Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Thunderstorm

Trying something a little new. I've written posts as lists, pictures, and stream of consciousness...So this time, I'm going to tell a story, as if watching the on-goings of the farm. Let's see how it goes!

The farmer's truck was coated in a thick layer of pollen. The sky was hazy, thick with the heat wave that seemed to be a month long. He stopped pushing the hand plow for a minute, wiping sweat off and listening for the weather report from the radio perched in grass. 88 degrees at 11 am. In May. The farmer sighed and watched a car go by. The car slowed, probably wondering if the farmer was Amish, or crazy. No tractor in sight, grass in the front lawn in need of a trim. Just a short, thin man with a seemingly ridiculous goal. The farmer liked the farm to look neat, but it is planting season and there is nothing more important then getting starts and seed in ground.

Slowly he returned to the hand plow, plodding along, outlining spots for the squash and melons to bloom. There were still tomatoes, peppers, eggplant to plant too...but it's better to focus on the task at hand. The hand plow raked across the hot ground, uprooting the sod, weeds and clover. The next step would be to clear the debris away, and dig up any stubborn roots. Then lay rabbit manure over top, and push the plow through again, deep for young roots.

Today though, the heat felt feverish, as if the ground was a child waiting for a flu to break. So the plan was to plow until lunch, then clear in the hottest portion of the day, and return to the plow when the sun wasn't so high. Ten gallons of sweat later, the farmer checked his watch and headed back into the house for some lunch.

After some left overs and a hearty bowl of ice cream, the farmer placed an order for a ton of feed to be delivered next week. With over 200 chickens, and turkeys soon, he worried that forty bags of fifty lbs each wouldn't be enough, but 80 was a storage nightmare. Before long, it was time to return to the field.

As he crept along the ground, clearing away weeds, he listened to a podcast. Working alone, sometimes his own thoughts annoyed him, and hearing voices tell a story was a welcome distraction. When his wife was home, they played music and shouted across the field. He missed her.

When the voices stopped on his iphone (the hand plow and the iphone incongruity wasn't lost on him), he listened for the weather again. The heat had climbed to 102, each breath so heavy it felt like swallowing. At lunch, the forecast had warned of impending thunderstorms, and a tornado possibility. A hawk circled overhead, crying out for what sounded like mercy from the sun. The thunderstorms were approaching quickly, and the farmer dropped his tools in the field to start preparations.

He fired up the truck and headed into town. While the large feed order was coming in next week, the chickens had to eat today. Behind the counter, the women who worked at Agway were friendly and chatting, everyone rushing a bit knowing the horizon would be changing shortly. A quick order was loaded into the farmer's truck, and he pushed the beast home at fast as she'd go.

Within moments of stepping out of the air conditioned cab of the truck, the farmer was drenched in heat again, faintly dreaming of a swim in the creek across the farm. He rushed forward, hauling buckets of feed and water as fast as he could. The wind picked up, and the clouds were morphing shapes. After filling all the water for the poultry in the barn, the hen house, and the sheep, he set the buckets out to catch the rain in case of a power outage. He set up the rain barrel too, knowing that if there was no water for the animals, it would be  disaster.

Thunderstorms don't pass on farms unnoticed, the pounding rain, driving wind, hail, lightening can be a blessing for dry crops or disaster. It's best to plan for disaster, and hope for a blessing. The farmer loaded up extra stakes in his truck, and headed back out to the field. In the field were two chicken tractors, secured with stakes, but in need of reinforcements if the winds hit the expected 60mph. The farmer pounded the stakes in, fed and watered the birds, all with glaces to the sky. The field tools usually kept under a tarp within the confines of the fence, were hauled into the back of the pick up under the cap, better safe than lost or broken.

Still rushing, the farmer headed back down to the two small stack greenhouses, loading the seedlings set outside to harden off tucked back away. He strapped the little houses down and together, still fretting about the wind. Now with just the rabbits, dogs, and cats to tend to, (all under cover) the farmer heard the sky growl.

Into the rabbitry, the kits were all laying on their sides, panting from humidity and the electricity in the air. The farmer tidied up their cages for maximum comfort and checked on the latest batch of peeping chicks. He had fleeting thoughts of the need to re-breed some does, but pushed it away for the moment.

Back inside the farm house, pots with water were filled for back ups, cats and dogs were fed.  The farmer heard the sky crack, and saw his clothes, caked with filth, were stuck to him. He quickly decided to risk a shower, again worried if the power went out he wouldn't get one, and no one within smelling distance would be impressed.

Once clean and dry and cooled down, the farmer stood in the kitchen, overlooking the farm. All he could do was done, but he wouldn't know if it was enough until the next morning. The winds, the rain, could rip through the farm and cause devastation- or not. Crops could be trashed- livestock in danger. But for now, all he could do is wait for the sky to shatter open.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Crunch time

One week to get the rest of the first round planting in, or else we will be way behind all season. Day four of intense team planting. Grueling pace, hot sun, so far 12 rows done- half day today to save our backs...12-14 hour days Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

We can do this.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Big bird

Processing day!

Working alone it's unreasonable to process more than 10 birds without making errors or rushing. I did 7 this morning, giants who were hogging the feed and needed to be prepped for the CSA. Without a doubt, our chickens are growing better here than anywhere else I've grown birds. Let's hope the same happens with the vegetables!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Typical Day

5:45- alarm goes off (from a hungry rooster named Todd)
5:45-6:10- coffee is started, dogs let outside, boots pulled on
6:10-7:20 (7:45ish if only one is doing chores)- layers let out of coop, 2 gallons of water, and feed. Sheep given grain, moved out to ties on pasture. meat birds in barn fed, 1 gallon of water, baby layers fed, 1 gallon of water, door to outside pen opened. Fresh bedding for all. Then out to the field with ten gallons of water to unstake, move, feed, water, and re-stake both chicken tractors. Rabbits fed, watered, cleaned out and given fresh shavings under cage drops. Brooders get fresh water, feed and fresh bedding.
7:20-8:15- Check email, drink coffee, eat breakfast (eggs and toast usually$ change clothes, pack Kim's lunch.
8:15-12:00- field work, field work, field work
12:00-12:45ish- lunch, business emails, blog postings.
12:45-4:15- check sheep on ties, move if necessary, field work, field work, field work.
4:15-5:15 evening chores, see morning chores, minus bedding. Add feeding cats and dogs. Maybe start dinner.
5:15-6:30- weeding, setting up projects for the next day, seedling care.
6:30-7:30 sometimes work, sometimes dinner
7:30-8:30- dinner/shower
8:45- Lock up hens, close up barn
9:00- Bed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Flying Solo

We are a bit behind in planting as of right this moment, though nothing to fret too much about. It certainly goes much faster when Kim is home too. Working alone doesn't bother me, I just prefer to have the company of my wonderful wife. Sure, it's hokey, but it's just a fact. There is not much better than sharing the day with someone who believes in the work as much as you do. Plus, we get double done, and lord knows there is so much to do.

Right now is the most intense of the planting season. There is a list of seeds waiting their turn into that turned dirt, and seedlings pushing the limits of their starter pots. Plus, those crops that are already in need tending, the potato plants already need to be hilled up! You hill potatoes at about 6 and 12 inches, this keeps the new potatoes covered up and the plants healthy.

I'm losing a battle of the wills with our lawn tractor, and the major suffering of this is the aesthetic of our field. It's nearly hip high, and though I've picked the brains of those with more skill then me, no one can figure out exactly why the damn thing is chewing up deck belts faster than a piece of bubble gum. I've already done some engine maintenance, electric work, and general care, so it's running great. But, it's not supposed to be a method of transportation, it's supposed to cut the damn grass. I think it's probably time to take it in for someone else to waste time on, but I hate to spend the money- or wait two weeks to fix it. It's frustrating.

Plus, it's really a time waster to have to cut our front and the living mulch with our push mower. I don't mind the work, but this time of the year isn't a moseying time. Things like this drive me bonkers. You just can't get yourself worked up about this stuff though, because then you end up wasting more time stressing then working. We just keep it moving around here, if things are working right- you just do what you can while there is still daylight and sleep on it. Tomorrow the work will be there, and maybe some new ideas to try too.

