As the same milestones in the farm year come around again and again, I sometimes start to worry that these weekly updates from the farm have become a bit repetitive in describing these events year after year. Imagining the year on the farm like the face of a clock, with a pointer slowly revolving around, it is clear that we pass over the same ground again and again. The cycle is broken into the four seasons, and further into months, but there are other distinctions, linked directly to the conditions of the natural world, that control much of the work we do. Hours of daylight, freeze and thaw, wet and dry; all these dynamics divide our time into tangible pieces, they all fluctuate, they rise and fall moment by moment, making every day fresh, despite the repetitions of the year.
Farmers here at The Farm School got back into the greenhouse this week, starting with mostly trays of onions. This marks a significant turning in the production year and adds the first
load onto the wagon of enterprises that we will try to navigate through the coming growing season. The opening of the greenhouse season is also another important step up on the ladder of responsibility for our student farmers, and one that we have worked hard to leverage in their development as farmers. The responsibilities of the firewood quotas and livestock chores have laid a foundation of accountability and management, but the delicate greenhouse, and its thousands of dollars of potential produce, offers a deeper and more acute charge. The awoken greenhouse is also a marker for the start of the growing season, the end of the idle dreams of the dark winter months, and an alarm sounding that all those little projects and distractions begun when the span of winter seemed to stretch on ahead of us unendingly must be buttoned up and resolved before the trees bud out, the pastures green up, and headlong rush into summer sweeps us all away.
We have had to move along two great cows in our little dairy this week, opening up two spots in the milking lineup that have now been filled by Eclipse and Pepper. Both of these heifers were born last summer; Eclipse from Emily, and Pepper from the
indomitable Patty. Emily, who tested positive for Staph Aureus Mastitis last year, tested positive again this spring, and our veterinarian advised us that she would carry the bacteria for the rest of her life, and that we should cull her from the barn. This strain of mastitis, although not particularly dangerous to the cow’s health, is markedly contagious, and will degrade milk production and quality. In an effort to avoid the pathogen spreading throughout our herd, we aimed to eliminate the source. We also culled the wonderful Daisy this week, removing the ornery boss of the herd and breaking all of our hearts here at the farm. Daisy, with unpredictable and subtle heats, has always been a bit of challenge to breed, and after some serious efforts to get her bred this winter, we got word a couple of weeks ago that she was still open. Unfortunately, a dairy cow that doesn’t breed, doesn’t make milk, and can’t be a part of the milking lineup. Daisy was one of the two cows we bought six or seven years ago as we renewed our dairy operation, and she has made tons and tons of milk for us over the years, some great calves, and occupied a unique and powerful place in the experience of thousands of visiting students and student farmers.