Farm Journal: think harvest is over? Think again.

Baby Jacobs cattle beans. Photo: Anne Riordan.

Baby Jacobs cattle beans. Photo: Anne Riordan.

This is part of a series of Farm Journals, farmers writing regularly about life on the farm, week to week, through the season. Anne Riordan is field manager at Cayuga Pure Organics outside of Ithaca. Read all her journal entries here.

Hello all!

It’s been two weeks since I last regaled you with tales from the farm. And those two weeks have been hectic indeed.

The oats have been stubborn. The ragweed is refusing to dry in manageable amounts for going through the combine. The weather has been iffy, raining when it shouldn’t and raining when it shouldn’t (notice a lack of mention of sun there).   The beans are moving at the speed of a slug – some ripening, some barely even getting bigger, even though I obsessively sneak peeks at them every day.

I’m terrified of this colder weather. A full frost, and I’m doomed!  All those beautiful green pods, not ripe yet… all of that hard work will be lost. I’m finally less scared about the corn.  It seems to be maturing slowly, yet surely.  The popcorn succumbed to the kind-of-heavy frost that we had a week back; but it was stressed to begin with.  And although its growing season is over, it still produced!  The white corn for Finger Lakes Distillers, and the field corn is still going strong.

I’m madly plowing, spreading manure, and fitting our fields for the 70 acres of rye, 10 acres of spelt and 10 acres of barley I am putting in for winter grains this year.  I’d like it all to be in by the end of this month.  HA!  First I suppose I have to track down my seed, which is somewhere, en route. I think. I hope. I’m assuming, because that’s what they said.

Steamy morning ground. Photo: Anne Riordan.

Steamy morning ground. Photo: Anne Riordan.

I love this weather (bet you never thought you’d hear me say that, huh?)  This last week has been gorgeous. Mild days, colder (too cold) nights, bringing out the fall foliage and scent of Jack Frost. The days where the fields are tinted white in the morning, the sun sets at  7 (although that really is too early with the amount of work I have to do at the moment), and you have to zip up your sweatshirt at 4 even though the sun is still out.  The fields steam as I plow them up – and the moment I turn to make a new pass, crows are landing on the newly vulnerable soil creatures which are, I imagine, unfairly in shock about their world upheaval. I love plowing up my fields and seeing it chock full of earthworms. It screams HEALTHY SOIL! to me.

Why, you ask, am I in such a rush?

Well, I personally like to get my barley into the ground in September. Preferably earlier, actually. The earlier, the better!  Barley is notoriously wimpy.  And adding manure is a good idea, but what people tend to forget is that weeds like manure too. In fact, there’s a boundary. Too little manure, the plants suffer (but the weeds don’t).  Too much manure, the plants grow, but the weeds capitalize and grow more. Just the right amount of manure, and the crops grow great!  And so do the weeds. Are you seeing a theme?

Its all about timing. So, I’m trying not to be late.

But the other big problem is that my brother has decided to go and get himself married, in London, on October 5th. I told him this was a terrible time for a wedding and he should do January or February instead, but he seemed to disagree. Especially living in London.  I suppose I wouldn’t want to get married in January in London either… So, I’m panicking a little bit as the end of the month grows nigh and my plane ticket slithers into view.

Here is the to-do list (before October 2):

  1. finish combining oats.
  2. unload, screen clean and dry oats.
  3. finish last 35 acres of plowing.
  4. spread manure on 18 acres of freshly plowed ground for barley and spelt.
  5. fix disc and bring fields that need to be disced.
  6. pressure wash combine to figure out hydraulic and oil leaks before using it to harvest corn.
  7. go through bean combine with fine toothed comb so it doesn’t shit the bed like it did last year.
  8. bring home miscellaneous equipment and make lists of what it needs to have before being used again.
  9. find parts seed drill needs in next two days, order them, fix it, and use it.

Now when you put times into it, this list becomes much more tight…

For example I can plow at 2.5 acres per hour… I can combine at 2 acres/hr… I can spread a 12,000# load of manure in 30 minutes but it takes me 40 minutes to load it and the total tonnage received was 35 tons… then let’s add in transportation (it takes up to 20 minutes to drive to some of my fields, and 40 minutes to drive tractors and implements there), and lets not forget time for things to break down!

Do you guys think I can do it? I do!!!  Endless optimism. Which, by the way, does not mean I don’t give serious thought to what is actually possible and potential. I do. But it is much easier to always act optimistic than to pout about the potential failures of things.

The fire-scarred funnel bin has finally been moved in preparation for the new beanery at Cayuga Pure Organics. Photo from CPO Facebook page.

The fire-scarred funnel bin has finally been moved in preparation for the new beanery at Cayuga Pure Organics. Photo from CPO Facebook page.

On a personal note, I still need to 1) fix f-250 door I screwed up the last week, because the door chime is getting seriously annoying and 2) find a new, reliable, and inexpensive truck because my poor beloved Bronco had a major engine malfunction and is now no longer in service… And I feel very guilty driving the farm truck around. Because honestly, it is the farm truck.  Not my truck.  And, it’s too big. I have (not recently) gotten that truck towed from downtown because I didn’t realize exactly how much space it really does take up.

News from the beanery:  new building still in progress!  I will take pictures and upload them as things get a little more visual.   It’s very exciting, feelings are running optimistic.  We received our new gravity table yesterday; I wasn’t here for it, but I hear it was quite the experience. CPO doesn’t have the most affable driveway for tractor-trailers, and this one backed straight into the ditch on the left side and Harlan the mechanic had to pull him out with the tractor. Luckily, our biggest tractor was at the farm at the moment, and, even more luckily, it was working perfectly!  Check the facebook page for images. They are great.  It’s not a sight you see often; the size difference is pretty immense.

On that note, It’s 10:38 pm, at LEAST 38 minutes past my bedtime, and I have a rough couple days ahead. My next blog entry will no doubt be about how desperate I am to get back to the farm from London…

Until then!

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