“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep the Spring from coming.”
– Pablo Neruda
Conditions on the ground, in the air, and in the barns and greenhouse are coming along nicely so far this spring, despite the fact that it snowed here on Friday. Our last ewe has successfully lambed, and we have more lambs this year than we’ve ever had. Now we just need to grow them up big, strong and healthy. Our first calf has arrived in the dairy, and Pearl, a first time mother, is doing a wonderful job keeping a close eye on her new tiny baby girl. First-calf heifers, having never been milked before, are almost always a challenge to get into the milking line-up. The sensation of the milker, the noises and routine that go along with it, and the separation from the new baby, all can make the process difficult. Pearl has been very calm, patient, and cooperative, so far, and we all have high hopes that she is going to be a great addition to our crew.
We have undertaken a significant rescue project in the back of the barn at Sentinel Elm Farm, removing the old cinder-block foundation walls at the back of the barn. We are going to pour full cement replacement walls which will hopefully be stronger, more durable, and less prone to movement. Once the new wall is in place, we plan to gut the back of the barn almost completely, and to build in free-stalls. These will give the cows a nice dry clean place to lie down at night, and in bad weather, while controlling where they can deposit manure. Free-stalls are really what they sound like: a series of four-foot wide stalls for the cows to use by choice rather than to be confined in. However, the stall will be the only soft, bedded area to lie in, and the floor of the stall will have a slight slope to it. These characteristics will encourage the cows to lie down only in the stalls, with their heads at the higher end (and back ends sticking out the lower end), and all pooping in the same general cleanable area.
Tyson and the student farmers have continued cultivation in the Flat Field, which is our first field to dry out every spring. Raised beds were formed yesterday, so the field is now ready for planting. Our first transplanting of the season is scheduled for later this week, when those beautiful baby plants have to leave the comfort of the hoop-house and go bravely out into the world. Once they’re outside for good, they are really in the hands of the weather, out of the protection of the plastic, the heater, the regular watering checks, and all that has gone into their early care. Although this transition can be difficult for the plants and the farmer, there is a certain liberation in putting them out into the actual soil and weather. Their care has been passed on to the larger farm, and our partnership with the natural world deepens. We cannot control conditions out there nearly as much as we can inside the heated greenhouse, but we can trust in the care that we gave while we could, in the innate strength of each seedling, and the deep rapport between plant, soil and sun.
The pastures are slowly turning green, and although the grass is not ready for grazing, the deep green all around can’t help but buoy our spirits. Soon the grazers will be out grazing again, shedding their winter coats, lying out in the sun, and getting fat. Last year, we had most of our grazing animals out on the pastures again by the 15th of May, and this year is shaping up for a similar launch date. There are days when it feels like the grass will never grow again, how could it after all that snow? But then there are days when I swear you can see it reaching up towards the sun.