Cold temperatures, strong wind, and frosty mornings have made this week feel like a true step into fall for us here at the farm, and there is a new urgency around our work to prepare winter quarters for our livestock. Both chicken winter houses are getting cleaned and fixed up so that the layers can come in off pasture and move into their cozy winter homes, and we’re working on the beef winter barn too. We renovated the inside space, expanded the room the cows will have to lie down, fixed up the walls that surround the cow’s space, rehabbed the windows and restored the hay-loft upstairs. We are excited to see how the changes work out this winter, and also to get the beef herd included in our AWA certification. That certification demands a certain amount of square feet of indoor area per animal, so one motivation for our renovation was to get the barn up to that standard. Fall is also breeding season for our sheep and goats. We’ll do quite a bit of shuffling to get the rams and bucks where they need to be on November 1st, and to get the younger ewes and does that we don’t want to breed out of the way. The rams and bucks will get wormed, get their vaccine boosters and their hoofs trimmed before they go in with the girls. Our buck is so stinky by this point that I have ordered hazmat suits to put on before handling him.
We took our first round of pigs off to the slaughterhouse Wednesday, the loading chute worked really well and the whole operation came off very smoothly. These are some of the best looking pigs that we have ever raised here at The Farm School, probably because we had so much milk for them as we renovated our dairy facility, and I am really excited to
see how the cuts come back in a few weeks. We’ll hold onto the last, smallest pig of the bunch, keep it for a couple of weeks down in the farmyard, and have it ready for the student farmer’s butchering class in December. That class will give us a hands on look at the quality of the animal, as well as an opportunity to hear from the professional butcher teaching the class about how it looks. The butchering class is always a very direct verdict on the how our pig enterprise went for the year, and I relish the chance to see the product and to hear about its quality.
The cold weather has also put a charge into this final push in the veggie fields, cultivating and seeding with cover crop seed as Tyson and Brad race to get as much acreage prepped for a good winter as is possible. The student farmers have been going through their one-on-one in-depth tractor training this week as well, so the tractor and its operators, have been pretty busy. By this point in the fall we are spreading winter rye seed as our cover crop, and it can germinate at temperatures as low as thirty-four degrees, and will grow as cold as thirty-eight
degrees. This gives us a bit more time to get that seed in the soil, and hopefully to have it grow a bit before things really shut down for the winter. The rye in the field will help hold the soil in place through the winter and spring, and will provide a little ‘green manure’ when it is cultivated into the soil in the spring.