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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

Cultivating Questions: Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

by Anne and Eric Nordell

In the Winter 2000 SFJ, we looked at a number of cover crop options for improving phosphorus availability. Option #419 was plow planted peas following double-cut rye. This cover crop sequence also turned out to be very effective at setting back purslane, a slippery weed which had so far eluded our cropping system in the house gardens. We would like to take the opportunity here to show how we used plow planted peas to reduce purslane pressure before planting the portahoopies.

For those not familiar with this tasty, nutritious weed, purslane can be a real challenge to manage in vegetable crops for a number of reasons. The seeds of this weed remain viable for many years in the garden, and generally do not germinate until hot weather — that is, after many of the market garden crops have already been planted. To make matters worse, this succulent plant often reroots after cultivation. Purslane also grows so close to the ground that it is impossible to control by mowing.

For all of these reasons, we have found that midsummer smother crops are more effective at controlling purslane than our usual cover crop/bare fallow sequence. These photos show just how we did it in the hot, dry summer of 1999. We repeated the same cover crop sequence in the cold, wet year of 2000 with equally good results, preparing a patch in the house garden for this year’s early hoophouse production.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#1: We clipped the cover crop of rye in this fallow area a couple of times during the spring of 1999. The resulting mulch of rye clippings shaded the soil sufficiently to prevent the purslane from germinating. Then, the end of July, we broadcast two types of pea seed on top of the rye clippings and plowed them in at the same time.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#2: We adjusted the old walking plow to cut a shallow furrow just 2-3″ deep. “Skim plowing” the rye residues placed the pea seed at the perfect depth for quick germination in hot, dry conditions. In fact, the heat loving cow peas popped out of the ground in just four days. On the other hand, it took almost twice as long for the cool season Canadian field peas to emerge, about the same time as the first of the purslane began to appear.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#3: As the weather cooled off toward the end of August, the field peas really took off, outgrowing their cousins from the South with vines four feet long. By using the two types of pea seed we effectively shaded out the purslane despite changes in the weather.

Yes, the purslane germinated and grew in the understory of the peas, but it did not receive enough sunlight to make seed. So you see, the key to our weed control strategy is the use of a well timed smother crop to intentionally germinate a generation or two of the purslane but prevent this weed from setting more seed. In this way, we can reduce the weed seed bank of purslane in the soil surface.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#4: By December, the July planted peas had already died off, producing a significant, soil protective mulch. At this point, we were no longer concerned about the purslane in the understory as it had long since died off with the first hard frost.

(Please be forewarned that this cover crop sequence of double-cut rye and plow planted peas is weed-specific. For example, it is not nearly as effective on winter weeds, such as chickweed, which tend to grow and make seed once the pea vines die back. We find that an oat/pea cover crop seeded thickly mid-August is much more reliable at suppressing winter weeds, because it remains standing, and shading the ground, until freezeup.)

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#5: We like to move the portable hoophouses right on to the dead pea vines before the ground freezes hard so that these structures are ready for planting as soon as the snow melts in the spring. Unfortunately, we have not been able to come up with a greenhouse design which is strong enough to pull with the team — just imagine the stresses on a long structure when turning corners — but flexible enough to conform to the uneven terrain in these gardens.

Instead, we have adapted PVC hoophouse construction to come up with a design which is easy to dismantle and move by hand, and inexpensive to build. Costs of materials for the 20′ PVC pipes, rebar, rough cut hemlock lumber and plywood run under $200. The main limitation of the PVC hoophouse is it will not withstand a snowload so removing the greenhouse covering is necessary before the snow flies.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#6: After removing the six mil greenhouse plastic, the first step in relocating the portable hoophouse is carrying the twelve foot 4 by 4 sills to the new site, placing the beams in two rows twelve feet apart. Clearing a path through the pea residue, and shoveling away the stones, makes it much easier to seat the sill beams in the soil.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#7: We then drive twenty inch pieces of 3/4″ rebar into the holes drilled through the sill beams every four feet. The rebar is surprisingly easy to hammer into our stoney soil, and to remove by twisting them out with a vice-grip — no pipe puller necessary. And so far the rebar has anchored the portahoopies sufficiently to withstand some pretty stiff winds.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#8: Four inches of the rebar sticks above the sills so that we can slide PVC hoops over them.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#9: The hoops are connected at the top to the ridgepoles, also made of twenty foot pieces of 1″ PVC pipe. To move the hoops, we simply disconnect the ridgepoles from each other and drag the twenty foot sections of hoops over to the new site, and then…

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#10: …reconnect them at the top again with PVC couplers. The hoops themselves are permanently attached to the ridgepoles with 1/4″ carriage bolts. We have found that heating the heads of the carriage bolts with a hand held torch helps to seat the bolts in the top of the PVC hoops so that they do not snag or rip the polyethylene greenhouse covering.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#11: The two of us can move one of these twenty by sixty foot structures in a few hours. Once the snow melts in the spring, we pull the greenhouse covering over the hoops and lath it to the sill beams and end walls.

