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Farm Tales

February 2015 Farm News

Posted by MaryAnn the FarmWife on June 1, 2015 at 9:10 AM

It's Mid February already. I am done planning for this year. I actually did it all last October. We are now working our way through it.


This very long post, is broken down into a few parts - the changes we are making in our personal lives that impact the farm, and a recap of the past year's produce and then livestock. At the end is some planning for the year.


One of the biggest changes in our farm is that I have retired from my full time job. Hopefully, we will be able to get through the next year or two without much incident and I can pay my bills.


What this means to you my farm friends, is that I will actually have more time to be a farmer. I'll have to be even more thrifty and frugal than normal, but my days won't be divided into craziness and the stress of trying to service my clients and get my chores done. I may even get some sleep at night. It just makes sense at this point to eliminate the extra hours, and demands of full time real estate service.


This past year was hard enough balancing the workload, but then with John's injury, it became impossible on some days. My apologies if any of our own personal drama invaded your lives.


Oh, some of you may not know about John's injury. A quick synopsis: John is my heavy lifting guy. He operates the machinery, and does the hard stuff. Well, after the winter we had and all that snow last winter that needed clearing, over and over, every three days, he severely hurt his back. He uses mainly the equipment, and I do the manual shoveling, but it was too much.


Last April he had two fractured vertebrae, and a lot of disc issues and other painful spine problems. Things we normally do for the season were adapted or not done because of this. Our regular composting that we do never happened, because I do not run the big green tractor. Other things never happened at all. Some things we grow were neglected, and other things were never planted, because I was busy trying to do some of John's typical chores. He had limited ability to run the equipment, let alone walk upright for weeks. And by the way, I still have avoided using that giant green tractor. I will use the quad now, and am brave enough for a few of his tools, but that tractor is just plain too big.


In spite of all the problems we faced, we have chosen to continue this life. In fact, I am expanding what we do, and we have re-evaluated how we do things. Lots of trepidation here with the possibilities and always a plan B or even C or D will be explored.


Weather-wise, last year we were hit with a few other things, but we adapted and lived with the very late spring. The winter of 2014 impacted things like the asparagus harvest. We normally have about 6 weeks of the lovely spears to pick, but the extra cold ground cut that down to only about 3 weeks. My strawberry patch drowned in the ice pack and withered and died. Sigh.


Late spring caused a few other produce issues but the harvest is, what it is, every year. It was far better than the floods of 2013’s spring.


Melons, squash, tomatoes, eggplants, and a few other things were either delayed due to the very cold August or they never got sweet. My blackberries were so confused by the weather they fruited a month late, and the cold days caused them to have no flavor.


Last winter was exhausting. This winter wasn’t bad until recently. We have our flats of seeds started and we are starting more every week. THOUSANDS of seeds...


Last fall we had a month-long discussion on winter crops in the hoop house, but logic won out. We knew that we couldn’t keep much going in there for the winter with our current capabilities. Also, every snow fall requires the hoop house to be cleared of snow. 2100 square feet of snowfall, and the sides have to be shoveled out too. Envision a balloon with the sides being pushed in - it always ends badly. Instead, we are working on early planting in there, and hopefully rehabbing it for winter crops in 2016.


On to beef, chickens, turkeys and Maybelline. The Beef quarter shares are sold out until fall 2015. I have two shares left. Thank you. There will be more ground beef in mid-June. Please order early when I announce it. It sells very fast.


Our cows are doing very well. Extremely well actually. Wellington the big Angus bull is home for the winter.


The laying hens are laying eggs and really liked the whey from cheese making this year. And we sold out on the roasting chickens in 2014. Over 400 of them. Thank you. They are really a good healthy chicken and I am glad you all enjoy them. We have already ordered this season's chickens...there will be more.


The turkeys kept us entertained out in the pasture. They are a truly funny animal to watch. They sold out for Thanksgiving very quickly with a short waiting list to boot. I am told that they are the very best turkeys that our customers have ever had. Most turkey farmers do not pasture them. We think it is vitally important to the turkey for both their well-being and the end result.


And then there is my Maybelline. Wow, what a year. John and Maybelline, both had major medical issues at the same time. We pulled her through and have been extremely diligent with her diet, and she is the picture of health. And the milk… It was glorious. I learned to make cheese.


The milk. My goodness, the milk. It is a wonderful thing. High protein, high fat and full of goodness. I learned to make some cheeses, and it took some experimenting. The yogurt is phenomenal. Maybelline at her peak was producing 7.5 gallons of milk a day. . She is dry right now, and getting very pregnant…a new calf…I cannot wait.


We started the drying off process at the end of December so that she can recharge and her system can properly feed the new calf that is coming this May. We milked her for about 10 months total before forcing her to rest.


If we started drying her off too soon, her system would have gotten out of whack and she could have gotten very ill. If we started the drying off too late she would have gotten too thin. So don't think that we are abusing her. Her system is delicately balanced and not allowing her metabolism to do what it was designed to do, will cause more harm than good.


If we treat her well, and allow her to have a calf every spring, she should live to a ripe old age of 16 or so. Commercial dairies don't quite do this. They push a lot harder and the cows are spent after less than ten years. I am looking forward to years and years with my Maybelline. She is such a sweet creature.

Wish us a heifer too. Little girl calves are the cutest.


For the Farm Friends 2015, we will have three pick up days this season, and there may be a delivery drop off in the Flemington/Kingwood areas once a week. Regular Farm Friend pick-ups will be Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and then Saturdays from 2 to 4 PM. We will be again doing the Holland Township Farmer's Market, and I am considering doing another.


One of the things I am committing to is some fruit. I have a wonderful intern, Kurt, who is helping me with this venture. In the past I had strawberries and blackberries, plus apples and peaches we use for our jams and other treats. We are redoing the beds, and the raspberries I had planted last year, may produce this summer. My orchard at the other property is getting it's early spring maintenance, and if we can get down the rocky slope into the maple grove we may even do more maple syrup this year. Last winter it was impassable, without carrying the 5 gallon pails of sap. The snow didn't melt until April there.


So much going on here – and you didn’t know it until now. It looks quiet here in the winter but it really isn’t.


Until next month, be well, keep warm, pray for no more snow. Thank you for being my Farm Friend.

Categories: Farm News