It often surprises people to learn that there really is farm work to be done in the winter. Equipment repair and maintenance are things that are often left for the winter months. For example, I just spent the last few days building a tractor and manure spreader. When I was done, my neighbors and I ate them for dessert.
This summer, whenever the hydraulics stopped working on the Cub, we just filled ‘er up with more. Seemed odd that so much oil kept spilling out of the oil filler; odder yet that the Cub never seemed low on oil, in fact, she seemed a little too full of oil.
Upon careful inspection, and a phone call to Charley P, of Village Power & Equipment in Berlin (aka the Cub Whisperer), the mystery was solved. I guess a common problem with the Farmall Cub is that after 60 or so years of use, the O ring that keeps the hydraulic fluid separate from the oil, fails. The Cub is now in Charely’s shop and will be good as new soon.
An easily replaced, worn-out O ring …. not bad for a 1948 tractor!
Liz and I took a little road trip this Wednesday. First stop was Berlin, MA to meet Charlie at Village Power and Equipment. Charlie is the man to go to if you’re in the market for used farm equipment, or if your used farm equipment has broken down. His knowledge about old tractors is encyclopedic. We looked at his tractors: Cubs and Super As, 148s, 149s, Gs,Ns, Hs and tractors with letter/number names that went in one ear and out the other. We examined manure spreaders, plows, flail mowers, rotary mowers, tool bars, sweeps, shovels, shanks, shoes and ….. you get the picture. Charlie’s got a lot of equipment. And he likes to talk about it. It was the most interesting window shopping I’ve ever done.
Our next stop was Picadilly Farm, just across the Massachusetts border in Winchester, New Hampshire. Picadilly provides the bulk of our winter share. Farmer Jenny gave us a tour of the fields, greenhouses, washing station, walk-in cooler, equipment barn and CSA area. We met the farm crew: Antonio, Adelina, Lucio and Susie. We worked with Jenny and the crew to harvest spinach and celeriac. Bruce fed us lunch. Beckley, Bruce and Jenny’s two year old daughter, introduced us to farm kittens, butternut and sweetie, and dazzled us with her ability to count celeriac as we harvested.
Picadilly is a sweet little farm. Jenny and Bruce are excellent land stewards and skilled farmers. The farm staff are a wonderful bunch of hard working and fun loving folks. What a great road trip!
We’re been harvesting tomatoes from the second planting for a few weeks. Striped Germans, Japanese black trifele, rose de Berne, jubilee, Nebraska wedding, garden peach, Pruden’s purple, jet star and pink beauty tomatoes varieties are in abundance. Paste tomatoes from the third planting are starting to come in. Dry and sunny weather conditions have improved the flavor and texture of the tomatoes. Belmont CSA shareholders are making gazpacho, salsa, tomato tarts, tomato sauce and finishing off their cherry tomatoes on the walk/drive home. Farm lunches have greatly benefited from the addition of tomato, basil and mozzarella. (If you are not a shareholder, but live in the area, you’ll find our tomatoes at Formaggio Kitchen, Huron Avenue in Cambridge and Kitchen on Common in Belmont.)
Without a doubt, 2008 will not be remembered as a good tomato year by most growers in the northeast. Three weeks of rain and overcast skies kept tomato leaves wet and soil water-logged — perfect growing conditions for the fungus that defoliates tomato plants.
We’ve stayed on top of caring for our tomato plantings this year. Straw mulch applied in a timely manner has minimized soil splashing onto leaves. Regular basket-weaving (tying tomatoes up with twine to keep them off the ground) has also minimized leaf contact with fungus-invested soil. Adequate weed management and generous spacing between tomato plants has maximized air circulation. We’ve also been almost religious about staying out of the tomato plantings when the leaves are wet. We’ve taken great care in moving from planting to planting to minimize carrying tomato diseases through the field. Even so, yields are lower and tomato disease more wide-spread and advanced than expected for this time of year.
We’ve been doing a lot of hoeing lately – fifteen hundred bed feet last Wednesday! I got the hoes sharpened on Thursday. My mechanic gets them razor sharp in exchange for lettuce! He deduced that I’m growing vegetables on the rockiest acre on the east coast.
I’ve no mechanized cultivating equipment, in large part because I’ve no place to store another tractor, but also because I can do without it for now. A flame weeder, a colinear hoe and a wheel hoe are the primary tools I use for managing weeds. I do dream about buying a little cultivating tractor. I’ll admit to many hours spent fantasizing about this tractor. It’s red. I picture myself sitting on it, high above the galen soga and pigweed. I drive up and down the rows of vegetables, sweeps, hillers, baskets and/or tines arranged just-so, wiping out millions of tiny weed threads with each tractor pass. I imagine the weed sprouts trembling at the sound of tractor’s engine.
In addition to a good crop of rocks, here’s what else is growing well: