With almost a full inch of rain over the past weekend, the grass and the weeds are exploding up out of the ground all over the farm. Lawn mowers are going full time, the pasture grasses are getting far ahead of the cows and sheep, and the student farmers are weeding like crazy. The Big Pig Gig, our annual fundraising celebration in Cambridge, is this weekend, so the preparations for that event are also adding to the frenzy.
The community of pasture plants is made up the widest variety of species as we can accommodate, in the hopes that our pasture will thrive in the broadest conditions, and provide the broadest levels of nutrition. However, a generalization can be made to classify pasture plants into warm season and cool season groups, with the cool season class far out numbering the warm. The preference for cooler weather in the majority of our pasture plants, and the universal need for regular and adequate water, means that we face a usually predictable pattern in the growth cycle of our pastures. There is an amazing flush of growth in the spring, and marked plateau or even dip in the middle of the summer, and a small recovery in the fall before winter dormancy. Right now, we are in the middle of the spring explosion, with the pastures getting taller by the minute. This year, with less rain than the pastures would prefer, many of the grasses have already gone to seed in response to the stress they perceive in their environment. This makes it tougher to keep the grass in vegetative growth, and many plants that put out seed will go dormant for the rest of the growing season.
The chicks have moved out of the brooder and into a mobile house that will move around the Sheep Pasture for the rest of the summer. 115 new chicks, to be raised for eating, will come in the mail on the 9th and move into the empty (and cleaned) brooder. This year we will be raising Heavy Silver Cross broilers from Hoffman Hatchery, just like last year.
Work continues on the pig’s summer accommodations, with the deck and feeder installed so far. We are working to establish the automatic water system and the electric fencing that will keep contained in the area we’ve selected. I hope to get them out of their training area and into the woods some time next week.
Cultivation, bed prep, planting and seeding continue with Alex and Bennet, and the weed pressure has really set in this week. We do as much mechanical weeding as we can, but there is still quite a bit of hand tool work to done. The tomato plants are coming along nicely, enjoying the moderate rain and nice warm sunny days that we’ve been having here over the past week.
I cut our first pasture of hay yesterday, and it is out there drying down a bit right now for baling later this afternoon. We make round wrapped bales for the beef herd for winter-feeding, wrapping up the half dry grass in airtight plastic to stop mold and rot and to allow the hay to ferment a bit for storage. We don’t make the super high quality hay that the dairy cows need to continue milking all winter, but the beef cows seem to love the product come winter.