Saturday, May 11, 2013


In the Spring, one of our favorite jobs is spreading. On new fields we spread lime, langbeinite, and bone meal. On all fields we spread trace minerals mixtures like greensand and silica ore. Sometimes (based on soil tests) we spread tiny amounts of boron, or sulfur.

 On selected fields we spread compost made from seafood wastes, leaves, and straw. And we spread composted manure from horses, chickens, and our own cows.

Its fun to watch the manure spreader rip through a load of organic material, and there is satisfaction in feeding the billions of micro-organisms which process the minerals so that our plants can become healthy and vibrant.
"Spreading" however is a complete misnomer. In fact, one step before this material arrives on the farm, it had to be gathered.
Gathered from the horse farm down the road, or the poultry farm (stinky!)
...or gathered by the efforts of hundreds of neighbors and landscapers in the case of these leaves (thank you!!!)
The sacks of mineral additives are a little more mysterious, and more concentrated. I am always curious about where these materials come from, and of course, why. It turns out that many of the mineral mixes come from ancient marine deposits.

Fossils of trillions of microscopic sea creatures lived and died and collected into vast underwater valleys which deepened with the passing of eons: an incomprehensible timescale. The cliffs of Dover, England are the remnants of but one deposit.
Of course those creatures, themselves were "gathering" minerals throughout the course of their lives. The sea had also been a gathering force, being fed by the scavenging of rivers and streams which flowed steadily, drip by drip over the stones of the Earth.
(That's right, John's been listening to science pod-casts again! Radiolab, one of the more popular podcasts had a great piece on the plankton which contributes to marine deposits.) Hey, tractor work can be dull without listening to something a little bit more expansive than the one little field I'm working on.
Gather, spread, gather (or rather harvest.) That's what we do.

PS from Stacy:
This is John evaluating all the different soil tests from all the different fields and wondering....always....what does it all mean? A little chemistry, a little alchemy, a little magic; reading soil tests and translating the results into how much and what types of materials to add to create the optimum growing conditions for so many different crops is truly the logic problem that can all the difference. The cerebral farm work of winter.

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