So far, this spring has been another for the record books.
March 2011 was one of the rainiest Marches ever recorded in the state of New Jersey. (Correction from an earlier version: March 2010 was actually the rainiest ever.) Above-average rainfall totals then continued in April. As a result, the crop fields of Howell Farm were totally saturated with water.
Now that it’s May, the skies over Howell Farm have finally cleared and we’ve had a streak of sunny days. Our fields have finally begun to dry out. A few updates on the fieldwork:
-With the help of draft horses Bill and Jesse, Farmer Jeremy has begun plowing the North crop field that runs parallel to the farm lane (closest to where the footbridge is located). The field here is well drained and Farmer Jeremy reports that the soil is turning over very nicely in the furrow. He made some adjustments to his favorite walking plow in the off-season and it’s been working great.
After the rest of this field is plowed and then harrowed, it will be planted with field corn, which will be harvested in the fall and fed to our animals in the winter.
-All our potatoes are now planted and beginning to grow in one of the farm’s East crop fields. These fields are a little bit of a hike from the main farmhouse, so be sure to ask for directions if you come visit and want to watch the potato plants grow.
-The field where our oats are to be planted has been the subject of much discussion at Howell Farm this spring. The oats should have been planted weeks ago, but the ground has been so wet that it was impossible to get into the field to finish plowing until very recently. (This field is the lowest and wettest on the farm.)
After plowing, harrowing comes next. A harrow rides over the soil like a comb and smoothes out any chunks created during plowing. This wet field ended up so extremely chunky, however, that the footing was treacherous and the job for our horses would have been immense, not to mention potentially injury-ridden.
Nearly all of the field operations at Howell Farm are completed with animal power, but in this special case the decision was made to call in the tractors. Farm manager Gary Houghton hopped on a farm tractor and pulled a harrow across the entire field three times. This work, completed in a day, would have likely taken our horses an entire week to finish. Now the oats are ready to be planted as soon as tomorrow.