The Season’s End

We’re finishing up another week of timber framing, draft horses and chainsaw work at the Learn to Farm Program, and we have concluded another great week in the Program for Visiting Schools as well. We hosted 7th graders from the Lawrence school this week, and they were able to bring three groups over four days for shortened one-night visits, accommodating their larger class sizes and giving every 7th grader the chance to come out and spend the night at the farm. Our Learn to Farm students go through a full Game of Logging workshop over the course of their week with Bill Girard, our local Game of Logging instructor. They learn the ins and outs of the chainsaw, including service and chain maintenance, how to fell a tree safely and to a chosen location, and how to limb and buck the tree in preparation for firewood production. Safety is obviously the primary focus of this training, and Bill does an incredible job every year getting folks from wherever they start in their knowledge and comfort with a chainsaw to a place where they can use the tool safely and effectively, feel confident in using it on their own farm, and step into a vital role here in our considerable yearly firewood production effort.

We have completed all of our processing dates for livestock for the year with six steers coming out of the beef herd last Sunday, and now have just the Thanksgiving turkeys to finish up before the livestock year can really be considered finished. We’ve moved all of the layers at Maggie’s Farm into the winter coop for the colder seasons ahead. Both the pullets and the layers were under some pretty heavy predator pressure this summer, so we ended up just blending the two groups of about sixty into one large flock of one hundred and twenty birds. Both groups started out close to one hundred birds, and I detailed some of the issues we faced last winter with hawk predation, so we will have to step up our protection approach significantly next year to avoid losses like we experienced this past year. We anticipate getting between two hundred and two hundred and fifty eggs from each productive hen before culling, so the loss of eighty hens, multiplied out, approaches twenty thousand eggs.

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The layers checking out their winter scene. 

 

This was our final week of veggie harvest and markets, and Alex was also able to run the disks over the majority of our remaining beds not already under cover crop. The vibrant and assorted colors of the growing veggie beds have been replaced with dark brown soil and green cover crop, and to the eye, the slate has been wiped clean for the winter. We rest assured that the swirl of life in the soil, under the surface, continues at least a bit longer into the late fall, until hard freezes really set in. The winter rye cover crop is happy with this weather, and has put on a lovely thick green flush this fall.

There is just one more cow to breed in our little dairy, and if we can get her taken care of in the next few weeks, we should have a nice spring and summer calving season next year. Pearl was the first cow to deliver a calf this spring, and we thought we had bred her successfully a few months after that. However, she repeatedly showed the initial signs of coming into heat each month, without every really following through with the whole process. I asked Dr. Major, from Green Mt. Bovine Clinic, to come out and do ultrasound pregnancy checks on the cows, and in that process he determined that Pearl had a case of Pyometra. We treated her with two doses of Lutalyse to help her cycle properly and flush her uterus, and we are now waiting for her first natural cycle to attempt to breed her. Pearl retained her placenta after delivering her bull calf Prince this spring, and it seems that that complication was the probable cause of her challenges in breeding this summer and fall. Pearl is our best cow in the dairy at this point, we look forward to years of working with her, and we are confident that she will have a full recovery from this process.

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