Monday, September 05, 2005

More farm work

Today went to get an elevator for the corn we'll harvest this fall. With commodity farming, the corn is shelled by the combine and so we would usually use an auger to move it into the grain bin. However, the whole corn we pick won't move up those tight areas, so we have to get older chain-and-ladder elevators to move them up. Most of these were converted over to hay elevators, but can be re-converted. We bought one of these today, my sister and I.

There was an auction for a local farmer who was getting out of the business, renting out his land and selling off his older equipment. He had a regular hay elevator, but this was in pretty bad shape and was missing parts, plus had some other repairs which were going to be pretty hard to accomplish. It would take some time to get these done, which I don't have to spare. So the simpler route was to take the converted elevator which worked and simply move it back to it's earlier state, as much as I could.

So we have now a combine, corn picker and elevator so we can pretty simply handle the crops which we had a single (often broken down) powered combine to do most of this work before. The difference is that I'll be using a much slower system to get this done by, but one which keeps me in control of my farming methods. Means I'll gradually be able to move over to more sustainable (even organic) methods by farming on a smaller scale.

Also got a good deal of motors, which can be used to power various equipment around the place, like our small/portable augers used to get the commodity grain we do have out of the corn bins into the feed wagons for our cattle. (Only need to get some sort of sheller so I can convert whole corn to shell. Cattle and chickens get more out of shell corn than they do ground, although calves are more easily weaned to ground whole corn, since it has more bulk to it and allows their digestive systems to adapt more easily. Then you add more and more shell corn/shelled soybeans to the mix (85% corn/15% soybeans) so that they are eventually eating whole grains only.

Once I can move our grain production over to organic, keeping it this way for three years, I can then get certified fully organic. Meanwhile, I have cut my inputs to rediculously low levels and so have been making a whole lot more profit because I've cut down both inorganic fertilizers and also all that spraying. Funny enough, it will also cut down on fuel costs, since with the method I'm chosing to use, I'll only need to cross that field twice instead of three times, both of these times not requiring the horsepower which earlier methods used. (Formerly, I'd plow, then disk with a harrow, then plant. Without spraying, I'd also have to row cultivate the corn twice more to keep the weeds "mostly" at bay. Plowing and dragging a heavy disk/harrow combination takes several tanks of gas each time. Cultivation is lighter, but still compacts the soil each time the tractor travels over the field.)

Next year, I'm planning to get the "three sisters" method going - I'll plant corn, row cultivate when it's about 3-4 inches tall and then turn around to plant vining peas right next to the sprouted corn. I'll skip one row each time (planting only three rows instead of my usual four) and hand plant (small area) the two rows with pumpkins - at least until I can find a two-row pumpkin planter or build one. The corn fills out in between the rows, while the beans provide nitrogen. Meanwhile, the pumpkins are moving in to fill between the rows and keep the coons and deer away with their sharp/ragged leaves (ever walked in amongst pumpkins in full array?).

Of course, I'm looking to plant one area in ornamental/Indian corn and do the same thing with late sweet corn in another patch. Should be interesting to see how these turn out. For the both areas I'll be using short-season corn, peas and pumpkins/squash.

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I'm going to set up for selling corn shock decorations on Saturdays this year, spending the day getting people in to buy these holiday decorations. I've got quite a bit of corn, so only have to bind, cut, transport, display and sell these to make a bit of cash. I'll also sell squirrel/bird corn at the same time. See how this goes. If I could find someone to sell pumpkins at the same time, we'd have quite a show going.

Should keep me going until November. Won't be working on my custom art too much this season, but hopefully this will be my last warehouse winter. I will try substitute teaching this next spring, three days a week and have four days off to farm and get prepared for the next summer - which is going to be airbrush t-shirts at the fairs. Once I'm good enough, I'll pick up the State Fair, but right now, that's pretty out of the scene. Local fairs should get me some tidy sums over summer.

So, there you have it, dayjobs, art and farming.
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