Whew! Despite some wild weather over the last two weeks, we have gotten tons of work done around the farm. A cool, wet spring combined with a few of our early brassica crops being decimated by flea beetles resulted in Anna deciding to push back the start of CSA by one week, so we have not started harvesting veggies yet. However, a very few heads of bok choy and lettuce are big enough to eat, so we finally have some farm-grown greens back in our diet! Additionally, we have more help on the farm, as Gaelen has joined the crew to help spread out the work of harvest and haying. Gaelen is a friend of the farm who has worked here for a few seasons. He’ll be helping us out four days a week!
Last Saturday, we pulled in our first loads of hay! David mowed Wednesday and almost immediately we were hit by an energetic thunderstorm that shook the trees, flashed a bunch of lightning, and poured down more than half an inch of rain and a bit of hail, all in only about 25 minutes. Luckily three days of warmish, sunny weather followed, and we were able to get it dry enough. I got a chance to tedd (basically fluffing the hay to help it dry out quicker) with David on Thursday morning. That afternoon, he went out alone with Gus and Tim to tedd more at a trot. Since the machine is ground-driven, the faster you go, the faster it spins, and the better job of fluffing the hay. Unfortunately the additional force broke a hard-to-replace cast-iron part, and we had to scramble a bit to keep the crop. Fortunately we were able to borrow a tedder from a neighbor and a tractor to run it from our landlord.
With the hay just dry enough Saturday, David and Leora raked the hay into windrows, and that afternoon the crew picked it up. We put up all our hay loose, rather than baled, which is a fairly different process from making and stacking bales. We make a long train, with a team of horses pulling a wagon pulling a hay loader. While one person drives, another forks hay off the top of the loader and onto the wagon, making sure to keep it tightly packed and evenly balanced. The load can get pretty tall, but once the wagon is full, we pull up to the barn. The barn is designed specifically for our hay grapple, which is a large claw that lifts the hay off the wagon, into the air, and then along a track and into the barn. The grapple is powered by another horse at the end of a series of pulleys. Watching the huge gobs of hay lift into the barn is very impressive, especially considering the whole process is powered by horse muscles fueled on grass, hay, and oats. Fortunately our first field was relatively small, because we managed to break one of the nine arms on the hay loader, as well as the wagon tongue. We were able to work around both issues, and we got two wagonloads safely in the barn before dark!
We have have gotten quite a bit of rain this spring. According to the National Weather Service, we just finished the wettest spring since 2006, and all the soggy days have meant lots of time working on equipment for me. I’ve got our second cultivator nearly ready to roll, and done some repairs on the single-horse mower. Before David mowed hay last Thursday, he and I spent several hours tuning the mower changing the knife. It was great to get a more in-depth look at such a critical (and relatively complex) tool, and David reported that the mower worked very smoothly in the first afternoon of mowing! Unfortunately we had trouble with nearly every other piece of hay-making equipment, so this week I built and installed a new arm for the hay loader and installed a new tongue on the sears wagon. We also bought a new tedder from a neighbor to replace the busted old one. The new machine looks pretty rough around the edges, but its a step up for us, from antique to vintage. With a little bit of axle grease and fresh tires, we towed it back to the farm and it’s tedding the next hayfield as I type.
The last two weeks have been a major transplanting push, and we got the majority of our heat-loving crops in the ground. Last week we got on the transplanter and put in all of our eggplants and peppers, plus the first round of tomatoes and kale. This week we added more tomatoes, okra, basil, zucchini, summer squash, watermelons, cantaloupes, and brussel sprouts. We also hand-transplanted lettuce, celery, celeriac, and more leeks. In the field we also cultivated and hoed to control weeds, and we are keeping abreast of flea beetles and Colorado potato beetle, which have begun to munch the eggplants.
This week’s CRAFT visit was held at… Natural Roots Farm! We spent Monday morning getting ready, and when everyone was here we looked at several fallow and crop fields, and demonstrated disking with four abreast, the single-horse springtooth harrow, and teams pulling the grain drill and mower. I drove the mower for the demo, which was lots of fun. We cut down a rye cover crop that was nearly six feet tall, and it lay down beautifully over the bar. It’s always great to compare notes with the other folks about how they accomplish the same tasks on their different farms It was also exciting to show off our beautiful horses and all the work they can get done to an audience that does the same tasks either by hand or by tractor.
Our piggies have grown very fast over the past few weeks, and this Friday we finally weaned them and turned them out to their new home in the woods. Red seemed relieved to no longer have to nurse nine hungry piglets, and they’ll have lots more space to run around and dirt to explore.
And to fill in all of our free time (ha), we finished splitting and stacking the last of the farm’s firewood for the winter. We also adjusted an old harness to fit Ginger, and David has been working her in with the others to get her up to speed. Sidney and Gaelen cleaned up the CSA distribution building to be ready for the first share next week, and planted herbs for the pick-your-own garden. Sidney took the last of last year’s laying flock to auction in the valley and also weeded the raspberries, and we’ve also been collapsing and erecting horse fence frequently to keep the herd on fresh grass. Owen and I milled up a few more pine logs for custom orders as well, and on the weekend I got to a little bit of home improvement and built cabinet doors for under our sink. To top it all off, during the middle of the CRAFT visit, we also sold Winnie to a new home!
We are enjoying our beautiful, homemade cabin and the serenity of its setting. The only thing visible from all seven windows is trees. In the morning we hear birds, at night we hear frogs, and there is a mountain stream in the background always.
This week, Owen’s mom Miriam is visiting from Vermont and brought us strawberry rhubarb pie and brownies! Abundant May showers are finally bringing some June flowers as we hurtle towards the solstice. Somehow we will kick it into a higher gear yet again next week!!