Posted 4/10/2017 9:56am by Kerry Gawalt.
Except from Flavors of the Valley yesterday
CMF Spring 2017 Update
Killdeer sounding a lyrical riot flying low over the open ground of the garden. Black soil revealed in swatches as the snow recedes.
Raucous geese in loose rank and file flying over. Back and forth morning and night. Hurrying to the fire sale of spring. Quick winging ducks too. Single and in pairs. They look and sound as if their wings are spinning. Whirling in the wind like prayer wheels.
The vernal pools are filling and spring run-off approaches its peak. Our new pond is full and overflowing.
We’ve had lots of calves born over the last month. Three heifers have joined the herd. Even Jersey calves can’t compete with the lambs for cuteness. Stop by the barn and visit them all! We have a new “nursery” facility for raising the calves. It is in the same area as before---in the northwest corner of the red barns.
Sadly, we had a stillborn calf Saturday morning. This was Della’s first calf. Fortunately, she is doing fine. It appears the placenta detached as she went into labor. These things are never easy but it is all part of life on the farm. Jersey cows have the best calving ease of the five major dairy breeds. On our farm about 2% of calves born here have been stillborn.
The heated propagation tunnel is filling up with starts. Everything from onions to tomatoes. Acres of garden contained in a few square feet of flats. Thanks to Julianne and other volunteers for helping Kerry with the meticulous task of seeding.
We began seeding cool hardy crops in the high tunnel this week. Spinach, mesclun and Asian greens. Hot house tomatoes will go in later. The smaller tunnel sat idle last year but we plan to get ii back into production this season. We aim to begin planting in the field at the end of the month. Hard to picture today with snowflakes blowing around. But we know how rapidly it all shifts at this time of year (forecast calls for 70+ degrees on Monday).
Kerry is now a cheesemaker. Also doing afinage (cheese wheel maintenance), packing and shipping, scheduling, etc. Currently the cheese company employs Jeanine, Sophie, Kerry, Jada and Susie (on maternity leave). We are considering one more part-time hire.
On the farm side, Hunter will continue to work with us and will pick up more hours when the school year ends. Anna is also committed to working with us this season and has an open-ended commitment. High schoolers Emily and Carrie will be back for summer work in the garden. Alexandra will also be returning for some part-time work in the garden, farmer’s market, and assisting with farm-to-school visits.
Recognizing we are facing a big gap in our work force with the departure of Hal & Susie---who have always been huge contributors to the effort of bringing in the hay---we may hire another part-time farm crew worker to help with garden work and haying. This person could potentially cobble together fulltime work by also working part-time in cheese.
Being part of the cheese company is an exciting new step for us but it does create some uncertainty as to how all the pieces will fit together and all the work will get done. We have decided to cut back on how much we will plant in the market garden this year by one acre. We are exploring options for a good pasture mix so that the fallow ground can provide some extra grazing to horses and cows. If we have sufficient labor we can easily turn that ground back to vegetable production next year.
We plan to finish up our NRCS Equip grants this year. This will include an improved irrigation system for the market garden. Also we will be putting in a water diversion “speed bump” to prevent water run-off from Linden road from going into the pack barn.
The Hartland Cattle 4-H Club is rocking along. Kerry and Sherry Clark are the 4-H leaders. The club has 13 members between ages 8-18. They meet every Wednesday at the farm. They are gearing up for the showing season. Just recently they all pitched in to raise money through a bake sale and raffle at the Flavors of the Valley event. Their first public event this year will be participating in the annual Strolling of the Heifers in Brattleboro on June 3rd. A new event this year will be a two day Vet Clinic with Veterinarian Heather Johnson. Most of the kids in the club are not farm kids. The club provides the opportunity for these young people to connect with the farm animals and learn about all the responsibility that goes into raising dairy cows. In addition the club members learn to work together as a team. None of this could happen without the support and participation of parents and the Cobb Hill community.
We work full-time on the farm all winter, But the pace is steady and predictable compared to the growing season. It is a more quiet and reflective time. Poised on the cusp of the rush of planting, tending, harvesting and hay making---we take a deep breath---tinged with an admixture of dread and anticipation. The returning sun brings a lot of excitement shadowed with anxiety. The farmer and the gambler have so much in common.
Happy spring to one and all!
From Kerry, Stephen & Maeve---the farm crew and all the critters.