We are approaching the end of the first week with our new class of student farmers, and it has been an incredible start to the eleven-month program. The week has included livestock chore and veggie harvest training, a walk in the woods with a local natural historian, a full day of tractor operation and safety training, and will culminate on Friday with the first class in our farm carpentry series.
That first week encompasses so much of what a farmer does through the year, and it is exciting to anticipate working alongside all of these wonderful new students as we delve deeper and deeper into all of these skills over the coming months. The charge of energy that has gone through this place with the arrival of eager new farmers is incredible, and their willingness to engage in this work is an invigorating reminder of our mission here at The Farm School.
We have had at least one strong frost so far this fall, and with Friday night’s temperature forecasted to be down to twenty-eight, it seems like the grazing season may be drawing to a close a bit ahead of our November 1st goal. The grass will tolerate freezing temperatures well, but the cold weather sends a message to the plants to stop growing, and the grass that we have now may be it for the year. We have a couple of beautiful pastures left to graze, and the cows will be enjoying some of the best grass of the year over the next few days.
The winter’s supply of large round wrapped bales of hay began arriving today, and we will get them setup in our usual grid layout for winter-feeding. Both the dairy herd and the beef herd are primarily fed outside through the winter, and we preset large grids of round bales that we can use temporary fencing to expose as needed for feeding. This system spreads manure pretty evenly over the whole winter-feeding area, and can be operated successfully by a single farmer after the bales have been setup.
The harvest season continues its incremental creep toward the end, with our focus turning more and more to the cold-hardy vegetables, storage crops already harvested and curing, and cleaning up from the growing season. Leaks, hard melons, garlic, onions, beans and kale are prominent on the list, and those deep green kale plants seem to carry on vigorous and sturdy no matter what.
The plastic went up over the winter hoop-house this week, preparing that space for plantings of cold-hardy vegetables that we can harvest through the winter.
Hopefully the warmth that the plastic creates will encourage the three beds of late-seeded spinach to grow up big and strong, although that’s a bit of a gamble because spinach likes cooler temps for germinating. Our goal is spinach ready to harvest and eat by Christmas. We have have also planted 2 beds of carrots, which are looking great, and will be big, beautiful and sweet all winter long. Putting the plastic on means having to irrigate occasionally, which happened for the first time Thursday with an overhead sprinkler, and will likely have to happen a couple more times until the spinach is established.
Cover crop continues to green over dormant veggie beds, and I get a sense of hunkering down and bundling up as I look out over our beautiful farm.