The short month of February is behind us and with that the official beginning of the season is upon us. With seeds started in the greenhouse, we begin a season of watching over plants-- the continuum which involves listening to the nagging chorus from the field, "weed us, feed us, keep these bugs off..." Like a child, not a major source of stress, but a constant voice in your head, "don't forget about us!" Speaking of which, where did Flora run off to?...
And that is the general feeling that pervades our winter of "down time." Yes we have normal work hours, where we take care of planning, ordering materials, hiring the help, building up the farm infrastructure, and more. But we don't hear that nagging from the field, and assuming the animals are taken care of, we can venture off-farm more boldly than we would dare in the other 9 or 10 months of the year.
So it has been with our last hurrah trip to Pennsylvania.
One destination was Market Farm Implement where we bought a cultivator called a Williams Tool System, and a primary tillage tool called a chisel plow. Both shiny new!
Then on to Philadelphia where we visited Jeff and Jenny and Flora's cousins Finn and Violet.
Stacy and Flora veered homeward while I carried the momentum by driving off to Kentucky to pick up the International 140 cultivating tractor we bought at auction this past month. Kentucky! This past year's tractor search tended to yield a disproportionate number of perfect tractors from Kentucky. Why Kentucky? A question I had 13 hours to ponder. Sure, Kentucky has a strong agricultural heritage, and specifically tobacco-- a crop for which vegetable equipment is often compatible-- has been a centerpiece. But I got another perspective from a farmer along the way, that Kentucky is just the most recent rural state to experience sharp declines in the farm economy leading to a sell-off of otherwise valuable equipment. It makes me think of the economy as a rolling storm-front; a weather report better revealed by Craigslist than Weather.com... I listened to the book on tape of The Shock Doctrine which is an economic analysis of neo-conservatism, so not that uplifting. However, the hardware following me on the road back to Maine offered some comfort. "They don't make them like they used to" is a cliche that was probably modeled on tractor technology. The trick is to find a tractor that was made in that sweet-spot of time when innovations like the Diesel engine, and the three point hitch became common, but before manufacturing was shipped overseas. After that, the engines were outsourced to Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Madza, and soon computer technology was integrated into tractors, making things really scary. This International 140 seems to fit the bill as a bomb-proof machine: a late year of a long-running popular (good for spare parts) model tractor. These were the tractors that the manufactures later wished they had never built: tractors that ran for a lifetime, and then served well for another generation. So much for "return customers", planned obsolescence seems to have not been adopted as quickly as it was in other industries.
So, armed with this advice gleaned from other successful mechanics and farmers, I squinted-out the consumerist landscape of the American road, and hauled this relic home.We are fast filling spots in the CSA. Sign up online, and send a check in the mail to get signed up. It's almost spring and at the farm, it's etched into each new piece of equipment: "2010--Best Year Ever!" (knock on wood)
Blessings on the meal,