November 4th – November 11th

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The dairy cow breeding board is filling up. 

As much as I hate to write it, it did rain quite a bit again this week, pushing conditions on the farm even further into the mud. The sheep seem to be taking advantage of the dry indoor space that we opened up for them last weekend, and after scraping their yard with the tractor this weekend, I am feeling a bit better about their situation. We also have some nice cold weather in the ten day forecast, so there is some chance that all this wet and mud might just freeze into a nice firm surface. Everything off the hard roads is dangerously soft, and any necessary drives onto the pastures leave muddy ruts and damage. We cannot drive out onto the pastures to spread manure in these conditions, we cannot access the pasture edges for tree clearing, and the turkeys are making some really muddy spots as they continue to graze out on the pasture behind the bunkhouse. There is some rain in the long-term forecast, and some really cold weather, and we continue to wait for an extended dry period to let the ground firm up so that we can get back out onto the pastures.

In the mean time, Tyson and the student farmers have been able to continue the work of making permanent raised beds in the newly cultivated Flat Field East, forming that

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New raised beds in Flat Field East

beautiful well-drained soil into sets of straight rows that will be ready for planting in the spring. This work has been mostly accomplished with hand tools, and this new acreage drains really nicely, so the wetter conditions have not slowed us down too much. As we work to hone the balance of enterprises undertaken on this land, it is gratifying to see the veggies moving into acreage with rich soil and good drainage, while we move to seed new pasture in the areas that are less suitable to vegetable cultivation. Observation of the land over time and experience over a wide sweep of seasons and conditions gives us an ever clarifying understanding of the nuances of this acreage we work, and we try our best to put this growing understanding to work as we make long term plans.

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We’re developing a new winter road for the dairy cows out the back of the barn. 

These November days come and go so quickly that I always start to feel a little panicked trying to get through the work of winter preparation. Early mornings are frozen, the afternoon feels like its about half an hour long, and the to-do list is full of weighty projects that our livestock and infrastructure need for a comfortable and healthy winter. We’ve got the beef winter setup just about finished, except we still need to build a new dry-hay feeder, and make a small annex to the beef winter fencing situation to accommodate the new feeder. The well at the beef winter barn continues to struggle along, periodically giving us a hundred gallons, but usually doing very little. These struggles mean that the water cube has to stay in service for the winter, and the student farmers need to keep a close eye on the weather forecast to make sure that they don’t leave the cube full of water on really cold nights. The sheep are in their winter quarters, with the rams in with the flock and hopefully doing their business, with access to pasture still in the hopes of giving them a drier place to spend time while their yard dries. The youngest layers are in the winter layer house at Maggie’s Farm, having moved in on Monday of this week. They seem to be settling in quite nicely, and their egg production continues to climb. Though they are still laying those smaller pullet sized eggs, we are counting on them to really start laying in earnest soon to supply the Maggie’s farmhouse as well as our meat CSA. The older layers are still out on pasture for one more day, and they’ll move into the winter house at Sentinel Elm Farm Monday evening. They have been laying for the past year to supply Maggie’s Farm, but they’ll keep on producing for another year, at a lower level, down the road at the kid’s farm. We culled the majority of the layers at Sentinel Elm on Sunday to make room for the new flock, and there are some massive pots of stock bubbling away in the bunkhouse kitchen right now. That delicious broth will help us all stay healthy and fit through the winter ahead! Wednesday of this week we take the lambs off to processing, and Sunday is turkey processing day. Other than the two pigs in the yard fattening up for the student farmer’s butchering class, the lambs and turkeys will mark the end of the livestock production year, and will take us down to our winter livestock population.

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