Over the weekend, Rob and Maurice were cleaning up the horse pasture, and piling up the manure. After seeing the pile, I rushed off the get my tractor and connect the manure spreader. The manure spreader is a fancy wagon that is capable of carrying about a half truck load of manure from the field to my garden. The machine saves a great deal of manual labor, as in the past I had to shovel the manure into a truck, then shovel it back out. With this spreader, Rob could load the manure with his tractor, and I could use the flinging capacity of the spreader to apply a thick layer of organic fertilizer to the garden without touching a shovel.
On our first use of the machine, Rob loaded it up so that the manure towered nearly a foot over the edges. We all assumed that the tractor could pull the wagon heaping full of manure, and it worked with some rough driving. In order the steer the tractor I had to use the rear brakes, as the front end tended to lift itself off the ground. Then just as I passed over the small rock wall on the edge of my garden the manure spreader experienced a mechanical malfunction: The hitch separated from the spreader.
The spreader was constructed with a hitch and a handy built on spacer that keeps the hitch from laying on the ground. The whole hitch assembly was held together by four very rusty bolts which snapped as I tried to pull the wagon over the small rock wall. Luckily we found four bolts in the barn that fit the assembly.
After reconnecting the hitch it was time to try out the spreader. At first the machine seemed to be working with all of the gears moving but no flying fertilizer. Soon we found a mechanism which advances a track system in the wagon. The tracks force the load back at 1/2 inch intervals, and when the manure moves back far enough, the rotating spikes in the tail end fling the manure in every direction.
We all decided after the first load to fill the spreader only half way, since the tractor had trouble negotiating the hill with such as heavy load. The lighter loads helped smooth out the whole process, and before I knew it I was gaining confidence in this new tool. All was well until I noticed the tires inner tube bulging out the side of the wheel. I knew this could be a show stopper as flat tires don’t tend to turn well, but I kept on driving and kept constant watch. After nearly half of the work was done, I noticed the bulge in the tire missing, and curiously the tire was only about half flat. If the inner tube was punctured, the tire should have lost all of it’s air, but it did not. I decided not to wonder why it was still inflated, and figured I’d just be happy and keep working.
When the whole garden was covered, I took this picture which shows the layer of fertilizer covering the garden. The garden begins along the row of trees on the left, and runs behind the greenhouse out to the edge of the field where the poles are sticking out of the ground.
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While the warm season harvest may be over, there is lots of work pertaining to the warm season left to do. One of the biggest challenges is organizing all of the food that was packed away. The canned items should be stored in a way that allows the cans to be inspected from time to time. A few cans will not properly seal, and if left to sit unsealed they are capable of making a real mess. You can tell the cans are no longer sealed when the center portion of the lid pops to the up position, as opposed to the downward position created by an internal vacuum. When the lids pop up, the contents should be discarded either in a compost pile or in the garbage. Out of over 100 jars of canned tomatoes only three have become unsealed.
The harvest may be over but it’s now time to collect seeds for future planting. I’ve found that the hot greenhouse makes harvesting and storing dry beans pretty easy. I start by collecting the bean pods and spreading them out on my tables in the greenhouse. The sun will then dry out the outer husk making the process of removing beans fairly easy, simply apply pressure to the outer husk and watch the pod crack along the seems. The dry beans inside can then be stored in a glass jar for planting next spring.
Lettuce seeds are also pretty easy to collect if they are allowed to dry in the sun. The plants will grow to about three feet in height, and will grow tiny seed pods after setting small flowers. I’ve been experimenting with the quickest way to harvest the seeds, but for now the best advice I can give is to collect each pod individually, and press the pods between your fingers to release the seeds within. You will then need to separate the seeds from the pods, or simply plant the pods with the seeds in the spring.
It’s nearly time to collect Pak Choi seeds as well. I didn’t get a large enough harvest to cook with this Asian vegetable, but I did try it raw, and it wasn’t bad, so I plan to save lots of seeds for next year. The plants seemed to put all of their effort into seed pods, so I may have planted them late in the season, but there will be plenty of seeds for next year.
Before collecting the seeds, wait till the pods turn a brownish color, and crack open easily. A few of the pods have already turned brown, but the majority are not yet mature.