This has really been a ‘duck’ week here at The Farm School, with rainy days starting Monday and running through
the end of the week. Although we haven’t gotten lots and lots of accumulation from the rainy weather, we certainly have not seen the sun all week. The cool rainy weather is great for pasture growth, and although it’s not great for the veggie starts already planted out, the rainy days are doing a lot for establishing a nice supply of soil moisture for when the sun comes back.
Most of our livestock is of English origin, and was developed for the typically cool rainy English weather. They are much more suited for this type of weather than they are for the hot dry days of summer, when they so easily get overheated, and they are totally comfortable lying out in the pasture, chewing their cud in the rain. In the heat of summer, the sheep and cows are always looking to get out of the sun, and providing them with adequate shade is an issue that I think about quite a bit.
When temperatures get over seventy degrees, our sheep and cows start thinking about shade. The only group of animals that really prefer hot dry weather is the chickens, and they spend most of their time in their ‘egg-mobile’ when it’s raining.
Cultivation of beds for planting vegetables has to stop in wet conditions since the tractor ends up doing quite a bit of damage to the soil full of water. Alex and the student farmers have taken this opportunity to transplant lots of lettuce starts, and to prepare the wash-up area in the lower barn at Maggie’s. All this rain is probably going to mean a really healthy crop of weeds when the sun comes back out, so we’ve been trying to button up as many projects as possible now so we can try to stay ahead of the weeds when their time comes.
Josh B and the student farmers have been working on a re-work of the Maggie’s sheep complex, trying to streamline the back paddock area to allow for a more efficient use of that space.
We’re also working to build a new long-term shade and feeding structure for the sheep in that space to replace the greenhouse and tarp style system we had been using.
We got 115 ‘Production Gold Sex Link’ (their name, not mine) layer chicks in the mail from Hoffman Hatchery Wednesday morning. The term ‘sex-link’ is used to describe chicks that have distinguishing characteristics at hatching based on gender, like color or color pattern. They are easy to sex at hatching because of these differences. This trait is found in cross bred chicks only. Our Gold Sed-Links moved right into the brooder, all setup and ready for them, and they’re doing great so far. They get ‘chick starter’ feed for a few weeks, before switching over to ‘layer mash’ for the rest of their lives. One of the biggest dangers for new chicks is coccidiosis, and the ‘starter’ feed that we use is specifically formulated to address this challenge.
We use Lancaster Agriculture for the majority of our livestock feed, and after the ‘starter’ feed, these little layers will start on Lancaster Agriculture Layer Mash.
The beef herd and dairy herd have gotten out onto pasture full time this week, and they are enjoying the fresh grass! The sheep are still in winter quarters, waiting for the last few ewes to lamb.