(Take note that the simplicity of this design does not allow for roll up sides for cross ventilation. In our cool climate, we can get away with end-to-end venting through the 33″ by 66″ double doors for crops like salad mix and basil right through the summer. However, the hoophouse tomatoes would benefit from more air circulation, either through top venting skylights, or simply by reducing the length of these grow tunnels.)

One of the big advantages of the pea cover crop is the vines rot off at the base when they die. That makes it easy to rake off the residue before…

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#12: …planting the first crops of the season in the portahoopies. Because these crops are planted intensively, we like to work in some well cured compost after removing the pea vines. The plow planted peas leave the soil so mellow and loose that hand forking the three 36″ beds goes pretty quickly.

This shot was taken toward the end of May in the cold, wet spring of 2000. At this time, our unprotected crops in the fields were struggling to grow, but we had already picked over this portahoopy spinach six times. Meanwhile, the heads of leaf lettuce in the second portahoopy were ready for harvest.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#13: We interplanted the lettuce with tomatoes, one row of tomatoes between two rows of lettuce on each bed. The trick to making this interplanting scheme work is planting the lettuce three weeks before the tomatoes are set out. This spacing, and timing, guarantees that neither crop crowds out the other, and that the lettuce comes off just as the tomatoes begin to blossom and need to be trellised.

Note the complete absence of purslane in the portahoopies despite the warm growing conditions in this protected environment. Even during the heat of summer, we only found a dozen of these creepy weeds in the understory of the tomatoes.

As we see it, the real value of the portahoopies is they allow us to extend our short growing season while still employing the principles of rotational cover cropping for weed control and building the soil.

Spotlight On: Livestock

Boer Goats

Boer Goats

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The introduction of the Boer Goat has stirred up a lot of interest in all sectors of agriculture. The demand for goat meat exceeds the supply; goat meat is the most consumed meat in the world. One of the main points about South African Boer Goats is that out of all meat goat breeds the Boer is the top meat producer whereas in the cattle business you have over 100 breeds of beef cattle that all compete for the beef dollar.

How To Dry Up A Doe Goat

How To Dry Up A Doe Goat

You are probably thinking why would I want to dry up a doe? If the plan is to rebreed the doe, then she will need time to rebuild her stamina. Milk production takes energy. Kid production takes energy, too. If the plan is to have a fresh goat in March, then toward the end of October start to dry her up. The first thing to do is cut back on her grain. Grain fuels milk production.

Oxen Experiences

Oxen Experiences

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Some things I have learned about working with oxen as with any other living thing is to treat them with some respect. Especially hump-backed cattle which I prefer. Be firm and gentle, but consistent, realizing you could be seriously injured if they chose. Be patient while teaching them what you want them to do, and then insisting every time that they do what you want them to do every time.

Ask A Teamster Driving

Ask A Teamster: Driving

I have been questioned (even criticized) about my slow, gentle, repetitious approach “taking too much time” and all the little steps being unnecessary when one can simply “hitch ‘em tied back to a well-broke horse they can’t drag around, and just let ‘em figure it out on their own.” I try to give horses the same consideration I would like if someone was teaching me how to do something new and strange.

Littlefield Notes Making Your Horses Work For You Part 2

LittleField Notes: Making Your Horses Work For You Part 2

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Every beginning horse farmer at some point will find himself in need of procuring that first team. After land, this is certainly one of the most critical purchasing decisions you will make in the development of the farm. The animals you choose can make your farming glow and hum with moments of blissful certainty, or contribute to frustration, bewilderment, loss of resolve, and God forbid, horses and people hurt and machines wrecked.

Calves that Don't Breathe at Birth

Calves that Don’t Breathe at Birth

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Heart rate is one way to tell if the calf is in respiratory distress, since it drops as the body is deprived of oxygen. Normal heart rate in a newborn calf is 100 to 120 beats per minute. Place your hand over the lower left side of the ribcage, just behind and above the elbow of his front leg. If heart rate has dropped as low as 40, the calf ’s condition is critical; he needs to start breathing immediately.

