Monday, June 22, 2009

Blueberry propagation

We have a few blueberry bushes that we’ve planted in the previous three years. There’s a local blueberry farm that sells berries and plants. They actually sell thousands of plants every year that get shipped all over the world. Last year Dad, Danny, and I picked berries for a couple of days for them. We took payment in blueberries rather than in cash.

Our bushes are small yet, and there aren’t very many. We’d like to be able to grow more of our own. We could buy plants from Bluegrass Blueberries, or we could start our own to set out. Danny has been picking berries again this year, and he asked a lot of questions about blueberry propagation. Apparently, it is quite easy to new plants going.

For our propagation endeavor, I set an old tractor rim that was in my barn out near the garden and filled it with peat moss. Peat moss can be bought from places that sell plants and gardening supplies. Another alternative that works well is saw dust. I believe that rablueberry cuttingw saw dust from a saw mill rather than from a cabinet shop would be better. I didn’t have any saw dust other than from cedar logs available, and it has oils in it that makes it less than ideal.

Once filling the rim with peat moss, I began to add water in order to soak it well. It took a lot of water. We needed it to be well saturated. I think we added enough water to make it a peat bog.

Once the propagation area was ready, Danny and I went to get some blueberry clippings. We cut new growth off of the plants. Some cuttings were only three or four inches long, but others were over a foot. blueberry cuttingsIt just depended on the plant and the kind of growth it had put out.

We took the cuttings to the tire rim. Danny then began to cut the longer ones into shorter lengths. He cut them so that they each had at least three leaf nodes. We removed all but the top one or two leaves and then stuck the cuttings into the wet peat moss where they’ll stay for the next year or so. I’m keeping them well watered so that the peat moss stays moist.

It was cloudy and rainy when we put them out and for the next couple of days which is good because you don’t want cuttings with shade cloththem to have too much sunshine which can dry them out and kill them. Because we expected to see the sun again before too many days passed, I put a shade above the cuttings. Normally, a 50% shade cloth is used. I used what we had available, and I don’t know what it’s rated at. I set it up a few feet above the cuttings so that I can get under it to water them. At that height, they also get some morning and some afternoon sun.

We put 70 cuttings into the peat moss. We hope to have at least 50 plants survive until next fall (2010). We’ll have prepared a place for them and will set them out at that time. They do better when set out during the fall as opposed to being set out in the spring.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Baling hay

HayOne of our summer activities is baling hay when the grass in the fields has grown enough and the weather cooperates. The first step in the process is cutting the grass using my 1950 John Deere MT with a John Deere 8W sickle mower. I enjoy mowing. It’s pleasant to hear the two cylinder engine putt-putting along with the clicking of the sickle while watching the grass fall. We had a nice stretch of weather forecast, so I mowed the field behind the ridge on a Sunday afternoon. It’s four or five acres in size.

Ramiah and I walked through the field the next morning with pitchforks to break up and spread the grass where it had gotten clumped together. This is an important step to ensure that the grass will dry. Green or wet grass will not make good hay; it has to be dry. Thankfully, this task didn’t take long because there were only a few clumps and the weather was forecast to be excellent drying conditions.

windrowsLate Wednesday morning, I raked the hay into windrows. It would have been dry enough to bale on Tuesday afternoon, but we were occupied with other activities. For raking the hay, I use my 1966 International 424 with a Massey-Ferguson rake. One of the challenges on the field behind the ridge is to rake the hay away from the upper edge where there is a hump left from it being plowed years ago.

Once it was raked into windrows, it was about 11:30. Dad and I decided that we would start baling, planning on finishing baling and picking up the bales after lunch. So, I hooked up the baler, a mid-50s IH 45T that doesn’t tie consistently, to the 424 and headed to the field.

IH 45T balerWhen baling Dad walks alongside the baler, watching for any bales that aren’t tied properly. He also pulls the finished bales off the baler and stacks them together with any other nearby completed bales. The old 45T is doing well when it ties a dozen or more bales consecutively without messing up a knot. It seems like we have to stop a lot to retie bales. If we don’t get things in order when it missties, it’ll mess up on the following bales. It’s a nuisance, but better than putting up loose hay. I’d like to get a more reliable baler when I can (but it needs to not be too expensive).

Bales in the fieldAfter we completed baling the field, we quit for lunch. After lunch we came back with the truck and trailer to pick up the bales and take them to the barn. It doesn’t take too long to pick the bales up from the field and stack them on the truck and trailer. Putting them in the barn is probably the hardest part. If I didn’t have 300 bales of straw stacked in the middle of my barn, I could drive in with the loaded hay and toss the bales up to the loft. As it is, we have to back the trailer up to the straw and toss the bales through a smaller opening into the loft. I tossed them up to the loft, and Dad stacked them.


By the time we had them all stacked in the hay loft, it was time to quit. We only baled 98 bales this time. There’s still another field to cut and bale. I’m watching the weather. It’ll probably be next week. I expect 150 bales out of that field. With what we have left over from last year and what we’ve already baled, we ought to have extra hay this year.

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