We’ve gotten a bit more rain since my last entry, with half an inch in the rain gauge by evening chores yesterday. Every bit helps a lot right now, and like I described last week, we are really thinking more about the timing and sequence of the rain events more than the actual accumulation.
We have a promising outlook for the next five days, with thunderstorms and lots of rain forecasted. The issue on many livestock producer’s minds in Massachusetts now is the second cut of hay, and if the recent rains are going to do enough to make a decent hay crop at the end of August or beginning of September. For The Farm School, this is especially relevant because we feed our small dairy herd wrapped round bales of second, or even third cut hay in the winter (not this year!). Those bales provide the cows with a super premium feed through cold winter weather, and they really go a long way to keep the milkers healthy, well fed, and making good milk. Opening a fragrant round bale of high-quality second-cut hay on a cold day in January is a momentary journey back to summer, and a reminder of all the warmth, sounds and smells that went into making that bale.
The dairy herd went back out on pasture this week, taking it bit by bit ,to transition their digestive systems back into fresh grass shape. They have loved the change back to pasture, and have been happy to lounge on fresh grass, rather than in their old holding-yard. The sheep flock also went back out onto grass this week, and we’ve taken a similar slow and steady approach to get their rumens reacquainted with fresh green forage. The sheep, always by far the most vocal group on the farm, have suddenly gone silent, with their heads down in the grass rather than up complaining about something. We were even able to find some fresh grass for our two rams, cleaning up around the lower barn at Maggie’s Farm.
As hard as it is to imagine, work in the veggie world has already begun to look at the end of the production season. August is in the back half of our short growing season, and Alex and his crew are already prepping and seeding beds for cover crops and rest.
Harvest, weeding and seeding are still going strong, but the first markers of the season’s decline are passing us now. An observer can get a concise look at the character of New England farming in the August preparation of veggie beds for winter; the season is fleeting, planning and preparing ahead are vital, and some work done today can really make tomorrow better.
Tomatoes really seem to be the most cherished summer product, and I am happy to report that we are having a good tomato year. Tomatoes love hot dry weather, and we’ve had plenty of that this summer. The Late Blight that has effected our area the last few years is not here yet, and the dry weather that we had last month really arrested its progress moving up from the south. Late Blight is a fungal disease that effects our tomatoes, riding here on weather systems from the south, and lit oves humid conditions. We are expecting that type of weather this weekend, so it may be here next week. The tomatoes are doing great now, and we are all enjoying them with every meal!
The fruit is a bit less plentiful that we would like, but the hot dry weather has meant that each individual tomato is super flavorful and rich, with not too much water is there to make things bland. A similar description can be applied to many of our crops this year, with flavorful individual fruits, but a bit less volume that we like to see. The dry weather has concentrated the production into fewer, but more delicious produce.
Breeding continues in the dairy barn. Patty was in heat this week, but we missed breeding her, and Emily bred yesterday. The Farm School is hosting a farming group from Yale, and they all enjoyed Brad’s breeding demo in the dairy barn at chores yesterday evening. I expect the beef bull to arrive on the scene next week, and breeding in the beef herd to begin directly after that.