>Light at the End of the Tunnel

>Progress is a process, I profess. And the process of removing stones is yielding progress, slowly but surely. Mind you, at 10:30 yesterday morning, I wasn’t feeling quite so positive. Fortunately, my 3-slice PBJ sandwich with a litre of milk at 11 made a big difference in energy, both mental and physical.

My work pattern has been to work from around 8:30 in the morning until noon and then to return in the afternoon or evening. June has continued where May left off – cool with showers – so working in the afternoon is reasonably easy. But, assuming we eventually get summer weather, I plan to not be outside, at least not in the sun, during the afternoon. Mornings and evenings seem to agree with me.

Back to the stones. I have been reluctant to run my BCS rototiller through the soil and risk breaking tines (or worse) because of the stones. But after today’s 5 or 6 hours of hand removal, I decided to take a chance. On the shallowest setting of the tiller, I carved out a rough perimeter within the west plot. Although there was a lot of noise at times, I didn’t feel a lot of nastiness under the housing and the result was what seemed to be a dense sprinkling of medium-sized stones left standing on top. Collecting these will be relatively easy compared to having to dig for them. I figure two complete passes with the tiller with a pickup between and at the end will leave the beds in pretty good shape.

It might seem as though removing stones shouldn’t be a high priority however my experience last year was that you simply have to deal with them eventually anyway; may as well deal with them without a crop in the way. Plus, when you’re in the weeding, harvesting or irrigating zone, it’s tough mentally to get into the rock-removal zone. The stone you expose while hoeing just ends up sitting there for days or weeks because it seems too much of a hassle to remove. And then you end up seeing it (and others) day in and day out.

Having nearly rock-free soil though is important in order to use all the fancy efficiency tools I have bought from Johnny’s. The stirrup of the Swiss-made wheel hoe will not last as long or be as effective if it’s constantly dredging up new stones. The precision seeder will not drop or bury seeds very well if there are stones (or other soil obstacles). Even the greens harvester might be harder to use if stones are sticking up above an otherwise perfectly flat bed. All this efficiency takes a capital investment of time which, theoretically, pays off forever more.

Finally, there is yet another reason for this time-consuming process. It has only been about 12 days since the soil was turned over. All of our stone and clod removal disrupts the root systems of the old orchard and reed canary grass from re-establishing themselves. Not that they won’t anyway but it should be less. There are probably also trillions of seeds from those grasses that will now find ideal conditions to grow in. But we should be able to keep on top of that better if we aren’t also dealing with lots of existing root balls.

There. I’m convinced. Time to get back to rocking.

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