We had some birds rob our first planting of shell peas, plucking the little sprouts right from the ground. We re-seeded, so hopefully we will still get a decent crop. There is really no good way to deter the birds, maybe a good old fashioned scarecrow is in order.

I'm going to try and weed a bit this afternoon, the rain keeps coming, but so do the weeds! I can't mow down new paths to plow in this weather, so it's all about keeping whats already planted happy and growing.

The new layer hens are settling in, and the layer chicks we started earlier this spring are almost big enough to join the ladies in the big girl pen. I'd like to get them moved over later this week to clear some barn space for the march of meat birds. And, turkey ordering is literally just around the corner. There is a whole mess of work to do to get ready for them too.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rabbits, chickens, and vegetables

We had bred two new Rex does about a month ago, hoping for some nice crosses. Both girls increased water and pellet intake, and gained a bit of weight....but no kits. They are young, so it was probably just regular growth, though one gal needs to lose a bit if we want a good breeding chance. Usually with rabbits, it's a sure bet they are bred, but sometimes with new does you can get a fake out. I re bred them yesterday, and one of our more reliable does, so hopefully we are good now. We have a 7 week old batch growing great and another due for processing in about 3 weeks.

Chickens, we are wealthy in. The rain has set my schedule to finish up a new chicken tractor (moveable pen) for today, hopefully I can finish it up in between downpours. I built the frame under cover in sections yesterday. Now that it's all assembled though, it's unwieldy to fit in the garage to place the wire.

Kim and I got the rest of our early brassicas in this weekend. And, a nice test row of black garbanzo beans. I'm excited to see how they do, we have a couple of dry bean varieties that I have hopes will be really nice supplements to winter share deliveries.

This week, I'd like to get in more salad ingredients, radishes, second lettuce platings, more scallions. I need some clear days though, hand plowing I. The rain is as miserable and useless as it sounds. Plus, I need to cut down the field first and you cant mow in a downpour. I admit that mostly, our farm is run on sheer willpower, but even we can't willpower the weather away.

So, we will see. We have a rare treat planned on Friday, so we will be off-farm and making up the work over the weekend. It's really hard for us to take breaks, but as much joy as the farm brings us, we need it. Otherwise, we can't appreciate the joy and beauty here. And that would be a shame, so relaxing it is!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Planting

If anyone needs us, we will be scowling at the rain, working through the mist and taking breaks for other chores when it's pouring.

We are doing ok with keeping pace with the season, but need to really push to keep on pace and get everything in the ground on time.I have hopes to get the following in this week:
Radishes
Scallions
Brussels
Cauliflower
Broccoli
Kale
Garbanzo beans
More carrots

Peas are coming, slow and steady. Greens too, I'm hopeful for a good amount for the first few weeks of the CSA. We are looking into more layers, we definitely need more dedicated ladies to keep everyone in eggs. 15 dollars a bird seems high, but the 17 we have won't be laying steady until July. I think we still need 15-20 to get where we should be.

We took yesterday off in honor of our wedding, teasingly calling it or 'mini-moon'. It was a glorious display of laziness, and I'm refusing to feel guilty for this small reveling.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Catching up

It seems like this is literally the first chance I've had to blog in ages. The rain is offering a rare window of time where I'm not out in the vegetable field prepping ground.

So far, things are plugging along, though the three nights in a row with freeze warnings didn't do us any favors. We have peas, greens, scallions and potatoes in so far. It seems I neglected to order onion sets, so I am placing a new order and will get some in very quickly. The hand plow, though slow, works the ground well. Each strip of earth in between the living mulch is pretty sod free and well turned. There are absolutely less well tilled plots in the area that have all the aides of mechanics. Though I'm hoping the budget clears up a bit for some equipment aid in the near future. We just need some additional tools.

Our wedding is Saturday! It crept up on us and barreled here simultaneously!! This means I'm trying to fit all of the farm work in, and get the grounds prepped for the impending arrival of house guests. So even with the rain, it's maddeningly busy. But in a very exciting way, the kind of busy that's drunk on hope and excitement.