Google Map | 802-436-1448

<< Back to main

Farm newsletter May 22, 2018

Posted 5/22/2018 5:07pm by Kerry Gawalt.
Dear CSA members and farm friends,                 The last few weeks on the farm have been very busy. The month started out with the fjord horses being invited to the Billings Farm draft animal field day. We brought our 1913 Syracuse riding plow and the horses plowed up a section for the public to watch. The horses made it on the front page of the Vermont Standard. The Hartland Cattle Club 4H members served soup and made grilled cheese sandwiches for the visitors. They are fundraising for the fairs and other public out reach events. The cold, wet spring slowed down field work and pasture growth. The cows had their first bites of grass on May 10th. This is 2 weeks later than last year, but not the latest ever which was May 16th. The first week the cows go out by day and come to the barn for hay at night. It takes a week for their rumens to adjust to grass versus dry hay. They are now out day and night. They get a fresh paddock of grass every day. This means their fence is move each morning. The process can take 45 minutes to an hour. The grain the cows eat is matched to the grasses to give them a balanced diet. The big steers and bred heifers go out with the milking cows. The baby calves, young heifers and steers and our dry cows (very pregnant, on maternity leave mamas) stay at the barn.       The garden has been waking up. The fields have had composted cow manure spread on them. We take soil tests in the fall to determine how much compost to spread where. Different crops have different nutrient needs. Many of the beds are spread in the fall so we can get them planted early. The horses will disc in the compost, harrow the soil, roll the section and mark the rows. Each of these processes can take a couple hours. Some days one team of horses will do half the jobs and the other will finish in the afternoon. The first section we planted this year were the potatoes. We followed quickly with peas, all the greenhouse babies, lettuce, green beans, carrots, beets, and onion transplants. Our onions are started from seed in the greenhouse in early March. We transplanted 7000 onions plants over the last few weeks. In the heated greenhouse all the peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, melons, summer squash, winter squash, and pumpkins are waiting to go out. The weather is looking promising for next week.                 We installed a new watering system last fall for the garden. We have a pond dug by our neighbor Matt Dow. It is a naturally lined pond made with the materials on site. It is 70 feet across and holds 150,000 gallons of water. This means we can water the entire garden each week if it does not rain. The pond is fed by a spring and has been recharging nicely. We are using a mix of aluminum pipe with sprinklers for overhead watering and drip irrigation. We the flexibility to adjust the watering methods to the crop and cultivation needs.                 Each day and week has highs and lows. Last week I heard that a cow we sold finally gave the young man a long- awaited heifer calf. This happened at the same time our of our cows aborted her heifer calf halfway to term. The calf at that stage is the size of a cat. This means the cow will have to wait another year for a calf. If the cow is a special animal, is making a decent amount of milk and has good genetics she can stay. Cows have to support themselves and their humans. So as the summer goes on we will see if Bessie the cow going to get pregnant and stay for another year or retire to the freezer this winter. Maisy the farm dog caught her first woodchuck of the year this morning. She takes her job seriously as a ratter and woodchuck hunter. She will make sure the garden stays woodchuck free this year.