The visiting students come back to The Farm School next week, so we’ve been busy at Sentinel Elm Farm, getting everything put back together before they arrive. We’ve been working and meeting, refreshing work spaces, making plans, and doing everything we can to make the farm as welcoming and ready as is possible for when things really get going. We did a lot of work on the Bunkhouse over the winter break, with kitchen painting, new shelves, lots of work in the bathrooms, and some refreshing in the visiting teacher’s rooms as well.
Now we’re bustling around to get all those work sights cleaned up and made straight again, ready for the visiting students to move in and call it home.
The PVS staff has also been working to make their winter and spring project lists in our three primary work areas of the farm, making sure that we have the supplies and tools we’ll need to do the work, and that the farm will be able to push ahead to meet our production goals. Although the experience of our visiting students is our primary product and focus, Sentinel Elm Farm is a production farm, supplying the kitchen that feeds
thousands of visiting school kids and teachers every year, as well as the staff and their families that keep the farm going. We also heat just about all the staff housing and the bunkhouse with firewood, cut, split and stacked on the farm. Now is the time for mapping out the farm-work of the coming months, designing each project to make sure that students can do it, and fitting it all into the larger production plan.
This has been another great week of winter programming at Maggie’s Farm, as the Learn to Farm Program charges ahead with more firewood production and a full slate of wonderful classes. This is the most classroom heavy stretch of the program year, reflecting the planning heavy nature of the work that most farmers in New England are doing this time of year. This week included a calf castration hands on workshop with our large animal veterinarian, the second in the Farm Business Planning series with Ray Belanger, Garden Planning, Starting you Farm with Ben Schute of Hearty Roots Community Farm, and finally the next in the Crop Planning series, mapping out this season’s veggie CSA planting schedule.
We can’t spend all of our time inside however, so we’ve also been out making lots and lots of firewood. We supply firewood for our neighbor Maggie, who lived and farmed at the Maggie’s Farm sight with her family before we started there. We cut, split and stack five cords for her every year, before turning our focus to our own supply of furnace wood. The
furnace uses between fifteen and twenty cords of thirty inch length firewood every winter, and we dream every year of making enough so that at least some of it can dry for two years before use. These winter days, split between a morning inside thinking and learning, and an afternoon at the firewood yard, have a nice natural rhythm that keeps us all healthy and growing as farmers and workers.
This week also included another day with Ron Mott, a local welder who leads a yearly workshop with our students, introducing them to the basics arc welding and torch cutting. He takes a new small group of students each week for three or four weeks, and gives every student time with the tools in their hands and an opportunity to develop a bit of comfort and experience with these difficult skills. Although students only get one day with Ron, we always seem to have a couple of vital welding and metal projects on the farm every year for students to try out their new skills. Many students have also used the independent project time in the spring to work with metal, building on the work they did during the welding workshop.
We started installing a second door on the Maggie’s Farm egg mobile this week, hoping to bring that unit into AWA compliance for the coming season. The layers will move into that house some time in the first week of May when the pastures are ready for them, and I am hoping to get that project crossed off my list now so that we’re wide open for fencing and grazing when the spring rush comes.