted a chive. The tomatoes are - chocolate cherry, white currant, polish linguisa, and a japanese black trifele. The herbs were planted in the round raised bed in the middle of the circular drive and the tomatoes planted in the raised bed which is next to the lettuce and strawberry bed. We were surprised to find about a dozen "volunteer" tomato plants in and around the bed. We aren't sure whether the tomatoes are growing from seeds dropped from the plants grown in the bed last year or from the compost added this year. When I lived outside Lancaster, PA, I also kept a compost pile and when I added it to the garden, I had dozens of "volunteer" tomatoes growing everywhere. That year I transplanted 30 of them and pulled the rest. So, I'm not sure where they came from. This year we only kept two of the most hardy looking volunteers in the raised bed and pulled the rest.

One of our "volunteer" tomatoes that we kept

The four basil plants with the columbine in the top left corner

Danielle working in the tomato bed

I've got to finish planting cuttings in the Spring Mill Farm Vineyard. I thought we had missed our planting window, and I still had a few cuttings left which I just had sitting in a bucket of water. These things have been in a bucket for about two months and now look at them (below). I guess they're pretty hardy! So, I will try to get them in the ground tomorrow.

On a side note, I've been wanted to get some kind of around the farm "utility vehicle" for a while, but I haven't been willing to spend the two arms and a leg required to purchase a John Deere Gator or the like. Our friends Mark and Beth over at Fox Fire Farm have a Cushman Truckster and I've had the chance to play with it over a couple years worth of visits. So I decided I "needed" a Cushman of my own. I really liked how the three wheeled Trucksters can turn and maneuver in tight places. But, like I said earlier, I couldn't justify paying too much for one. So, I've been watching Ebay and a couple weeks ago i found a Truckster in northeast Pennsylvania which needed some electrical work to get it running. I put a low ball bid on it and bought it for the whopping price of $307. About a week ago, I took a Saturday and road-tripped it PA and back to pick up the Cushman. It was 850 miles round trip and well worth the drive. I got to see the Locust Ridge Wind Farm along the way and had lots of windshield time to myself for deep thinking.

After a few hours of elbow grease and some new wiring, I got the Cushman Truckster running. When I got it started, I couldn't get it into gear and thought I would have to put a new clutch in it. The thing had been sitting for three years and I thought I'd try a little WD40. Hell, whats the worst that could happen if I was going to have to change the clutch anyway. After a little working back and forth, the clutch freed up and now its going great. Who knows when something on it will fall apart, but for what I have in it, I think I can fix it when it does.

Here are a few picture updates on the grapes in the Spring Mill Farm Vineyard (all pics taken on 5/11/09).

NY 76.0844.24 planted in 2008

NY 76.0844.24 Hybrid planted in 2009

Petit Manseng planted in 2009