Here’s what’s been going on here the last couple weeks:
My family owns an irrigation pivot right beside our house that in the past has always been seeded with alfalfa. While Alfalfa makes wonderful hay and it puts a lot of nutrients into the soil, nitrogen especially, it cannot reseed itself because of that. After awhile, even well fertilized alfalfa will have to be plowed up and have something else grown there for a few years until the levels in the soil go down enough for the alfalfa seed to actually grow.
Last year, we killed off part of the pivot and planted Millet, a type of grass. It was excellent hay for cattle, but you have to be careful when feeding it to horses because some varieties are toxic to horses. The kind of millet we grew was safe for them as long as it made up no more than half of their daily meals, otherwise they went off their water and were at greater risk of colic. In small quantities though, they thrived on it.
This year, we rented our pivot out to a potato company. Potato companies actually look for pivots that have recently had alfalfa in them because of the high nitrogen content in the soil, which potatoes need a lot of to grow, that’s what the contractor told us anyway. Potatoes also take a lot of water, and because we have always been really careful with our water allotment, we had quit a bit this year. Every year , you are allowed so many inches of water for your pivot, and if you use it all before the end of the year, you can’t get any more until the next year. If you have water left over at the end of the year, it carries over into the next year and you then have extra. It’s important to try and save your water when you can around here, because if the next year is a drought you might need every drop of your allotment to get enough hay to carry you through the winter, or get your crop to harvest time.
They were out there working already before about 4:30 in the morning, but they had to stop around noon because of the heat.
They just finished harvesting last week, and I was able to go out with Georgie and glean parts of the field. You see, the machines don’t pick up every single potato, they leave a lot behind and there were some areas where they dug the potatoes up, but were unable to actually go in with the harvester to pick them up, so there were rows of potatoes that were just sitting there that would have gone to waste.
So I hooked Georgie up to my sled and drove him up beside a row and got to work. Georgie stood patiently while I crawled around in the dirt on my hands and knees, tossing potatoes into the sled. When I was ready to move on to the next area I just picked up the reins so they wouldn’t get caught on anything and clucked. When he was far enough ahead I said “whoa” and he stopped and stood while the process was repeated. When the sled was full, he dug right and pulled without a hint of complaint. I made a pile on the edge of the pivot so I could work faster, but I still have to go out and sort them just in case. I grabbed some bad ones accidentally and get them into tubs for storage.
We will probably only keep about half of what I gleaned this year, the rest we’ll either give away to friends or sell. Next year, we should be a little more prepared and have a better way to store more through the winter so they won’t freeze and I’ll pick up more, but it’s been pretty busy around hear lately so we weren’t quite ready. There are a lot of pivots near us that always have at least one feild of potatoes, and the companies invite the locals to come glean what’s left behind for free. It’s a lot of fun when you are walking through soft, deep soil with a bucket beside friends. I definitely would haul Georgie with me next time though, it was so much easier and faster than hauling one five gallon bucket at a time back to the truck.
Part of our contract included cover crop, which in dry, windy country is really important. Almost as soon as the harvesting was done, there were a couple guys out there with drills planting winter wheat. I’ve always loved wheat fields and I’m really looking forward to the pictures I’ll get next year from it.