It’s been a wet week here at The Farm School, with heavy rain Tuesday and Thursday, and not much sun in between. The ground was already saturated by the snow-melt runoff from last weekend, so with nowhere for the water to go, this has been a muddy messy couple of days. The scene over at the beef herd has gotten pretty ugly, the sheep yard is a mess, and all the new lambs have been facing some challenging conditions for their first week of life. We’ve got some warm sunny weather in the forecast, and the sun is even trying to come out today, so I am hopeful that we’ve reached the wettest point, and that conditions will steadily improve over the coming days.
Despite the weather, we had some great programming at both farms this week. Sentinel Elm Farm hosted The Highlander Charter School from Providence RI for the first half of the week, and two schools, Metro West Christian Academy and Veritas Christian
Academy together for the second half. All three groups brought big smiles and a real willingness to go out there in the cold wet weather to get significant work done on the farm. We took advantage of the wet weather to burn off our burn pile, and to cut and burn more brush from around the edges of some of the dairy pastures. We also found lots of inside work to do, keeping the dairy barn clean, shelling and cracking the dry corn from last year’s harvest, cooking some incredible meals, and enjoying good times around the wood-stove.
The adult students down at Maggie’s Farm kept things rolling along through the wet weather this week as well, with the glorious completion of the new brooder house, seeding in the green-house, some great classes, a little outside work clearing the edges of the sheep pasture, and a wonderful trip to eastern New York State on Friday to visit a few bio-dynamic farms. With stops at Camphill Copake, Hawthorne Valley and Roxbury Farm, they will get to see three
wonderful examples of farms guided by a strong system of practices and ideals, and the wonderful results that those approaches can bring.
We’ve had a few more lambs this week, bringing our total up to nine out of five ewes. Everyone is doing really well, even through this cold wet weather, and our little bottle lambs from last week are hanging in there. They have found a balance of getting some milk from their mother, though she is quite a reluctant care giver to two out of the three lambs, and getting some milk from the bottle. We are currently offering them a warm bottle of milk at AM chores around 6am, and another at PM chores around 6pm. Depending on how much they’ve been able to get from their mother, they have more or less interest in our offering, but we are committed to keeping a floor under them with those bottles to make sure they don’t end up malnourished. We
will slowly ramp up the amounts we’re offering them as they grow, but I expect that they will start to find other ewes willing to let them sneak a nurse in from time to time, and will lose interest in the bottle completely at some point this spring. They have an incredible drive to find warm milk from someone, and usually, through relentless determination and perseverance, they find a way to get it.