Summer has settled in here at The Farm School, and the hay is stacking up in the barn, the corn is inching taller in the field, and all of our eyes are turned to the weather forecast. So much of the success of the summer season depends on the rain, how much we get and when and how hard it falls, that it feels like the ten-day forecast becomes the major governor of everyone’s state of mind. Our pasture plants, mostly suited to cooler weather, become deeply reliant on regular rain to withstand the heat of the summer sun. Our veggie starts, with their shallow roots, also easily dry out, and rely on regular watering from above while they try to get their roots down deep enough to find moisture. Hay producers, in contrast, are looking for extended periods without rain to cut, dry and bale hay suitable for storage as winter feed, and our cultivators are looking for stretches of weather dry enough to allow them to safely drive tractors out over the veggie beds without churning the whole thing into mud. So everyone is invested in the weather forecast, and everyone is hoping for slightly different mixes of sun and rain, and everyone worries and frets a bit. The rains have been just about perfect for pasture growth so far this year, so I’m pretty happy.
We had another calf in the dairy herd on Wednesday, and the kids here for the week voted to name her Eclipse. Her mother Emily is one of our older cows, and was one of the
wonderful Evening’s last calves. I am eager to keep heifer calves from Emily since she fits the cow model that we are striving to develop here, and I am really glad to have Eclipse here at the farm. Emily is a smaller Jersey, makes lots of milk, and seems to do pretty well in our low-grain system. Eclipse is a beautiful little calf, with a unique ringed stripe pattern on her tail.
Monday and Wednesday are harvest days in the Learn to Farm Program, with a third of the students out in the fields harvesting, a third in the barn washing and packing, and the last third keeping everything else moving along. Last week’s harvest list included salad mix, cilantro, parsley, strawberries, garlic scapes, turnips and radishes. Looking down the veggie work list shows some direct seeding, including mesclun, carrots, beats, arugula, kale, beans and rutabaga, some hand weeding, and lots of tractor cultivation, mowing, and weeding. We go to markets on Tuesday and Thursday, and those end up being solid work days in the veggie fields for the folks who don’t go to market.
Our calf count in the beef herd is up to nine, with seven in the herd, one down at the dairy farm living with the dairy herd, and one who died this week. The calf that we lost had been challenged from birth, never really seeming to catch a good hold of the world around him, and always needing lots of support from the farmers managing the herd. He was regularly separated from the group and showed very little initiative to nurse, find shade, or stay with his mother. We found him Wednesday laid out in the sun, breathing shallowly and erratically, twitching and rolling his eyes, and we immediately took him in a truck down to the cool dairy barn. His temperature was off the end of the thermometer (109deg +) and in consultation with our vet we started trying to cool him with water. We got him down to 105deg and he started vocalizing and looking around, but his breathing got weaker and weaker and finally stopped about an hour after we’d brought him in. We have had calves before that seemed unable to properly regulate their body temperatures, but with temps in the high seventies on Wednesday, it is unclear exactly what issue our lost calf was facing. The rest of the group seems to be doing really well, with just one other calf who seems a bit slow to grasp this world. He is scheduled to have a visit from the vet Monday, so hopefully we’ll get some guidance about his behavior then, and I’ll let you know.
We had some dramatic weather on Tuesday, with strong winds, heavy rain, hail, lightening, and a power outage to top it off. The storm rolled through here about 7:30pm,
bending trees over and whipping things around, and sending the dairy cows running for cover in the barn. The power was out until about 12:30, so we ran a generator to keep the heat on for the turkey poults, but everything else came through wonderfully.