Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fall Farm Update

It was in the 30's last night. Definitely cold enough to talk fall, a busy time around here. (Actually, every time is pretty much busy on Maggie's Farm.)

Here's what's happening:

The little turkey poults of late June are now full-fledged adolescents, wandering about eating windfall apples and clover and whatever else they can get their beaks on. We have two narragansetts and a chocolate turkey in with the more common white and bronze varieties. Maybe we'll keep a breeding trio this year. We'll see.I love how turkeys take the idea of "flock" seriously. They stick together. Chickens, by contrast, are much more individualistic.

Speaking of chickens, Mighty Hera's batch of "sink chicks" are all grown up: Two roosters and two hens. They continue to live in the barn and may attempt to overwinter there. We'll see how that goes. Our second set of chicks (The kids have named them "Basketball", "Soccerball" and "Pearl") have moved from the temporary "broody coop" into the main coop and are now part of the flock. We've been waiting for the rooster on rooster on rooster violence to start up, but so far, it's been relatively peaceful.

The ducks have gone on to new homes. They were too panic-stricken for us. And messy. I've heard it said that there is a reason that ducks are called "fowl" :) That is definitely the case. So, no more ducks.

Speaking of messy, the Daves (Our trio of GOS X Tamworth pigs) are really big now, and so friendly and easy-going. I am having a hard time imagining eating them. Every day, during feeding, I stare at those "6 nice-sized hams" and tell myself that I will be able to do this thing. And I will. I have to. There is no way we can keep up with the feeding and care of these guys as they grow to top 500 pounds. But for now, they are settled into a more weather-tight pighouse (Dan made it by modifying the duck house) and enjoying lots of windfall apples and school cafeteria leftovers.

All of this year's ewe lambs are sold, but we still have 4 ram lambs available for sale: Dodge, Drac, Data and Duncan

Dodge and Drac are really magnificent rams-- already big and broad. Dodge has a great, square build and color. Drac has a truly amazing fleece and horns that will someday rival his sire, Charlie. We'd love to make you a deal on these guys, if you are interested. It will be a shame to eat them. A serious shame, but this farm ain't big enough for the both of them (+ Charlie + Rahm)

A twin born in Mid-May, Data is still smaller than the other boys, but he has great parasite resistance and is from those wonderful Jager Farm, Bambi and Rektor lines. He will look just like our herdsire Charlie one day. ...And he is available at a substantial discount. I don't have a current picture, but this is his sire, Charlie, and likely what he'll look like as an adult:

Duncan has quite a lot in the way of build and genetics. He has a very white-white fleece and the potential to throw moorit color or even spots.

And the apples are just getting ripe. They are magnificent this year, due to a preponderance of rainy days. It has been fun to share them with neighbors and friends. But somehow, we have yet to bake a single apple pie.

The Franklin County Fiber Twist is happening next weekend. Our yarn will be available at the "Metaphor Yarns" booth. Check it out!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Breed 'em or Eat

As summer draws to a chilly close, we find that our thoughts must also turn a bit chilly. Dan and I look at this year's lambs-- 5 rams remaining!-- and make some very real life-or-death choices. Who will we retain for breeding? Who will we eat?

Who will we eat????


It may seem a callous, brutal question, but reality is: We have no room for 7 grown rams. Come cold weather, they will pummel each other. And they will cost an arm and a leg in hay... and arm and a leg and the rest of the farm perhaps as well. So it has come to this: a difficult choice. A lot of hemming and hawing and second guessing. But it's early in the season yet, and there is time for all that.

I don't think I appreciated the cyclical nature of the farmer's world before we began living it. Sure, every children's book makes mention of the seasons, Halloween and Thanksgiving, leaf piles and sledding. But as farmers, our tasks, even our preoccupations and worries are so specific, so predictable and seasonal, that season itself takes on a different sort of resonance. Nearly five years of farming and I could tell you month by month what my worries will be, what the little annoyances (^%*&&#$# wandering, wrong roosting turkeys!) or joys will be. I could tell you when I am going to be banging ice out of water buckets or clipping maple branches to sustain the sheep through the sparse late fall pasture, shooing a forever broody hen off her nest or checking on heavily pregnant ewes through the long night hours, skirting fleeces or dyeing yarn.

And so I can tell you that before the celebratory and Thanksgiving-y time of "harvest", comes the time of year when I look at the lambs-- the lambs that were once so cute and big-eyed twiggy who now look like everybody else out there more or less-- and make life or death decisions.

Once it's decided and done, I will not be able to look at pictures of these lambs for a while. It will be like any other loss... only one we've engineered ourselves. But there will be food in our freezer and enough hay for winter. And in the spring, I will run twenty times a day out to the barn to check on ewes with bulging bellies. And the cycle will begin again.

Death shadows the seasons on a farm. Fear of it (or of hurt, illness or injury) to your livestock informs much of what you do throughout the seasons of winter and spring and summer.

Then, in autumn, you cause it.

I like to think that farming has taught me to hold death a little closer. Itwas easy for me to forget how much a part of life-- how very normal-- death is when I was shielded from it in the suburbs, buying my meat from Stop and Shop. I chose not to think about the many deaths that enabled my lifestyle. Quite a far cry from my ancestors, who probably had an intimacy with death that I cannot even fathom.

And so, like the seasons, I guess I have come full circle as well.

At any rate, we still have some wonderful ram lambs for sale....