Sept. 18-25

Gus and the dairy cows on a steamy morning

We’ve been going through a bit of summer weather here at the middle and end of September, I guess making up for the unseasonably cool wet weather that dominated in our area in August. We have not seen any measurable rain for about two weeks here, and things are drying up pretty noticeably at this point. However, the pastures continue to grow, aided by heavy dew every morning, and the shorter days giving the pasture plants extended relief from the hot sun every night. Our goal is to graze through to the end of October, and while things look good now, if we don’t get a little rain in the next week or so, I think we will run out of grass pretty quickly.

Maggie’s Farm is a pretty quiet place these days, though the work of harvest, livestock chores, and cultivation has to carry as on as well as we’re able with most of our crew graduated and gone. This is always an interesting time of year at the farm, with the students graduated, and plenty of work to do to keep things moving along, we scrape and scratch to get enough hands on the work, and usually find fresh efficiencies that inform our approach moving forward. This is especially true with harvest, wash-up and livestock chores, where our limited crew forces us to find ways to streamline the work enough that we can get it all done. These adaptations often show us fresh ways to approach the work, and make our farm stronger moving forward as they are integrated into our approach.

Beef cows enjoying some water

The attention of the Learn to Farm staff has now turned to tweaking and refining both the facilities and program as we prepare for the new class coming in a couple of weeks. We always have work to do between classes to refresh the rooms, kitchen, bathrooms and other facilities in the farmhouse, which have been used so hard over the past year. We’ve got a full house of students coming in, so we’re moving the grower’s office up to the library, and opening up another bed-room downstairs to make as much room as we can. We will also be focused on digesting the great feedback that we have received from the newly graduated class, mixing it in with our own reflections on the just ended program, and trying to find ways to integrate all of it into maturing the program. This is an invaluable process that gives us all the chance to rediscover the meaning and purpose behind the components of the program, and recommit to the principles that guide our teaching.

A curious turkey

Sentinel Elm Farm is cruising ahead into the fall with some spectacular groups of visiting students, prepping the farm for the coming winter, putting up a ton of firewood, and taking good care of our array of livestock. Our Thanksgiving turkeys are growing and thriving up on the hill behind the bunkhouse, and we’re contemplating building them a yard and letting them out of their pasture houses for some free-range adventures. They are super safe and secure in their houses, and their twice a day moves ensure that they have access to plenty of fresh ground, but we are always looking for ways to improve the animal experience, and to try new things, so we may be brave enough to give this a shot. We’ve also made some great progress on the new goat house, with the frame up and one wall just about sheathed in homemade siding. The surrounding hard fence is almost completed as well, and with a gate for getting in and out, we’ll be just about ready for animals. We are hoping to get the goats in their new house this fall, and then we’ll turn to repurposing the old goat area in the back of the dairy barn. That will be a project for another update!


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