We got an inch and a half of rain over last weekend and the beginning of this week, and it’s made us all feel so much better about the season and condition of the farm. We’ve been able to take a break in irrigating the veggie beds, and the pastures, though thin and short, are greening up a bit. The ever-present dust has been rinsed off of everything, changing the world from grey to green again.
Central Massachusetts is still several inches below our annual average for rainfall at this point in the year, so while this latest accumulation eases the panic a bit for now, all eyes are still on the ten-day forecast, looking for the next storm. When it comes to rain on a farm in the summer, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ is really the issue, and we’re always looking for the rain that’s a few days away.
Our grazers are still in holding yards, eating hay and waiting for the pastures to come back from the drought. I have been doing regular pasture walks every day to check on recovery after the latest rain, and the pasture plants definitely responded well. If we can get a bit more rain this weekend, as is forecasted, we might be back grazing within two weeks. Just like we ease the animals through a transition from eating hay all winter to spring grazing, we will need to be careful as we move the sheep and cows back onto green grass. A full day’s paddock of fresh green grass would make them all bloat dangerously, since their rumens have adapted to digesting only hay for the past few weeks.
Every plant in every veggie bed loved the rain, and they are all standing up tall and strong again after sagging their way through the dry weather. The soil has returned to a beautiful dark brown shade, and with the dust washed off the leaves, things look vibrant and fresh again. The rain is probably going to draw out a flush of weeds, with seeds waiting in the soil for conditions just like this, so cultivation and weeding may move to the top of the list in the coming days. The dry weather had kept weed pressure pretty mild to this point, but that may change now. There certainly were weed varieties thriving in the dry conditions, since there seems to be a weed adapted to just about everything imaginable, but the broad population of weeds out there had a hard time with no rain, just like the veggie plants.
The broilers are growing well, with a scheduled processing day at the end of August. We will be taking most of them to a state inspected processing facility this year, which will mean that we can sell them in the state. Keep a look out for word about that opportunity this fall!
This season’s blueberry crop had a wonderful start, with a strong flush of large berries. Berry size suffered a bit with the lack of water, but production continued on strong, and we hope that the latest rain will help keep the season going a bit further. Berries of all kinds, coming out of the freezer, keep us all going through the winter and remind us of the summer’s growing season.
It’s breeding season in the dairy, and we are on the look-out for heats. When a cow comes into heat, which she does about every twenty-one days, the other cows will periodically jump up on her back end.
If she stays still, rather than running out from under them, then she is in ‘standing heat’. That’s the sign to call the breeder, and luckily we have a resident cow breeder in Brad. This picture shows Brad trying to breed Phoenix, and two-year-old heifer, and this would be her first pregnancy. Brad’s left had is in there to feel the various parts of the cow’s reproductive system to make sure that the breeding tube, holding the tiny straw of thawed semen, in his right hand, finds the right place. Things can be a bit trickier with a cow that has not bred before, but Brad felt confident that this attempt went well. We do all of our breeding with purchased semen, rather than owning or renting a bull.