Rolling along

Spring is rolling right along now, with lambs tearing around the winter sheep yard, two calves added to the dairy herd, and pastures growing taller by the minute. Vegetable starts will be going out into prepped beds at the end of the week,

Black plastic covered beds in the flat field, ready for onions.

the greenhouse is full of seedlings, and our flocks of laying hens are in their ‘egg mobiles’ out on the pastures. We have had temperatures in the seventies for the past week or more, and it really feels like the season is accelerating quickly.

This has been a unique week here at The Farm School because, with spring break, we have not had any visiting students at Sentinel Elm Farm. Although the farm has been quiet, Maggie’s Farm has been humming right along. We hosted a composting workshop on Wednesday with Bruno Follador, and he helped us develop a deeper understanding of the intricacies of compost, as well as offering guidance on our own compost production.  Thursday’s schedule was filled with our yearly ‘work songs’ workshop, led Bennet Konesni.

Besides for these great workshops, the Sentinel Elm staff has spent the week cleaning up the farm now that all the snow is gone, the grass is growing, and garden beds are getting prepped for planting. Asparagus is just about to poke up and leaves are emerging on the hedgerow bushes. We have had the goats out on the pasture edges trying to get ahead of the brush there, and they are enjoying the baby leaves after a long winter of eating hay. We have deployed the crazy new duck pond, and although the ducks have not figured out how to get into it yet, we have high hopes for the season. I will take pictures and describe the duck pond more next week!

I’ve spent the week checking and repairing the our electric fences used to contain the beef herd, starting at the southern end of our pastures, and working north. It appears that a moose may have crossed the fences in a few places this winter, with broken posts and snapped lines.

The old fence torn out and the replacement installed.

Although there are many ways a fence can be broken, moose get a lot of the blame around here because they seem to completely ignore fences, and walk right through them. People driving snow mobiles, bears, and freezing rain can also snap our fences, but when the damage is really dramatic, I tend to think of moose. Whether the fence is on or off, moose don’t seem to care, and can end up doing a good deal of damage tearing things apart and trailing material all over the place. Over the past few days, we have been out replacing snapped off posts, re-hanging lines, and cleaning up the mess.

I’ve mentioned the work that we did this winter and spring to clear brush at the edges of several pasture, pushing the open space back to the original stone walls. That work left a significant space between the edge of the grassy pasture and the stone wall, covered in leaves and sticks, and full of the little stumps of the brush we had cleared. I couldn’t think of a really feasible way to churn this zone up to prepare it for seeding grass, and I was despairing that we were going to lose our chance to reclaim the area for grazing.

The egg-mobile and layers in action.

However, when it came time to find a spot to put the Maggie’s egg-mobile, I realized that the laying hens might do the trick. They love to root and scratch through any loose material in search of seeds and bugs, and that action is now being applied to our newly exposed pasture edges. Although they cannot remove the little stumps, my plan is to give the hens a week or so to stir up the leaf litter, move them, and seed grass in behind where they’ve been. I’ll try to update our progress on this project as we go along.






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