November fading into December

4 12 2008

elwithpigletsAs November turns to December here on the farm everything winds down whether we want it to or not. The days are short and bitter cold (with a beautiful warmer day here and there, where we scramble around trying to get all those little things done that we have put off). We’re still waiting for a good snow, which makes the cold more bearable all around. For parts of the farm, work is just starting up and getting going because it is work best done when the ground is frozen so that there is less damage done to fragile soils. Dicken is outside from dawn until dusk sustainably harvesting trees that become homes, furniture and fuel to heat our homes. Nothing ever completely stops on a diverse farm. The animals still need daily attention, for feed, water and well-being. And sugaring season is right around the corner.

But, the vegetables are done, except for what is still in the root cellar, but the bulk of the remaining squash is going to be donated to the local food pantry in the next week or so, though the pigs have certainly been enjoying the ones that have not held up. Those of us who are vegetable growers, we use the cold dark months to reflect on the past season’s successes and challenges, to plan, to make bread and dream of dark earth, seeds and the fresh green of spring. We brush the dog, teach the children new games and open jars of canned tomatoes, peaches, and raspberries that smell like summer. We wish for snow so that we can be outside almost as much as we are when it is warm, and then we have a good excuse for drinking creamy cups of chocolate and dark sweet tea and standing close to the fire.

farmroad1Announcements: The apprentice search is already underway. We’ve had some great applicants already and are starting to set up interviews. We’re still accepting resumes for our full season apprentices (mid-March through mid-November) who will live here on the farm. Check out the job listing page for details.

We will be sending out CSA brochures in the next couple of weeks and we expect to sell out quickly even though we are expanding. I wish we could grow enough to meet the huge demand that is happening, but we can’t do it all at once. We’re going to grow slowly for the next few years. If you are not currently a member, but would like to be or just want more information, please call or email us to get on the waiting list and we’ll send you a brochure when they are ready.

We will start offering bulk packages of pork and beef in the new year. Rough first dates for pork are in mid-February and again in March and NEW! our grass-fed beef in March. We will be sending out information about these to those interested who are on our mailing list. If you would like to receive this, please let us know!Pippin

Jesse and Desiree will be giving a family-oriented talk and presentation on the importance of local food and farms as part of the community at the Berkshire Museum on Saturday January 3rd, 2009 at 1pm. Talk will be followed by a craft session making cornhusk dolls and grinding corn into flour. You can find out more information and directions to the museum at We hope to see you there!

Animal News: Pinky had her litter 3 weeks earlier than expected. All the books say that if you put a sow in with a boar 3 weeks postpartum, with her litter still unweaned, then she won’t breed. Unfortunately we forgot to lend Pinky that book, so she didn’t know (and now we DO). So Jonathan walked into the barn one afternoon to discover her calmly and efficiently having her babies with Lucy and Jake in attendance as midwives, but since this is her fourth litter, she can pretty much take care of herself. She has a beautiful litter of 11 healthy, very pink, piglets- nary a spot on any of them, much to our total surprise. The only evidence that Jake had anything to do with their genetics is that most of them have very short, upturned snouts. Only one has Pinky’s long, Landrace nose. They are all of them adorable, lively and curious.Pinky's 4th litter

Penny decided to wean her large batch of 13 (the runtling stayed with Portia) at 7 weeks by jumping out of her pen to get away from them. Guess she was done. We moved her into Jake’s paddock outside- we think that she’s caught on to the mothering process and will make a nice sow despite the fact that she is a little shorter through the body than is ideal. Her piglets are all healthy, a great size and are easy to handle.

The cattle are growing well on all the late autumn grass. We just started feeding out a little bit of hay in the first week of December as walking through the fields, the grass has started to look a little unpalatable. We’re interested to see how they like our silage bales (those white marshmallows lined up in some of the hayfields), but want to hold off giving them out until the fresh grass is really done. The cattle will also be moving in to Cooper Barn at some point this winter, though we need to get on with some repairs and modification to accommodate them. They will be fine out in the fields for a while yet, as the Galloways have thick heavy coats (and would greatly prefer to be outside in almost all types of weather) and all the others have access to sheltering woods to keep them dry and out of the wind.

JakeVeggie news: We’ve already begun the planning phase for next season’s vegetables. The seed catalogs have all arrived with their wordy mouth-watering descriptions or bright photographs. We’re exploring the organic certification process whose standards we meet or exceed already, we’re just trying to figure out whether or not the actual label is beneficial to our business. This process has jump started the planning for next year however, which is kind of gratifying, and we are having fun laying out what plants are  going to go into which fields and how much we can get away with and whether or not we will have to plow another field (which we do). We are figuring out what we want to grow based on last season’s successes and while there weren’t any failures, we heard from our members when they asked for more of something or wished for a vegetable we didn’t have. It won’t be all that long before we are placing our seed orders, and then getting into the greenhouse to start up our onions.

Other new events we are planning for the spring is a transplant sale so check with us when you are planning your home garden (if you have one) next season. We will have vegetable, herb and flower transplants for sale.  Or, if you start your own seeds, you can save on shipping and price if you order Fedco seeds with us. If you’ve never heard of this company- check out their website at and sign up to get their catalog, it is a real treat.

t-shirt 2Education Program: We applied for and received a grant from the Katherine and Winthrop H. Murray Crane Trust to cover the costs of our great Garden Club program at Berkshire Trail Elementary School. It is so rewarding to know that there are other people out there that recognize that this work is great for the kids and the community. We’re almost through the first session, and one of the great parts about receiving this grant is that we are going to be able to extend the program to two sessions per school year instead of just one. It also makes it possible to continue to offer these kids dynamic and exciting curriculum. This session we ground cornmeal, made t-shirts using plants and vegetables, planted garlic and daffodils, and explored outside whenever the day was warm enough. We will be offering more fun events during the winter session in January such as plant propagation, mini-gardens and lots more. The kids have fun and when they are having fun, they are learning and that is the most important part.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: