All but two of the pigs have gone, six cows have gone, fourteen sheep have gone, and the turkeys are gobbling and growing out behind the bunkhouse. We’ve got a long string of cold weather in the ten-day forecast and more than half of the leaves are off the trees. Despite the string of warm wet weather that we’ve had over the past two weeks, I think fall is finally really creeping over the farm, and we have begun in earnest our work to winterize our systems. The beef herd is in their winter barn, with bales setup on pasture and hay in the indoor feeder, but the sheep setup needs to be converted into its winter configuration and all the chicken flocks are still out on pasture. We’ve got the winter chicken houses just about ready for occupancy, but we’ll need to put the finishing touches on them early next week and get the birds in there as soon as we can. We try to do a pretty complete clean-out and refresh between the last winter’s chicken housing season and the next, hoping to break any parasite cycle in the house by letting it sit clean, dry and empty for as long as we can. That includes getting all the old bedding out, vacuuming the nooks and crannies, and spraying a strong vinegar solution over every surface we can access. I’m hoping that we can keep the hawks off the layers in their winter quarters this year and avoid the trouble we’ve faced the last few winters.
Wednesday was our final veggie harvest of the season, and Thursday was our last CSA
drop-off market. Everyone here was excited to see the end of the long harvest season, but the veggie work immediately turns to completing the processing of all the storage crops, putting the remaining beds under cover crops, and packing everything away for the winter. Alex will quickly begin an inventory of equipment and tools to determine repair and replace priorities, and the garage and shop will soon be filled with implements and tractors getting tuned up and ready for next season. Veggie cultivation in New England, where rocks make up such a large portion of our natural environment, is really hard on our cultivation equipment, and winter is the season to bring all of those tools back into proper working order.
This was the first week of the Learn to Farm’s big three-parted fall training stretch, with a third of the students in the timber frame shop, a third driving horses, and a third in the woods felling trees. This year’s chainsaw and tree work is happening on the edge of a pasture that we call The Runway, and trees are coming down into our pasture. We have found that for this initial training, when students are cutting down the first tree they’ve ever cut, working on the edge of the woods, with some open space on a couple sides, really helps ease the process. Controlling the direction that a tree falls, and doing it safely, is the key to the Game of Logging approach that we use and teach here at The Farm School, and having a few less trees around to get in the way makes that first attempt a bit simpler. The trees are dropping where we had a high-tensile fence, so we’ll be rebuilding that in the spring as our annual high-tensile fence building and training project. I am excited to move
the fence twenty or thirty yards further into the forest, expand our pasture a tiny bit, and give our cows a nice big chunk of thick shade for when the heat of the summer returns.
Our sheep and chickens had their annual AWA inspection on Thursday, and the inspector was very happy with the progress that we’ve made over the past year in bringing those two components of our farm into alignment with their standards. We still have a few small tweaks and enhancements to make between now and our next inspection, but most of our work will be in beefing up our record keeping system. Every inspection gives me new insight into ways that we can improve our livestock’s experience on the farm, and the AWA’s singular focus on animal welfare sets down a strong marker to help keep us, and all their participating farms, with our attention on the animals. I will let you know about the things we do this winter to further adapt our farm under their guidance.