Winter, for Real.

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Furnace wood ready to burn.

I’ve definitely written about it before, but I am always struck by the profound impact that the condition of the physical world around us has on the work of farming. Our work is so rooted in the material world, in the surfaces and objects of the farm, in the temperature of the air, the strength of the sunlight, the falling snow and the melting snow, and the condition of the matter at hand. Last week’s snow storms really took us back to winter, after a January that felt a lot more like October, and this week has certainly witnessed a typical week of work on a New England farm in winter. We’ve been shoveling snow all over the place, making paths between buildings, opening up room to roam for various groups of livestock, and digging out equipment that we need to use. Bradley has spent countless hours tinkering with the plow truck, trying to keep it going on their seemingly endless rounds of plowing. Every project now requires an accounting for the snow, every step must be considered on the ice, and every engine needs time and tending to run well in the cold. Depending on the temperature of the day, and the strength of the sun, we may be dealing with a world hard and frozen, or a soft, wet, muddy mess. For the most part, the nice blanket of snow gives our livestock a cleaner environment, and most of them are comfortable lying out in the snow most of the time.

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A view from inside the firewood shed.

Cord wood production has continued this week, with some extra work required to clear the work sights of snow before work could continue. Students are making regular trips from the landing back to the wood furnace with large wagon loads of split firewood to dump, and the stacks are growing daily as we work to build up our supply. Those stacks will stay in place through the spring and summer, and will get re-stacked inside the firewood shed before furnace season gets going again in the early winter. That move will make room for the next batch of split wood to move in over next winters firewood production seasno, and the continuous rotation will move forward, ensuring that we have dry firewood stacked and ready next to the furnace every winter.

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A look at the foundation and flooring at the new brooder house.

We installed floor joists in the new brooder house last week, and started laying the floor down on top of those this week. We opened with one-by-six rough-cut pine, laid diagonally across the floor joists and screwed down. This pattern built in a lot of little triangles throughout the flooring system, as each piece of flooring crosses several joists at a forty-five degree angle, making the whole thing extremely rigid and strong. We then applied a layer of thirty-weight tar-paper over the sub-floor, and began topping all of that with more one-by-six pine laid perpendicular to the joists. This three-part floor will ensure that there is no airflow up from below the house, keeping our tiny little guests snug and warm.

This has been another great week of programming at the Learn to Farm Program. We had

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Each tree takes a lot of planning.

another in the business planning series, an introduction to fiber arts followed by a full day intensive hands on fiber arts workshop, and another crop planning session on Friday. We’ve been able to maintain a nice classroom and firewood work balance, just like the past few weeks, keeping everyone learning and moving every day.

We’ll be shearing the sheep next week, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, marking one of our first concrete steps toward spring. I will be off the farm for the week, but I will try to get at least some pictures up to show the process.

This has also been a great week of farming at the Program for Visiting Schools, with two visiting groups of seventh and eighth graders from The Mission Hill School in Boston. Mission Hill has been coming out to The Farm School just about from the founding of this program, and uniquely, their students come out to see us in every grade. This gives us the opportunity to watch their students grow up from kindergarten through eighth grade, to develop long and meaningful relationships with them and their incredible teachers, and to share the farm with them in a truly familial way. Their recurring visits have also pushed us to adapt our program in significant ways, aiming to make each successive farm visit build on the last, and to give them a fresh experience every time. Several years ago we began trying to think about The Farm School as a second home, or home-away-from-home for the students from Mission Hill, and that structure has made these kids feel even more like family. Their visits are exceptional and wonderful, and are highlights of our year. We try to get the seventh graders to build something for the farm that will outlast their time on the farm, and we’ve included picnic tables, benches, and several infrastructure projects over the past few years. This year they are building a whole array of garden ‘furniture’, like tomato cages and large sections of trellis. The eighth graders have spent their days in the kitchen, doing all the cooking, including huge community meals for their second night at the farm, the Big Deal Meal. This year they are working on a dumpling extravaganza!

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