October 15-22

At risk of sounding awfully repetitive, I’ve got to report that we have reached the end of another summery week here at The Farm School, with daytime temperatures well above normal and full powerful sun all week. The leaves are in their full fall colors however, and are falling quickly, and the air feels pretty chilly in the shade, belying the look of summer everywhere else. This mix of summer temperatures and a fall look is somewhat disconcerting, and I have had several people respond in surprise when I say that we’re about to stop grazing for the year. These shorter days have sent the message to plants

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A view over the fall garden

and animals alike that the growing season is over, and add to that the remarkable lack of rain we’ve experienced this fall, and the growth of our pastures has come to a definite stop. I will be setting up round wrapped bales of hay early next week, and both the dairy and beef herds will transition to those as their primary feed supply before the week ends. I don’t worry much about the change from pasture to stored hay, dry or wrapped, though we will take careful steps to manage the transition in the other direction come spring. Ruminants can get themselves into plenty of trouble gorging on fresh green grass after a winter of eating only hay, but with high quality stored hay, the inverse is not an issue.

I love to take a moment to go back through these posts from the last year, looking mostly

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Dairy cows and foliage

at the pictures and reading the first paragraph of each post. The scope of the year, the work and struggle, the successes and growth, all pass by in a moment, and I can feel the sweep of all of it again, though with a bit less sweat and worry this time. The arc of weather that passed over us here at the farm is always interesting to me, watching conditions that seem interminable in the moment change dramatically, and then change again. This spring I wrote again and again describing weeks of rain and no sun, soaked soil and challenges getting the veggie year started. Now we are firmly in the grip of a strong spell of dry weather, with heat and sun dominating the past weeks and even months. Between these two ends we’ve had runs of wet and dry weather, and each, to us here at the farm, has felt everlasting.

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These two moved to Sentinel Elm.

We took the first Maggie’s Farm batch of pigs in for processing on Thursday with eleven pigs heading off in the trailer. We loaded thirteen on Thursday morning, and the extra two were the two smallest pigs in the group. We will keep them down at the kid’s farm for another couple months of growth, where they’ll get all the milk, hickory nuts and apple drops they can eat. They’ll also be the objects of intense affection and curiosity for our visiting students, and Gus, and serve as placeholders until our batch of little winter piglets arrive on the scene at the end of November. The pig load itself went really well on Thursday, relieving a whole lot of worry on my part leading up to the event. Pig loading is one of my least favorite events of the year, and I work hard to develop a loading setup that I think is going to be workable and safe for farmers and pigs. Three of the pigs actually backed up the whole chute this time, and while that is not an outcome that I liked much, they actually got all the way up to the trailer and in, backwards the whole way, so I can’t complain much. On Wednesday we’ll have to get the rest of the pigs, so the pressure will be on to find and corral everyone in there for a run through the chute. I always sleep a bit better after the last pig has left the farm for the year, knowing that there is no more chance of the pigs escaping.

We have started taking down the grazing fences at the dairy, clearing the fields and pastures and getting everything in storage in the barn. The fencing does not age well out in the field over the winter, and our high-octane cross-country ski and sledding scene demands unimpeded open spaces to achieve maximum awesomeness. Once the fences come down we can spread manure and do other pasture work much more freely, and Brad can start doing some selective tree cutting on the hedgerows too. We are losing ash trees in this part of New England, and there are a few good firewood trees ready to come down every fall as these giants finally succumb to the forces arrayed against them. Ash is

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Carrots and spinach waiting for winter

a straight grained easy-splitting firewood that some say can even burn newly cut, and although we are sad to see these great trees disappear from our farm, we are happy to have them filling up the firewood yard and wood-stoves.

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