Monday, November 29, 2010


It would be awfully tempting to get a small riding tractor to help with tilling and mowing, but I think I can manage with walk-behind equipment which is a lot cheaper and uses a lot less fuel. I bought a used Troybilt horse tiller with an 8 horsepower electric start engine and a Troybilt sicklebar mower with a 3 horsepower engine. These two machines have served me well in the first summer of clearing the place. I mowed all of the one-acre pasture twice and tilled a quarter-acre piece for the 2011 garden about 10 times. It would be nice to have a tractor to spread compose and turn the compost piles, but I can also hire strong kids to do that. Hey, maybe I could call them 'interns' and get some free labor.


I would like to keep a few chickens on the farm, maybe just enough for the two of us or maybe as many as 25 to have enough eggs to sell to attract people to the farm to buy our excess vegetables. But there is a problem. We don't intend to live at the farm and it is 15 miles from where we live in town. That means that I must either 1) go to the farm every day to care for the chickens, 2) design systems that will care for the chickens well enough that I can be absent for 2-3 days, 3) get a renter in the house who would be willing to help care for the chickens in exchange for a portion of the eggs or 4) get friends from town who would be willing to visit the farm one day a week for a share of the eggs. I'm still mulling this over.


We have about 2000 square feet of roof on the outbuilding. Most of this is metal roof -- ideal for water gathering. I installed a 3000 gallon above ground cistern beside the barn to catch and hold rain water next spring for summer use in the garden. I figure that with careful mulching and drip watering that 3000 gallons can last at most one month so we will still need to draw water from the well, but this can be done slowly and in off hours to refill the cistern during late August and September. The tank is situated in altitude below the roof but about 3 feet above the garden, so we should hopefully be able to use gravity to get the water from the tank to the garden. Unfortunately, there is not enough drop between the largest roof and the tank to use gravity, so I will need to install a small sump pump in a rain barrel to transfer water from the roof to the cistern.

I'm concerned about freezing. The tank itself won't freeze in this climate but the drain plumbing could freeze. For that reason I won't start filling it until March and when I install the drain plumbing and sight tube (to see how full the tank is) I will make it so that the piles can be drained next winter, even if there is water left in the tank.

Preparing for 2011 garden

I tilled up about 1/4 acre for the 2011 garden. This should be enough to raise all of the vegetables the two of us can eat and leave lots to share. I have been over the soil at least 10 times with my Troybilt horse tiller. There are lots of canary grass rhizomes in the soil. I expect that if i can till it several times through the winter and several more times next spring I can disturb those rhizomes enough to eradicate the canary grass.

I also spread and tilled in 30 cubic yards of Cedar Grove compost. That is equivalent to about 1 1/2 inches over the whole garden. My purpose is to increase the organic content of the soil so that it will hold moisture better next summer. If I also mulch it with this years cut hay and use drip irrigation I can minimize the need for water next summer. Since all we have for water is a 40 foot deep hand dug well, we need all the water conservation we can get.

Our fall 2010 garden

We took possession of the place in late July, 2010. Fortunately, we had a greenhouse full of tender plants that we had grown for our Ebey Island garden, which we knew we would be loosing at the end of 2010. We made immediate use of a large raised bed (about 40 x 3 ft and 2 ft high) that had not been planted by the seller. We added a truck load of Cedar Grove compost and some cotton seed meal and planted broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, carrots, leeks and parsnips. It all thrived except the parsnips which didn't germinate. So this fall we had produce already from the new place.

By Thanksgiving, we had harvested all the broccoli. The freeze just before the holiday The brussel sprouts live on and the kale came through the freeze well.