Gardening · Homesteading

A Year of Silage Tarping

A year ago we started our work on the left lower field, to turn it into an area to grow in. Our growing zone here in Freeland, Washington, on the south end of Whidbey Island is Zone 8a. With a warm-summer Mediterranean climate, we sit firmly in the Olympic Rainshadow. Being on an island in the PNW means you often to earn your soil, as it is rocky and thin with top soil.

When we bought our land in March of 2018 this field had not seen love in a long time. The first thing we had to do was pull out random trees that grew, and worked back the encroaching forest of invasive thorns. Then we flail mowed the field with our BCS tractor, which took a long time, due to there being so many rodent holes to avoid sticking your feet into. (Years of easy living for them out in that field….)

Getting to this project took time, as we had so much to do on the property. We were getting ready to build a shop, and to shape the upper land, as well as the thinning of all the forest, our poor field kept getting ignored. Just not enough days in the months!

Taken on a cold morning in early 2019. The grass was cut low, and the only thing in the field was a pile of compost/soil waiting to be moved to the other field. (That is the full moon at sunrise over the Olympic Mountains)

A year ago on February 24th, 2019 we unfolded one of our silage tarps on the land. The work was starting. We wanted to get it down so we could use the summer’s heat to do the work.

Laid out, and weighted down with sand bags full of gravel. We get strong winds as the water isn’t far away from our property. We found we needed a bag every 6 feet or so on the long sides.

We got it down in time to get March snows coming down.

In mid summer of 2019 we pulled back the tarp to find most everything dead. Well except for thistles and thorns. Sigh. But that was expected.

Our oldest son went out and hand removed all the snakes and put them in sunny areas on the edge of the woods. Our snakes are beneficial and are not venomous, so we try to ensure they do not get killed during turning.

I got out in the field with our flame burner set up, and burnt all the weeds. I had a hose nearby charged, as yes, some do catch on fire. If you choose to go this route wear ear protection and be mindful of fire.

After I burnt it all, Kirk came through and scraped it over, then turned the ground over with our Kubota.

This was raw land and yes, it had to be turned. Multiple times.

We put the tarp back on and let it sit in the hot sun once again to ensure the weeds didn’t get a second chance.

Then life got busy. We should have taken the tarp off as fall showed up, but we were just too busy. So it sat over the winter. Oh well. Our plan had to have turned it and planted a cover crop start of September.

Instead we got to it in the second week of February, 2020. With the projected forecast of a mild winter, we took the tarp off, and moved it to start the next section of the field.

We had nearly no weeds this time. We took care of any remaining ones by hand (just a couple thorns, right on the edge).

Kirk put on the plow and broke the land open.

The soil is in great shape. Dark, light and easily moved. We were shocked how few rocks we had to pick this time.

He worked on it with our BCS tractor using the till attachment, to shape it more.

We layed a cover crop down this past weekend, to help with fixing nitrogen. When it is time we will turn it under, then shape rows (hilling) with the BCS.

This summer, 2 years in, we hope to have our first crops in this field. And I cannot wait. We have done this with hard work and time, versus dousing the land with weed killer chemicals.

I cannot wait for the caterpillar tunnels to be erected over this fertile soil.