During April, the stage is being set for the growing season ahead. Once warm weather settles in, grass growth explodes, and then the race is on. So, preparations are underway at the farm in anticipation.
We purposely don't do much plowing on our farm, but Landis Weaver plants 15 acres of organic corn to supplement his grass-based dairy cows. He leases the eastern half of our farm, and is an intimate part of our small community on Frost Road. We figure there is less environmental cost to his planting organic corn with horses on our property than his importing corn from 50 miles away that has been worked with tractors and diesel fuel. He teams up with one of his colleagues and they combine horses to do the job. It is always an inspiration to watch these magnificent equines either at work or rest.
When pastures are sodden and weather inclement, we increasingly bring cows into a holding area to weather the storm. The problem is the holding area eventually becomes concentrated with manure. We have accordingly recruited several truckloads of wood chips from the local sawmill to spread over the manure, in preparation for the next visit from bovines. We will sprinkle corn into the layers of chips, and then turn hogs into the area to mix the manure with chips. The result over time will be compost, which we will then spread on fields. Holding livestock in a lot is a little like limited plowing of pastures, in that we resist doing so, but feel in particular circumstances, benefits outweigh costs.
Landis' Jersey dairy calves were born during March and are now in the barn being hand-reared. We lent Landis two of our Red Devon bulls last summer to complete the last of his breeding. This recent bull calf on the right is half Red Devon and half Jersey. Red Devons fatten well on grass, and we are interested to see how this mix will perform in the milking herd. Someday we'd like to have a 100% grass dairy, with milk available to local customers. The milk is now sold to Horizon Organic Dairy and heads for parts unknown in a large tanker truck.
On the left, we are installing a crossing, across a spring-fed stream, to a wooded lot. The benefits of this for livestock are access to: shade during the heat of the summer, from this side of the stream, and to flowing water, in the event our electric pumps go down.
On the right is our first batch of Cornish-cross meat chickens in the brooder. Brendan fashioned this brooder out of unused space in the barn, and it has worked very well. The past several cold nights have been a concern, but heat lamps have seen the chicks through in good stead.
Above is delicious, soulful Hollandaise Sauce, made with our eggs. This was made with a blender, which is not quite as demanding as employing a double boiler. Hollandaise is a great complement for anything green - artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, and, for the dedicated, is rewarding on its own by the spoonful.
May the month be active for you.