Turning seasons?

Here is a collection of pictures of some super-pregnant sheep; expecting lambs in the first week of April.

As we draw towards the end of March we are quietly slipping back into that time of year when every farmer begins to pay closer and closer attention to the ten-day weather forecast. The weather in the heart of winter is certainly worth keeping an eye on, with special attention paid to really cold nights, rain, and big snow-storms, but with the ground frozen and the livestock off the pastures, it is all a bit abstract. Now, with the growing season coming into sight over the horizon, these factors take up their rightful place in our thoughts, and become more and more influential on the farmer’s state of mind. When will the snow be off the pastures? When will the soil dry down enough for the first round of cultivation to begin? When will soil temperatures rise enough for the initial plantings? What will conditions be like when lambing starts in ten days? How closely will snow-melt and pasture green-up be spaced, and how will that affect the first flush of grass growth? In addition to those examples, we have a long list of projects to complete that are waiting for the snow to reveal the ground, and the ground to thaw enoughfor digging holes.

Our farm landscape is about half brown and half white now, with the pastures slowly clearing of snow, and paths and roads clear as well. Buds are just revealing themselves on the maples, but we still got some good sap runs in the first half of this week. The sugar shack has been running full speed most of the week, trying to work through a few full tanks of sap, and the jars of syrup or collecting in the kitchen. We made five gallons of syrup this week.

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Tar paper and trim

The student farmers moved several great projects ahead in leaps and bounds this week, with seeding in the greenhouse, serious progress on the new chick brooder house, a major pasture edge renovation, one-on-one tractor training, several great classes and field trips, and the final presentation of their business plans. We’ve had a bad cold going through the community this week as well, so all of this great work has been done by a revolving crew of survivors powering through the illness. The brooder house is drawing close to completion, with the door and some windows in, and the clapboard siding painted and ready to go on the exterior. We will use the brooder for our first round of chicks coming to the farm in the first week of May, so we are eager to get it all finished up with plenty of time to work out any last minute details before then.

In our constant effort to give the beef herd plenty of shade options throughout their

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The fence line was at the dark posts…

grazing rotation, we spent a couple of days this week clearing out the north-west corner of our ‘1-Acre’ pasture to give the cows a spot where they will be able to get under some trees. My chief concern for the beef herd is direct sun in the afternoon, from about 1-4pm through the warm summer months, so we are looking for shelter to the north and east of trees to block the afternoon sun. Our cows, with English origins, really prefer cool cloudy weather, and temperatures over seventy start to send them looking for relief. Ample shade is essential in keeping them comfortable, and although we don’t seem to have temperatures here that would pose any real danger to the beef herd, I am committed to keeping them as happy and comfortable as is possible. Hot cows do not graze efficiently, so giving our herd the chance to cool off in the shade between rounds of grazing seems to help keep them eating  enough to keep growing and making milk.

We’re all setup and ready for lambing, though hopefully we can wait one more week before they start to arrive. I’ll be sure to keep you up to date on everything that happens here on the farm.

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