A week of summer

We are getting our first taste of summer weather this week, with temperatures in the upper eighties and full-bore sunshine. It feels a little early in the season for such summery conditions, and the pastures could certainly use more rain before we head into the true heat of summer, but with 3/10 of an inch of rain on Tuesday, things continue to grow slowly out on the farm.

On Tuesday morning, we picked up thirty piglets from the Cummings Veterinary School in North Grafton MA and brought them back to the farm. Sentinel Elm Farm has a little piglet training area in the barn-yard, and the piglets will spent a few weeks in there before going out to the woods for the summer.

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One happy piglet

The training area serves as their introduction to the electric fences that will keep them contained out in the woods. Piglets will often jump forward, through the electric fence, when they first touch it, and our training yard has a hard fence behind the electric one to make sure they stay home as they learn not to touch the electric fence. The training area also has the same automatic water system that the pigs will use out in the woods, and we make sure that they know how to use that before they leave too. We provide water in dishes alongside the automatic system to start, and slowly reduce access to the dishes as more and more of them adapt to the automatic system. The last thing that we are looking for before they head off for the summer, is to make sure that every pig seems happy and healthy. Once they’ve moved to the woods we see them much less, and the training pen is a great chance to give every piglet a visual check every day.

Work continues on the revamped sheep system, and the new shade and feeding barn is completed except for the roofing (the part that makes shade). The sheep have been out grazing for a while now, but we are all eager to get their fencing system resolved as well, and really have that area all set up.

Veggie bed prep and transplanting is charging ahead full steam this week, with lettuce, radishes, spinach, carrots, beets, chard, kale, cabbage, hakurei, bok choi, arugula and parsnips already in the ground. Tomatoes also went in this week, and we are all keeping our fingers crossed that those wonderful summer treats will do great this year. Tomatoes are tropical plants, and they face significant pest and disease pressure up here in New England, with Late Blight doing real damage the last few years. Next week we’ll be planting squash, cucumbers, zucchini, corn and eggplants, and adding more plantings of just about everything that is already started. This week also saw the start of significant weed pressure out in the beds, and we were able to hoe weed just about everything in the ground so far.

Calving has not really gotten going in the beef herd yet, with one still-born calf a few weeks ago, and no other action. The bull went in with the cows the first week of August last year, and with a gestation period of about 285 days, we would expect to have calves by now. There is almost always some time between when the bull goes in with the cows and when he is actually breeding cows, but we are certainly within the time that I would expect to accommodate that lag time.

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The beef herd, trying to share the shade on a hot morning.
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