Barnyard Bull - News & Blog

Posted 7/9/2008 3:12pm by Desiree & Jesse Robertson-DuBois.



The end of spring and the beginning of summer has brought lots of rain to our farm fields. It has been a challenging month for many aspects of the farm- except for the animals, however- they prefer the rain over heat anyday. The pigs wallow in mud puddles and the cows ease through the wet grass, munching and appreciating the coolness it brings to their long black coats. The chickens are a little less pleased by wet days, tending to look bedraggled and look to hide under their house, but they are out the moment it stops to look for worms, slugs and other protein-filled bugs brought by saturated ground and wet grasses. Where we feel the lack of dry days is in the overwhelming amount of weeds that invade the vegetable fields and in the empty bays of the hay mow. The first cut of hay should have long been mostly put in the barn or shipped off to various other farms in the area and we should be working on trying to get the first of the second cut in, but, without the pre-requisite three days of sun (or two hot and windy at the very least), we simply can’t make hay. So on it grows, grasses now tall and leggy, seed heads filling out and heavy with seed. We had hoped to bring in a couple of other fields this summer, but it looks like we may not get to them unless the weather starts to favor us a little more. We are also starting to get bogged down by out of control weeds in some of the veggies- they simply won’t die- we pull them out or cultivate by tractor or by hand and then we have a lovely afternoon (or all day) shower/thunderstorm/just plain rain, rain, rain and the weeds happily re-root and grow even bigger. We have been lucky however, we did not get any of the devastating thunderstorms with hail and damaging winds that some of our fellow farmers have had to suffer through. So far all the veggies are flourishing, along with the weeds.

CSA News: Distribution is entering its fifth week and is going well. We are trying to offer something new each week for as long as we can, all the while supplying our members with familiar offerings. So far, we have heard lots of favorable comments on how delicious all our fresh veggies. We love seeing everyone come to the farm- one of my favorite things has been watching people wander among the strawberries and peas in the Pick-Your-Own and hearing the delighted squealing of laughter from the children who are eating those peas and strawberries faster than the adults can pick them. We’re slowly getting to know faces (names always take a little longer). I love this model of CSA, where the members help with at least two distributions through the season, sometimes they help with some harvesting and setting up, but mostly they are there to meet and talk with other members as they come to pick up and I just love watching those connections happening. It puts the ‘community’ into CSA by building it from scratch through the farm and how wonderful it is to be a part of that.

Animal News: Well folks, the hens just aren’t really laying….and I can’t really figure out why. The best I can come up with is that there are a bunch of different small stresses that have combined to make them stop laying. I can only hope that they will pick up again in a couple of weeks or so. What could stress out a chicken? Well, they are out of the barn and into their new house but we also combined them with the new flock of young birds, hence strangers in their midst. Feather mites are annoying some of the older birds. Lots of people and dogs are constantly looking at them all the time. Predators- there is a nice healthy fox who checks out the fence periodically (though it hasn’t gotten in for a while), a weasel has been sited near the coop with an egg in its mouth, owls & hawks are always watching and who knows how many other stresses unknown to me are also affecting them. All I know is that they are in reasonably good health (for chickens), seem very happy and yet, are not laying enough eggs. C’est la vie.

 

Heifers

Heifers

The cattle have happily settled in and are munching their way through acres of grass as we speak. Currently they are down in back of the floodplain field where they have free access to water and shade and browse in addition to grass (browse is defined as trees, bushes and shrubs- woody stuff- that they enjoy eating along with grass). There are fourteen cattle total- four heifers are the start of our beef herd breeding program and they come to us from Wheel-View Farm in Shelburne, MA. They are all Belted Galloway-Highland crosses. Three are one year olds, River, Brook & Froth, and the fourth, Cascade, is two and has a calf due in another couple of weeks. The other ten are Dexter steers, one and two year olds that come to us from Morning Face Farm in Richmond. We will be able to start offering grass-fed and finished beef in the late fall.

Pinky gave birth at the beginning of June to a DOZEN healthy piglets. They are all growing well and will be weaning in the near future, though probably not before they move out onto pasture with all the others. Des played midwife to Pinky again- the last piglet had a little trouble getting its breath, but a lot of rubbing and encouragement brought it up to par with all its siblings and it is now impossible to distinguish it from them. There are six girls and six boys in this litter- whoo hoo! Pinky’s first daughter, Lucy, also gave birth on June 27th to eight piglets. This was our first pasture birth! She didn’t need a midwife and did it all on her own so that the piglets were a bit of a surprise for us in the morning. She’s a good and protective mother and though a little aggressive at first, she seems to be calming down fine.

