Jim Athearn plowing at the old Waller Dairy farm, now owned by town of Edgartown, just to the north of the Katama air field.
Dad says “its time to plow everything”. We have been out turning all the vegetable fields over this week. Last weeks wet weather made the cover crops jump up and kept us out of the fields because they were too wet. Many to most fields now are covered by our staple cover crop, winter rye with a mix of hairy vetch. In most fields the rye is up to my belt and thick.
Winter Rye puts on a huge amount of growth in the spring, and establishes easily even into late November. And the best part of rye is its ability to hold fertility over the winter. Even when 4 to 6 inches high in November it binds up many of the soluble nutrients that might otherwise disappear down to the water table. Then there is the bonus of a large crop of ‘green manure’ to plow down in the spring. Green manures are any vegetation that when grown can add to the soil after plow-down, I love that term ‘green manure’. Mixed in with the bodacious rye is hairy vetch. Vetch’s are part of the legume family (think peas and alfalfa). This means they have that magical ability to ‘fix’ nitrogen from the air and store it in nodules in their roots. So this little cold weather legume will grab the farmers most valuable nutrient from the air (I hear there is too much in the air as it is) and stores it for use during the growing season, we plow it down and take advantage of those nutrients.
I could watch that rank green winter crop slide over and under into the earth as it leaves the plow all day, just beautiful. And luckily I do get to watch it all day, this part of the season alot of time it put in on the plow. A fast pace on a long fields (with less turning around at the ends) I can plow about two acres and hour (record time). This year we are headed for plowing and planting to vegetables about 65 acres, that’s some time in the saddle. But of course it only begins our process of planting because plowing is followed by: Disking, fertilization/lime, compost spreading, more disking, perfecting (a tool for leveling and smoothing), planting, cultivation, irrigation, and HARVEST. Spring makes the farmer happy beacuse his fields are still full of promise, he hasn’t had time to screw anything up yet!