A tractor often doesn’t do anything but keep moving forward, but it does that well. It doesn’t care if it’s chained to a mountain, approaching a cliff, grinding through mud, careening toward a puppy, nearing your car door, or dragging you behind it. It’s relentless. It’ll never quit trying so long as it has an inch of life. That’s why many of the old beasts are used merely for pulling carts. They can be a heap of rust missing half the engine and most of the body and still be good for moving firewood.
However, you can’t “farm” without implements. Implements span the gap from “dragging stuff” to “doing stuff”. Implements aren’t cheap. I can see why. An implement will have more steel than six minivans and last longer than many people live. The good ones are priced high and the cheap ones will be bent and crushed after a few seasons. My budget, approximately zero, was a serious hindrance.
I did what everyone should do when they have no money and are out of ideas. I cut firewood. One day I found a solution in my swamp. (Yes I have a swamp… just like the Addams family. Lucky me.) A suspiciously large chunk of metal was sticking out of a pile of weeds. I poked around a bit and it looked like a horribly rusted 4′ disk. Yay!
Time for an implement explanation:
A disk is a crude device with big metal plates (disks) arranged in a row. They spin as you drag them around a field. Disks come in a dizzying array of sizes and complexity but they’re all the same basic idea. The earliest disks were for pulling behind a horse or ox. The chunk of metal that I’d found seemed about that size but lacked some gadgetry associated with livestock. I assumed it was roughly prohibition era (post horse) equipment. Good enough for me.
When I say 4′ disk I mean (approximately) that it is about 4′ wide. Modern farmers might have disks that are 10 times larger. My old tractor, hooked to one of the big modern devices, would do nothing but spin it’s wheels. Which is good because I couldn’t afford one anyway.
If you drag steel disks behind a tractor with the disks parallel to the direction of travel, they’ll cut lines into the soil. Think Freddy Krueger… or if you’re younger, Wolverine.
Through an array of adjustments which range from smoothly resetting pins to hitting it with a hammer and swearing, the disks can be offset from parallel. Now when you drag it, they cut into the soil and churn it. The greater the offset the more aggressively they affect the soil. This mechanism is the inspiration for the front end geometry of a Dodge truck.
For my “find” I used a pick axe, a jack, a shovel, and a whole lot of elbow grease to unearth it. Eventually I chained my little tractor to the mess and yanked it free. The 4′ disk turned out to be a 10′ disk. Thus it was more or less appropriate for my tractor. Score! I estimate it had been sitting in the swamp at least 20 years. Imagine that! It was abandoned when Jurassic Park was in theaters and I put it to work without even oiling it.
I named my disk “swamp thing”. Free is a very good price.
Remember how old tractors are good at dragging things? Disks (especially old ones) don’t need anything more elaborate than something to yank them around a field. It took all of ten minutes to figure out how to hitch it and put it to use. Net expense? Darned near nothing.
Part of my field had been plowed a few years back by a real farmer with a real tractor so the soil was still mostly broken up. I hitched my disk to my tractor and drove around in circles like a fool. It took forever but wasn’t particularly complicated. Eventually I’d disked about an acre. It came out nice and smooth.
I didn’t have any planters or harvest equipment. Mother nature waits for no man. If I didn’t plant my prepared soil all I’d get was another crop of weeds.
What now Curmudgeon? I was at a loss. I had to leave on a trip the following morning. I needed a solution in a matter of hours. Damn!
In a rush I bought a hand seeder and $30 worth of ridiculously overpriced brassica seed. In a single session I marched back and forth seeding as diligently as I could. I’d done ½ acre and it was hard work but not particularly expensive of complex. That night it rained. The next day it rained as I drove away. The die had been cast.
What the heck is “brassica” you say? “Brassica” is a genius of plant that includes various stuff you might find on a salad. In my case I selected stuff that looked suspiciously like turnips. Brassicas are annuals, meaning planting them one year won’t mean I’m stuck with them forever. Since I had no harvest implements this was important. Also, and this is key, deer like brassicas. The rediculously overpriced seed I bought had a shiny full color image of a buck. Not a doe, a buck. One sporting a big honkin’ rack that was bordering on genetic mutation and suggested photoshop run amok. Because nobody plants a deer plot to get a doe. Except, apparently, me.
The half acre grew into a righteous deer food plot. The rest of the field turned into a sea of weeds.
That fall I shot three deer with minimal effort.
Time for a Curmudgeonly Gem of Insight:
“A well made deer food plot will turn you into an epic hunter.”
More in my next post.
Note: My hand seeder, which is meant for installing deer plots, is camouflage. This makes no sense whatsoever. Who cares about the color of the seeder? Are we really that Pavlovian about camo? Are the plants established with a camouflage seeder somehow tactical?
Another note: Do we really need glossy seed packages that show a buck with a rack like Bambi’s dad? I’m comfortable with the truth that the plant cannot distinguish the type of deer that eats it. In fact the plant might attract lazy stupid ugly deer while the brave awesome ones with clanging brass balls stay in the woods where they belong. Maybe the plant attracts the Erkel of deer? For that matter I generally prefer smallish deer (I believe they’re a smidge tastier). All things being equal and given plenty of time, I tend to aim for a medium youngish doe. I’m all about the freezer. If I made a seed package for deer plots it would show a freezer and a smiling hunter kicking back by the fire with a glass of whiskey and a smug attitude.