Horseshoeing Part 5A

Horseshoeing Part 5A

All shoes whose ground-surface is provided with contrivances to prevent slipping upon snow and ice are called winter shoes. These various contrivances are produced by several processes called “methods of sharpening.” All methods may be gathered into two groups, – namely, practical sharp-shoeing and impractical. Only the first will be considered.

Fjordworks Zen and the Art of Training the Novice Teamster Part 3

Fjordworks: Zen and the Art of Training the Novice Teamster Part 3

By waking up so fully to the tasks at hand we are empowered to be more present, more available, and thus able to offer a compassionate and skillful response to the needs of our horses even as we ask them to accomplish heavy work on the farm. It is not up to the horses to trust us; it is up to us to prove ourselves worthy of their trust. What the horses can offer to us are new avenues to freedom and resilience, sustainability and hope.

Littlefield Notes Making Your Horses Work For You

LittleField Notes: Making Your Horses Work For You Part 1

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The practical everyday working of horses and mules in harness has always been at the heart of what the Small Farmer’s Journal is about. And like the Journal, a good horse powered farm keeps the horses at the center: the working nucleus of the farm. All the tractive effort for the pulling of machines, hauling in of crops, hauling out of manures, harvesting and planting is done as much as is practicable with the horses.

The Anatomy of Thrift: Harvest Day

On the Anatomy of Thrift Part 2: Harvest Day

On the Anatomy of Thrift is an instructional series Farmrun created with Farmstead Meatsmith. Their principal intention is instruction in the matters of traditional pork processing. In a broader and more honest context, OAT is a deeply philosophical manifesto on the subject of eating animals. Harvest Day is the second in the series, which explores the ‘cheer’ that is prepared on the day of slaughter, and dives deep into the philosophy and psychology of our relationship to animals.

A Greenhorn Tries Draft Horses

A Greenhorn Tries Draft Horses

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We have tried a workhorse, and for our needs he has proven quite satisfactory as well as satisfying to use. Thus we feel it is possible for someone with little or no experience to learn to care for and use a horse or a team for farm and woods work, although, obviously, this is not a process to be undertaken lightly. One of the basic aims of the farm operation for us is self-sufficiency, and we thought that the horse would be more efficient than a tractor in achieving this aim.

Working Steers and Oxen on the Small Farm

Working Steers and Oxen on the Small Farm

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For centuries, the skills of training steers for work and the craft of building yokes and related equipment was passed down from generation to generation. It was common for a young boy or girl to be responsible for the care and training of a team from calves to the age of working capability. Many farms trained a team each year, either for sale or for future replacement in their own draft program.

Haying With Horses

Haying With Horses

If the reader is considering the construction of a barn we encourage you to give more than passing thought to allowing the structure of the gable to be open enough to accommodate the hanging of a trolley track. It is difficult or impossible to retrofit a truss-built barn, which may have many supports crisscrossing the inside gable, to receive hay jags. At least allowing for the option in a new construction design will leave the option for loose hay systems in the future.

Shoeing Stocks

An article from the out-of-print Winter 1982 Issue of SFJ.

Horseshoeing Part 2A

Horseshoeing Part 2A

As there are well-formed and badly formed bodies, so there are well-formed and badly formed limbs and hoofs. The form of the hoof depends upon the position of the limb. A straight limb of normal direction possesses, as a rule, a regular hoof, while an oblique or crooked limb is accompanied by an irregular or oblique hoof. Hence, it is necessary, before discussing the various forms of the hoof, to consider briefly the various positions that may be assumed by the limbs.

Haying With Horses

Hitching Horses To A Mower

When hitching to the mower, first make sure it’s on level ground and out of gear. The cutter bar should be fastened up in the vertical or carrier position. This is for safety of all people in attendance during hitching.

Changing of Seasons

LittleField Notes: Changing of Seasons

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We are blessed who are active participants in the life of soil and weather, crops and critters, living a life grounded in seasonal change. This talk of human connection to land and season is not just the rambling romantic musing of an agrarian ideologue. It is rather the result of participating in the deeply vital vocation that is farming and knowing its fruits first hand.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 2

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 2

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From reading the Small Farmers Journal, I knew that some people are equally happy with either model, but because McCormick Deering had gone to the trouble of developing the No. 9, it suggests they could see that there were improvements to be made on the No. 7. Even if the improvement was small, with a single horse any improvement was likely to increase my chance of success.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT