Sorry, folks, for all the waffling, but I have decided to stick with the old blog on blogspot for the time being–this one doesn’t look or act right to me. See you back over there, with two new entries!
A much-welcomed rainy day affords time for the computer, so I bring you all the next episode of snippets of life on North Branch Farm.
One of the many treasures we inherited with the farm is a 1989 Woodmizer LT28, which is a sawmill not so very different from the one we borrowed last summer to mill up wood for Seth’s and my (then) cabin. Tyler and Seth have been working persistently on getting this one up in running condition, and just a couple days ago, the final replacement parts we needed came in the mail and we fired up the old machine! The sawlogs we’re working with in the pictures are from the red pine and balsam fir that we had to cut down to make room for our new driveway, and are a little on the small size. However, the red pine is already coming in handy; Elsie is custom making us a set of wooden CSA boxes to carry our vegetables safely to the homes of our brave CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members. The boxes are beautiful, functional, and made by us and our farm!
Tuesday was our first CSA pick-up day, and I was thrilled to send off a fine mix of farm treasures: head lettuce grown by Lucretia, spinach, Egyptian walking onions, garlic scapes, curly parsley, and soft cheese with garlic and herbs made by Elsie. I have worked on CSAs before, harvested on many an early morning and packed many a box, but I have never run one of my own. It brings an interesting mix of responsibility, obligation, solidarity, and adventure–I have a captive audience, and I want them to be caught absolutely breathless by the beauty and quality of the food when they open their box. Can I do it, week after week, for twenty weeks in a row? I hope so.
May the soft rains be followed by warm sun in your gardens and on your faces.
Until next time.
Happenings on the farm just keep…happening. Yesterday we had only broken tractors, and since our tractor hero with the tractor ambulance and his son came by, we now have working tractors and a few easy fixes left to perform. Today was a beautiful day, and Seth and the Oliver and the New Idea Cut-ditioner (mower/crimper) put down about 5 acres of hay. It got showered upon this afternoon but we hope it might be okay anyway.
Today, the well drillers up and left, their work complete; we now have a well with 10-12 gallons per minute of flow that is attached to absolutely nothing. Not too shabby! I can’t wait to plumb it into our system. Last week, to give the well a little more leeway, seven of us picked up and moved the outhouse, hence a new view of and from the loo. You may also notice a classy half-door that Gib put on the outhouse, for which we are so grateful. The mulched area you can see in both pictures covers the new septic line, tank and leach field. Hurray! No more shower commutes!
The past days have been an exciting mix of projects and events and people.
Almost two weeks ago Ben and Oleh, a pair of WWOOFers, arrived at North Branch Farm. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, formerly known as Willing Workers on Organic Farms, and is an organization that we have signed up with as a host site. People who are traveling and want to spend time living and working on a farm in return for room and board contact us and then come by for anywhere from a couple days to many weeks. It’s a very neat set-up, a big help to our farm, and something that both Elsie and I have done in the past as the travelers.
With Ben and Oleh, we’ve reclaimed many garden beds at the upper North Branch Farm (Chris and Jonathan’s place) that had been swamped by an early flush of annual and perennial weeds brought on by the unusually warm spring. They also have single-, or rather quadruple-handedly, stripped the asphalt shingle siding off the entire south side of the barn and most of the east and west sides. They’ve mucked stalls, put out transplants, mulched, milked, and cooked many a delicious meal. We are so grateful for their willing help!
Our cruising friends, Mick and Bee, were in town and recently sailed away heading Northeast for Canada–I mention them because they are some of our most loyal blog followers; they win the prize for Most Engaged Non-Biologically-Related Blog Readers, and their reliable ragging and berating has prompted more blog productivity than I’d like to admit.
