We had our laying flock closed up most of last week to keep them safe from a hawk who has moved into the area and developed a taste for our well-fed slow moving chickens. On Friday, FedEx delivered a 100×25 ft net ordered from FarmTek, and on Saturday AM we strung it up as quickly as possible. The project took most of the morning, but before lunch
we had the door of the coop open and the chickens were outside again. They are now understandably nervous about the potential for a hawk to attack them at any moment, and they spend a lot of time hiding inside whenever the rooster sounds the alarm or they catch sight of a large bird fly overhead, but we are all relieved to have them outside again. The layers can all fit comfortably in the coop every night and during inclement weather, but after a few days of close quarters they start to turn to each other for something to peck…
Work is ongoing at the greenhouse, setting up tables, cleaning and organizing. We are scheduled to get our yearly delivery of potting soil today. We’ve got 6 single ton bags coming this year, with a little left over from last year’s order to cover any extra projects. We order potting soil from Vermont Compost Company, and we typically order a blend of their Fort Vee and Fort Light mixes. This year we will also be adding RootShield to the mix as well. Farm School head grower Alex Vaughn writes,
“One way we try to prevent disease in the greenhouse is by mixing Root Shield into our potting soil prior to seeding trays. Root Shield is a biological fungicide that acts against common soil pathogens like Pythium, Fusarium and Rhizoctonia. It does this primarily by out-competing pathogens for space on the roots of our transplants.”
We have scheduled a greenhouse training intensive for our student farmers on Monday morning, and our first seeding of the year will start the same day. Onions and scallions go first, and this year we’ll be seeding 59 trays of storage onions, 33 trays of sweet onions, 8 trays of scallions and 16 trays of shallots. All told that’s 14,848 plants that will be ready to go in the ground in April.
We have certainly experienced a strange and mild winter this year. We’ve had a few cold days and nights, we’ve had some snow, but no long stretches of either. At a workshop last week I heard an attendee compare last winter, when things froze up and stayed frozen all winter, to this winter where things seem to freeze and thaw three times every week. Our skating pond has gone through just about every imaginable surface condition this winter, and we’ve only had a handful of truly good skating days. So I’m calling it ‘Spring all Winter’, and I’ve included a few pictures of our livestock enjoying a warm sunny day last week. One feature of spring all winter is winter rain, which can be a real challenge to livestock. Most of our animals do fine in the dry cold, but even the mosthearty can be challenged by temperatures below freezing when they’re wet. This winter has a been a test of our housing systems, and regular deep bedding has kept everyone pretty comfortable. We researched and built a new housing area for our dairy cows this summer, and this winter has been our first heavy use of it. Next week I’ll include pictures and a description of that process.