With summer lingering here in the middle of Massachusetts, we haven’t really gotten much of that fall feeling here at The Farm School yet. Veggie harvest and the grazing rotation are still chugging along, and with more than an inch of rain falling during the day Monday, I’m optimistic about strong growth going forward. The ten day weather forecast does call for our fist night-time temperature truly below freezing on Monday, so that may start to really convince our resident plants and animals to shut down growth for the year.
This was a full week for our new student farmers in the Learn to Farm Program, with chore and harvest trainings, a full day of tractor safety training, more cooking classes, and a full day carpentry intro workshop as well. The beginning of the student’s year is really heavy with introductory training, as we work as quickly as we can to get vital skills into the hands of these new farmers. Although we try hard to intersperse physical work in with more information based sessions, and to not overwhelm folks with too much material, we definitely recognize that some students get maxed out, and we are diligent in revisiting all of this intro material repeatedly down the line, and in making sure that folks get a refresher before we ask them to use these new skills on their own.
We don’t have many big projects going right now as we focus almost all of our time and
attention on trying to give our new student farmers a strong introduction to Maggie’s Farm. We are starting to setup our chutes and systems for pig loading, hoping to have everything in place for our first batch of pigs headed off next Thursday. We will take ten pigs per week for the next three weeks, with everyone gone by the first week of November. Hopefully we won’t have too many freezing nights before then, since the pig’s water system seizes up when the hoses freeze, and the pigs don’t get any water. The system usually thaws out pretty quickly once the sun comes up, and we can always supplement with big water dishes, but ideally we’ll have all the pigs gone before the real cold weather sets in.
Alex has been busy most of the week finishing veggie beds for the year. He does a final cultivation to mix in all of the left-over vegetable matter still in the field, tills the mix down to a really nice smooth and fluffy surface, and then puts down a cover crop seed of winter rye and vetch. Our soil is nice and damp right now, and the beds of cover crop, put in place to keep the soil locked down all winter and give it a boost of organic material to eat in the spring, have been coming up tall and dense. These strong crops of green material will go dormant for the winter, but the winter rye will survive till spring, keep any early spring weeds under control, and will be tilled into the soil before spring planting to boost our organic material. Cover cropping gives us a whole bunch of really
significant benefits, and it is a practice that more and more farmers are using to support their approach to soil management.