Farm-stand: The stand is now open four days a week- M, W, & F from 3p-6p and Sat. from 10a-3p (or so, sometimes if we are working out in that field, we’ll keep it open as long as we are out there so you might find us open later than 3). We DON’T have sweet corn and tomatoes yet- not for another month or so at the earliest (we don’t live in Georgia here folks), but we do have some lovely lettuces and salad mixes, early summer greens such as tender kales, swiss chard and collards. We also occasionally have scallions, salad turnips and beets. Upcoming are new potatoes, cabbage and flowers. We are also starting to stock some locally produced accompaniments such as Appalachian Naturals dressings, sauces, dips & salsas and some local jams. You can also get our farm-made maple syrup, compost and such at the stand. We hope to add other lovelies as they come available. We are working on getting our pork down to the stand, but need to hook up the electric. Until then you can buy our pork out of the farm office, during CSA pick-up or from the Thursday afternoon Pittsfield Farmers’ Market on North Street (4-7p near St. Joseph’s church). We just got a whole new batch of pork cuts in, including new item- link sausages in sweet & hot italian and breakfast). We also have picnic shoulders available for backyard pig roasts.

Bobby and Kristen howing despite the clouds

Bobby and Kristen hoeing despite the clouds

Other farm notes: The Berkshire Eagle did a great article on farmers and the recent weather and Des and her tractor made the cover of the paper! They also did a little video of Des and Bobby trying to take care of the weed problems. You can check out the article at ‘Farmers vs Weeds’

Posted 6/4/2008 4:07pm by Desiree & Jesse Robertson-DuBois.

Hello again from the Farm! We were really in the thick of things as April rolled into May and rather abruptly became June. Compost orders are flying in and driving out as fast as we can screen, drive and dump them; seedlings are overflowing the smaller greenhouse and spilling into the new greenhouse even though it isn’t quite finished; piglets are due to arrive anytime; newest chicks are out on pasture; and so much more….. We are entering our busiest time of year, from now until the end of September we will be running at a full tilt, but we love it that way, or we wouldn’t do it. At least the days are warm and full of bright sunlight. This is when I like to take a brief second to stand in a newly harrowed field, turn my face to the warmth and breathe in that rich earth. It renews me when I’m as tired as I ever get, reminds me that I’m lucky to be doing what I love, and I blossom again with strength and energy like the flowers, trees and baby plants all around.

Animal News: We put the new chicks to work. We were unhappy to discover a large patch of dead grass on the front lawn of the farmhouse and it was soon determined that Japanese beetle grubs were the culprits. Since poison is not an option for the farm, we decided to see if chickens might like the little bugs. Turns out that they love them! So we moved the young birds up to the house and put them on bio-control. We think that it has been highly successful since there are no grubs to be seen in the infested area. With so many other carpentry and building projects going on, the new, deluxe model egg-mobile still isn’t finished so we have delayed the older birds moving out of their winter housing. However, we are moving them around in the hay pasture wherever can be reached with the net fencing and the result is dark-orange yolks and rich tasting eggs.

The young hogs moved out in April. Their house got a new roof and they then will move out onto the ‘Floodplain’ field. We are anticipating that a new batch of baby piglets from Pinky will be arriving in very short order (she was building a nest and not eating so it could even happen today!) and then another on June 27th(from Lucy– her first!).

We will have four lovely Belted Galloway and Highland cross heifers arriving this weekend from Wheel-view Farm in Shelburne. One of them is bred and should be dropping her calf sometime in July. We are very excited about welcoming these new additions to the farm- come and meet them (we have treats you can give them).

We are also looking at sheep- we have a few breeds that we think would be good for the farm. We were hoping to find some Clun Forest or blue-faced Leicester, but we’ve had some trouble locating them anywhere nearby. So we will be looking at some Tunis with, hopefully, some Romney or Border Leicester crosses (okay, those are mostly because I want their wool….). This is more of a work in progress, but don’t be surprised if you hear some baaing when visiting the farm.

Vegetable news: The CSA is sold out! Yes, it’s true, the CSA is sold out for this year, but we are happy to take names and addresses (snail and email) since we plan on growing the CSA again in 2009. Also, don’t forget that you can still get those delicious, fresh, organic vegetables from our farmstand which will open in June. We probably won’t have too many veggies at first but we will add them as they come in from the fields.

You will notice the new greenhouse as you drive up to the farm. We have been primarily using it to harden off transplants before they go into the field where they get a little less water and a little more wind which helps prevent them from being shocked when they go outside for good. Now that it has warmed up at night we are closing up the smaller greenhouse and turning off the propane and all new transplants such as lettuce will be starting in the new house. The big house will also be used later in the summer for fall and (hopefully) winter salad production. We will have to wait and see on that project since it will need some supplemental heat to get us through the long, cold and dark days of December and January.

There is a lot of growing activity in the fields! Peas, salad, mesclun,spinach, chard all went in earlier, but in the last week we’ve added all the winter squash, pumpkins and sweet corn (a whole acre & a half!) We’ve also been doing a lot of transplanting- the kale, broccoli, beets, turnips, pac choi, onions, lettuce, leeks, and shallots. This week we’ll be starting to put in all the hot weather fruiting crops- summer squash, zucchini, peppers, flowers and we will quickly follow with the tomatoes as soon as they get a little bigger. Potatoes are taking up a lot of space this year since we have ten varieties to choose from- Red Huckleberries, All-Blues, Kennebec, Russet Burbanks, Romance, Rose-Gold, French Fingerlings, Keuka Gold, Red Norland & Desiree’s (I couldn’t help it, folks, I HAD to try out the potato that has the same name as me). We’ll have them as both new potatoes (small, fresh and sweet) and for storage in the fall. We are all getting itchy to start actually harvesting now- the CSA starts next week and we are all getting excited to share the bounty.

