Mother Nature has finally eased her grip on a very wet spring and we’ve seized the opportunity to get some field work underway. “The Plan” for 2019 is to plant 30 acres of canola on ground that has sat fallow through the winter. So, the first step is to have a plan… that might seem obvious but it isn’t always the case. We really didn’t give a lot of though to the farm through the fall and winter months as we raced to finish up the house. But with a little research, a fresh set of soil tests, and some handy references like the “Cornell Guide for Integrated Field Crop Management”, we figured out we needed and got the inputs lined up: 140 lbs. of Canola seed from Photosynthec, 4 tons of fertilizer from the Farmer’s Mill in Sherman, and an ample stock of herbicides to deal with the weeds.
As with nearly all of my farming projects, it didn’t take long for the plan to go off the tracks! It was a cloudy Friday morning in mid-April and the fields had dried up just enough to get into with the fertilizer wagon. The weather cooperated and I got the fertilizer on to the field without getting stuck. But as I was heading back to Sherman with the empty spreader wagon in tow behind our John Deere 6300 tractor, the plan went awry. I had just crested a hill on the Westfield-Sherman Road when the tractor let out an angry belch and immediately ceased to respond to all input; no brakes, no steering, no transmission control… and a 3-ton wagon pushing me down the hill. After a moment of panic, I was able to wrestle the beast on to the shoulder and bring the machine to a halt – the outcome might have been much different were it not for a gentle grade and wide shoulder. Not an auspicious start to the planting season – first input on the field and one tractor down. Fortunately, the larger of our two tractors had undergone an electrical makeover during the winter and was ready to take on all the planting chores. So, while the 6300 is undergoing drive shaft replacement at the John Deere dealer, the 4020 is getting the work done in the field. We’ve got all of the fertilizer and herbicides on and tilled the ground in preparation for planting. Provided the weather hold and we can continue getting into the field, I anticipate we’ll complete planting next weekend… a little later than hoped but field and weather conditions look favorable. Meanwhile, strawberries, raspberry and blueberry bushes are growing like crazy and the apple and cherry trees are in full blossom. There is plenty to do even on the days that are too wet to venture into the field. Check back in a few weeks when the fruit sets and the canola springs forth from the soil.