Allis Chalmers G 2The National Weather Service reminds us that winter is not over—they are calling for a pattern change and chance of showers after the upcoming weekend.  But it has sure felt like Spring the last few days. We are in full production mode. Yesterday we transplanted out a new block here at our home site (most of the planting we have done up to this point has been at our Lewis Road parcel which has sandy soil that dries out much faster). Broccoli, red and green cabbage, romanesco, cauliflower, celery, fennel, and rainbow chard were among the things we planted.

One of the great ironies of this wet winter is that our cover crop has grown poorly in many places here on our heavy clay soils—it’s simply been too wet. I’ve made the joke that we would have been better off planting a rice cover crop, but that is not far from the truth. To compensate for this lack of organic matter, we’ve brought in a large amount of compost that we’ll be spreading over the next few days. As we mow down what cover crops there are, we spread the compost over the top and disc them in together. The microbes in the compost help break the cover crop residue down more quickly.

In addition to doing field prep, my other major project these days is doing a complete overhaul of our 1953 Allis Chalmers “G” cultivating tractor which is currently strewn about my workshop floor in pieces. I had to take it apart in order to fix a problem with the differential and am using the opportunity to replace or upgrade many of its parts. Among the things I’ll be replacing are the clutch-plate, throw-out bearing, wiring harness, hydraulic hoses, fuel lines, thermostat and drive belt. I’ll also be adding weight to the front end so it steers better and completely redoing the “belly bar” where all of cultivating knives are mounted.

To the back of this “belly-bar” we will be adding European finger weeding assemblies, which is one of the things I am most excited about this season. The cultivating tractor uses knives that do a great job undercutting weeds between rows and on the shoulders of our raised beds, but it still leaves a 4” wide band between plants that we have to cultivate by hand using hoes. These new European units use rubber fingers that are gentle enough to leave our transplants intact, but still take out most of the weeds.

Making repairs and upgrades like these ourselves is part of the economic reality for a small farm like ours—it would simply be too expensive to hire things out every time something broke down. The large farms around us all have large shops with full-time mechanics and fabricators working for them. I’m not complaining, however. It keeps things interesting for me, and there is a lot of satisfaction in getting to know a piece of equipment that you rely on inside and out.

I hope you are enjoying your spring projects too!

Note: This week restarts our weekly CSA deliveries for the 2017 season. If you are signed up as a biweekly subscriber, this is an “A” week.

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