5 New Year’s Farming Resolutions for 2021

To celebrate the welcome arrival of 2021 (and departure of 2020), one farmer shares his New Year's farming resolutions for the coming year, including tree pruning, tractor repair and more.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

Happy (almost) New Year!

I think most folks are happy to see 2021 arrive, given how 2020 was pretty much turned upside down by COVID-19. I, for one, am always glad to see what a new year has in store. And I’m already making plans for farming projects I intend to tackle in 2021.

I suppose you could call them New Year’s resolutions. But I think of my plans more as inspiration, both for myself and (hopefully) for readers.

The goal of this annual exercise isn’t to compile a list of resolutions that must be followed at all cost. COVID-19 has demonstrated how quickly plans can be turned upside down. But, rather, I wish to encourage proactive thinking about fun projects to accomplish during the coming year.

With this goal in mind, here are five of my 2021 New Year’s resolutions.

Plant Pumpkins and Watermelons

For me, one of the highlights of 2020 was growing pumpkins in my orchard. They thrived in the raised bed of compost I prepared. And at the end of summer, I harvested six basketball-sized pumpkins plus a couple dozen miniature decorative pumpkins.

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Not bad for six plants!

The project was such a resounding success that I plan to expand my planting in 2021. I’ll definitely grow pumpkins again. But I’m also interested in trying watermelons.

The area I have in mind stays naturally damp through much of the year, so the roots won’t have to look far to find plenty of water.

Read more: Growing pumpkins vertically solves a number of common problems!

Restore an Old Farm Pond

During the spring, I spent a lot of time analyzing an old farm pond from every perspective, wondering why it suddenly stopped filling with water a few years back. I eventually realized the rear bank had been breached underground. This allowed water to drain into a rocky field behind the pond.

As much for curiosity as anything else, one of my goals for 2021 is to repair the damaged bank, plugging the hidden hole(s) so spring meltwater will have a chance to refill the pond.

I may have to clear out some of the water-loving cattails that have taken up residence in the pond basin. But with time and effort, I think I can restore the pond to its former glory.

Prune Fruit Trees

In 2018, I started planting a new orchard of fruit trees. After a couple years of work, I’ve planted 35 trees. And now, the oldest ones in particular are due for some corrective pruning to guide their growth in ideal directions.

Corrective fruit tree pruning is best done in later winter, before the trees wake up. As soon as the snow starts to melt this spring, I’ll trek out to my orchard with pruning loppers and pruning saw in hand to start the ball rolling.

In the meantime, I’ll keep reading books and articles about the art of pruning to make sure I employ the most suitable strategy for each tree.

Read more: A pruning saw gets the job done is ways other saws can’t.

Replace the John Deere Model 40’s Battery Clamps

Good old “Little Mo,” my John Deere Model 40, began having issues starting this summer. This was unusual, since Little Mo has always been a picture of reliability and usually fires up at first asking.

It turns out the clamps at the ends of Little Mo’s battery cables are wearing out, compromising the connection between the battery and the starter. With a bit of effort, I was able to tweak the positions of the clamps so Little Mo ran fine for the rest of the year.

But to avoid losing any more time fussing with the battery during a busy day of farming projects (been there, done that!), I intend to replace the clamps entirely in 2021, restoring Little Mo to maximum reliability for another year of work.

Sharpen and/or Replace Lawn Mower Blades

Little Mo isn’t the only tractor that could use a little maintenance on my farm. 2020 was a busy year, and I didn’t get around to sharpening the blades on my lawn mower as scheduled.

I don’t think they’re cutting quite as cleanly as they should, so I’ll plan on sharpening or replacing them this winter, before spring arrives and the grass starts growing faster than I can mow it.

What are your New Year’s resolutions for 2021?

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