Farming & Parenting in the Summer

23 07 2011

As many of you may  or may not know, Des & Jesse added another little person to their family in June- Gwyneth was born on the 9th, 6lbs 3oz right into the chaos of summer on the farm. In the month since her arrival she has witnessed the birth of the first of this season’s calves, the farm store’s opening, the first haying (her dad was putting some of the summer’s first hay in the barn while her mom was in labor), the start of the CSA season and so many other things. June is our heaviest workload month because everything is happening all at the same time. Compost season is slowing down, but we are still making deliveries, haying is starting, the bulk of the veggie transplants need to get in the ground along with lots of direct seeding, harvesting AND animals start to need moving on an almost daily basis to keep up with the grass. Whew. Lots going on, and then, little Gwyneth arrives right in the middle of all that and everyone keeps asking, ‘well, are you getting any sleep?’ and ‘how are you getting anything done?’ and the answers are relatively simple- ‘No, we’re not sleeping, but that doesn’t have as much to do with Gwyn as it does about all the things we need to get done’ and ‘We don’t get everything done, but we are getting as much done as we can, and we have GREAT apprentices who are pulling more than a little of the weight.’ That and we are behind on the dishes, the laundry and what all, but since we spend most of dawn to dusk outside it doesn’t really seem to matter that much until we can’t find shorts or socks for the kids or us.

One of our biggest challenges so far this summer is parenting our older kids. The eight year old is finding his own path a lot more- not really into farm work, but loves to fish and read and check on groundhog snares and swim in the creek whenever anyone is on hand to watch him. This independence is awesome, but it has its limitations since it usually means he can entertain himself for quite a while, right up until he’s done and wants our attention immediately. That’s hard when you are unloading a hay wagon or talking to a customer and we are still trying to figure how to manage it other than just outright banishment from the farmyard. We’ve come up with a list of Morgan tasks- things that are fairly simple but that he can manage and pick away at on his own without a lot of oversight….he gets rewards when he finishes them, but since none of them are crucial or time sensitive, it doesn’t really matter if it takes a few days (or all summer). We’ve also given him permission to exercise his innate entrepreneurial skills- so don’t be surprised if you find him selling something either in the store or during CSA pick-ups.

Our five year old is a little easier in that she loves the farm and almost anything to do with helping out with chores, weeding, harvest or even cleaning in the store, but she also has less in the way of ‘staying power’ and has a tendency towards whinging when bored (especially since her momma is in the store so much right now and not out in the field) or hungry. Her big chore in the morning is to bring her horse, Cowboy, down from the pasture where he spent the night guarding the sheep flock, and since we spend a lot of time in the store- we bought her a pink feather duster and she dusts whatever she can reach, she entertains her baby sister, she’s learned to ride her pedal bike (no training wheels) around the farm yard and we try to keep drawing paper and pencils or a clean white board on hand. Other than that  

In all we are trying to make more space to play- to let go that the house isn’t clean or the laundry is piling up again- in exchange for being with our kids.  And diapers, well- we are washing them and trying to keep on top of that for laundry at least. We figure that they will learn more being with us than being at camp or with a babysitter and they will especially learn that real life involves work and play and that you need to do both.

On other farm news: the farm store is doing very well, we are adding new localvore products all the time to our own selection of pasture- raised pork, grass fed beef & lamb, plus seasonal veggies and our maple syrup. We are currently selling local cheeses from Cricket Creek Farm & Sangha Farm, ice cream from Bart’s Homemade, salad dressings, grill & BBQ sauces & specialty mustards from Appalachian Naturals, all natural & organic soap from Dancing Bare Soap, Vt Peanut Butter Company’s nut butters, Of the Wood Herbal creams & lotion, Giuseppe’s Wild Mountain Farm honey and more! We are here daily Mon- Sat from 8:30a-5:30p & Sunday’s from 10:30a-3:30p.

Animal News:

We now have had eight calves born on the farm- we needed to do some major intervention with one new heifer, Flora,  from Wheel-view Farm. The calf was presenting wrong and was totally stuck, but we called our vet, Yoanna Maitre, to the rescue and she got the calf’s hooves pointed in the right direction, got the chains hooked on and together with Tony & Jesse, got him out in time for him to be safe and sound. Thank goodness that Flora had been a well-handled bovine and happened to still be in the barn adjusting to her new home- we got the halter on her just fine which helped with her birthing and again later when we needed to tie her up just long enough for she and her calf to figure out the nursing relationship (she just was so glad that he was out that she couldn’t stop licking him long enough for him to get to her udder).  It was quite an event, but definitely one that made us really really glad that we called Yoanna.

We are getting more Clun Forest sheep! The farm has decided that more sheep are needed for lamb/wool production and for the great job that they do on renovating/fertilizing pastures & hayfields and for clearing fencelines. So we called Mary at Rocky Top Farm in NY and asked her to give us all she could. We are driving up there next week to pick up 15 Clun ewes, 3 gorgeous crossbreeds from her grand-daughter (we have 2 of them here on the farm and we LOVE them too) plus all their lambs- a total of 43 sheeps! They will bring our current flock size up to 87 sheep including the lambs. We will also be adding a beautiful Blue-Faced Leicester ram lamb from Cranberry Moon Farm to our flock- he will be used mainly for breeding to Cluns to produce ‘Mules’ (a specific hybrid used for breeding to a larger boned meat breed such as a Texel to make larger meatier lambs that still perform well on grass alone), but as he is a gorgeous silver, he will make  incredible fiber producers as well.

The pigs are out on pasture grazing in the forage field that we planted for them. We had a smaller than expected litter from Lilythis spring, a larger one from Bela and none yet at all from Tulip (we hope that she is bred!). In any case, we kept back two promising young gilts from Tulip’s fall litter- Rose & Petunia (of the beautiful eyes) and are looking for a new boar for this fall.

If you have a chance, come by and visit the new store and say hi! Gwyn and Des are usually there most of the time.

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