Veggie work has been a challenge this week, with rain keeping the ground pretty wet throughout the week, and lots of rain here at the end soaking us even more. Despite the difficulties, Alex, Kate and the student farmers were able to keep things moving forward beautifully this week, and they even got the tomato starts in the ground on Thursday. Tomatoes like hot dry weather, which has not been the character of the season so far. With soaking rain all night last night, and more coming down right now, we’ve got to keep our fingers crossed that those newly planted starts can hold on until the sun comes out again tomorrow. The green house and hoop houses are full of starts ready to go out as well, so the veggie growers are really hoping for a little run of dry weather to get out there prepping beds and planting.
Josh and the student farmers spent most of this week digging out the sheep winter area. The sheep have an indoor space they use for really nasty weather and lambing, and another covered space for eating and hanging out. We try to make the sheep walk back and forth between these two areas during the winter to make sure that their growing babies stay well aligned and ready to come out smoothly when the time comes. Both areas get bedded deeply, so the spring dig out is a real project. We used two tractors, and Josh’s large dumping wagon, and moved a massive amount of poop-infused bedding straw and hay from the sheep yard at Maggie’s Farm over to the composting yard behind the dairy. Our work over the past year to re-develop the sheep yard and systems there really paid off in this work, and we were able to quickly and safely muck out the area, and generate a huge pile of material for composting.
The broiler chicks in the new brooder house were let out into their yard this week, and
after a tiny bit of hesitation at first, they all piled out and enjoyed the fresh air and increased space. Using the new brooder house has been a real learning experience for all of us, and this part of the process was no different. We built the chick door to serve as the clean-out door and a ramp, when opened, for the chicks to get down to the ground. The door is quite large and heavy, and we had to do some quick retrofitting and adaptation to get it to function somewhat properly. There are some further changes that I would like to make to the building to really get it working just right, but with a batch of layer pullets coming quick on the heels of this group of broilers, I’m not sure we’ll have time to do much. The broilers should go out onto pasture next week, meaning they will have been in the brooder for a little more than three weeks. (They arrived May 5th, and will go out by the 31st.) We may have shortened this period a bit with warmer and drier weather, but with a cool wet spring we are going to keep them warm and dry for as long as we can. The larger and more fully feathered out the little birds are before they go out onto pasture, the better chance they have of thriving. The layer pullets will spend longer in the brooder since they won’t have anyone coming in behind them, and they grow more slowly than the broilers.
We also spent some time this week getting the pig summer area ready for our pigs coming next week. We’ll be getting 25 piglets, and they’ll spend a couple of weeks in the training yard before going out to the woods for the summer. The forest area needs to supply food, water, some shelter when they’re little, and the means for us to catch and load them in the fall. Pigs are super rough on everything they can touch, so we try to take real care in developing a system that will work for the pigs and for us, and hold up to their abuse. A couple of years of doing this, and some challenging experiences trying to load large pigs, has taught us to lay out the system carefully.