The little field that almost wasn’t
July 20, 2012, 11:03 am
Filed under: July 2012

The little field planted to buckwheat

                                                        July 20, 2012

     This little field of about 2 acres was a brushy, tangled mess when we came to this farm. I kept working at it after we had it mowed by a large commercial brush chopper. The animals grazed the area the next several years. All I did was mow it with a brush hog once a year.

     It was lumpy and bumpy. I believe it had been plowed at one time, but never harrowed. The water layed in spots and ground hornets built nests in the hollow places. Mowing that field was a real job!

     I think the animals did as much for the field as I did. They ate much of the new growth from the old brush and brambles. They deposited manure all over the place. I grazed it hard, right down to the ground in mid-summer. I was brutal to this little field as I waged war against multi-flora rose, red brush and hawthorn. The weeds were no real problem because the animals ate most of them.

     Finally, after waiting several years for the stumps to rot, I plowed this small field and planted corn. The field did very well. The corn crop was excellent. The deep roots of the corn started a process of cultivation that continues today.

     The field is part of our rotation. The farm has 14 paddocks and all but one is planted to field crops every 5 to 7 years. The rest of the time they are in hay or pasture. They get manured and limed while they are in the grass part of the rotation. This system works out very well for us.

     One look at this little field, when we were setting up our farmstead, made me shudder. There was a lot of work that would have to be done before it would ever be of any use to us. Thanks to that big mower, multi-specie grazing and my tenacious nature, we now have a productive field.

     Currently the field is planted to a cover crop of buckwheat. The last crop was corn that didn’t get picked until late this spring. The buckwheat will suppress weeds and mine the soil of valuable nutrients. The buckwheat residue, laden with minerals for the next crop, will be disced into the soil. A crop of speltz will be planted in just 60 to 75 days from now, following the sacrificial buckwheat.

     I use buckwheat, not for the grain, but for all the other properties mentioned. I will mow it once or twice depending upon how well it does. The last mowing will be covered with a good layer of compost. The whole plot will get harrowed, thereby incorporating  all that goodness for the crop to follow. The mowing and the buckwheat itself controls the weeds. The speltz will get of to a great start and winter over well.

     We got six tenths of an inch of rain yesterday. Everything is much better off for it. The newly planted buckwheat should germinate and get growing in the seedbed. Our little field that almost wasn’t … has become a productive part of our farm.


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