Farmer John Writes: The Pendulum Was Right

Week 16, October 22nd – 26th, 2019

Last week in Farm News, I wrote about the major challenge of getting our carrots out of the muddy ground before it was too late to get them at all. I had a lengthy strategy meeting to determine how to go forward with my advisors/machinery operators, Victor and Pollo (aka Eduardo. I checked in with Pollo to see if he wants to be identified as Eduardo or his nickname Pollo in future newsletters, and he said Pollo.). 

We needed to make the right decision in order to get the carrots harvested the next day (with rain coming that evening). After lengthy considerations interspersed with hysterical outbursts of laughter, we simply could not decide what to do. I finally consulted my pendulum, and the pendulum decided for us: undercut the carrots that afternoon to get air into the soil. Do not wait until the next morning.

Carrot Harvest
The soil that was hosting the undercut carrots benefitted all that night from a rare brisk drying southerly wind. (Winds usually die down during the night.)

Pollo and Victor arrived when it was still dark the next morning to ready the carrot harvester. Harvester and harvest wagon in tow, we headed for the carrot field. For the first several rows of the harvest, the carrots were resistant to being lifted. The harvesting machine shoe glided through the soil underneath the carrots, elevating them, while a pair of belts grabbed the fronds and lifted the carrots upwards. However, mud clung to the carrots, making it hard to dislodge them from the ground. Sometimes the fronds simply snapped off due to the weight of the muddy carrot, and the carrot remained lodged in the wet soil.

The mud did not want to let go of the carrots early in the morning

As time passed, the mud clung less and less to the carrots. Towards late morning, the drying soil was generously releasing the carrots and the harvest was going quite smoothly.

The drying soil released the carrots by late morning, even though a little soil still clung to them

Imagine, the progression from early morning when the mud was still globbing on to the carrots, to afternoon, when the drying soil freely released the carrots, just as the fronds were barely starting to wilt. None of this harvest could have happened if we had not undercut the carrots the previous afternoon. 

Sailing along with the carrot harvest in the afternoon

All the carrots are now harvested. 

Washing your carrots

Earth, air, and water weaved together to facilitate this triumph.

The pendulum was right.

The Potatoes
At least two thirds of our potatoes are mired in mud. We harvested the higher dry areas with our potato harvester, venturing just slightly into the muddy regions and then pulling out of the field before getting stuck. Two thirds of our potatoes is about 25,000 pounds. Here we have another grave challenge before the ground freezes–how to get the potatoes out.

Potato harvest in the dry third of the field–pretty good crop

We attempted to dry out the potatoes differently than how we dried out (undercut) the carrots, because of the way the respective harvest machines work. Last Friday afternoon, Pollo used a two-row field cultivator to stir and dry the mud between the potato hills. This dried the soil somewhat. 

The following morning, we attempted to harvest the muddy potatoes. The potato harvester could not separate out the mud from the potatoes, and a vast amount of mud got lodged in the potato harvester, breaking a pin in a gearbox and resulting in our spending a considerable amount of time extracting globs of mud from the machine. The potato harvester has since been repaired.

The mud won this round

We decided to enhance the drying strategy by undercutting the potatoes–a questionable tactic because of how the soil and potatoes actually feed into the potato harvester; however, this strategy is seemingly our only chance to get the potatoes out of these large soggy parts of the potato fields.

Pollo undercuts potatoes

Your Potatoes this Week
The potatoes you are receiving this week came for the most part from the drier parts of the fields. They are still covered with more dirt than usual. You might get unwashed potatoes, which store better. Or you might get washed potatoes, because some of the potatoes were still encased in mud after we harvested them. Also, if you get Russets, their leathery outer skin dissolved a bit from washing them, but we had to get the tenacious mud off.

Rain, wind, and sunshine are all part of the forecast for the next several days.

Coming Next Week in Farm News: Did We Finish the Potato Harvest? 

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Thank You
Thank you for being with us for a dramatic farming adventure this season. 

Warmly,
Farmer John

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