Bovine report: Maple, our only milker at the moment, has been producing close to 3 gallons of sweet and creamy milk a day. She still kicks like the dickens without the use of some dairy-lore anti-kick methods, and last night we discovered that she has mastitis in one quarter (a cow’s udder is divided into four distinct quarters, each with its own teat). We’re putting her calf, Filet Mignon, back with her because apparently one of the best ways to treat mastitis is to prevent any milk from accumulating in the infected quarter. Unfortunately, this means he will be drinking ALL of our our milk for the next day or so, but it seems worth it to hopefully cure and prevent the spread of the infection. Sadie Rose is due any day now–she is “bagging up,” which means her udder is starting to fill with colostrum for the calf, so we’re now pretty sure she is, in fact, pregnant. But when will the baby come? There’s no telling. Based on her temperament and last calving, we’re likely to come out for chores one day and notice that she has a calf walking at her side that didn’t use to be there.
Ovine report: We are signed up to buy about 12 sheep! They will be for meat and wool, but we don’t know when exactly we’ll get them. All ewes and some ewe-lambs, and one solitary ram-lamb. Some of them are Coopworth/North Country Cheviot crosses. Talk to Elsie for details.
Caprine report: We don’t have any goats. This is very sad.
Swine report: Chris and Lucretia got us two little shoats, just weaned, about 6 weeks old, one boy one girl! They are total cuties, and that comes from someone who has beef (or pork?) with pigs. We have had them a couple weeks now and they have already grown tremendously.
Water report: The toilet’s connected to the septic tank, the septic tank’s connected to the leach field, the leach field’s covered with grass seed and hay! We can flush and shower to our hearts’ content. Simultaneously, H2O Well-Drilling showed up yesterday and put in the first twenty feet of casing towards our new well. Today they are back with more casing and have just set up to start drilling again. Soon we may have potable water! Below is a picture of the drill rig that Seth took just as they were starting to set up yesterday.
Baby Shapley-Quinn report: alive and kicking! 5:30am daily is apparently a great time for in utero aqua-aerobics, which is fine by me.
Garden report: After over half an inch of rain yesterday, eight acres of plowed and cover-cropped fields are starting to sprout up, the dry beans are coming up, and our transplants are glorying in plenty of hydration. Can’t wait to be eating more fresh veggies!
A driveway for the new house! The first three pictures were supposed to be a panorama, top would be on the left and bottom on the right, but I don’t have the ability to stitch them together.
We have had a long run of hot, sunny, intermittently steamy days with temperatures up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which irks me mostly because we do not yet have ideal watering systems in place for animals or plants but also because when I moved away from North Carolina I thought, “Well, at least I will get away from the oppressive summer climate.” Come to find out that global warming is plotting against me personally.
But truly, things look to me like they will turn out alright. Last summer was incredibly cool and wet, and yet still we had enough food to eat through the winter. If this summer proves to be the opposite, just look out for our killer melon crop and an abundance of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and squash.
Below is a series of photos of the initial day of plowing and disc harrowing in the future vegetable fields. Oai and Minh are buzzing around on the lawn tractor they found in our barn that Oai fixed up.
Welcome, everyone, to a time of pretty cows on pretty pasture!
What else is new? Seth, Tyler and Elsie are taking turns on our two biggest tractors the International–“Big Red”–and the Oliver–“The Green Giant,” one with the recently repaired four-bottom plow and the other with the disc harrow. Yesterday, they opened up close to three acres of fresh ground which we will seed into a cover crop of peas, vetch and oats (PVO) as soon as possible. I’m trying to avoid the fumes of gas and fountains of hydraulic and transmission fluids that periodically come spraying out of the tractors and their implements.
Our noble hero Wade of Guy Hanson and Son is here with bulldozer and excavator, having already built a driveway to the future Seth-Anna-little person house. He is now grinding away on a leach field so that someday in the not-so-distant future we may be able to let our dish- and bath-water down the drain instead of dashing it all over the front lawn.
A pair of Baltimore Orioles (Jonny said they are suckers for citrus fruit, so after I first saw them I put out some oranges that I got from the Belfast Co-Op compost and lo and behold there was the momma bird!).
An old man in a truck stopped by to say he had seen a lynx or a mountain lion in our back field that same day, and that he thought it was 5 or 6 feet nose to tail.
Neighbors shot a wild turkey on our farm and gave us the carcass. Yum!
A pair of ospreys was spotted circling over the barn and checking out the river a couple weeks ago.
Bald eagles hang out around here too. Come see them!
I’m signing off, everyone, to go enjoy the last few hours of daylight. Enjoy!