Snow fell here at the farm Friday night, making this the second year in a row with snow in April, and deepening the cool slow character of this spring. Though the weather has been pretty cool, it has also been almost rain-free, so the soil has dried down quite nicely. We’ve done a tiny bit of cultivation out in the veggie acreage, and Tyson even ran the new rock extractor on Friday afternoon. The ground is thawed pretty deeply, though there is still a bit of ice down there, and some more hiding around the manure piles under the straw, so fencing has not started yet. This was a week for spring cleaning, and we made good progress buffing out the peaks and valleys left behind from mud season, seeding for fresh grass, and refreshing the driveway with gravel. This week also included the start of lambing season, with five delivered Monday and Tuesday, and all doing well so far. A baby goat was born
down in the sheep yard a couple of weeks ago, and she has been tormenting the sheep and looking for someone to play with. Her peer group is growing quickly now, and I’m sure she’ll be leading a little group of lambs into all kinds of trouble throughout the spring. We also got our first batch of chicks in the mail this week, moving one hundred and twenty broilers into the brooder on Thursday evening. Like last year, we’ll be raising a split group of Kosher Kings and Freedom Rangers, and looking at the comparison between their performance in our system. Everyone was alive coming out of the box, and I think we’ve got the brooder setup just right after learning some hard lessons in there over the years. We shrink their space down by half to start, trying to ensure that everyone can find the heat, food and water, and we’ll expand the space again as they grow and need the room to spread their wings. Those little birds will be in the brooder for a couple of weeks, and then they’ll move out to pasture for a few months. I think that we might have the opportunity to run them over fallow veggie acreage this year, getting them some great feed and adding their strong manure to the veggie effort. We have developed the Flat Field acreage into what we hope will be some really productive growing space, reduced the number of CSA shares sold, and it seems like we might finally be able to try some of the cool fallow acreage ideas we’ve been dreaming of to boost the fertility and health of the soil all over the farm.
One of our Boer goat does delivered three babies on Friday, marking an important milestone for us as we work to develop our goat operation away from dairy and toward making a significant contribution to our meat production. Bunny had three bucks unfortunately, so the dream of building the goat herd up to five or six does will have to wait until another doe hopefully has a daughter or two, but all three little guys seem to be doing well. Bunny is having a little trouble with a retained placenta and a bit of what seems to be milk fever, but we’re trying to stay on top of treatment and hope that she’ll pull through. This was her first year kidding, so that inaugural experience can often be harrowing for the animal and the farmer as they break new ground on a challenging and remarkable process. Bunny’s third and final baby came out backwards, with just one leg poking out, so we brought a little assistance to bear on the situation to make sure that little one got his head out before trying to take his first breath.
Farm. With visiting students making their presence felt all over the farm, the goats seem to have a nice balance of a reasonable and unintimidating size, and a hearty tolerance of over-enthusiastic handling. We found that the sheep, though a similar accessible size to the goats, could not hold up to the kid’s energy and attention, and ended up stressed and scared too often. The cows are profoundly tolerant, though a bit large for some kids, while the goats seem to strike a really nice balance. Also, as written in these pages before, baby goats have been scientifically proven to be the cutest most irresistible of all baby animals. We also have a lot of what goats like to eat here at the farm, and we don’t need to seed it, weed it, cultivate it, or do much to support it. It feels like we are always battling back the encroaching brush and hedgerows, and the goats are happy to eat that material for us, keep it under control, and producing food for the program at the end. They feel like a great fit for the New England farm, and really appropriate part of our unique farm.