Using a two-way rototiller to smooth damage to the orchard floor when older apple trees are lifted out.

Aug 17, 2020
Jerry Mills: Adjusting to difficult times and misinformed messages

Market season is upon us as you read this. Much of our weekend pick-your-own business depends on wagon rides to the orchard. If rides are banned, and they probably should be, what can we do? Our redeeming feature will be to do what we have always done during the week: let the customers drive their own cars to pick their own fruit on weekends.

We used to sell by the pound, but since the fire, we just sell an empty bag, and let the customer fill it. Checkout only involves counting the filled bags and they are on their way.

Science versus opinion. People who do not appreciate the difference between the two are tearing our country apart. Such disputes do not often affect ordinary folks but this time is different and I am angry. Every single one of us, regardless of where we live, is at risk of sickness and death from COVID-19, even if the worst is behind us. This threat will not go away, nor can we do anything to guarantee our own survival. We buried an old friend in our little cemetery today, a virus victim. He had not done anything to bring it on.

Vaccinations will be the ultimate solution, but until then, personal isolation seems the only answer, and that will be difficult as the population swarms out of quarantines and appear to be oblivious to what they are supposed to do to stay safe.

Too many folks do not understand science and will ignore it, led by our national leadership. Here is the difference between science and opinion:

When something is scientifically validated, that means it works EVERY time and you can count on it. Laws of gravity are a simple example. Science says the gravitational pull on all objects is the same. A nonprofessional might say; whoa, drop a feather and a golf ball and everyone knows which will land quicker. The scientist will say, ah, but put them in a vacuum chamber where there is no air resistance and see what happens. They fall at the same rate regardless of shape, weight or makeup, EVERY SINGLE TIME. That is a scientific fact.

Scientists realized the danger of the coronavirus when it first appeared and tried to raise an alarm. Too many people had different opinions or no opinion at all and did not take them seriously. We were unprepared.

I have no doubt that thousands of people would have died anyway, but this was not the time for anyone to be expressing opinions and ignoring science, when the scientists knew what was happening and knew what needed to be done.

In addition, just because the stay-at-home orders were lifted, does not mean the threat has gone away. It only means that statistically, the chance of being exposed in a crowd is reduced, not eliminated. For older folks with one or more serious health issues, like me, the smartest thing is stay at home.

Tool of the month. Preparing smooth seedbeds has always been my weakness as a farmer. Grain farmers consistently make perfectly smooth surfaces for their crops. Of course, they have big machines to do it. I do not, but I found a machine that does a good job – a two-way rototiller for a skid loader.

It mounts on the front and tills forward and backwards, leaving a smooth surface. The machine has positive depth control, which allows scalping the top two inches for grass seeding or up to six inches deep for serious tillage. It is proving great for smoothing the damage left by tree removal in mid-row. Should work well for filling ruts in aisles too.

We planted the pumpkin crop early for a change. Last year it was mid-July but we had the best crop ever. This year I tried planting no-till in tall fescue in late May because there were no weeds in the fescue and I wanted to see what happens. It took three sprays to knock down all of the fescue. The planter was able to plant through it, so we shall see…

Ten days later, there was no sign of pumpkins. Was it too wet? Too cold? Too much cover? Or bad seed? I think the answer is “three sprays!” There was Roundup and Command in every spray … Roundup kills everything. Command is for pre-emergence weed control in pumpkins. A triple dose controls pumpkins too? Time to see if a deep rototilling will solve the problem.

Live and learn.

— Jerry Mills, Mills Apple Farm


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