Drying out a little…

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Alex doing some primary cultivation

We’re coming to the end of our first dry week of the spring, and our vegetable acreage is really starting to get into summer shape after the solid block of work that this drier weather has made possible. We saw cultivation, bed prep, direct seeding and transplanting up and down the ridge, and we were even able to pay some attention to keeping ahead of the weeds as well. The soil just under the surface is still really damp, so our starts and seeds, as well as the weeds, have had the moisture they’ve needed to come up strong in response to this week of sun. Farmers all over New England have been cutting hay this week, and we are looking forward to starting on our winter stockpile in the coming days as well. We had temperatures well over ninety degrees on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of this week, so the feel of summer has certainly arrived here at The Farm School.

The incredible fluctuations of New England weather astonish me every season. Although

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The new batch of layer chicks in the brooder

the transition that we just experienced, from a low temperature on Saturday of forty-eight degrees, to a high on Monday of ninety-five degrees, felt jarring, it was certainly in keeping with the reputation of New England’s weather. There is not much that we can do to prepare for conditions that change so quickly and swing so far, but we try to build flexibility into everything as much as we can. Keeping things mobile, diversifying enterprises, and developing new approaches to the work that we do, help to keep us from becoming too rigid in our work and helps to ensure that we can adapt to the conditions around us. For our livestock, the water systems, providing adequate shelter, shade, heat and bedding as needed all play important parts in keeping the animals reasonably within their range of comfort. Although we have been limiting water in dishes as we try to train our newest piglets to use their automatic water system, we did give them large dishes of water that they could climb into for a cooling soak during the hottest weather.

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Two automatic water dishes

We finished up the summer pig water system this week, with two automatic water dishes supplied by a 275gallon water tank that we can pump full as needed. With their feeder and milk trough in place on the deck, we just need to spend a little time getting their fence and the fence charger setup before we can move the pigs in. They seem to know the electric fence well at this point, and I am reasonably confident that they all know how to use the automatic water system too. There is one little pig in there that is looking a little droopy, so I have been researching the idea of trying to worm her before the group heads out to the woods for the summer. Once the pigs are out for the summer, running around in the woods and hiding in the undergrowth, they become much more difficult to catch and treat. We do the best that we can to make sure that they’re all healthy and ready before sending them out on their own.

Our little milk cow Patty delivered a calf about two weeks ago, and despite our careful attention and care, developed a bit of milk fever a few days after freshening. Dr. Boyd, from Green Mountain Bovine Clinic, came out to the farm on Labor Day and successfully treated Patty, and she was back out with the herd a few hours later. However, Patty

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Our little dairy cows enjoying some tall-grass-grazing

relapsed a bit on Saturday of last weekend, and with all the vets in our area unavailable, we successfully treated her ourselves. No one here has ever experienced a cow getting milk fever more than once in a lactation, so I dug into the issue a bit in an effort to find any changes that we could make in our management to avoid this issue down the road. Older cows can grow more and more susceptible to developing milk fever, so our commitment to long-lived cows will probably expose us to this challenge more in the future. Dr. Major and Green Mountain Bovine Clinic also had some good suggestions for us, and we’re looking forward to developing our approach to this issue.

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