Tag Archives: tractor

About that tractor

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The May planting rush is upon us, and we rely on our old Ford tractor to prepare bed after bed. In the photo above, you can see the new blue paint on our tractor’s front axle “knee.” No, we’re not giving the Ford a touch-up paint job, it’s actually a brand new part, replacing the one that cracked all the way around the kingpin (the vertical shaft inside the knee). Hmmm! Not what you want to see when you’re preparing beds for your May-planted crops! So I limped back to the barn…….

When you use a tractor that’s 36 years old, you can’t be too mad when something breaks. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of aptitude or even interest in working on vehicles. It’s very satisfying to fix something on a vehicle and get it running again, but my experience level really limits my problem solving abilities. And anyway, I’d rather be working with plants!

So I knew I could probably tear it apart, but then watch in horror as some ball bearings and mangled bushings dropped out of the axle. (This is probably the first time I was glad that this tractor WASN’T four-wheel-drive!). I knew I was going to need some “supervision” putting it back together. After calling around, I found someone who could help. A guy named Bill Fenner came over last week. He told me he had worked for many years at an big company that made high-speed wrapper machines. (There was a slight pause where, in my head, I said to myself, “rapper like hip-hop?”) And he said, you know like cigarette and candy wrappers! Anyway, he rose through the ranks to middle management, but luckily for us, he decided that what he would rather be doing is fixing farmers’ vehicles and machinery.

Big thanks to Bill for getting us rolling again!

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Winter is vacation time on a farm, right?

One might think winter is vacation time on the farm. Not much grows at arctic temperatures, the soil is frozen, and most farmers’ markets are on break. But as we’re discovering, farming is still a full-time job in the winter-time! Here’s a peek at what we’ve been up to.

We have hired a full-time intern, Ashley Wright, who will start the first week of April.  In May, she will be joined by a full-time volunteer Brenda Fisher.  We are excited to welcome these two gals to our farm!

Yes, its winter, but we are trying out growing lettuce in the high tunnel, which is a passive structure that collects heat from the sun during the day and protects the plants from icy nighttime temperatures.  Winter lettuce leaves are thick, because its growing so slowly, and their sugars are concentrated to help them survive freezing.  This is especially exciting because this is the first crop we have harvested that we planted ourselves!

We have assembled most of the materials for our wood-fired oven: firebricks for the hearth, red brick for the door, concrete block and gravel for the foundation, masonry sand, clay, sawdust, wood chips and, yes, plenty of beer bottles for hearth insulation.

We are nearly done with the oven foundation!  We’ve laid concrete block and have been filling it with a mix of rock that has been pulled from our fields where it likely landed in the 1969 mudslide, and gravel. The arctic weather delayed this work somewhat, but we still feel on-track for having the oven finished by April markets.

We are also building a smaller clay oven for the house, and to gain experience working with our materials.

We bought a tractor!  Its a 1982 Ford, 40 HP, with a loader, which has already been put to good use moving heavy stuff for the oven around!

We have planned our CSA and placed our seed order! This involves zillions of decisions–which crops? which varieties? how much space does it need? how much space do we have? how many transplants? how many plantings? when do we plant them so that we have vegetables when we want them? Yes, we have become best friends with Excel.

We are selling bread and vegetables in Charlottesville and Lexington.

Our CSA is about 60% sold out!  Thank you to everyone who has signed up so far!

We are planning Thorny-O, an oldtime music and dance festival that we are organizing and hosting on the Valentine’s Day weekend.  We’re looking forward to welcoming new and old friends to our lovely farm!

Whew, I think that’s it.