The Middle of July

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The beef herd at dawn, in some scrubby pasture

We put a bunch more hay up into the hay loft of the dairy barn on Monday, bringing our total so far to just over two thousand square bales of first cut hay. We try to get between two thousand and twenty-five hundred, so we’re getting really close to calling the loft full for the year. We’ve had rain on and off every day after Monday this week, so that has put a stop to the haying for a while, and given us a chance to rest up for the next load. There will be another extended break in the haying schedule between first cut, which is coming in now, and second cut, which should start at some point in the second half of August. We usually try to buy between five hundred and a thousand bales of second cut hay, and use that primarily for the sheep.

The Farm School is running two groups of pigs this summer, with one group of eleven at Sentinel Elm Farm, and another group of twenty-five down the road at Maggie’s Farm. The group of eleven, made up mostly of Berkshire pigs, is about a month older than the larger group, and has been growing remarkably well this summer. They have been

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The home garden at Maggie’s

getting the extra milk from the dairy, and are from outstanding genetic lines, and they are growing into truly beautiful pigs. They are scheduled for processing in October, and after going out to see them this week, I called the slaughterhouse to see if we could get an earlier date. Many of these pigs are already approaching two hundred pounds, and the slaughterhouse charges a ten cent penalty per pound for every pound over two hundred at processing. Although this penalty is not much of a deterrent when we sell our pork at around ten dollars per pound, we do try to stay somewhere close to their two hundred pound target and in the good graces of the facility operators. These Berkshires, close to two hundred pounds now and growing the way that have been, will probably be pushing four hundred pounds by October, and will certainly be challenging to deal with. We are hoping to develop some special pork sausage products this coming winter, so the glut of pork that I expect to come in from these pigs may end up working out well, but the challenge of dealing with such large animals has got me a bit nervous.

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The sheep are trying to clean up any grain that the broilers dropped. 

Our head grower Alex mentioned at a meeting this week that he is keeping a close eye on the garlic these days because it is almost ready to be harvested and put up to cure in the hoop house. Garlic harvest is the first sign I’ve noticed that this growing season is maturing, that although it often feels like we are still just getting started, just getting things setup and growing, we are moving rapidly through the summer and heading irresistibly toward the fall. It seems rare to me that I feel ready for whatever is coming next on the farm; seldom do I feel like I have my plans set, my equipment ready and all the vital parts prepped for a smooth roll out and use. More often, we are reacting as well and quickly as we can to events as they unfold, and too quickly moving on to the next pressing issue. In late winter, with spring approaching, we scurry around trying to lay things out just right to be able to seize the coming growing season and wring the most we can from it. Inevitably, by July however, it seems we’re just racing to keep up. The potential for garlic harvest this week reminds me that another growing season is quickly passing us by, and there is still so much left to do.

The broilers go off for processing on Tuesday, with seventy-five going to a facility in Warwick for processing and packaging for sale, and the other twenty-five or thirty

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Kosher King broilers, ready for processing

staying for on-farm processing by the adult students here. Those birds will go into the farm-house freezers for next year’s class to use throughout their time here. This will be the final poultry processing work for this year’s class, and after starting with turkeys and layer culling in November of last year, our hope is that the students feel confident enough to raise and process birds on their own farm some day. This year’s crop of broilers looks much better than last year’s, and I am really looking forward to getting the finished product back from processing and to get them out for sale.

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