We’re coming to the end of another spectacular week here at The Farm School, and with a turn toward warmer and sunnier weather, the feel of spring has really taken hold. The pastures have taken on a shade of green for real now, and the red maples, one of our earliest budding trees, are blushing red as their buds swell before opening. The muddy yards have dried, the old snow piles are gone, and there are kids sitting out in front of the bunkhouse enjoying the warm sun.
This was the first week of the independent project component of the Learn to Farm Program, so the student farmers were on their own Tuesday afternoon to spend their time pursuing projects of their own design. This year’s class is focused on a really diverse set of projects including drilling and plugging mushroom logs, welding a water wagon out of an old pickup truck, making cheese, researching bio-dynamic practices, developing curriculum, working with bees, building a loom, experimenting with ‘no till farming’, exploring digital farm record keeping, biodiesel research and carpentry. They will have the next eight Tuesday afternoons to advance their projects, and the process will end with a presentation to the community to report back on their work.
This week also included quite a bit of time at the sawmill, with the student farmers
working to mill out the lumber required to build our new mobile pullet house. They have been working with Josh to develop a blue-print for the building, turned that plan into a cut list, and are now turning a pile of pine logs into the material on the list. We hope to get the building started on top of our new set of running gear in the next couple of weeks, and need to have the building finished and ready to go by the end of June when the pullets will have sized out of the brooder.
We shoveled the winter bedding out of the Maggie’s Farm winter layer house yesterday, removing several truck-loads of nice material to add to our compost yard. We use a deep bedding approach for the layer house, shoveling the old bedding under the roosts once per week and adding new shavings on top. This allows the older bedding to start breaking down in the house and keeps the space a bit warmer through those cold winter months. This approach means that when we decide the time has come to dig out the bedding, we’re looking at quite a project, not only in the volume of material to be moved, but also in the smell and vapors coming out of that deep bed of material. Yesterday was a cool windy day, and we all really appreciated the refreshing breezes as they revived the air around our work site.
Alex has been rushing to put the finishing touches on the tractors and cultivation equipment this week, and checking on our drier fields in anticipation of getting out to do the first round of pre-planting plowing. Our fields run the full spectrum from dry to wet, so every spring demands a careful dance of monitoring and timing to get acreage plowed and prepared for seeding and planting, all with a constant eye on the weather. We had a few tenths of an inch of rain this week, but our cultivated acreage is coming along nicely toward planting.
Sentinel Elm Farm hosted The Acera School and Woodside Montessori for the first half of the week, and our very own Chicken Coop School from Wednesday to Friday. We work with the Chicken Coop students regularly throughout the school year, but it has been a long time since we had them do a full program at Sentinel Elm Farm. This visit was a wonderful opportunity for them and for us, and we had a truly spectacular time hosting them on the farm. We got some great
work done, ate some delicious meals, and we were able to achieve that unique family feeling we all cherish that happens from time to time with groups of visiting students. We projected a movie on the wall of the hay loft Wednesday night, feasted on unbelievable cheese burgers on Thursday night, and finished the visit off with pancakes and Farm School syrup this morning.