Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Stacking hay

This week we picked up our baled organic hay crop. Below is a series of photos showing how that gets done. The first shot is of my two younger sons, Mit and Mason, standing on a bale watching Stacia pick up the bales. We hired our neighbor to do all of the baling and stacking because we don't have any of this specialized equipment. This machine, known as a harrow bed, is really amazing. It picks up 1200 lb bales on the go, and stacks them automatically. Very cool!

Kids on the tractor

I've had our younger kids on the tractor with me a couple times over the last few days, and it never fails to make them sleepy. The kids are always excited to go on the tractor with me, but soon realize that we just go around and around the field, and the scenery never changes. Usually I can get an hour or two out of them. I took these photos with my cell phone. The first photo is Mit, our 5 year old, and the second is Mason and Lily, our 3 year olds.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Raking Hay

After the swathed hay sits in the field for a week to cure, it needs to be raked into a windrow and baled. The rake, as shown in the video below, is a series of large vertical disks with fingers on the edges of the disks. It is pulled by a tractor, but the rake itself is ground-driven. It pulls two rows from the swather into one giant pile of hay that snakes around the field. After this step, the baler comes in, picks up the row, and compresses it into hay bales. Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos or video of the baler because they did it in the middle of the night.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fan Mail

One of the great things about direct marketing is that we get feedback from our customers. It is so fun to hear what people are doing with our rice/wheat/almonds. I don't usually post these on the blog, but this one is about our wheat flour, which is currently only available at Chico farmers market. We're thinking about expanding our flour sales to other markets this summer--any interest out there in freshly milled organic flour?

Mary writes:
"I bought 5 lbs of whole wheat flour on my visit to Chico Farmers Market last week. It is superior to any flour I have ever used, and it makes a noticeable difference in the quality of our bread. I added toasted wheat berries too for added crunch--they too are delicious. I don't know if it is because the flour was freshly milled or because of the wheat variety you grow (probably both!) but it's fantastic."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Making Hay

We cut our first organic hay crop this week. Hay is a great crop to rotate with rice, because we harvest it in April, and still have time to plant a rice crop in May. Our hay is an oat/legume mix, and is headed for an organic dairy once we get it baled. To make hay, you cut the plants just after they have gone to flower using a machine called a swather. The swather cuts the plants and leaves them in a row on the ground, where they will sit for about a week to "cure." Once they plants are dry, the baler will come in and make bales. If you bale hay too green/wet, it will start composting in the bale, and potentially catch fire.

I'm using hay as the third crop in our rotation of rice, wheat, and hay. The more crops you can have in an organic rotation, the better your weed control and yields of each crop will be. Weeds are our biggest problem in rice, so we're hoping that extending our rotation will help. Plus I feel more like a real farmer rotating crops like farmers used to do!

Here's a brief video of the swather mowing our hay.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Smiling Wheat



The wheat crop is starting to "head," which is what we call it when the panicle emerges from the sheath. The panicle is the cluster of flowers where the grains will eventually form. In the top photo, the heads are just emerging. Rice looks very similar to this when it heads, and the Thai people call this stage "smiling rice." So we'll call it smiling wheat. In just a few days, the entire field will look like the bottom photo, with fully emerged heads ready to be pollinated by the wind.
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Monday, April 6, 2009

Working Ground

The first step in preparing a rice field for spring planting is often the chisel plow. This tool breaks the top crust of matted straw from last year's crop, and opens the ground to aerate and dry the soil. This field has essentially been flooded for most of the time since last May, so the soil is compacted and anaerobic (lacking oxygen). Believe it or not, to grow a good crop of rice, we'll need to dry it out before reflooding and planting.