Weeds, weeds, weeds!

9 07 2008

The end of spring and the beginning of summer has brought lots of rain to our farm fields. It has been a challenging month for many aspects of the farm- except for the animals, however- they prefer the rain over heat anyday. The pigs wallow in mud puddles and the cows ease through the wet grass, munching and appreciating the coolness it brings to their long black coats. The chickens are a little less pleased by wet days, tending to look bedraggled and look to hide under their house, but they are out the moment it stops to look for worms, slugs and other protein-filled bugs brought by saturated ground and wet grasses. Where we feel the lack of dry days is in the overwhelming amount of weeds that invade the vegetable fields and in the empty bays of the hay mow. The first cut of hay should have long been mostly put in the barn or shipped off to various other farms in the area and we should be working on trying to get the first of the second cut in, but, without the pre-requisite three days of sun (or two hot and windy at the very least), we simply can’t make hay. So on it grows, grasses now tall and leggy, seed heads filling out and heavy with seed. We had hoped to bring in a couple of other fields this summer, but it looks like we may not get to them unless the weather starts to favor us a little more. We are also starting to get bogged down by out of control weeds in some of the veggies- they simply won’t die- we pull them out or cultivate by tractor or by hand and then we have a lovely afternoon (or all day) shower/thunderstorm/just plain rain, rain, rain and the weeds happily re-root and grow even bigger. We have been lucky however, we did not get any of the devastating thunderstorms with hail and damaging winds that some of our fellow farmers have had to suffer through. So far all the veggies are flourishing, along with the weeds.

CSA News: Distribution is entering its fifth week and is going well. We are trying to offer something new each week for as long as we can, all the while supplying our members with familiar offerings. So far, we have heard lots of favorable comments on how delicious all our fresh veggies. We love seeing everyone come to the farm- one of my favorite things has been watching people wander among the strawberries and peas in the Pick-Your-Own and hearing the delighted squealing of laughter from the children who are eating those peas and strawberries faster than the adults can pick them. We’re slowly getting to know faces (names always take a little longer). I love this model of CSA, where the members help with at least two distributions through the season, sometimes they help with some harvesting and setting up, but mostly they are there to meet and talk with other members as they come to pick up and I just love watching those connections happening. It puts the ‘community’ into CSA by building it from scratch through the farm and how wonderful it is to be a part of that.

Animal News: Well folks, the hens just aren’t really laying….and I can’t really figure out why. The best I can come up with is that there are a bunch of different small stresses that have combined to make them stop laying. I can only hope that they will pick up again in a couple of weeks or so. What could stress out a chicken? Well, they are out of the barn and into their new house but we also combined them with the new flock of young birds, hence strangers in their midst. Feather mites are annoying some of the older birds. Lots of people and dogs are constantly looking at them all the time. Predators- there is a nice healthy fox who checks out the fence periodically (though it hasn’t gotten in for a while), a weasel has been sited near the coop with an egg in its mouth, owls & hawks are always watching and who knows how many other stresses unknown to me are also affecting them. All I know is that they are in reasonably good health (for chickens), seem very happy and yet, are not laying enough eggs. C’est la vie.

Heifers

Heifers

The cattle have happily settled in and are munching their way through acres of grass as we speak. Currently they are down in back of the floodplain field where they have free access to water and shade and browse in addition to grass (browse is defined as trees, bushes and shrubs- woody stuff- that they enjoy eating along with grass). There are fourteen cattle total- four heifers are the start of our beef herd breeding program and they come to us from Wheel-View Farm in Shelburne, MA. They are all Belted Galloway-Highland crosses. Three are one year olds, River, Brook & Froth, and the fourth, Cascade, is two and has a calf due in another couple of weeks. The other ten are Dexter steers, one and two year olds that come to us from Morning Face Farm in Richmond. We will be able to start offering grass-fed and finished beef in the late fall.

Pinky gave birth at the beginning of June to a DOZEN healthy piglets. They are all growing well and will be weaning in the near future, though probably not before they move out onto pasture with all the others. Des played midwife to Pinky again- the last piglet had a little trouble getting its breath, but a lot of rubbing and encouragement brought it up to par with all its siblings and it is now impossible to distinguish it from them. There are six girls and six boys in this litter- whoo hoo! Pinky’s first daughter, Lucy, also gave birth on June 27th to eight piglets. This was our first pasture birth! She didn’t need a midwife and did it all on her own so that the piglets were a bit of a surprise for us in the morning. She’s a good and protective mother and though a little aggressive at first, she seems to be calming down fine.

Farm-stand: The stand is now open four days a week- M, W, & F from 3p-6p and Sat. from 10a-3p (or so, sometimes if we are working out in that field, we’ll keep it open as long as we are out there so you might find us open later than 3). We DON’T have sweet corn and tomatoes yet- not for another month or so at the earliest (we don’t live in Georgia here folks), but we do have some lovely lettuces and salad mixes, early summer greens such as tender kales, swiss chard and collards. We also occasionally have scallions, salad turnips and beets. Upcoming are new potatoes, cabbage and flowers. We are also starting to stock some locally produced accompaniments such as Appalachian Naturals dressings, sauces, dips & salsas and some local jams. You can also get our farm-made maple syrup, compost and such at the stand. We hope to add other lovelies as they come available. We are working on getting our pork down to the stand, but need to hook up the electric. Until then you can buy our pork out of the farm office, during CSA pick-up or from the Thursday afternoon Pittsfield Farmers’ Market on North Street (4-7p near St. Joseph’s church). We just got a whole new batch of pork cuts in, including new item- link sausages in sweet & hot italian and breakfast). We also have picnic shoulders available for backyard pig roasts.

Bobby and Kristen howing despite the clouds

Bobby and Kristen hoeing despite the clouds

Other farm notes: The Berkshire Eagle did a great article on farmers and the recent weather and Des and her tractor made the cover of the paper! They also did a little video of Des and Bobby trying to take care of the weed problems. You can check out the article at ‘Farmers vs Weeds’

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One response

10 07 2008
Bob & Margaret Burke

Des.
The farm is coming along fine thanks to you and your husband.
We apreciate keeping in touch with the BarnYard News and we Thank You for preparing it for all of us who are Holiday Farm fans.
Wish we could wander the hills of home,but we can’t, not at this time.
Give our regards to Dickens, Steph and Gibby.

Margaret and Bob Burke (Florida)

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