This week Mother Nature gave us a run for our money as she cycled through the entire gamut of seasonal changes in a short 7 days. We began this week with a true pounding of rain, saturating the fields, and making it nearly impossible to care for birthing cattle. The turf was so loose that we had to park the four wheel drive and get the ATV's out in an effort to prevent too much damage to the ground. Our normally small creeks turned into rushing muddy water that lapped at the very top of our bridges, before spilling down the sides and emptying into the lower fields.
And then...it snowed.
After enjoying a nearly 60 degree day, the snow belted us, and in true March fashion, by mid-afternoon it was gone. It is strange to be working in the field in t-shirts one day, and back in coveralls, trying to stay warm the next....and then back in t-shirts one day later!
So, as we prepare for even more snow, it makes me think: In like a lion, out like a lamb?!? I wish!
We just have to remember that in less than a week, each new day will be progressively warmer. I suppose without the cold, bitter storms of winter, we wouldn't have any appreciation for the warm, comforting days of summer. Well, I for one, am holding my breath for the latter!
I will leave you with with a photo from last summer; perhaps it will give you the stamina to get through this (hopefully) last winter storm.
It has been quite a rambunctious week on the farm. It started with the harrows, or the large discs used to break the soil up. Just getting the harrows to the farm was an adventure. We had to take the tractor to Avon to pick them up after being repaired, and I can tell you from personal experience that no one enjoys getting stuck behind a tractor on Winchester Rd! With a maximum speed of 20 mph, the cars were lined up as far as we could see. Murphy's Law then took effect, and it was a bumpy ride from there. Once we arrived and hooked up the hydraulic hoses it sprang a leak (actually I would equate it to a flood!), and soaked me in the oily fluid. When we got back to the farm the problems still didn't cease. While trying to maneuver them through a gate, Thomas broke a blade in half, as well as nearly pulling a huge post from the ground. Ahhhh, finally, we can harrow up the ground and get our hands in the dirt....I wish. You see, all implements hook to the back of the tractor using 3 arms, with 2 of the arms moving up and down, allowing us to control how deep to dig into the ground. Well, Thomas (in an effort to drive me crazy, I am certain), repeatedly raised them up too high, causing them to become hung in the up position. Of course, there is only 1 way to get them down: the silliest way possible. Let me just say that 2 grown men balancing on some skinny metal arms, jumping up and down in unison in an attempt to unbind them is quite comical. Actually, ridiculous. It worked for 2 or 3 times, but then we had to resort to a sledgehammer, which of course, I broke the head off of!
Needless to say, we got the garden plowed and harrowed, and even 2 rows of onions planted. We will get the rest of them in the ground, along with some peas by the end of the week. I suppose it is good to start the season out so rough, as it can only get easier from here!
It's been a very busy week on the farm. The approach of spring has us trying to finish last minute chores before planting season arrives, and in preparation we have already started about 100 trays of vegetables. We also spent Saturday afternoon building a new, bigger compost bin near the garden. These new bins will allow us to make a lot more of the high quality fertilizer essential for our farm.
On Friday a Charlet calf was born. It was the first of the year that we weren't able to tag right after birth. The mother was mean. Very mean. She would stare at us kicking her leg, and flinging her head side to side as if saying "No". When we attempted to tag her calf, she tried to jump in the bed of the truck in defense. After getting Thomas down off the roof of the cab, we decided to try again the next day. As we rode out into the field toward the calf early the next morning, the mother immediately began defending her ground again. This time we went in with the tailgate up, and I managed to scare her off while Thomas lifted the calf into the bed. As soon as she seen this, she turned around and bellowing at the top of her lungs, headed back our way. Somehow, in the commotion, Thomas got a black eye and a small cut on his bottom eyelid. I think the calf kicked him in the face, he thinks it was the pole we use to catch the calves. Either way, I am glad the job is done.
We had hoped to get the garden tilled this weekend, but it is still a little too wet. Being small, organic farmers, we have to work with nature, not against it. If we planted with it being so wet and cool, we would have to have gallons and gallons of fungicide to keep mold and mildews from "damping off" our plants. Damping off is a serious fungal disease that causes the stem to turn to mush, and the plant top to fall over and die. But alas, fungicides, herbicides, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers just do not belong on our food or in our body. So, we will wait a few more days before planting, just to ensure everything is just right for the young, sensitive plants. The extra time we had from not plowing allowed us to walk down to the pond and check on it for the first time this season. Thomas managed to miraculously find the leak that has eluded us for so long. One carefully placed step on the dam, and his leg disappeared into the ground, sinking into large pool of water. The suction of the earth was so great, that upon breaking the seal, a huge current of mud shot into the water about fifteen foot from the bank. I am glad we finally found the leak, because nothing is worse than this big, beautiful pond all dried up and pitiful looking in the middle of a summer heat wave.
The trees have budded up and the grass is shooting out little slivers of green. Song birds are everywhere in the mornings, and the cows are trying to graze. Spring is here. Enjoy it...because it wont be too long before the heat of summer takes hold. That's about it, for this wonderful 10th week of the year.
There are babies crawling all over the farm right now. The calves had been pretty trouble free up until this week. Early this week a cow shunned her weaker daughter after giving birth to twins. We named her Ellie Mae and put her in the barn closest to the house. What a difference one week in the barn can do...she started this week having to be forced to eat, and now she can consume an entire 4 pint bottle in less than 1 minute. It wasn't long that she had to spend alone though. While we were doing our morning field checks, we happened upon a little black bull calf, with white eyelashes and whiskers. He was stuck in the clay mud of the creek bank, sunk all the way in to his belly. His mother stood over him bellowing out. He had tried to free himself from the thick clay until he was shivering, and no longer able to move. After chasing his mother off, we pulled him free, and laid him on the bank so that his mother could care for him. Well, she refused to do little more than to try to force him to follow her away, and upon his trying, he found his way back into the creek. So in the creek we went after the little guy. Never have I been so thankful for a good pair of muck boots, than on a snowy day having to wade the creek. We finally got him back to the house, and got the clay washed off of him. We sat him next to the furnace in the kitchen to warm up, and gave him a bottle of colostrum as soon as he would eat. Once he was standing up on his own, we quickly tried to take him back to his mother. We dropped him off near her, and watched her take care of him for about an hour. The next day when we went to check on him, he was curled up in the middle of the field, shivering, and starving. Another trip back to house, another bottle, and now another calf to keep Ellie Mae company, because this little guy isn't going to make it any other way. We named him Little Bit.
The ducks and chickens quickly outgrew their first weeks home. Now that they are growing their first real feathers, they are eager to figure them out....and that involves lots of test flights. One chick actually managed to make it out of the brood pen, but figured out quite quickly to stay near the heater. When I found her, she was doing fine, and was happy to be returned to the flock. That was a sign that it was time to build a bigger pen. The new one is much bigger, with the all important wall height of about three foot. They have at least doubled in size this week. I think new pictures are in order.
The last of the babies aren't here just yet. Our trusty mouse catcher, Snowy, has been steadily swelling up for weeks. I have been temporarily calling her Garfield, because she is just so enormous. I'm thinking there will be at least 3-4 kittens in this litter.
Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Onions, Lettuce, and Eggplants have all been started. All but the Eggplants have already sprouted. Its a good way to begin the growing season.
Well, that is about all for this wildly unpredictable week 9 at Crooked Row Farm.