We just cannot get a break from the rain here in central MA, and with more than an inch falling here this week, conditions have remained saturated and soggy. Brad and Tyson were able to sneak out into some veggie fields during the first half of the week to cultivate and spread cover crop seeds, but it started raining Tuesday evening and has not really stopped since then. The dairy cow road, the sheep road, around the water trough in the beef cow’s daily paddocks, and everywhere that we drive out on the fields is a soft muddy mess, and I continue to worry about the condition of our hoofed animals feet. They all need to have the opportunity for their feet to dry out periodically to avoid ‘foot rot’, and those chances to get out of the wet seem to be few and far between these days. We are trying to use straw strategically to give them dry loafing areas, but in really wet conditions, straw just ends up saturated and holding more water. We are seeing more and more clearly the work that needs to be done to prepare the land that we farm to accommodate the farming that we want to do. Our roads, our animal housing and our veggie systems all need some updating and improving if this weather is going to recur in seasons to come. We cannot predict if super wet summers will be the new pattern for us here, so I think that we will need to think long and hard about how to adapt our endeavors and methods to be resilient in the face of a wide variety of weather challenges. The issue that I expect we’ll be facing is not really any specific type of weather becoming more prevalent, but rather an intensification of the weather generally, with hotter hots, wetter wets, and drier dries. This means improving our infrastructure in terms of flooding, but also thinking about ways to keep our animals and vegetables comfortable and well fed and watered in hotter and drier weather too.
egg-mobiles before sunrise Saturday morning, and with the temperature forecasted to fall down near freezing again on several nights this week, it looks like we might really be coming to the official end of the growing season. There are cold hardy veggie crops like kale still out in the fields, and they can handle the cold, but most plants stop growing or are killed completely with a couple of frosts. We have some really nice grass out in the pastures which will also stop growing for the season with a few frosty nights, and now we just need to be vigilant that our grazing is gentle enough that we don’t do too much damage to the dormant pastures. We want to the pastures to rest through the winter with a nice cover of grass, so close grazing will put the plants and pastures at risk if we take that cover down too short. A nice healthy grass plant with a large root system under the soil is ready to get things going again in the spring, and has the resources available to begin growing early and strong, but a plant that the cows or sheep thrash in the fall won’t have much energy to get going when temperatures climb in March and April.
Frost on the pastures turns my mind to the winter work to come, to the projects that need to get done now before the ground freezes, and to the systems that need to be setup before there is ice in the hoses and water dishes. We have a stack of logs in the yard at Maggie’s Farm ready for bucking, splitting and stacking. Student Farmers will take the Game of Logging class in a couple of weeks, get their introduction to chainsaw use, care and safety, and the months long cord-wood project will start rolling along. The winter layer house still has the bedding from last spring in it, so it will need a full clean-out and refresh before the new layers can move in. We need to initiate round bale deliveries at the Waslaske barn and at the dairy, stocking up on winter feed for the beef and dairy herds. Six beef cows load out to the slaughterhouse next Sunday, so I’ll need to get the chute in order, review the herd records to select the steers and cows that are ready for culling, and mark them with paint so we can pick them out next weekend without too much trouble. Our first batch of pigs goes off for processing Wednesday, and I’ll work with our Student Farmers to finish up the loading setup and get the trailer in place. Finally, though I’m sure there are a lot of things I’m forgetting, November first is the date we put the rams in with the sheep flock, so we need to figure out the rotation of rams, bucks, ewe lambs we don’t want bred, and goat does so that everyone has a nice place to live, nobody is in with the boys that shouldn’t be, and everyone is safe. I’ll let you know what we figure out.