Healthy soil=healthy plants=healthy people

Most farmers would come by the farm right about now, see us with shovels in an acre of tilled field and say we are absolutely crazy. We have 1 acre (close to) of newly tilled soil and we are now hand digging shallow trenches to form permanent beds for crops. Why don’t we use a tractor implement to create these beds? The answer is pretty simple: I don’t have a tractor or an implement. Our generous neighbor Walt allows us to use his tractor to plow and then till the field (since it would be impossible to do this by hand). We take it from there by hand to create our beds…it takes longer of course, but I figure its a one time physical investment since we only do it once. Plus–the less we drive over the soil with that huge tractor, the less we are disturbing the soil life.

Geoff on the tractor--tilling the field

Alfalfa root sticking out of soil

Pathways complete for new fields!

Today Kat, Geoff and I spent most of the day digging the pathways for the new beds! We have only one small field left! Its exciting to look back and see all of the space where we will grow food next year. The last step before we retire for the winter will be mulching heavily with oat straw. That will come next week…

Soil aggregates with worm holes

My end goal for managing our beds this way is to encourage and nurture as much soil life as we can while growing crops for eating. Before we plant a bed into a new crop we use a simple tool called a wheel hoe after we rake back the mulch. A wheel hoe only cuts a couple inches under the soil surface which leaves most of the soil undisturbed. If we are growing root crops (carrots, beets etc) I will aerate using a big fork (called a broadfork).  Over time I want our soil to be filled with worms and fungal networks and loose enough we can stick our hand in the beds. We will keep documenting and doing soil tests and time goes on to track progress.

First planting in the new field!

Fall is also time to be putting in lots of garlic, flower bulbs and perennials!! I love this time of year. It always feels like any planting or soil work we do now is just extra preparation for next season.

We met a farm couple from Wisconsin (David and Stephanie and their daughter Sophie) that are looking for a farm in the area. David has been saving garlic for years and does not have a farm here yet to plant it. This year he is planting garlic so he will be able to save it and grow it next year on their new farm!!

Sophie carefully planting garlic

Next week we are on to launching our CSA program, planting our garlic, flower bulbs and mulching like crazy! It is also Kat and Geoff’s last week on the farm. We will be so sad to see them go…

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