The snow has been coming down hard all day at the farm, and with more than a foot on the ground as I write this at 2:30 on Thursday, I’m not sure where we’ll finally top out. Our snow pack has come and gone pretty consistently this winter, but with some cold weather forecast for the next few days, and more significant snow predicted within the next week, I’m optimistic that we might finally see an extended period with snow cover. Most of our winter livestock systems depend on the ground being frozen, but a nice clean blanket of snow goes a long way in keeping the animals clean. Other than the pigs and chickens, all of our animals are happy to lie down on a thick blanket of snow, right out in the pasture, and we can be pretty confident that their in a clean spot. Despite the cold wind and heavy snowfall, the dairy cows, with a body temperature right around 101, and a huge barrel of fermenting hay for a stomach, have been out eating their newest round bale all day. They’ll come into the barn this afternoon for some grooming with the visiting students, and they’ll have a chance to dry off a bit out of the snow. They have a nice bedded free-stall area in the back of the barn to get out of the weather, but we give them the choice whether or not to use it.
This has been another great week of programming at Maggie’s Farm, with another session
welding with Ron Mott, more business planning with Ray Belanger, and a livestock budgeting class with me. We focused out livestock budgeting on a close look at the money spent in 2016, a comparison to the budget from 2015, and a deep dive into how the costs and value of the product relate. We’ve kept with the morning class and afternoon cord-wood schedule this week, trying to keep that nice balance of physical work and intellectual pursuit. The student farmers have really mastered the skills and process that goes into firewood production, and by this point in the winter they are producing several cords per day. We have a goal of making thirty or forty cords this winter, so we’re hoping to be done in a couple of weeks.
Visiting students returned to Sentinel Elm Farm this week, with Carlton School here Monday to Wednesday, and Haggerty School here for the back half of the week. It is wonderful to have kids back on the farm, stirring things up, visiting the animals, getting some great work done, and enjoying some remarkable food in the bunkhouse. This snow storm has transformed the farm, made getting around much more difficult, and forced us to spend more time inside than we’d like to, but our visiting students are enjoying it all.
Lunch at the bunkhouse today was home made ramen bowls, with hard boiled eggs from the farm, scallions, farm-made kimchi, thin sliced pork and bacon from the farm, dried sea weed and various sauces to put on top. The ramen noodles came from Vermont Fresh Pasta, and they were perfect for the meal! Cristina and Eliza fed thirty kids visiting the farm, fourteen student farmers, ten PVS farmer/teachers, and six or seven more folks that work and live at the farm. Each one of us walked away from the buffet table with an incredible bowl of delicious food, prepared with love, care, and lots of time and effort, and sourced right here on the farm from super high quality livestock, raised to highest standards by all of our students.
We made some great progress on the new Maggie’s Farm brooder house this week, lowering the building off its cribbing towers onto the cement foundation blocks for each corner. Getting the building down off those towers was such an incredible relief, and to have done it with all of us intact and whole is a wonderful thing. Once it came down onto the foundation, we quickly finished up leveling it, and started building the flooring system. We got two-by-eights from our sawmill, purchased ‘rough cut’ joist hangers from the local hardware store, and put in the structure that the floor will rest on. The next step is to put down the flooring, hopefully also sourced at our sawmill, and then we can start putting up framing for walls. Now that the building is down and leveled, the work should be able to push ahead much more quickly. I’ll keep you up to date as we move along!