This was a milestone week. Lime was spread on my upper pastures!
I’ve been dreaming about liming my fields for years, even before I was told by a state biologist that I’d never grow grass on my rocky land, and before I got results from a soil test that said I would need 13 tons of lime per acre to sweeten the acid soil, just in order to try.
Back in 2005 I purchased a ton (50 forty-pound bags) of pelletized limestone from the local hardware store and spread it on my upper 2-acre field with a dinky plastic lawn spreader. The spreader bounced and tipped over all the rocks. Just ripping open the bags and dumping them one at a time into the tiny hopper stretched the job to two days. This was a very expensive, slow, frustrating way to spread lime.
Farmers do not use lawn spreaders or pelletized limestone. They use tractors and pulverized (powdered) lime. Pelletized lime costs $3.99 a bag. $3.99 x 50 = $199 a ton. Pulverized lime, delivered, costs only $40 a ton.
Last fall when I was driving his college carpool Jon and I watched a farmer on a tractor load and spread a giant, 30-ton pile of lime at the side of his hayfield. Every day when we drove by, the pile was smaller, and eventually it was gone. I was so envious. I knew lime was necessary to improve my soil — and improving my soil was key to having a successful homestead farm. However that farmer had a few things I didn’t have: flat land, a tractor, and a multi-ton lime spreader.
Googling lime spreaders and searching Craigslist became new preoccupations. I also discussed the problem with my friend Allen during our coffee breaks. He explained that lime was so heavy that a pure load would break my manure spreader. He thought it might work to mix some lime into each load of manure that we spread. The prospect of taking on another labor-intensive project, however, gave me pause.
So the idea languished. DH had promised me a load of lime as a 25th wedding anniversary present, but I couldn’t figure out how to spread it — so it remained unordered. And then one day this spring, Allen and I were drinking our coffee in my pickup, looking out at cold rain, and I brought up the lime problem again.
“How come you don’t get the delivery truck to spread it?” Allen said.
“A big tandem truck? On my land?”
“Sure. Now I got the rocks outa there, oughta be able to make it. Long as it’s not wet.”
“The hill’s not too steep?”
“Nah. Gotta be dry, though.”
Dry? When are the swampy Adirondacks dry?
But then this week I opened the weather report and saw a stretch of five sunny days. Unbelievable! I called the agricultural dealer right away. A woman took all my information and said “Jerry” would be in touch. Sunny hot day after sunny hot day went by. No call. Thunderstorms were gathering. Once it rained I would be sunk. I was beginning to despair when my phone rang, and a voice said, “This is Jerry. I’ll be there, loaded, in an hour and a half.” Yowee!
Jerry was a big, sunburned man. I told him my friend Allen thought he’d be able to get up and down the hills. Jerry chewed his lip thoughtfully. “I’ll give it a try,” he said. He pulled into the big pasture… and floored the gas. The truck practically disappeared in a cloud of lime.
Maybe that’s why Jerry drove so fast — to outrun the cloud?
He slowed briefly to inch past the cabin…
and then he was rocketing down the slope and roaring across the open field.
Up and down he went, at top speed.
Down into sloughs and up over rocks and brambles. Occasionally, as he bounced, I saw Jerry’s elbows flapping up near his ears.
I wished Allen were there to see.
Allen thinks I drive between the boulders and rocks like a stock car driver.
Compared to Jerry, I am a little old lady out for a Sunday constitutional.
Within fifteen minutes, Jerry had spread 13.5 tons of lime on about 7 acres. He pulled the truck up next to me, slightly out of breath, and handed me the paperwork to sign.
“Wow, land’s a bit rough,” he said. “Ya got a lot of stone here, don’t ya? That’s why I went slow.”