We are approaching the end of another beautiful week here at The Farm School, and the cool crisp autumn weather has got us all feeling lucky to work outside all day. Frenzied preparation has continued up until the moment our new class of student farmers arrives Thursday afternoon, and the Maggie’s complex is looking better than ever. We have made some dramatic upgrades in the farm house, trying to make more space, more seating and better Feng shui for the larger class coming in.
Work has started on the pig loading setup, and with processing dates at the slaughterhouse every Wednesday for the next four weeks, we need to be ready soon. Loading pigs is always challenging work, and my limited experience has shown me that a thoughtful setup can go a long way in avoiding a crisis at the critical moment. There are not many things worse than trying to fight three hundred and fifty pound pig about where it’s going or not going, and our goal in loading is to have the whole process be easy for everyone involved. We try to keep the pigs from feeling like there are any choices in the process, like everyone is moving in the same direction, and that there is something good to eat inside the trailer at the end.
The recent cold nights have done a great deal to move firewood into a more central place in our plans and work, and making sure that the wood shed at every
cabin is fully stocked has become a priority. I’ve seen smoke curling out of a few chimneys already, chainsaws have been buzzing around the farm, and the transition from growing to hunkering down for the winter is starting to build. The change in seasons has some unforeseen consequences on the farm, and the transitions in the weather often create or remove opportunities that we try to be ready for. In warm months, the ground is soft, digging is possible, but the world is covered in a thick layer of growing things. Come winter, the plants will be dead and gone, but the ground will be frozen hard. Between the two seasons may be a moment when the plants are gone, the ground is exposed, and we can still dig before the real freeze comes. This is our chance to move a building, dig holes for fence-posts, and do sight work as we work to improve the infrastructure of the farm. Then the snow will come (maybe), and anything left out will be gone until spring.
Cover crop is growing thick and green on veggie beds that we’re done with for the season, and every added day, every inch of extra growth, is a benefit for next year’s soil and crops. Farming has so many time scales, from the immediate to the longest term, and there are so many places where those time scales intersect and interact with each other. The growth of this fall’s cover crop and the conditions that determine that growth will have a profound effect on next season’s success, and the sequence of cover crops over a series of years will affect the health of farm for years to come. We make great effort at the end of every season so get our cover crops in with ample time for successful growth, with varying degrees of accomplishment, but this year the stars have aligned for a flush of growth.
We’ve run into another hawk problem up at the Egg Mobile, with three layers killed and partially eaten this week. I am not really sure of a good solution with the chickens out in the field, but I think we’ll start with a more significant move of the house, to see if we can just go somewhere the hawk is not comfortable working. I’ll try to keep you posted in the coming weeks as this latest chapter in our hawk vs. chicken saga unfolds.