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Spreading Fertilizer

Fertilizer is an important part of farming.  Coffee trees are heavy feeders and need a lot of fertilizer.  Since the soil is so thin and there is no real dormant season, it is necessary to apply the fertilizer in relatively light quantities several times throughout the year.  Even light quantities can still add up to lots of heavy bags of fertilizer.  Several thousand dollars worth.

Lime Push Spreader In addition to fertilizer, it's also necessary to manage the soil's pH level.  My latest chore has been applying over five thousand pounds of lime to all the fields.  Calcium carbonate actually.  The problem is that the calcium carbonate is very course and will destroy a fertilizer spreader much faster than typical fertilizer will.  I decided to use an old push spreader that is on it's last legs anyways.  It seemed like a good idea until I actually had to push the thing through the orchard, over rocky ground, uphill both ways.  I'm in fairly decent shape but pushing that spreader kicked my butt.  The main problem is that the handle that controls the flow is broken.  I can open and close it with both hands but once I get it open I have to practically run with the spreader so it doesn't drop too much lime in one place.  Pushing the spreader slowly might not be so bad but trying to run with it just didn't work.

PTO Spreader I've seen several other farmers that have these real nice fertilizer spreaders for their tractors.  Three point hitch, PTO driven, holding capacity of up to a thousand pounds.  And $3000.  Instead, I have a $164 spreader that attaches to my ATV.  I bought it online.  There was a $300 model that looked identical.  I couldn't see any difference so I bought the $164 model.  Now I've discovered that the $164 has lousy connection brackets that don't connect to the ATV very well.  It broke after only two bags of fertilizer.  I was reduced to spreading the remaining 98 bags by hand.

Fertilizer Spreading fertilizer by hand is actually fairly common in the area.  There are three reasons for this:  1) many farms are on terrain that is too steep for a tractor,  2) many farms were planted in the days before tractors so the trees are too close together,  3) some farmers can't afford a nice fertilizer spreader.  Our farm is very level compared to most and our trees are planted in neat and tidy rows that fit a tractor perfectly.  Now if only I had one of those fancy $3000 fertilizer spreaders.

Spreading fertilizer by hand isn't so bad really.  Most of our fertilizer is granular which is easier to handle than fertilizer that is fresh from the cow.  Our fertilizer arrives in 50 pound bags on a flatbed truck.  I'll stage the bags along the ends of rows then walk up and down each row, throwing out the fertilizer a handful at a time.  It's dirty, sweaty work.  I can only handle about three hours at a time before I have to find an easier chore.  If I do three hours every day, then it takes about a week to fertilizer the entire farm.  I'll fertilize maybe a half dozen times throughout the year.

Maybe some day I'll be a wealthy farmer that can afford to buy lots of fancy equipment and hire out all the farm labor.  Until then I get to do everything myself.  On the bright side, carrying fertilizer all around the farm is a great way to burn off those extra calories from all the cookies I ate for lunch.

Staging 1 Staging 2 Staging 3

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