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More Harvests and Getting Ready for Winter

November 1, 2014
Butternut squash, harvested and curing in the hoop house

Butternut squash, harvested and curing in the hoop house

Harvest, getting ready for winter, and a few new tools to help out, were the themes of October.

Rockwell dry beans, waiting to be shelled

Rockwell dry beans, waiting to be shelled

Early in the month, a few weeks after our first dry bean harvest, a few friends came over and helped us with our second dry bean harvest: the Black Turtle beans. We were so happy to have the help again, and again, with the help it went quickly. All the beans are out in the propagation hoop house, laid out on tables, waiting to be shelled. Unfortunately, we haven’t gotten any new equipment to help us with the dry beans, so it is either shelling by hand or trying the fan method (threshing the beans out of the pod, then pouring the whole mess in front of a fan to blow away the broken pod pieces, while the beans drop to the ground). Up to this point, we have always shelled by hand, since we haven’t had too many beans. But, this year we have more, so though we have already shelled some by hand this year, we are still considering other options.

The drip tape winder and a few rolls of drip tape.

The drip tape winder and neatly rolled drip tape.

A week or so later, I brought in all the winter squash from the fields, to cure in the propagation hoop house…which as you might guess, is now full of beans and squash instead of vegetable starts. Getting all these crops out of the field was important, so we could start sowing our cover crops for the winter. But, before we could prepare the fields for the cover crops, I also had to take out the drip irrigation lines. Our first new tool came into play here: a drip tape winder. Steven’s dad built it for us, from a plan written up by Josh Volk in Growing for Market, a small farm publication. The drip tape winder is a big spool on a frame you can wind the tape up on, to make a  neat roll. Last year, we laid out our drip lines between our hoop houses and left them there for the winter. Not the best storage conditions. Come time to put the drip lines back in the fields, the grass had grown up around them and it was quite a job to pull them out and untangle them. Now they will be stored neatly in rolls, in the barn. When it is time to lay them out, I can simply put them back on the winder and roll them off into the fields. It is a simple tool, but what a difference it makes!

The ring roller, aka "The Pulverizer"

The ring roller, aka “The Pulverizer”

As for cover crops, here in the Willamette Valley, mid-September to mid-October is the best time to plant many of the varieties for fall/winter cover. We planted a mix of annual rye grass and hairy vetch in our fields. We purchased a new tool to help us with this job: a ring roller, or as the company who makes the tool calls it, a pulverizer. Its job is to give the seeds good contact with the soil, so they have a better chance to germinate. We used it with the first field we sowed in September, and the seed has grown to give a very nice cover for the soil already. We had to wait for some rain before we could open up two new fields for future use and get them, along with one other field seeded. Then more rain came. Luckily, it wasn’t too much (though more than ideal) and a week later, we sowed the last two fields. We finished by headlight and headlamp on a Sunday night. Those fields are all germinating and we hope they will grow enough to offer the soil some protection from the winter rains.

It is good to have that work done, but it certainly does not mean the season is over. One field will stay in production all winter. The harvest continues!

Our annual rye grass and hairy vetch mixed cover crop, in the first field we sowed

Our annual rye grass and hairy vetch mixed cover crop, in the first field we sowed

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