This has been another busy week at The Farm School, spent pushing ahead with fencing and planting, cultivating and cutting hay, and keeping our animals happy, healthy and growing. We cut hay on Wednesday, and made eighteen round bales on the lower half of our Waslakse Barn pastures. That’s two more than last year, and cut about a week later. The mower-conditioner burned through its main belt in the process, so we were not able to cut more on Thursday as we had planned. We have the new belt ordered, and we’re hoping it will come in Tuesday of next week so we can get the machine back in order and cut two more fields before they totally go to seed. We really try to cut our hay before the Bedstraw goes to seed, hoping to prevent this invasive little monster from further propagating itself and taking over even more of our pastures. I am hopeful that we have enough time remaining, and I’ve been watching for the telltale white blush to appear on the pasture indicating that the Bedstraw has flowered.
Alex, Kate and the student farmers did the first round of clipping and trellising on our hoop house tomatoes this week, connecting the growing plants to the overhead wires with clips and line. They use a very considered approach to this work, trying to anticipate where the plant will grow, where they want to grow for strength and fruit production, and hoping to also keep the neighboring plants from infringing on each other. Our goal is to keep these plants big and healthy through the whole summer, and on into the fall if possible, get early fruit off them, consistent fruit through the growing season, and even be able to keep them going a little late too. This means that we invest a lot of time and care into their upkeep, making sure they are shaped properly and supported well, and setup as best we can for long-term success.
We have two groups of pigs at Sentinel Elm Farm right now. Our original group of twenty, minus one that succumbed to a Tetanus infection, is up on the hill in the North West Pasture, growing well and digging through a couple of acres of Bedstraw infested pasture. The second group of ten, which arrived on the farm just a little while ago, is in the piglet training yard, learning about their automatic water and very strong electric fence. We have been feeding this second group with milk from the dairy, hoping to get them growing fast enough to catch up in size with the earlier, larger group, so that they can join them on the hill for the rest of the summer. My dream is to run the whole group of twenty-nine pigs through a good section of bad pasture, and to let them turn it all over so we can reseed with a pasture seed blend that we want. This will be a bit of an experiment for us, so I expect we’ll be adapting the system as we go along, and I’ll be sure to let you know how it all unfolds.
We had a big community planting day on Friday, establishing a new strawberry field up in the veggie fields above the Sentinel Elm bunkhouse pastures. We have an orchard up on the hill, a row of young grape vines, and several acres of grazing pastures for the dairy herd. In the midst of all that is a nice section of veggie acreage that the growers call Upper Field. The farmers from Maggie’s and Sentinel Elm got together to fill the space with new strawberry plants on Friday afternoon. These strawberry plants come to us from Norse Farm, and each plant is a messy tangle of roots, about eight inches long, with a tiny green nub on the top. We try to get them into the soil as quickly as we can after receiving them, hoping to keep them damp and viable until they’re in the soil and able to soak up moisture there. They will grow and establish themselves this season, and we hope for berries next year.