October 21st – October 28th

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We’ve got lots of composted manure, and some lime, to spread on the pastures this fall. 

Although it has been raining off and on just about all weekend here at The Farm School, we did have a nice stretch of rain-free weather over the past week, and things had the chance to dry out a bit. Fields dried enough for some more fall cultivation, roads firmed up enough so we could get up to load ten more pigs for the ride to the slaughterhouse, and the sheep yard was hard pack again until this latest rain started. Conditions improved enough that I even made an attempt to start our fall manure spreading, with the goal of putting down the majority of our composted manure on the sheep pasture, but the manure spreader failed me. It has been limping along at a barely functional stage for the past few years, forcing us to load it lighter and lighter to actually spin, and despite valiant efforts to rehab the machine both of the past two winters, it finally stopped completely on Thursday morning. We pulled the back end apart Thursday and Friday, diagnosed what we believe the major problem was, and have it back together ready for another go at it next week. The whole unit is really getting on in years, and may need to get replaced some time soon, but we’re trying to keep it going for as long as we can.

We sent six cows from the beef herd off to the slaughterhouse on Sunday of last week,

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The slip recording tag numbers for beef cows going in for processing. 

and those animals will restock the supplies in the freezer for both CSA distribution and cooking in the bunkhouse and at Maggie’s Farm. The beef herd is finishing up the last bit of green pasture this weekend, and then they’ll head into winter quarters early next week. We have been putting the finishing touches on their renovated winter barn, and stocking up on the straw that we use for their bedding. I think things are looking good for a pretty cozy setup in there, and the production of a good supply of deep bedded manure compost. I have been researching design plans for a moveable dry hay feeder to add to their facilities, and I hope we can get one in the works quickly and put it to use.

The rams go in with the sheep at the end of next week, and the buck goes in with the does at the same time. Those breeders will get a little tune-up before going to work, with a hoof trim, vaccine booster and worming. This will be the first breeding season for our rams, as well as the buck, so I am eager to see how they perform. One of the rams developed a little hoof problem this week, and while it was minor enough that we would have usually just let it resolve itself, we had a the vet in on Thursday to fix it up. We really want to make sure that the ram is fully mobile and on his A-game when breeding starts so that the window of breeding, and the resulting lambing window, can be as short as is possible. The vet found a ruptured abscess in one pad of the rams front right foot, so we flushed it with iodine and wrapped it, and gave him an antibiotic to ensure that the infection clears up.
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We’ve plowed up a section of the old sheep pasture to add to the Flat Field system, and found some really good soil in there, and almost no rocks (except those two bigs ones). 

Trees starting coming down along this year’s firewood area this week as we worked to prepare for the big production push starting in a few weeks. We’ve found that having a hand-full of trees down and ready for bucking and splitting really helps to get the work going while individual students work one-on-one with Bradley and Tyson on the slower and more careful work of more tree felling. We’ll be cutting along the western edge of the Flat Field at Sentinel Elm Farm this year, opening that hedgerow up as much as we possibly can to permit the maximum amount of sunlight onto the veggie beds in the field. The Flat Field is undergoing a significant upgrade and development into a tightly managed permanent bed system with irrigation, all established and planted at a hand-tool scale. We are hoping to produce a consistent supply of the smaller more intensive crops in that space, do it under tighter control with more consistent results, and free up some of our other veggie acreage for fallowing and other management. This is a really exciting development of our land and program, and the first steps taken this fall have been an effort to have next year’s growing season go as smoothly as a first year can. I’ll let you know how it all goes down.

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