Dry Weather Continues

The hot dry weather here in central Massachusetts has stretched on for another week, and veggie irrigation has stepped up another level here The Farm School. We’ve got two trailers of water traveling around the farm full time now, powering drip tape on the driest and most sensitive crops to keep them holding on until the rain returns.

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The ‘Old Sheep Pasture’ has been baked dry.

We can now cover about seven 300-foot beds per day, and we’ve been focusing on shallow crops and the newest transplants that cannot access moisture in the soil down deep. Baby cabbages, just planted in anticipation of fall harvest, got the full treatment today.

The dairy herd has exhausted their pastures, and we’ve moved them into a holding yard behind the barn to eat hay and rest in the shade. Although hay producers in the area are getting nervous about their next cutting of hay, most had a pretty good first cut. We have been able to secure additional hay, above what we typically buy, and we will use that surplus to feed the dairy herd until their pastures grow back. The beef herd has about ten days of pasture remaining, and then they will move into a similar holding area to eat hay until the grass comes back.

We try to plan these holding areas so that they have easy access for water, there is ample shade so the cows can get out of the sun, and we can easily roll large round bales of hay in. The dry weather puts a lot of stress on the pasture plants, and although there is still some green grass out there, my priority now is to reduce the pressure on the pastures as much as we can in the hopes that they can recover enough for a good late summer and fall of grazing.Grazing more now would wipe them out for the rest of the year.

Our 100 broiler chicks have moved out of the brooder and onto pasture for the summer. They went into two ‘chicken tractors’, which are light-framed wooden houses with no floor, sitting on skids so we can pull them around the pasture.

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Patty’s new daughter, Penguin.

Our maturing flock of pullets, next year’s laying flock, is in a chicken tractor out there too, so the three houses are sitting side by side in the sheep pasture surrounded by an electric net fence. The pullets had been under a bit of predator pressure out there, and the addition of the electric netting has eliminated that issue for the time being. We took the precaution of putting the netting around the broiler houses too, just to make sure that those delicious little birds have the chance to grow up.

We are anticipating a bumper crop of blue berries this year, and although The Farm School does not grow blueberries on the farm, we have partnered with Blue Ox Farm, just down the road from us, to tend their blueberry bushes and harvest some of their berries. Both the apple and peach trees look like they will not produce fruit at all this year, so we’re hoping that a strong blueberry harvest can fill our freezers instead.

There is quite a bit of rain in the forecast for today, tomorrow, and through the weekend, so keep your fingers crossed and I’ll let you know how it all goes down.

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