Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Worm Turns!

It was a tough morning on the farm. I got started at 8:00 AM with the tractor and trailing disc harrows on the field I plowed several days ago. By 9:30 I had a broken set of harrows and was frustrated by a broken axle shaft and missing parts buried somewhere in the field!

I swapped out the discs and went to the venerable old spring tooth harrow to finish the job. I planted timothy and clover in the buffer strip along the road and then laid out a grid for planting our new peach orchard.

What a day! The sun was shining but there was a cold wind blowing 30 - 40 mph all day long. The remnants of the storm that caused so much trouble down south is passing over Nova Scotia and producing a bitter wind that one islander said today, "would rather go through you than around you." Well put.

As the sun was going down I walked along our lane and snapped this photo of the pond that Dunn Creek fills before slipping under the road and down into Murray Harbour.
A pair of Canadian Geese are nesting on the shore and don't seem to appreciate my efforts at farming. If I get too close they honk at me and wish I would leave.

The frogs are making their racket now and looking for some action in the pools and shallows. It's time for me to be finished for the day. I have 25 holes to dig for my dear little peach trees. They're counting on me so I'd best call it a day.

Time to rest. Until next time, best wishes from Dunn Creek Farm.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Worm Forgives the Plough

This picture is for Katie in Montreal who wrote a kind note to say that I made her miss her island home!

Katie can probably tell you what that picture means better than I. And I expect she could even tell you how it smells. Really! There's something about opening the earth on the island in the early spring. The scent that rises after a long winter rest says, "I'm ready - let's get growing!" It's a mixture of mossy wetness, the final breath of last summer's grasses, the meaty tang of worms at work and just a hint of diesel from our little tractor.

I took my old plow out behind the tractor yesterday and made the sods turn over across the two acre field we started working several years ago now. Island farmers , the real ones in their big rigs, like to see the bright red island soil come up to greet them as they pass over the land. I like the intimacy of the open air atop my little John Deere and I've learned to read the soil as I pass over. I know now that when the sods turn from grass green to the rich color and texture of chocolate cake that I have a healthy field full of life.

A man who encourages low till farming once was asked, "Why do farmers plow?" He said, "Because they like to." He's right. And as eager as we are to reduce the need for tillage and to preserve soil structure, this field is in need of some help to repair my earlier mistakes. And so to get the ground ready for the effort to control weeds and feed the soil for another season, I chose the plow to prepare the ground for the green manure and cover crop that will hold down the soil and feed it until our next experiment.

Katie in Montreal noticed that I'm from the US and wondered how I found my way here. Well Katie, the answer is my wife and her, "kindred spirit", Lucy Maud Montgomery. As a fan of, "Anne of Green Gables" she cam to PEI with her grown daughter and they fell in love with the island. The next year we came back up from California and had the notion that we could find a little place for not too much money. Perhaps a cottage near the shore. We found this farm and after much discussion about how impractical it would be - we bought it.

Neither Susan nor I had any kind real experience that would lend itself to taking on a farm. Susan grew up in Wisconsin, and I fell in love with the country life as a part time hand on a cattle ranch in California. So starting with very little practical know-how, we jumped in. And here we are. Now our plans are to graduate our oldest boy from High School in Santa Barbara and then move our family full time to PEI.

It's an interesting life we've chosen. The challenges are many. We know we're fortunate to have the chance and so we're determined to make the most of it.

Well, that's all I have time for tonight. I have a green house waiting for me to plant full of seedlings and time won't wait. I'll post more as time allows. Till then, best wishes from Dunn Creek Farm, PEI.

...Before. On the Airbus to LAX on Friday Afternoon!

...After. Out standing in my field!

Yup, it's spring here on PEI and time to get to farmin'.