We experienced some truly remarkable weather here on the farm this week, testing all of our systems in new and challenging ways. We started the week with nighttime temperatures well below zero, but by Wednesday, with a big blob of warm wet air moving into New England, temperatures had climbed up into the sixties. This swing was extraordinary, taking us from a bit below typical temperatures for February in Massachusetts, to far above. The cold ground, and every cold surface, first condensed and then iced over, and then just thawed and made thick mist and fog, trapping moisture in every building and animal shelter. The beef cow’s deep bedded pack barn, buttoned up pretty tight to keep out the cold winter wind, was a humid mess, and we had to slide the doors open to try to get the moist air to move through. It is important that those animals get fresh air to breath all the time, and that we avoid overly moist air lingering in their space, so getting things moving in there was really important. Our nice little snowpack melted away, the ground got super soft, and driveways started to resemble quicksand. Every step outside was soft and approaching bottomless, and care had to be taken in selecting
routes and pathways for every endeavor. Things turned around dramatically Friday with driving winds from the northwest pushing in cold winter air again, and now the chopped up ground has frozen hard into treacherous mud-formed mountain ranges ready to eviscerate any passing vehicle. As the new front pushed in Friday afternoon, the low sodden clouds and mists were vigorously pushed out to reveal blue sky and the nearly forgotten sun, and I think that we all shared a few hours reveling in our deliverance before the evening came.
We took advantage of the warm weather and thaw of midweek to replace the plastic on the greenhouse, and to dismantle most of last year’s pig infrastructure, which had been frozen solid in their old pasture on top of the hill. Both projects were lingering in our collective minds, and it was a relief to get this little weather respite to tackle both under mild conditions. The plastic of the greenhouse is much easier to stretch and put in place with warm temperatures as it softens a bit as it warms, and we can work better without gloves. The metal frame of the greenhouse can be remarkably cold to the touch in winter conditions, so we are always pleased to find a warm stretch, when the building is not in active use, to do renovations and repairs. The pig palace, consisting of a deck and walls built of wood, was a project that we just did not have time to get to in the fall after the pigs moved out. I am eager to give those wooden structure, which we use year after year, ample time to rest and dry out between pig seasons, so I was really happy to find a few days to get most of it disassembled and stacked for some drying time before we set it up again in the spring.
Veggie planning continued this week, as did a few other great classes in the Learn to Farm program, though with the warm temperatures, we weren’t all taking shelter indoors as much as usual. We met with a large animal veterinarian Monday morning for our annual calf castration workshop, working with last year’s group of beef calves to get them all vaccinated, wormed, castrated (bulls only) and re-tagged. This is always a high-test experience for the students, and calves, but everyone conducted themselves with grace and determination, and we got all the work done effectively and smoothly. We had only two bull calves in the group this time, but we did have the change to do the first castration surgically so that the students had the opportunity to see the intricate parts we were after. We finished the week with two days of race and equity workshopping, continuing to further the commitment that we’ve made to this work step by step.