Weeks 11 & 12: May 14-May 27

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pawpaw blossom, finally!

We started off the week with a cabin-warming party, welcoming friends into our new space and showing off our hard work. On our field walk that Sunday, David told us about the flood history of the farm. The crop fields are only feet away from the South River, which swells from gentle to rushing with a few inches of rain. In a big storm, the fields are in the floodplain. He talked about how this has affected the way they farm and also told some stories of storms that have effectively cut the season short for them and washed out whole fields.

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David pointing out hydrologic features

The past two weeks, we have all been driving horses more and more independently each day. Last week, we all had the chance to drive a team with a wagon around; transporting hay, grain, lumber, seedlings, and other things from place to place. This week, Brian drove the mower and the single horse springtooth harrow. At the end of this week, we got a new horse to join the crew! Ginger is a Belgian with a “dusty sorel” coat and an excellent draft build. At first, she was in the paddock attached to the barn with the others inside so they could hear and smell each other. Then, we introduced individuals and small groups to her in the paddock. Recently, all the horses spent the night in a bigger paddock together and she got chased around a lot. As the herd dynamics become more comfortable and well established, we will be able to keep her in the barn with the others and she’ll be a regular part of the bunch.

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new horse Ginger

All of our independent areas of work are taking shape and each of us are able to take a lot of responsibility and ownership in those areas. Brian has been plugging away at a long list of equipment maintenance. He spends much of his days greasing, oiling, and replacing parts. In the last two weeks he has worked on the tedder, the cultivator, one of the wagons, the hay loader, the mower, and the stone boat. Owen has been steadily working through a big pile of saw logs that came down in February’s tornado. Kyle taught Owen how to use the mill, and since then he has milled a huge amount of beautiful pine lumber for sale. He is also responsible for weekly greenhouse seeding, foliar feeding the seedlings, and spraying Organic pest control products in the field. In the last two weeks we seeded lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, basil, fennel, zucchini, and summer squash. Spraying has largely been for control of flea beetles, a pest that eats the leaves on brassicas (broccoli, kale, cabbage, radishes, bok choi, etc), sometimes to the point of killing the young plants or severely stunting their growth. Vegetable farmers face a whole puzzle of confounding priorities with weed control, pest & disease control, cover crop and crop rotations, and soil building. The flea beetles have increased in number partly in response to David’s efforts to control disease and build soil structure using brassica cover crops, which allow the beetles to overwinter.

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Brian oiling the new hay loader

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lumber that Owen milled!

I have been working on weeding and mulching the berries, and strategizing a bit about how to improve the berry patch. I also split and stacked all of the firewood for our cabin for next winter. Last week, I got to be a part of the biannual vet visit. Our vet came to give the horses rabies shots, float their teeth, and go through a list of concerns we have about their health and the sow’s health. We looked at scratches (similar to athlete’s foot), limps, bad skin, odd behavior, and signs of age in the horses, and talked about stress from farrowing in the sow. He was a wealth of information, and I learned a lot about horse anatomy and physiology. After his visit, we have been treating the herd’s various ailments using his recommendations, which means that I now shave and shampoo Gus’s feet every week and rub Liniment (veterinary IcyHot) on Star’s lower leg every evening, among other things. I also built a bigger paddock for the pigs to help Red the sow feel more relaxed.

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piglets rooting

We have also gotten a lot of crops in the ground. Anna has been direct-seeding in the field; beets, carrots, radishes, arugula, salad greens, and winter squash! Last week we got to use the water wheel transplanter, which is usually a device reserved for crawl speed on tractors and so requires very calm and steady horses. The water wheel makes dibbles in the soil and then fills them with water, while two people sit behind it putting plants into the puddles. Transplants are much happier surrounded by water, so they have very little shock, and it makes for quick and efficient work. We used the transplanter for broccoli and then went out to the Far Field and transplanted 6 rows of onions. The rest of the day was spent planting 14 rows of potatoes! When that field is fully planted, it will have onions, potatoes, and storage carrots, which are three of my favorite crops. I love that field.

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David driving Pat & Lady; Brian and I transplanting broccoli

Last weekend, the farm had its annual May Party, and we got to see Leslie, my old farming mentor from Hampshire College who Anna also worked with. We also went to the Hampshire commencement ceremony and saw many dear friends graduate. The following Tuesday was David’s birthday, and we celebrated with chocolate cake, vanilla ice cream, and badminton over a long lunch. This weekend, Owen’s friend Paige from college is visiting; we all went out to brunch in the adorable nearby town of Shelburne Falls and visited the Bridge of Flowers- an old railway bridge now covered in blooms.

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blooming peonies on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls

David got through some big field work tasks, like harrowing, discing, seeding cover crops, and cultivating, while the rest of us worked on hoeing peas and herbs, putting up pea trellis, and thinning radishes. We also planted 4 rows of leeks by hand, which look like blades of grass now, but will swell to fat, aromatic pillars of allium glory in the fall.

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On Thursday, Brian and I celebrated our sixth anniversary! Woohoo!

~Sidney

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