This has been another great week here at The Farm School, highlighted by a significant nor’easter coming through our area on Tuesday. Snow started falling around dawn, and we had several hours through the middle of the day with nearly complete whiteout conditions. We had a steady east wind driving the snow into every nook and cranny of every building, and gusts that shook the trees and knocked branches down all over. We were all truly thankful that the power managed to stay on throughout the storm, and our visiting students stayed warm and comfortable as best they could. We ended up with about a foot of snow, although with the wind pushing it all around, that number is more of an average than a measurement. Two weeks ago, temperatures here were in the seventies and we were thinking about seeding pastures and setting up fences, so this dramatic return to deep winter has been stunning, to say the least. We had been completely snow free, and this latest storm is going to guarantee a significant volume of spring snow-melt run-off to keep the soil wet for a nice spring flush of pasture growth.
Monday seeding days in the greenhouse have started in earnest, and we’ve got onions
germinating in there now, with Bok Choi, grown for the Big Pig Gig, to come Monday of next week. We grow both sweet and storage onions, with names like Red Wing, Cortland, Red Marble and Elsa Craig. We cure all of our onions in the greenhouse after harvest in the late summer, but the sweet onions, with lower sulfur content, go out in CSA boxes right away while the storage onions go into the root cellar or walk-in cooler to be doled out through the winter. We’ve got 150 trays of onions started, each tray has 128 cells, and each cells has two or three seeds in it, for a potential of more than forty-thousand onion plants coming up in there. The warm humid greenhouse is a remarkable place to be these days with wind-swept tundra all around us, and no signs of anything growing outside, and the emerging potential in there is tangible.
We expect lambs to start showing up on the scene in the first week of April, and we took a few important steps forward in our preparation for that this week. We use lambing jugs here to give every ewe and her lambs a few days in their own space to get acquainted and gain strength before mixing with the full flock, and we set those jugs up this week. The connection between the ewe and her lambs is the most important factor in determining our level of success in raising each lamb up to be big and healthy, and independent of direct hands on care from us, so we try to do everything that we can to help ensure that their connection is strong. Using lambing jugs gives us the chance to isolate the ewe and her lambs, to give them a good chance to cement that bond, as well as giving us the chance to make regular observations of the new family in a controlled space. We can check on the ewe and her lambs, watch for successful nursing and growth, make sure everyone is being cared for, and address any challenges
that we see before they go out into the larger group and become much more difficult to get a hold of. I also lead our yearly lambing class with the student farmers on Thursday, introducing them to the lambing process and going step by step through the vital part that they will play in assisting ewes and lambs through the event. We strive in our management of the flock to promote easy lambing and good mothering, but there is always a little support provided to each ewe and her new lambs. My objective is to give our students a good introduction to the progression of lambing and their role in it so that they are able to provide calm and effective support through the process.
Work also continued on our new brooder house this week, with progress on the east wall, including a frame for the high window and completion of the ceiling.