Yesterday, I took the snowblower from the back of the Kubota, and took the snowplow from the front. Today, I mounted the rototiller on the Kubota – I’m getting ready to plant alfalfa in the fields again. There isn’t much left, and I think the last planting was when I was in high school. It was harder then, using Dad’s old Oliver tractor, pulling a modified horse disc that still had the seat on it. We did a couple years of barley then, to make sure the soil was adequately tilled.
Forty years ago, I would have argued against the traditional 9-19 blend or vernal that was often the Trego norm, and gone with Ladak 65. Still, old decisions affect today’s decisions. The field was created a century ago, with dynamite used to blast a drainage ditch, drain the lake, and leave a hay field – back in the days when horse logging and river transportation was the way things were done.
This time, I’ll be trying a different variety of alfalfa – salt tolerant, branching roots as well as tap roots, and more tolerant of wet soils. My soil is glacial silt and glacial clay, and long on calcium salts. Draining the lake a century ago still left groundwater – but there has been a lot of research and development on alfalfa since I was young. It’s a bit more expensive – but if it works, it’s worth it.
So I will start working the soil again with the tractor and the tiller – and each pass with the tillage instrument brings back comments from Jack Price, who brought the first tiller to his fields below the hill in the seventies. Jack explained that the problem with using a plow in wet areas is that it wants to get the tractor stuck, while the rototiller wants to push the tractor ahead. As I’ve encountered challenges in using the tiller, Jack’s comments about his learning to use a tiller keep coming back when I need them. It takes a talent for teaching to deliver a lesson that returns over 40 years later. Jack’s ability to teach was greater than I realized at the time.
I recall hand-seeding the field with a whirlygig seeder, crossing the field with my previous footprints as a guide, then brushing a little cover over the seeds with a drag made of aspen, pulled by a draft horse that knew more about farming than I did. I’m hoping this experiment with alfalfa works out. I’m not sure I enjoy haying – but I do enjoy watching a healthy field of alfalfa grow.