July into August

We got a half an inch of rain Thursday night, and after another week of summery

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The dairy herd enjoying North West Pasture, and the top of Sentinel Elm Farm

weather here at The Farm School, I’m feeling quite relieved for the pastures to have gotten that recharge. We had a nice soaking rain on Monday of last week, but nothing since, and with some really hot dry weather, things were starting to droop all over the farm. We had some near misses on afternoon thunder storms throughout this week, but finally had a nice rainfall just after dark Friday night, and the pastures and vegetables have freshened right up. There looks to be some solid rain in the ten day forecast, and I am optimistic that we will continue to stay wet enough for the pastures and veggies to grow well through August. There had been some loose talk among the vegetable growers about starting irrigation on certain crops next week, but we’ll have to see if this rain, and more to come, changes those plans. Broccoli plants have grown enough to start putting on the edible heads, and that process can be enhanced with consistent and ample water.

Fresh water on fresh pasture for the beef herd

The sunny hot weather this week forced us to make some small changes in our beef herd grazing plan, but we were able to keep the herd moderately comfortable throughout the heat wave, and they did some good grazing along the way. They spent most of the week in Best Pasture, and instead of breaking it up into three sections, we gave them the whole thing for three days. We added an annex at the north end of their pasture that gave them access to a nice shady yard under the edge of the forest, and they took advantage of the opportunity to get out of the afternoon sun every day. We prefer to break pastures up into small single-day paddocks to ensure that the cows are not re-grazing individual grass plants, and to give the grass as many days as we possibly can to regrow before the next round of grazing. The singe three-day pasture that we used this week was not really in keeping with these ideals, but it was a small compromise that gave the cows a much more comfortable experience through this hot summer weather. The dairy cows also get single-day paddocks to graze, and this week we gave them fresh grass every morning and brought them back into the barn just after lunch to get them out of the sun. They stayed in through afternoon chores, and headed back out for some more grazing around six in the evening, once the heat of the day had passed. The cool cement floor of the barn keeps that space pretty pleasant, no matter how hot it gets outside, and I think our ladies stayed pretty comfortable in there.

Our tomato harvest has just started coming to life, with SunGolds and cherry tomatoes available at our farm-stand Thursday night at the end of the last session of summer programming, and larger tomatoes ripening on windowsills at the Maggie’s farmhouse.

Tomato sandwiches have taken over our diets!

SunGolds ripe for picking in the home gardens, huge trays of beautiful slicing tomatoes stacking up in wash-up, and fresh tomatoes in every meal means the peak of summer at The Farm School, and it is a time of year that we all really look forward to. Josh has been doing regular Wednesday canning and preserving sessions in the Learn to Farm Program, and that work will turn to tomato based products starting next week.

I cruised the pastures on Friday afternoon, and there is a lot of grass out there. We’ve had some great rain this summer, lots of sun, and we have not had any really long baking, hot, dry weather to truly shut down the pasture growth. Rain is by far the most significant factor controlling grass growth, and these July and August rains have made our grazing acreage lush and beautiful.