That’s a little dramatic, especially for a community that actually likes to watch the grass grow. But yeah. We had some trouble locating OMRI approved gypsum. My dad, who works alongside us, rolled his eyes at this. “Organic calcium? You have got to be kidding.”

Peaceful Valley used to carry OMRI-listed gypsum, but the manufacturer no longer packaged it in bags. Our dear friends there special ordered a pallet of the Righteous Powder and we were very grateful. We rented a BCS walk-behind tractor and turned the stuff in on the two orchards and the vegetable field.

The soil at our place save the 400 square feet of test field and 600 linear feet of irrigation trench has never been disturbed by a shovel. It has more clay in it than the carpet at Mrs. Lang’s daycare center. It has grown oat grass, rattlesnake grass, and various other bovine delicacies since dirt was invented. It was tough going with the BCS 712, the smallest of the tractors, albeit with the 8 hp engine. If we had any more water we would have had tough ground and traction problems with the mud. Dan and I hope that after some proper soil building this will be less of a problem. We’d like to stay away from heavy machinery solutions if possible. Since our vegetable to fruit tree ratio will be low, and assuming we can do what we need to for the trees with sod buster cover cropping and surgical shoveling, we might be okay.

We came to the realization a while back that our environment is best suited to tree fruit and we will be adding another dozen trees this February. Still, we will be increasing our vegetable field from the 400 sf test field to 2400 sf. While the primary goal is to condition our soil, we will be trying out dry farmed tomatoes and intersow basil as a companion crop. Basil did very well last year and was unmolested by the rabbits.

Dry farmed tomatoes are supposed to like clay soil. I have the process in a file, and will get into the details when we actually do it. But from memory it goes like this: You start out with a cover crop and cut it down for mulch a couple weeks before the last rain. Then you work the soil with a broad fork (I gave one to Dan last Christmas. I am one romantic guy.). Meanwhile you grow your starts in a greenhouse and pinch the leaves to make them leggy. When it’s time to transplant you dig the holes some inches down to give the roots access to the moisture deeper in the soil. Irrigation happens at the beginning of the growing season and again only if the plants look really withered.

We’ve read a couple sources on dry farmed tomatoes but want to get a few more in as part of our winter reading before we start. Meanwhile we have our cover crop seeds in on the vegetable field as well as the orchards.

We’re on the finish coat on the field shed and have about 3 more work days until it’s complete. There’s a couple that live in Alaska by the name of Jill and Aaron Bork. They built their cabin miles off the road and had to hike their materials in. This included 8 80# sacks of concrete among other things. They also get to peel logs and do the rest of their building stuff with loaded side arms in case a bear comes by for lunch. They do all of this in the snow. On the weekends. Yah.