We caught hold of a little shot of summer weather this week, with temperatures well up into the nineties on both Wednesday and Thursday, giving the farm the feel of late July here in the middle of May. The leaf cover is at about three-quarters of full right now, so while there is some shade out there for our animals to hide in, they did face a little more direct sun exposure than they liked during the hot spell. Everyone seems to have come
through the challenging weather well, and things have cooled off Friday after a truly epic thunder and lightening storm came through last night. The chicks in the new chick brooder were the most difficult to keep comfortable, but we put up a screen door, turned off the heat, and setup a fan to keep the air moving through the building. We built that structure in the cold of early spring, and thought a lot more about keeping it warm than we did about keeping it cool. We’ll have to do some retrofits to increase airflow between this batch of chicks and the next, putting in screens and windows that can open. Chicks like temperatures in the brooder right around ninety, mimicking the body temperature that they would feel from the broody hen. It easy to get them too hot if things get much warmer than that, so we need to have careful control of the brooder environment to keep everyone happy and healthy.
To further the summer feel around the farm, we also started cutting hay Thursday on some of our pastures used for beef grazing. The grass grows so quickly here at the beginning of the season that our little herd cannot get to all of it before it goes to seed and becomes much less palatable. If we hay some of our acreage at the beginning of the season, and then let it grow back up for grazing, we can use a smaller and more manageable amount of acreage for grazing now, when we have too much grass, and increase the grazed acreage later in the summer when we have too little. This is our first season trying this approach in regard to the beef herd and their acreage, though we do something very similar with the dairy acreage every year. We operate some really well aged haying equipment here at The Farm School, but between Josh, Tyson, Warren Rice and the student farmers, we manage to keep it working well enough to just about get the job done every year.
This year, just two passes into cutting our largest and first field, the belt on the mower-conditioner failed. We made an emergency run to the supplier, did some ‘in the field’ repair, and got back to mowing within a couple of hours. This first-cut hay will be rolled up into large round bales, wrapped in twine and then white plastic, and stored for winter feed for the beef herd. We make some of our own hay for the beef herd every summer, and buy in the rest. I am optimistic that we will be able to tip that balance a bit more in our favor this year with this more aggressive haying on the beef pastures, hopefully saving us a bit of money at hay buying time. Harvesting hay is nutrient extractive in regard to the soil and pasture plants however, and this practice will demand that we are careful to keep our soils well fed down the line.
Alex and his crew made some great progress in the veggie acreage this week, and the warm dry weather gave that effort a real boost. The onions are out, planted through beautiful straight rows of black plastic, direct seeding is moving forward full speed, and the greenhouse and hardening off house are bursting with starts waiting for their turn to ride out to the fields and go into the soil. Weeding started in earnest this week as well, another clear sign that the season is advancing all over the farm. Early weeding, done before things get well established, deep rooted and tall, is significantly easier and more effective, so Alex and his crew do their best to stay ahead on this front as well as they can.