Well, winter appears to have arrived.
And I haven't plowed yet. The ground needs to be prepared now-- the thick grasses turned under to rot in the soil-- so I can plant early greens in the spring. But what with all the paperwork we're having to go through to get an official "lease agreement" signed for the land, and Bob's old tractors that don't start when it's cold, plowing hasn't happened yet.
Luckily Bob has an old friend (of 50 years!) who lives down the road. A farmer who goes by the name of Jack. Jack's family has been farming here for generations. He really does look like one of those strapping old farmers, complete with suspenders and a farm wife. Bob & I managed to describe the crazy idea we're attempting to implement next year-- describing what "CSA" stood for. His wife said their daughter on the west coast was involved in one, and she was excited about buying their vegetables from me. Jack & I talked about timing-- once this weather clears (the snow melts & the sun comes out) he still has a few fields of corn to harvest, but he'd be willing to plow an acre or two for me, 50 bucks an hour. His tractors start when it's cold, and his plows don't have 10 years of rust from disuse.
More than just the plowing, I'm excited to have access to the incredible wealth of knowledge that Jack obviously carries. He's actually worked those acres I'm intending to farm on before. He grew corn & beans on them, said it was really good ground. Bob said he always put a cover back on the land after he used it, even though he was just renting it temporarily. He's a "smart little farmer" in Bob's words.
Jack's wisdom is the kind that comes from knowing the soil's habits intimately. You can plow the ground when it's wet in the fall, because the frost heaves it up & restores the tilth during the winter-- but plowing in the spring will compact. He warned of a local phenomenon where sometimes the plowed land will do this thing in the winter where it "runs back together" (he uses his hands to show this). Or sometimes water will pool up under where you turned over the sod, and stay moist in the spring longer, when the surface appears to be drying out. Tilling, he said, should be done in the spring. All of these precious gems of information I stash into my pockets, more strength for the uphill battle that growing food really is.