Saturday, May 25, 2013

May 25, 2013

I keep looking over at the stove to see why there's a pot boiling, and it turns out to be, in fact, the rain driving against the kitchen windows.  This is new in that for most of the last week we have not had wind with our rain--it's old in that we have had LOTS AND LOTS of rain in the last week.

I'll do the category-by-category farm update, as usual:

Castrations yesterday: one.
Current number of cows milking: five.
Dairy cows due to calve: two.
We're doing our tri-weekly milk deliveries to Jessie, and on Thursday we got a sample pint of her excellent $8-per-pint sheep's milk yogurt.

Hey, we have bees now!  Lohman Gardiner of Gardiner's Honey moved four hives to our farm last week.  Very exciting.

Just kidding!
No goats.  But here's a photo I found as I was sorting and cleaning of the sweet Rove goats at the farm where I WWOOFed in France.


Onions have not yet learned to swim and seem to be surviving on a diet of drowned worms and mud pie.
Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes are next in line to be planted out, along with Irish potatoes and squash.

Doing well.  Here are a few photos from way back when we planted them with the handy dandy tree planter.

Elsie headed up getting the pigs out into the woods a couple weeks ago, and they have been happily getting back to their evolutionary roots as forest dwelling critters.  They are eating trout lily bulbs and lazing around in the shade.

Their blue barrel is for drinking water and is fitted with a metal nipple somewhat like a huge version of a guinea pig or hamster waterer, if you remember back to your elementary school days.  The wooden feeder holds a couple hundred pounds of grain so the pigs don't have to be visited every day, and it has nifty flaps so that rain and crud don't get in, but when the pigs need a snack they just head over, nudge the flap open with their noses, and get a bite to eat.

The SQ cabin:
Gilbert has done a beautiful job with the cabin.  In this photo of the NW corner of the downstairs you can see the Jotul 602 (formerly used to heat the Yentes-Quinn residence), pretty wainscoting, the lavatory corner, the spiffy space-saving staircase, and the robin's egg blue walls.  Sometimes I am tempted to move right in.
Little human:
Ada is so much fun!  She has spunk and feist like no other, loves our whole extended family and friends crew, is taking off with the scooter bike (along with Yukon, below), takes awesome naps, becomes a baby bear periodically and hibernates and catches fish and sharpens her claws, proposes yoga time and dance parties and painting, and generally helps us fill our days with fun, exercise, food, and that lurking question: "If I see no Ada and hear no Ada, should I breathe and relax or should I run like hell for the place I last knew her to be?"

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Working in high gear

In the small, everyday conversations of life at this time of year, lots of people ask each other, "How's your spring going?" and this year more so than ever before I find myself honestly responding with "Really busy.  And really good."  This is our third year growing for our winter CSA members, and the first year that, when it has come time to plant onions, that I've been excited to do it and then excited while doing, and not pestering myself over the questions like:  How did we do this last year?  Was it right or wrong then?  What should I change?  What should I do the same? Am I forgetting anything?

We grew over fifteen thousand onion, leek and shallot seedlings in the greenhouse and, over the course of last Thursday and Friday, planted all of them.  The weather was perfect: cloudy, with occasional precipitation and a nice little downpour at the end, and the planting operation was essentially seamless.  Seth and I dunked each flat of seedlings in fish emulsion water before loading them into the truck; Seth shuttled them out to the field as needed, one or two people stayed busy pulling the seedlings out of their tray and separating them, and most of us spent hours on end digging small holes with one hand (right, for me), tucking in an onion with the other (left), and patting the soil back around it with the first (right).  Fifteen thousand onions in one and a half days of work is not bad, and just as good was doing such satisfying work in such above-average company.  The usual suspects (the farm owners) all participated, Tyler only occasionally when he wasn't busy spreading two semi-truck loads of chicken manure over the back hayfields before the wet weather came, and we got to experience the stamina and conversation of our two apprentices, Miriam and Mark, and our good friend Graham.  Nonnie-Chris spent time making life interesting for little Ada, and that made it all possible.  Thank you, all of you.

On the dairy side of the operation, we have calves coming out our ears.  Five calves have been born in the last three weeks, two girls and three boys, and all are doing well--I think the only definitively named ones are the first two, Daisy and Carlos, who are both half Canadian Jersey and half Devon.  Tyler delivered his first breech calf out of Regan, and the momma is currently being treated with antibiotics for what we believe to be a uterine infection.  Elsie has made the first two milk deliveries of the year over to Jessie at Fuzzy Udder Creamery AND we have recently started eating the gouda that Elsie and Tyler made last fall when Jessie was done cheese-ing but we still had more milk than we knew what to do with.  It is amazing, delicious, creamy, dense...I am imagining cutting a thick wedge for each of you.  We are off and running again in cow world!

Another major part of this time of year, working backwards, are those little baby fruit trees we talked about last time.  Those grafted trees are now planted in long straight rows just a few feet away from the onion patch.  That was an epic project as well, in true Seth fashion--after thinking about how long it would take to plant the eight thousand fruit trees we needed to this spring, Seth decided we'd need a tractor drawn tree-planter.   After thinking about how long it would take to design, build and tweak one from scratch, we decided to import one from Damcon, in the Netherlands.  After it arrived (in the nick of time) we discovered our tractor couldn't drive slow enough for a person to pop the trees in at the desired spacing AND the part that opens a furrow in the soil was unnecessarily wide to the point that it was bogging the tractor down and digging in too deep.  So, naturally, Seth up and welded a new shoe and sweet talked the neighbor into lending us his 20-hp hydrostatic transmission (aka really really slow) Kubota lawn tractor.  And in a few short days, those little trees were out of the sawdust and into the soil.

 Over the last week or two, thinking about an upcoming blog post, I have been realizing that the nature of farming could lead to a rather boring blog for the same reason that I love farming as work and life: the same things happen every year.  Over and over again.  The weather changes, and sometimes the field or the people or the exact varieties of plants and trees and cows, but the more we refine what we do, I think the more repetitive this blog will become.  Sure, the tree planter is a new development and hopefully by next year I'll be able to show you pictures of a barn with new windows and siding, but the reality of the natural world reigns over all.  I basically give you the farmer's picture of the seasons.  Enjoy!