Monday, October 20, 2008

Garden snooze

No photos of Sunday's project, which was putting the garden to bed. I loaned my digital camera to a student for her project. We'll catch up later.

The remaining tomatoes and peppers were pulled and separated from the fruit and cages, and stacked in one heap for compost. The pig-sty was cleaned out with the tractor loader - slight near-disaster there when I didn't notice the lug nuts had fallen off the Kubota's right front wheel. Now I need two special Kubota M17 fine thread nuts, from who-knows-where. Hopefully they still make them.

All that pig manure was well-rotted, but it made a fine big compost heap mixed with a little remaining sheep bedding. In the spring we'll till this into the garden before making raised beds. Then the ground was tilled with the Kubota rototiller, a fine piece of equipment and without a doubt the best tiller I've ever had or seen.

Gardening is like that. You put the plot "to bed" in the fall. In the spring, you make the beds.

Once the sty was cleaned up, the fence went back from wence it came, and hey presto, no longer a pig sty but a small outdoor sheep pen suitable for winter confinement, with access to a warm dry pen in the barn, which of course is where their hay is stored.

It all works together pretty well, livestock and garden, for fertility, animal health, convenience and in reducing hand labor by using the Kubota wherever it will fit. I was left with about thirty-forty shovel fulls of manure that I couldn't get by tractor, but that just ensured a good night's sleep.

No other tractor could do all this. The other brands are just too big for our operation. But any larger an operation would likely defeat us in terms of the hand labor that would remain -- feeding, shearing, hoof clipping, planting, weeding, picking and most labor intensive of all, putting up.

As long as the wheels stay on, the 1973 Kubota will be the pivot-pin of our system. If it ever dies, we'll have to change everything, or get an identical replacement.

Oh, and there was another problem with the tractor -- it was almost out of coolant. Earlier I had lent it to a student for tilling the college garden, and she had complained of over-heating. I'm afraid I dismissed this, more or less, because it leaks a little oil from the rocker cover, which burns on the hot engine, and so it always smells like it's overheating. But this time it really was. Luckily the thing shuts itself down when it gets too hot, so by the time it had done this this a couple times, I stopped, let it cool off (while I had lunch) and then checked the coolant.

Sorry, Sara. I should have believed you the first time.

Afterward, the tractor ran fine, so no damage happened to the engine. Why the coolant is being lost is another question, but since I've had the tractor now for a year and a half, and only checked the coolant level twice, once at the beginning and just now, I'm not too worried. It's likely a small chronic drip somewhere.

There's one on the truck like that, a tiny drip, a small stalactite of crystalized green goo, and you need to put in a half-gallon every six months. The coolant never really reaches the ground. It just gives you an incentive to crack the hood and check on things. As if I needed one.

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Welcome to our Farm Blog.
The purpose of this blog is for Aimee and I to communicate with friends and family, with those of our students, and other folks in general who are interested in homesteading and farming activities.

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