Macon County Chronicle

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Watermelons

Everything seems to be ripening quickly this summer. Apples are weeks ahead, along with sweet corn and peppers. But, best of all, we don’t have to wait til mid-August for everyone’s favorite treat. Yes, the watermelons are in.

“No way” I said when asked if they were ripe yet. For the better, I was wrong again. I slipped my knife in deep and she cracked wide open, dripping sweet juice all over my face. We love watermelons.

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Corn & Potatoes

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Until 500 years ago the old world relied on small grains for their sustenance. Tiny seeds that had to be threshed out of the plants to provide something they could store and eat later. Then along came two plants which were far easier to harvest because they were big: corn and potatoes.

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Sowing Squash

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Successively sowing summer squash seeds surely secures a supply of squash and a successful season. We start in May and two months later planted the last three rows. Little ones are sprouting up as the old ones bite the dust.

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Pole Bean

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Pole bean need to be staked. We’re growing two varieties this year, Kentucky Wonder and the Purple Variety that Ed and Margaret gave us many years ago. I like picking pole beans because I don’t like the bending over that bush beans require.

Along the garden’s deer fence is a good place to grow them. We lean sticks up against the fence and the plants quickly send up their runners. It amazes me how a climbing plant sends out tendrils and knows where to go, and how quickly they find the poles. By the time we finish staking the row, the first plants are already wrapping around the stakes.

We use two kinds of stakes. Eight foot long poles that are an inch by an inch are all the beans need to grow on. A local sawmill cut them for us, out of ash lumber. Poplar or soft maple won’t last as long as ash or oak.

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Summertime in Tennessee

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Summertime in Tennessee brings forth the favorite fruits of the earth. Tomatoes and swee corn quickly follow on the heels of beans, squash and cucumbers, and the melons are swelling. So what am I doing out in the garden with lettuce and cabbage seed?

We are planting the fall garden, now, during the middle of the summer harvesting. the tiny seedlings will be ready to transplant in mid-August, to make their heads in September, October and November. To harvest then, we plant now.

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Garlic

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A great crop of garlic graces the garden shed. Tied in bunches and hung from nails in the rafters, it creates quit a sensation. Although the sight is on to behold, especially for garlic lovers, the aroma really stands out.

Each clove of garlic, sown in the fall, makes a bulb. They are planted six inches apart in rows 18 inches wide. A thick hay mulch is laid on over them immediately.

It was October when we planted the garlic patch, but I usually get them in during September. The beds received a healthy dose of compost and the soil was well pulverized. Only the biggest cloves from the best bulbs are used for seed, which insures the biggest and best harvest.

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Mulching

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By July, we try to hang up the hoes and make much use of mulch. The benefits of mulching are similar to hoeing; it controls weeds and conserves moisture. But mulch has the added asset of bringing carbon into the garden.

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Farms are for People

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Farms are for people. Soils, plants and animals all play their role in agriculture, but the human social aspect is at the heart of it. The farm offers a safe place to live in freedom, experience nature and develop responsibility. The welfare system which takes care of some people’s needs was not necessary in a farm economy. Farms are the real welfare.

Before I wrote the word “welfare” I had to look it up in the dictionary. It has certain negative connotations, but this is what Webster’s says; Welfare 1. The exemption from misfortune, sickness, calamity, or evil, the enjoyment of health and the common blessings of life; prosperity; happiness; well-being. 2. A blessing.

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Subsoiler

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The subsoiler breaks up the hard packed soil that lies beneath the surface. It’s shaft is two feet long and the shoe is two inches wide. When I decided to try to reclaim the flood damage fields, subsoiling seemed appropriate.

First of all I had to remove rocks, fill in holes and even out the land. Driveways got graveled and rock piles were formed. We picked up sticks, and logs, and sis a bit of fence repair. The soil was hard.

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Hoeing

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There has been a lot of hoeing going on around here. Miles of rows have been planted, and the inevitable weeds are sprouting along with the crops. It is important to loosen up the earth next to the emerging seedlings so they can breathe.

Short chipping motions cut the soil up and a quick pull though the chipped soil shatters the small clumps. I like it a little moist so the penetration is easier, but it can’t be wet because it will form clods rather than break apart.

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Plowing and Harrowing

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Plowing and harrowing leaves the soil fully pulverized, soft and fluffy. Even after a rainstorm the tilthe will remain loose and mellow. If it gets hard, the organic matter is too low and there is nothing to fluff up. If the percentage of organic matter is high (4 to %%), a lack of biological activity is indicated.

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Harrow

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A harrow is the implement we use after plowing to break up clods, level the field and prepare a seedbed. There are several different kinds of harrows. Which one to use depends on the soil type, and the specific goal to be accomplished, and what you have.

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Farmers Gamble

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Farmers gamble. I’ve known that one day the Long hungry would rise up into our lower garden. For 14 years we have been blessed. No, I wasn’t surprised, or even sad, when four feet of water rushed over the carrots and peas.

