The first real snow of the winter is falling right now at The Farm School, again switching the pallet of the landscape to wintery white and brown, and shutting out all the noise. We’re only expecting a few inches of snow here in central Massachusetts from this storm, but with temperatures forecasted to go down into the single digits a few nights next week, I think we are safely in the grip of winter. We spent the week doing some overdue deep dives into nooks and crannies around Sentinel Elm Farm, emptying the hayloft, tackling the back office, and putting the Hero’s Wall up. Once the forecast crystalized, we also raced around to put the final touches on winter prep, with the understanding that things left out may not reappear until spring. Bradley spent a few days taking down some sad looking spruce trees in rough shape on the east side of the bunkhouse, and his work has transformed the look of the farm. Spruce wood is not good for much, so we burned most of the limbs and logs when we did our burn pile.
The Learn to Farm program charged ahead with tractor, chainsaw and draft horse
refresher training, as well as soil class, small fruit class, and a visit to Hettie Belle Farm just up the road in Warwick, MA. Olivier and Jennifer focus on meat and poultry production, and after spending years teaching at The Farm School, they always welcome our students for a close look at the logistics and business of running a family livestock operation. Olivier will come down to Maggie’s later in the winter for an in-depth look at his business model, and share his insights gathered from years of running a meat-CSA.
In the later summer and fall, we built an elaborate sheep alfalfa pellet feeder at Maggie’s farm, and I’ve written about that project. The new feeder has been working really well, and has achieved our goals of letting us feed the sheep without having to wade through them, keeping the sheep inside their fence, and keeping everyone safe. However, sheep got in the habit of climbing up into the feeder to get at the last little crumbs of alfalfa, and with them came mud and poop. In general, we aim to keep mud and poop out of feed dishes as a rule, so we recognized that something had to change at the new alfalfa feeder. This week we installed vertical boards every ten inches down the length of the feeder, spaced so sheep can get their heads in to eat, but not get their bodies in and defile the trough. So far, this adaptation seems to be working well, but I am sure that sooner or later we’re going to find a sheep stuck on the wrong side, unable to remember what space it squirmed through coming in.
The staff of the Program for Visiting Schools spent a day at The Mission Hill School this week, renewing and strengthening the wonderful connection that we share with that great organization. Students from Mission Hill come out to the farm in every grade, and
that unique setup makes our relationship with the school, and the kids, really strong. We work closely with their teachers to make sure that our program meets these kids right where they are, and we watch the kids grow up over the years in a wonderful and powerful way. I have been at the farm for eleven years, and have seen Mission Hill students from their first year of school through to their graduation, and the bond between our programs is one of the truly profound aspects of the work that we do.