Full of Fall

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The dairy cows are at the top of the farm.

Warm summer weather has held on for most of the week, but we are ending with a few cooler wet days here to finish the week. Despite the dry summer, our fall foliage has been really spectacular this season, and lots of trees are still holding most of their leaves. The Farm School Instagram (#thefarmschool or the_farm_school) has lots of great images of the changing season, with some incredible pictures of the bright fall colors up and down the ridge.

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Spreading minerals on the Secret Pasture.

We had minerals spread on three pastures Thursday, hoping to adjust the chemistry in the soil a bit with a goal of encouraging the growth of a more cow-friendly community of forage plants. Any time that a pasture starts being overwhelmed by a single type of plant, it is a sure sign that there is some imbalance in the soil, creating the conditions that the dominant plant is taking advantage of. Two pastures that we treated were being over-run with poison-ivy, and the third was covered in bed-straw. Soil tests from the summer revealed a variety of soil mineral deficiencies, poor organic material content, and a low PH. Lancaster Agriculture Products, the company that we buy our chicken and pig feed from, worked with us to develop a custom blend of minerals to address our specific issues, and they were also able to come up and spread the blend on our pastures for us. We addressed almost twelve acres, putting down just over a ton per acre, and the whole process took just three or four hours.

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Loading the minerals in the truck.

Thursday also saw a second round of wrapped bale delivery, with forty-four coming in for the beef herd. We’ve had to buy winter hay from a variety of sources this year because many local producers were unable to make a second or third cut in the drought conditions that dominated the summer weather. There are some wonderful hay producers in the area, including southern Vermont, and it was really reassuring to be able to fill the barns with such great feed, even in such a challenging year.

Bradley has been out in the woods with the student farmers this week, introducing some foundational forest management principles, marking trees for this winter’s cutting, and finding large straight pines to harvest for this year’s timber frame project.

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From logs to timber frame.

A local sawmill owner moved the log Bradley cut to our sawmill, and students will start milling out the timbers needed for the frame over the next few weeks. Once the greenhouse is emptied for the season, Josh will setup a makeshift heated timber-frame shop in there for a winter of joinery work under the lights.

The student farmers did a full day tractor operation and safety class last week, and this week started the half-day tractor maintenance classes, as well as tractor operation one-on-one training. The tractor is by far the most dangerous part of any farm, and we do a lot training throughout the year in the hopes that we can start every student with a strong foundation of understanding, comfort and caution for that machine.

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