Posts from — February 2008
About 2 seasons ago we invested in a cultivating tractor. We had been doing all of our weeding by hand, but we started to get behind a lot of the time, and were looking to expand our growing space. We knew that there were a lot of options out there- Farmall made some good ol’ cultivating tractors as well as Allis Chalmers. (There are many others too, but these two seem to be the most readily available these days) One thing we knew about cultivating tractors was they were generally gas powered as opposed to diesel. This equates to less power, the inability to run biodiesel, and just the same standard chugg-a-lug of old tractor motors.
During the investigation of what tractor to look for, I came across a great resource for converting an old Allis Chalmers G from gas to electric. That’s right- 48 volts DC!
So I started the hunt for an old AC G with no motor. Came across one outside of Corvallis, Oregon. Bought it for $800 and then spent another $2500 on the motor, batteries, and other parts for the conversion.
Over the next 2 months I stripped the tractor down to parts, refurbished anything that needed repaired, and then put it back together and added the electric components.
The next question was deciding what cultivating setup to use. I talked to several other farmers to see what they used and consulted the book “Steel in the Field” and came to the conclusion that a basket weeder was the way to go. The basket weeder works great in lighter soils- loams, sand, silt- but does have some limitations in heavier rocky soils. The basket weeder also works best when weeds are at the white hair stage. In other words when the weeds are still just emerging. If you have an established stand of grasses or other weeds then a tool bar with sweeps might be a better bet. (I’m setting such a tool bar up this season and will post about it once it’s finished.)
So check out the video of the basket weeder in action and listen to the quiet purrrrr of the electric motor. Another thing you might notice is the tank mounted on the back of the tractor’s battery box. This is used to spray fish fertilizer as I weed. It runs off it’s own separate 12 volt battery. This way I can cultivate and fertilize in one pass. Any other questions about the tractor and it’s conversion just email me.
February 22, 2008 6 Comments
At our farm we use soilblocks for all of our greenhouse starts that will eventually be transplanted out into the field. A lot of people don’t know about soilblocking and it may be due to the fact that many folks feel that the extra labor is not worth it.
We’ve found for us here in southern Oregon, where we have highly unpredictable springs as far as weather goes, the soil blocks work really great. Having the plants in the blocks gives us several advantages-
-If you do hit a raining spell, the plants have more room to grow, and can stay in the flats longer.
-Because the blocks all physically touch one another (meaning there’s no divider between cells) the roots are able to intermingle and in essence have the whole flat to grow in.
-And the blocks hold moisture better and longer than standard plug flats.
-Not to mention the fact that we can reuse our flats over and over and not have to throw away any plastic inserts.
We started out using a 4-block maker and have since moved up to the 20 block maker. There’s a variety of sources for the various types of blockers out there. We’ve always gotten ours from Johnny’s Selected Seeds (no I’m not getting paid by Johnny’s for the link, they’re just a great company) but I know that Peaceful Valley Farm Supply carries them as well.
To make a block you have to concoct a specialized soil mix that works well when very wet. The idea here that you take the very wet mix and compress it into the soilblocker and press the release and you’ll have a block. The actually block making process has been the hardest thing for me to explain to people over the years, so thanks to the invention of video on the internet I’ve added a small clip on making the blocks.
February 7, 2008 20 Comments
Our friend Josh has worked at Sauvie Island Organics for several seasons, and is now branching out on his own to further his personal vegetable endeavors as well as help other farm folk out by doing some consulting. He has a really thorough outline on weed management that he’s gathered from working at SIO as well as info he’s gathered traveling to fellow organic farms. It’s really worth jumping over to his entry and studying what he presents. I always learn the best by looking at others work, strategies, ideas instead of trying to reinvent the wheel by myself sitting in my shop.
If you have any questions on the various implements he presents I’d just drop him an email. My experiences with Josh are always educational and intentional.
The farm community is just beginning to see the networking possibilities with the internet. I look forward to seeing this community grow.
February 2, 2008 2 Comments