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Ruminations at the Onset of 2012 Summer

posted May 27, 2012, 9:43 PM by Summerdog Family   [ updated Sep 28, 2012, 12:31 PM ]
It is late May and a lot has happened.

Here is a list of things that should be noted more completely than they are.

We should talk about the crops of 2011: Zucchini, pumpkins, mini-watermelons, chard, beans, onions, beets, kale, carrots, corn, tomatoes.  We loved the beets, had some on Christmas.  The corn tasted great, but much was lost to the raccoons.  The tomatoes were good, but the productivity low.  Eggplants were stars.  There were peppers and tomatoes in a green house that thrived, but there was bottom rot in and out of the greenhouse.  We put up zucchini, pumpkin, corn, tomatoes.  There could be much to say, but the present is more urgent than the history.

There was the loss of our old chickens Rosy and Daisy to, we speculate, raccoons.  Poppy, who had been segregated, because chickens can be vicious, enters her fourth summer, laying eggs regularly.  There are new chickens, Kiwi, Violet, Olive, Juney, and Dill.  Poppy is still isolated because, well, chickens can be vicious.  The new chickens have great esprit d'corps.

We have Sweetie the Llama, Venus the La Mancha, and Faye the Nubian. 

We have wild bees that are being domesticated in a hive next to the ditch.

We have fences.

There have been major advances and lessons in water.  We bought 14 more shares of the ditch, bringing our total to 16.

2011 was very wet. We had many plagues: army cutworm moths, box elder beetles, mosquitoes, frogs, rabbits, grasshoppers.

We cut down a giant hollow cottonwood.

2012 has been a strange year.  March of 2012 was astonishingly hot across much of the continental U.S.  April was hot, but not as hot as March.  We came very close to 90 in late March.  The dry has been as extreme as the heat.  The 2011-2012 winter started with a lot of snow.  But throughout March and April practically nothing fell from the sky either here or up in the mountains.  The snow cover in the South Platte drainage, which is the one that matters to us, is less than 31% average.  Last year it approached 200% average. 

Weather wise, May has been closer to normal - up and down swings of temperature.  There has been some surprise rain.  But lured by the warm weather, we put out some tender plants which took heavy damage with frosts that were closer to the average frost date than might have been expected.  Now, almost June, we dip into the low 40s.

We started many plants inside, and over the course of April and May broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, eggplant, cilantro, sage, basil, and thyme have made it outside.  Some thrive, some do not.  We need to explain the cup method.

On March 26 seed potatoes made it into the ground.  There are three types, Yukon Gold, Pontiac (Red), and Kennebec (White).  We don't hold a lot of potato experience, but these went in right on schedule, into dry soil, on a March day that might have been 85 degrees.  As they sprouted, they were damaged by frost in late April and May.  Something does not seem right.  Here in late May, they grow robustly and are awash in straw. New ones appear. Straw went down after a heavy rain, and some have been soaked by the hose sense then.

On April 2 red, white, and yellow onion sets from Jax went into the soil.  The same day, another hot and dry day, carrots and beet seeds went into the ground.  My guess is that they were not kept wet enough, as there were never any carrots or beets.  There were and have been many, many lambs quarters. 

May 21 the first corn went into the ground.  Last year we had great tasting corn, Peaches and Cream, Luscious, and Argent.   Our early corn in 2011, Sunglow, did not have much taste, so we have forsaken it this year.  The corn at the end of the season was excellent, but it seemed confused, like all of the hybrids had mixed it up.  Some of the ears that came out of the patch that started as Luscious were as full and sweet as any corn I have had.  We froze a lot - steamed on the cob, then cut off the cob and put in containers, double sealed and frozen.  It was a September of visiting the corn for lunch and dinner.  

Back to 2012 - May 21 we planted the first patch of Luscious.  We plant corn in quasi-square patches about a week apart.  This year, partly because we are anticipating drought, better irrigation technology, and because we were better prepared, we have been using the tiller footprint to define our layout.  Our tiller is an Agric AL-50 and makes a row about four feet across.  Our soil seems a miracle, and the tiller leaves it a light fluff that absorbs water.  There is clay and if it is walked on wet, you sink, and slip, and get muddy, and compact the soil.  We try to not walk in the rows.

We are scooping out the edges between the rows, and making little troughs.  This would help flood irrigation, but this year, we have no flood.  We are filling the troughs with straw and hay and good things from the barn.   We walk in the troughs.  The dirt scooped from the trough is placed back onto the tilled row.  It is used to make a little lip down the row so that water in the row stays in the row.   

For the corn, 1 foot from the trough on each side of the tiller swath is a row of corn.  So each 4 foot section has a row running one foot from its edge, with 1-2 feet between them.  The troughs separate corn rows, so that there is a little more than 2 feet between the rows.  

The corn seeds are planted 1 foot apart, single seeds, in a hole about 1 and a half inches deep.  The seeds are dropped, and then water is poured onto the hole to bring the dirt onto the seed and to soak it good.  After the ground has dried enough to work, a light raking is used to finish covering the seed and break up the crust on top of the ground.  Then there is a good soaking in the middle of the row, and anticipating drought, straw mulch in the center of the row.  The mulch does NOT cover where the seed were planted. 

May 27 and 28 the first Peaches and Cream were planted. 

May 21, stunningly late, many beet seed went into the ground. Early Wonder, Chioggia, and Detroit Dark Red.

May 29, we put the first tomatoes into the ground today.  They were the beefsteak tomatoes, seed planted on March 3.  Marching them zigzag down a row, two feet on center.  Using the traditional planting, a deep hole, then using the fork to loosen deeper.  Then a couple of shovels full of peat moss, a handful of fertilizer, stir.  Cut the bottom leaves off, place roots in the bottom of the hole, and cover much of the stem where the bottom leaves have been removed.  Partly cover with soil.  Soak low.  Let absorb.  A bit more water, let it absorb.  Cover with dry dirt, and make sure that no leaves are caught in the dirt and mud. Surround with straw to protect from Sun.  Will put the wall of water around as many as I can.  Makes a huge difference.  Plan to stake them this year. 

May 29, first corn up.  Luscious.






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