We farm several hundred acres of land here at The Farm School, and that work takes us all over that land. Every year I am struck by the revolving locations that we focus our time and efforts on as we develop the different enterprises that make up our farm. This winter and spring, we all worked for several weeks in the Three Trees pasture, clearing pasture edges, burning brush, and building high-tensile electric fences. The attention of the whole organization was turned to
those five acres, twenty or more people were on the ground working together on a single project, and we transformed the landscape. Now that the work there is done, the field has been left alone to grow its grass, and, although I glance up the hill at our work every time I drive by, our attention has moved on to lambs and calves and other projects. We put the years crop of pigs in a new area every spring, rotating them through forested acreage that has road access for water and feed deliveries, and easy loading in the fall. Every spring, about this time, we spend a couple of weeks developing our infrastructure for the pigs, including a large wooden deck, an automatic feeder and water system, electric fences, a loading chute, shelters and a milk trough. All these parts demand careful preparation and work to setup, and my focus and labor is turned to the project and place fully. We plan and work, think and scheme, in that space for a short time, turning what had been some sleepy corner of the forest into a human environment, and ultimately a pig environment. Chain saws roar, hammers bang, voices call out, and if we’re lucky there might even be some music on a radio. Every year I am surprised to find myself working in some new spot in the woods, spending all my time invested and engrossed in a place that I had never considered before.
Lambs have started arriving on the scene in the Maggie’s sheep flock, with seven born as of Thursday morning. Six have been ram lambs so far, and only one set of twins out of six ewes delivered.
Luckily everyone waited until the really cold wet weather had passed, and now that we’re having wonderful sunny spring days, the lambs are out running and jumping around their yard. We have four first time yearling ewes that we kept from last year’s crop of lambs, and one of those delivered her first lamb ever this morning. After the usual confusion and hesitation that seems to accompany first time ewe mamas, she and her tiny lamb got down to the business of nursing and growing.
Pearl delivered the first calf in the dairy last night at around 11:30, and the visiting students are collecting names for the little bull for a Friday morning vote before they go home. We insist that calf names start with the same first letter as their mama’s name, so we are looking at names starting with ‘P’ for a bull.
We try to time calves to match grazing season so that new babies can go out onto nice green pasture, rather than the muddy mess of the spring yard. Pearl was a bit early this year however, so I am eager for the warm sunny weather to dry things up a bit before we let that new baby out of the barn. The mother cow and her new calf spend a day or two after birth in the birthing pen getting to know each other, and giving the calf time to get its feet solidly under it.
Mama comes out to the main barn for milking, and after a few days we will start letting the calf come out with her to explore. Calves are not very good at listening to our instructions, so a loose calf in the barn ends up knocking things over, peeing in the hay, and generally being a nuisance. If the weather is nice enough, we’ll have mama and baby going back outside with the herd in daylight hours after three or four days. We usually close them back up inside a night for a week or so, but we’ll need that birthing pen for the next cow pretty soon, so babies have to be out full time as soon as they’re able.
The PVS barn staff has been working for the past few weeks on rehabbing our hay wagon, and they’ve made some great progress on the new decking this week. We had broken just about every wooden component on the original, so we tore it down to the metal running gear, and built a whole new wooden top structure from pressure treated lumber.
The wagon is used to move large items, or lots of small items around the ridge-top, and it is a vital tool when Alex and the adult students are transplanting from the greenhouse to the fields.