September 2nd-9th

It has been a couple of weeks since I’ve had the chance to sit down for an update on the work going on at The Farm School, and I feel like there is quite a bit to report. We have had some great late summer weather over the past few weeks, and with two inches of

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Sunrise over the dairy barn

rain this week, plants and pastures are looking flush up and down the ridge. All the moisture in the soil should mean a vigorous fall of growth, and I am optimistic that we can have a strong late grazing season. We try to graze to the end of October, taking into consideration the damage that can be done when grazing pasture that has gone dormant and will not recover before truly cold weather sets in. We usually do not quite reach the end of October, but I have some hope that this rainy weather may give us a chance this year. A longer fall grazing season will shorten the period of winter hay feeding, keep our cows and sheep happier, and save us some money.

We have taken the first batch of pigs off for processing, and have another scheduled to go on Monday. That run will take care of the rest of the eleven larger pigs that we

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The grapes are ripening, but not quite ready yet. 

scrambled to find a processing date for, and will leave an additional twenty-four that still need some more time to grow. We have those later pigs scheduled to go to processing in batches of ten through October. With about a month left to grow, I am hopeful that we will end up with some really nice pigs. There are a couple of pigs in the group who’s growth and size has not really kept up with everyone else’s, and I am considering keeping them through the winter to put on some more weight. We usually raise a few winter pigs that get a pretty milk rich diet, grow enormous, and go off for processing before mud season makes loading them impossible.

Our Thanksgiving turkeys are growing well in their mobile houses out on pasture, and their twice-daily IMG_5325moves have carried them, and their powerful manure, over a large section of our dairy pastures. We are happy to reap the dual benefits of happy healthy turkeys and super powered pastures that this approach gives us, and we get delicious turkeys at the end. This year, for the first time, we stocked one of our turkey houses with smallest couple birds from all the other houses, hoping that getting the little ones their own house, and feeder, might give them a bit more access to the food, and a better chance to grow.

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This year’s rental bull at work

We had one more surprise calf in the beef herd last week, bringing our total for the year up to eleven. This calf arrived quite a while after our last one, and came as a real surprise to me. We would like to keep the bull in with the cows for about three months, giving him enough time to breed the majority of the cows, but limiting the calving season to a time frame that we can keep an eye on. Last year’s bull lingered for quite a while, I think finally getting picked up right around January 1st, and leading to this bonus calf. This year’s bull went in with the cows right at the end of August, and he is with the herd now, doing his work. We usually try to get the breeding season started in the first week of August, but I got a little sidetracked with a new baby and the bull was delayed.

We have one more week until the end of the Learn to Farm year, and the arrangement of IMG_5337the program has shifted for this final few weeks to try to give the students the chance to manage the farm. They have spent the past eleven months learning skills and developing an understanding of the farm, and we try to give them space at the end of the year to step into the decision making position. This is an exciting time for the students, and a really rewarding time for the staff as we watch this group of wonderful young farmers step forward and take hold of our farm, carry it forward, and thrive.

I’ve missed lots of great work and growth from around the farm that’s happened over the past few weeks, but this update feels long enough. I’ll try to get everything else in next week!

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