Friday, May 21, 2010

The Oat Patch

With Manfred on hand, I returned from my bike ride to Corner Farm and tackled my oat patch. I have determined that oats grow well in Alaska -- better than any other grain. Close seconds are wheat and rye. So I ordered some Naked Oats from Johnny's Selected seeds in Maine. Let us see.

I decided, in a complex decision process that involved my own endurance, the condition of the ground, the obliquity of the ecliptic, the SU(3) symmetry group, and plain old guesswork, that 5 meters by 5 meters would be OK. The original plan was for 10x3 meters. That's 30 m2, and is based on Gene Logsdon (The Contrary Farmer) and his book, Small-Scale Grain Raising. If you Google on Gene Logsdon, you will find his refreshing blog, and all his books. Gene says that this is adequate for one family ( translating gringo units to something human). OK, 30 square meters it should be.

So, thought I, 25 m2 isn't too far off ; this ground is awful; it is full of stumps, roots, junk, and for all I know dinosaurs. That's 5x5. Good enough. Gas up Manfred and we are off.About 45 minutes later, we have an oat patch. You can see it behind Attila and Manfred, parked side by side. Tillers are marvellous. But they require quite a lot of muscle. My tractor has wheel brakes and can turn in its own length; a tiller has no such convenience and you have to horse it around turns. But it did it. It would have taken (literally!) years to clear this much by hand, at my age anyway. I was quite wiped out when I finished.

No rest for the weary. Time to do the beds in the garden extension. This, I must report, is hoe-and-shovel work. Exhausting. But the nice thing is that the tiller has broken up a lot of the sod, roots, and old boots -- so not quite so exhausting. More follows.

At the end of the day, I am bone-tired but happy. We humans must be wired up for working the soil. Why else would anyone work so hard? But I am satisfied.

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