Friday, January 29, 2016

It's a tractor year

And here I am, in another year. 2015 went by in a flash! The year hit sprinting speed in March, when I started working part-time at a tax office for two months, while also farm planning, starting seedlings and doing other farm prep. Then May came, with the fastest and earliest rototilling of the vegetable field by my neighbour on his small, but powerful, Kubota tractor. This then led to lots of early transplanting, trying to get a jump on field work since I knew I was going to be away for two weeks at my busiest time of year.

While I had a wonderful trip to my partner's family reunion in Tofino and also got to visit with my sister, brother-in-law and new niece in Seattle, I'm never planning to leave the farm in May again ;P The two weeks before the trip were extremely work intense, and then trying to catch up after I got back was even worse. It didn't help that at the same time, I was also contracted to work on a project writing and reviewing business plans for the Grey Bruce Centre for Agroecology. Talk about biting off more than I could chew...I managed it all, just barely.

The rest of the growing season unfolded very well, with a moderately abundant vegetable yield that kept me on my toes and working hard for the whole season. The tomatoes did get late blight, which definitely made for many unharvested varieties, but it also showed me which varieties could stay healthy and producing despite the blight, which I have to assume is here to stay (airborne disease, arrived in my area in the last few years). I paid for the months of constant work by coming down with some kind of laryngitis after my last vegetable delivery mid-October, that left me essentially without a voice for almost three weeks. While voiceless, I got hit with a strange painting bug and repainted my dining room, some interior doors, and the lower cabinets of my kitchen. I also wrote five blog posts for FarmStart on farm financial planning (http://store.farmstart.ca/blogs/farmerreviews). Then came cedar wreath time when I made more wreaths than I have any year so far. Merry Christmas indeed :)

So now I'm at the end of January, with all numbers for 2015 reconciled and ready for income tax time in March/April, HST filed, seeds ordered and starting to arrive, and today, first email to previous farm vegetable CSA members sent out for 2016 sign ups. My fingers are crossed that the CSA fills up easily this year, especially as this is the year that I'll be looking to buy a tractor for the farm. While writing my fifth blog post for FarmStart, "Planning for the Future", I did exactly that. I crunched the numbers to see if it made sense to buy a tractor instead of hiring in tractor work, and the numbers, and my aging body, said it did. While the vegetable field won't now be converted to all tractor work for tilling/seeding/weeding, there's a wheat field in rotation to think of (disking/seeding/harrowing/harvest), unpredictable snow clearing needs in winter, fence posts to push in, more sheep and their hay and manure to think of, piles of things to be moved...the list goes on. After living on a farm for almost seven years now, I finally have to admit that a farm needs a tractor. There's just so much land to take care of! And so many things to move around! I've mostly just left non-crucial property management tasks on the back burner, or paid for outside help (ouch!), but it's time to stop being limited by my lack of equipment.

Provided I can find the right tractor in my budget, 2016 will be the year of the tractor for the farm. I'm looking for a small/mid-sized tractor, with 40-50 horse power, a front loader, and less than 3000 hours of use. I list these things like they mean something to me, which they don't really, but luckily I have family/neighbours who know about tractors and will help me find the right one. Believe it or not, to this day, I haven't even sat in the seat of a single tractor. It's going to be quite a learning curve!

As part of that financial planning blog post, I mentioned potential funding sources for the tractor, one being getting vegetable CSA members to prepay for the next year. Some Facebook and personal comments back to me were encouraging on that front, so I've done exactly that. I'm hoping a handful of the farm's members will be willing to prepay for the 2017 vegetable season to help provide cash flow for the tractor. Hopefully I'll have the time to blog about the results before another year has passed. Facebook has definitely taken over as the quick updates arena for farm news, to the detriment of blog writing :P