It was beautiful, with class three rapids, waves jumping several feet, and the powerful roar. It was simply awesome. The cave filled up to the second shelves, and I thought of all the times the floor was full of lettuce, cucumbers and green beans.

We feel grateful and lucky. No one was hurt, and it is only the beginning of May. In another week I would have had another acre planted that would have been destroyed. All of my seeds are safe and dry in the cabin.

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Nature’s Mysteries

Version:1.0 StartHTML:0000000181 EndHTML:0000004203 StartFragment:0000002615 EndFragment:0000004167 SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/computer/Desktop/obits/barefootfarmer.doc Plowing is one of nature’s mysteries. I plow to fluff up the soil in the springs, but plowing destroys soil structure. This irony is hard to explain but easy to experience. I’ll try to explain my experience. Over the winter the ground gets packed down. A cover crop of crimson clover and turnips, or rye and watch, or wheat and peas, helps to alleviate the affect of heavy rainfall. But it needs to be turned under so we can plant garden crops. The root growth of the cover crop is what actually builds soil structure, not the plowing it in. a grass and clover sad is the best cover crop, and is best plowed in the fall with a moldboard plow. The mystery is moderation. Like many things in life, tillage is necessary but too much is detrimental. I want to pulverize the soil just to the extent that what’s growing there dies and decays, but still leaves the soil structure, created by the cover crop roots, intact. I started farming with my dad’s equipment, a plow and a disc. After plowing I disced the field. It still had clods. So I disced again and it looked a little better. Another few passes with the disc and the ground was powder. I thought this was good soil structure. Then it rained. The clay powder and water formed a big brick the size of my garden. I was starting to learn something. I’d seen the same phenomenon after rototilling; a fine seed bed turned into cement after a hard rain. An old timer gave me the clue.
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Spring Garden

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April is the month of planting the spring garden. Onions go in first, and then potatoes. These are the two crops that the king’s deer don’t eat, so we don’t have to plant them inside the deer fence. All other vegetables and fruits can be destroyed if unprotected.

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“Composted” Chicken Litter

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“Composted” chicken litter is not compost or a fertilizer. It is a toxic waste product from a horrible industrial process known as commercial chicken houses. The small and poisons create ill feelings with neighbors and it pollutes the land and water, besides the air. The only place it should be spread is on the heads of those who profit from the broiler industry, but they live in other countries.

We’ve been making compost for the 2011 crop. The ground is still a little cold for planting most vegetables, so we are holding back. There will be plenty of time for gardening.

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Potatoes

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The potatoes are tucked into the soft ground up on the Purcell Hill. We use potatoes to build better soil. This year we planted 1700 pounds of seed potatoes.

The fields were well composted and turned last fall. The land was hard packed, it hadn’t been plowed in a generation or more. A typical ridge, the clay was yellow and the top soil thin; allowing plenty of room for improvement.

Early in the spring we rebroke it with the chisel plow, and I decided it needed more compost. Easter weekend found me spreading another 33 loads and plowing it in, finishing up by headlights.

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Blueberries

Version:1.0 StartHTML:0000000181 EndHTML:0000005355 StartFragment:0000002364 EndFragment:0000005319 SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/computer/Desktop/obits/barefootfarmer.doc Blueberries grow well in Tennessee. There is a big patch of Hwy 231 before the bridge over the Cumberland River, and one across from the winery in Macon County. We have a small patch for our own use, but just planted another row on the farm.                                                                                                                     

A friend in Summertown invited me over to dig some plugs from an old patch near where he lives. New shoots were coming up everywhere, and in a few hours we had about 50 of them in pots. A few dozen came up bare root with long roots on them, and I am trying to make root cuttings for plants later on.    Agriculture is free. I want to learn how to propagate fruits and berries so folks donít have to pay exhorborant prices to get an orchard started. The apple and pear trees I graft cost me less than a dollar each, but it often costs $10 or $20 for a fruit tree. Iím going to figure out how to start blueberry plants, too.                                                                                                                                                                                  

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Valerian

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I plated a valerian patch yesterday. It felt good to get my hands dirty, cleaning out the chickweed and dead nettle that sprouts up in late winter. I shook the soil off of their thick root systems and loosened the bed deeply with the digging fork.

Sand and compost were then incorporated into the bed. they clay soils we have benefit with the addition of sand, it helps keep them open. Compost goes on everything around here.

A clump of valerian were gently wiggled, and yielded then individual plants. I tucked them into the flower garden about 18” apart. A little water finished the transition to their new home.

 

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Onions

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When spring fever hits, onions are the first thing on my mind. They can withstand temperatures down to 20°, and need to get well established before warmer weather sets in. we eat onions often, and assume our customers do, too.

Onion varieties are classified according to the length of the day light required for them to bulb. Summer days are longer up North than they are in the South. Northern, or long day varieties, won’t bulb up as well in the south, so we grow short day varieties. There are also intermediate ones, which do well here, too.

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