Spring has well and truly sprung here at the farm! Although we are only two weeks removed from the last snowstorm, it is sunny and we have had several days of near-80 degree weather. The daffodils and crocuses are beginning to bloom, the grass is green, bees are buzzing around, and the buds on the trees are beginning to break their winter dormancy. Consequently, there is suddenly lots to get done!
Spring is a time for new life, and on Wednesday of last week, Red the sow gave birth to eleven new piglets! Sidney spent most of her day in the farrowing pen with Anna, helping Red with delivery, and personally caught four of them. She was very excited to participate and get so much hands-on experience with the birth, which very conveniently fit within the working day. The little piggies have grown extraordinarily quick, and to the eye have at least doubled their birth weight in their first week. We have lost two so far, but the remaining nine are healthy and happy!
We spent much of last week preparing for the arrival of a fresh flock of laying hens. David, Sidney, and Owen pulled the mobile coop out of the current flock’s winter enclosure. They forked out all of the bedding and manure, which was spread on the driest hay field. Later in the week, they pulled out the nest boxes, and on Friday and Sunday we all worked on whitewashing the inside and installing space-age rollout nest boxes. The new boxes are slanted so that as they are laid, the eggs (gently) roll out of the box and out of reach of the hens. Hopefully, this will mean that the eggs will be clean enough that we won’t spend any time washing eggs, and instead will pack directly into cartons. This Monday, the new birds arrived, and they are already exploring and foraging in the rye cover crop where the coop is parked!
April has also brought the beginning of our teamster training. We have been spending an afternoon each week learning about important elements of the craft. Soon we will be driving, first just for practice, and soon after for field work. So far, we have covered horse senses and body language, feeding practice, catching, haltering, and leading, hoof care, and basic medical care. We also wormed the horses in preparation for their going on pasture later in the spring.
Yet another sign of spring has been the beginning of CRAFT. Natural Roots is a part of a Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training, and much like our time at New Beat and Luna Bleu, we will periodically be visiting other farms and hanging out with area apprentices and workers. For the kickoff meeting, we visited Red Fire Farm in Montague. Red Fire grows about a hundred acres of organic vegetables, berries, and flowers, as well as bedding plants. Our tour focused on the perennials that they grow; strawberries, blueberries, and asparagus, plus shittake mushrooms. We have grown berries before but it was interesting to learn about asparagus and mushroom culture. Asparagus are the pliable first shoots of ferns. They emerge in May and early June and are one of the very first green crops of the new season. Ryan (the owner of Red Fire) grows mushrooms more as a side project, but mushroom garden of oak logs was beautiful and inspring. After the tour we met all of the apprentices from the other CRAFT farms and had a big potluck. We met lots of new faces and went out to a contra dance with the apprentices from Brookfield Farm, where Sidney volunteered for part of a season in college.
Throughout it all, we have made steady progress on the new cabin. The finish work is very fine, and progress doesn’t have the same leaps of progress as framing does, but it does feel good to get things just right. over the last two weeks, we installed the windows and the door, laid the finish flooring, installed trim, built a staircase up to the porch, built and installed shelving, and are partway through building the kitchen counter and shelves. The details are slow to assemble (I spent half a day just on the door latch), but the building feels more and more habitable with each one. I feel like a bit of a broken record, but we really are only a week or two away from moving.
We’ve also been making firewood for next year, and on Thursday and Friday of this week, Owen and Kyle fired up the mill to make some lumber for finishing off the cabin and to have on hand. Sidney was happy to have the opportunity to tally up her lumber needs for the porch railing and put in an order to the mill, which is a new skill. And if that wasn’t enough, the vegetable season is fast approaching. David and Kyle have been in the fields plowing and discing, spreading manure, and drilling cover crops. Owen has seeded kale, eggplant, chard, parsley, and yet more lettuce. The spring energy is palpable!