Riverbend Farm Spring Newsletter

Riverbend Farm Spring Newsletter                                                April 14, 2013

The temperature had worked its way back to normal for a few days. The snow was all gone except for the plow piles, a little fringe along the edges of the windbreaks, and on the north side of the buildings. The frost went out about a week  ago and all the standing water in the fields disappeared. The blackbirds and geese are back.  The juncos are forming flocks, getting ready to head north. We are getting a few April showers, mostly in the form of snow.

 As much as I don’t care for this snow, the wet weather could be a sign, we are  coming out of the drought a little. The ground is still thawed so most of this moisture will soak in and help replenish the subsoil moisture. This spring is a little on the cold side, but less than 10 years ago it was unheard of to get into the fields before the middle of April. I won’t be seeding anything by April 15th this year.  Last year I planted on March 19th and we know how that turned out. Who knows, maybe peas will have a chance this time.

 We had a  couple pallets of seed potatoes show up Thursday afternoon. Our road had not been plowed and the truck driver would not come down it, Noelle, Andrew, neighbor Marty and I unloaded 4800 pounds of seed potatoes on the shoulder of Hwy 12. Most of the potatoes are going to other farms in the area and they too were having issues ( township didn’t plow to collecting sap from 2400 taps) dealing with the snow.  There are a ton of potatoes sitting in my garage.

Voles have been getting in the greenhouse, eating seedlings. Jimmy and Heather are starting some of their plants here and the voles especially liked their spinach and broccoli. They also ate some of my lettuce and about 120 pepper plants that were going to be transplants sold at the downtown Delano farmers market. So far I have caught five and have been working on finding and filling the holes where they were getting in.  Pesky things.

 Before the potatoes arrived Andrew, Noelle, and I pulled the cabbage, kale, and brussel sprout plants out of the root cellar and moved them into the greenhouse. The plants need to warm them up, get used to the light, and get ready to be transplanted back into the field for seed production.

 Most plants in the cabbage family are biennials, it takes them two years to produce seeds. There are turnips, swiss chard, two kinds of beets, misato rose radish, three kinds of kale, brussel sprouts and cabbage. The cabbages were covered with a thick layer of slimy leaves, but some of them are starting to split open and send out a seed stalk.

 Overwintering biennials for seed production is a bit of an experiment. The chard did not survive very well. Everything else look great, discounting the slimey leaves.. The crates that Amelia and I packed  the roots and plants in last fall are too big. They are really heavy. I will have to find foster  farms for several of the varieties so they don’t cross pollinate. Turnips, cabbage, kale, and brussel sprouts will all cross with each other. It will be interesting to see how this works.

 Mary has been busy filling up the greenhouse with marigolds, zinnias, morning glories, and sunflowers  that the grandkids are  going to sell at the market next month. I’m not sure what they think of that but Mary seems to be having a great time.

 Lately she had been driving my Honda since I have been working on her Volvo.  It  was due for a timing belt and a water pump. Not big jobs, but important ones. If the timing belt breaks or the tensioner fails, it wrecks the valves in the motor, to the tune of about $1200 in parts.  And she’s stranded. Not good. The oil seals on the end of the cams are leaking and as long as I’m in there…

 The  timing belt kit that is supposed to fit, according to the VIN number, didn’t.  The cam seals may be the same size or they may be two different sizes. This engine has continuously variable valve timing (VVT) on both the intake and the exhaust cams. The hubs of the cam drive sprockets contain the VVT units and they have to be removed to replace the seals.

Volvo did not put a keyway or pip on the end of the cams to locate the hubs so they have to be placed just so, adjusted, and bolted on really tight. Otherwise it will set a Check Engine Light or bend the aforementioned valves.  A complicating factor is that the dual VVT hubs have a different  adjustment procedure than the more common single VVT engine, and there is no publicly available factory service manual for these cars. The aftermarket service manual does not mention the dual VVT set up.

 For the time being, I’m going with the fact that the seals aren’t leaking much, and oil is cheap. I need to find the tools to hold the cams and  figure out the proper procedure for setting the cam timing with the dual VVT set up.

 The dog is still with us. She has settled down a lot, but she needs a job. She does not like guys in trucks. Her previous owner was an over the road truck driver and I wonder if he was mean to her. Everything is new for her and when the ice went out she was very curious, hanging over the riverbank looking at the water. Of course she fell in. Good thing dogs can swim. She is still fascinated with the water. Now se goes down to where the bank is lower to look at the water.

 Unfortunately, I don’t think she is going to be the great rabbit hunter I had hoped for. She does get them to freeze, but when they run she tries to head them off and round them up rather than just chasing them. Next month Jerry Ford is taking his dog (one of Allie’s pups) for an evaluation to see if it has herding instincts. I may take Allie  too and see if she a knack for that.  

 This week we are going to start repotting in earnest and seeding tomatoes. Summer is coming.