Miolea Organic Farm

  (Adamstown, Maryland)
Organic Farming from a City Boy's Perspective
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Another story in Water Conservation

We collect rain in order to water our vegetables, fruits, herbs and the occasional fire that might start while weeding.  Putting a well in is too expensive but we found black holding tanks to be in our price range and capability.

A few years back we put in a three thousand gallon black water tank to collect the rain off of the barn roof.  We quickly found that three thousand gallons wasn't enough to last a month let alone a season.  It would take a rain fall of about three inches to fill up the tank given the size of our barn roof.  In the spring, in Maryland that is not a problem.  As the growing season stretches into July and August getting rain becomes problematic.

We purchased a second three thousand gallon tank and placed it on the other side of the barn.  We were using soaker hoses at the time and overhead watering for the corn.  Overhead watering was one of the problems with growing corn. We've read that overhead watering can inhibit pollination.  An ear of corn gets pollinated through its silk strands.  Each silk strand is tied to a kernel of corn on the cob.  If that silk strand does not get pollinated then that kernel tied to it will not form.

Pollen comes from the top of the corn stalk from the tassel.  If you shake a corn stalk, when it is pollinating, you can see thousands of specks of dust particles (pollen).  Those particles need to land on the silk in order to work its magic.  It seemed logical to me that overhead water would hurt this process more than aid, that wind was the better vehicle by which to transfer the pollen to the silk.  You hear about pollen counts being down after a rain.  I think with corn you want as much air borne pollen as possible because the odds are better for all silk strands pollinated.

We had to rethink overhead watering, not only were we using a lot of water it wasn't nearly enough for the corn.  Research and talking to other farmers led us to drip tape.  Drip tape has turned out to be the best irrigation solution to date.  Drip tape is lighter than soaker hoses and is solid with little openings spaced every six to twelve inches.  We planted seed accordingly and could deliver water directly to the plant and the plant only.  This saved us a tremendous amount of water and allowed us to deliver water to further distances with less waste and evaporation.

This year because of proposed expansion we decided we needed to purchase two additional three thousand gallon tanks.  We went in with another farmer so we could share transportation costs. 

I was sitting in the dentist chair on Friday and I heard someone behind me mention something about a phone call.  Then the assistant said to me you can go.  My mouth was already open so it couldn't drop any further, "me?"  Nothing good ever comes from a phone call in the middle of a dentist appointment.  Especially with you sitting in the chair, mouth agape and suction hanging from the side of your lip.

I managed to get up, my mind is running the scenarios, I get to the phone and it’s my wife.  She's okay and no one is hurt or otherwise.  But I do hear that the tanks have been delivered to Harry (the other farmer) and the eighteen wheeler is on its way to our farm to drop off the other two.   I said "tell them to wait I'll be there in an hour".  Not much I could say or do at this point so I went back to chair and finished

A three thousand gallon vertical water tank is over ten feet in diameter and twelve feet high.  The good news is it only weighs four hundred pounds.  Because of its size the bad news is its unwieldiness.  But I jump ahead; getting them out of an eighteen wheeler is the first hurdle that needs addressing.  Did I mention that I do my best work under the gun?  That is an expression that lazy procrastinators use to disguise the fact that we hadn’t prepare ahead of time.  Thus making the delivery even more difficult then it needed to be.  This time however, I have the perfect excuse.  They delivered early.  We weren't supposed to get the tanks for another couple weeks.  Still it would have helped to have the wood planks so we could roll the tank off the truck but why make it easy?

I did get home and meet the driver.  Getting the tanks went okay but I had some scrapes and busted one of the lids, all minor so it was a successful delivery.  Moving them a tenth of mile and setting them up was another story in water conservation. 

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