Friday, April 29, 2011

Working on Sunshine


Spring sunshine has warmed up our little corner of the world. Everything is changing fast. The pears blossomed. Kermit green shoots spark against the grey-blue afternoon thunderclouds. Frogs in the ice pond summon the rains. Insects buzz by the thousands. After most lunch breaks, we find fresh deer tracks in the tractor tracks. They must be keeping an eye on our progress.
This week, we are clearing out the field for the hops’ new hilly homes. Before we can plant, we must clear a ¼ acre field between the pear orchard and the forest. So, we have removed a lot of trees. According to Rich, I’m “like a surgeon” with the Kubota tractor. First, I dug out the roots with the backhoe and then knocked down the trunks with the front bucket. Finally, I pushed the piles with the frontloader to a side wall. (So. Much. Fun.) Meanwhile, Rich chain-sawed 30-50’ foot trees that would have shaded the hops field. Yeah, who’s the surgeon?

As the warm weather has melted the snow and allowed us to spend 8 hours outside each day, we are getting to know our field. This is important because we’ll need to know how to best manage the soil to keep the hops healthy (and pears, apples and veggies, too). Upturning the trees, we found signs of good soil: loamy soil and huge earthworms (like foot-longs!). We also discovered a few bad signs: the water level was just two inches below the surface and 6-8 inches of standing water in some places. Drowned hops are not good. We tracked where the water tried to go and found it dammed up by a pile of discarded fencing and roofing shingles, which are of course waterproof. Sounds like a job for the trusty Kubota. We hope to get the field to drain some – in time for more spring rains.

Being outside this week has helped us visualize what the farm will be – not just what it could be. in next week for an update on planting the hops and construction of the hops trellis!
From McCollum Orchards & Home

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