Farm news: We’d like to take this opportunity to welcome this season’s farm apprentice- Robert (Bobby) Hyde. After only working for a month he has become a valuable team member and we don’t know how we would get all of this done without him.

He’s a native of the Pittsfield/Dalton area so many of you may recognize him though he has been away on many adventures for a few years since graduating from Pittsfield High School.

Jonathan Sawtelle will also be joining us again for the summer season full-time once school lets out. We have a number of awesome work-shares and volunteers that are lending a hand this season and the farm promises to be all the better for it.

The business plan is nigh on finished (for now) and we will hopefully be getting the first installment of our grant money very soon. We’ll keep you posted on what’s in store.

Posted 1/4/2008 4:11pm by Desiree & Jesse Robertson-DuBois.


Gib lights the evaporator for the first time this season!

 

We’re boiling again here at the Farm. It has been an odd season so far, starting late and slow to get going. Ideally the trees are looking for cold nights and warm days to really get the sap flowing, but instead it has just been pretty cold. We even tapped in early this year thanks to the availability of our high schoolers during February break (which was frigid and often snowing, but they went out anyway!)- we were hoping to get the first run of really light amber syrup, but it didn’t come for us. It may have been running in December just like last year so we’ve only gotten Medium and Dark Amber.

Jesse tapping trees for hanging bucketsWe’ve had lots of group tours coming to learn about sugaring in the last month. It has been really fun teaching folks (kids, mostly) about how we make maple syrup, taking them on a hayride where they get to help empty sap buckets (provided they aren’t frozen) and then introducing them to the animals. The kids really love the critters, especially those young ones that have never seen a real pig before, let alone scritch one behind the ears or touch the sleek feathers of a hen and hold a warm egg (a green one!). There is something very special about how they really light up when they are almost nose to snout with 450lbs of Pinky who is almost always ready to leave her warm nest to visit with the kids- though sometimes she needed a little snack to entice her the first couple times. It really is great. If you would like to arrange for a group Maple Sugaring Experience, check out the Education Program page for details!

Despite the fact that it is snowing we have seen other signs of spring here at the farm. Dave’s daffodils and other bulbs planted around the farm started poking up through the frosty earth even before all the snow was gone. A few tree species have started the first signs of budding and a pair of jeweled wood ducks has been gracing our section of Waconah Brook. They have been frequenting the area right around the bridge- and try as I might to snap a picture they are very shy. No signs of Mergansers as of yet, but the Canadian geese and robins have returned, much to the delight of Pippin who finds the robins particularly exciting to chase.

Farm news: We are still looking for a full-time intern/apprentice. If you are interested or know of someone who might be- check out the Job Opportunities Page for more information or give us a call/email us at the farm.

Animal news: The young pigs are all growing well, but they are definitely getting bored with being in the barn. The plan is to get them out onto pasture as soon as the snow is gone from the field they are due to renovate. Porter, the big boar, is still here for a little while longer, mostly until we’re sure his job is done and then he will go home (or possibly visit some other sows that we know). We hope to have a new batch of piglets arriving sometime in June/July.The chickens are also getting bored with their winter accommodations and more of them have taken to escaping for part of the day to hunt for bugs. They will soon be moving out to pasture as well- and in their new house that Jesse built for them last fall. Our baby chicks arrived on March 3rd. We decided on White Wyandottes, Blue Andalusians, Barred Rocks, Dark Cornish and, of course, more Araucanas this time around. We also got some adorable Blue Cochins for a friend and fell in love with them so we might have to put them on the list for the next batch we order. Our egg production is ramping up- we are getting more than 4 dozen per day now and hope to get to 6 dozen as the days get even longer. We have started putting eggs for sale back in the fridge down at the office- we’re holding out that they will no longer freeze. There is also still pork available in the office freezer, but we are quickly running out, but we still have ham & bacon and a few others. Chops are sold out!More pork will be coming at the end of June or so.


Veggie times: We have started growing in the greenhouse! Onions, leeks and shallots are thriving and this past weekend we did our first seeding of broccoli, scallions & lettuce. Flowers, herbs, peppers & tomatoes, cabbage are quick to follow as the season starts to really get going. All those little green shoots poking up out of their dark soil blocks are pure joy to watch. The Garden CSA is just about sold out. We still have a few more shares left, so get us your sign-up forms if you want to pick up a weekly share of our vegetable harvest. Tuesday pick-ups are SOLD OUT, but we still have Thursday and Saturday available. We will also be opening the farmstand in late May with vegetable, herb & flower transplants with fresh harvested veggies following soon after.

If you get a chance, check out a new delivery service for our area- Berkshire Organics- they are going to provide baskets of organic produce and fruit year round- working with as many local, organic farmers during the growing season and a distributor for the rest of the year. Multiple baskets to choose from- including a fruit only basket!