No Till

Spring has finally sprung, which means we are flat-out busy. In one week, our first batch of broilers will arrive and three weeks later, they will be heading out onto pasture. This year I am looking to improve the quality of their green feed by seeding in a mixture of organic oats and peas to the existing pasture. This will increase the protein in the forage that the chicks are snacking on.

The traditional method of re-seeding pasture is to plow up the soil first, in order to give the new seeds a bit of loose soil to get started in. This kills all the existing, established pasture plants. We would rather not do that. It is bad for the biological health of the soil, not to mention erosion and the years it takes for pasture to thicken up to full strength. We are very fortunate to be able to use a different method that will allow us to add new varieties of forage without killing off all the existing pasture. It is a “no-till seed drill” available for rent through the Granite State Grazers. The no-till drill cuts small slices in the turf for the new seeds to grow in, but it leaves the existing pasture undisturbed. The oats and peas are early-season annuals that will grow fast and then die off. Then, the existing pasture will take over. We like it when we can have our cake and eat it, too!

Cow Doping

cownoseNice editorial in the New York Times yesterday about progress with the government’s efforts to curb the use of antibiotics as a growth promotion tool in livestock. Sadly, I am one of the skeptics mentioned in the article.

First of all, you have to look at the economics. Commodity farmers use antibiotics because it is profitable to do so. Put antibiotics in the feed—animals grow faster (nobody yet knows why). More importantly, if you don’t put antibiotics in the feed, you will be competed out of business by those who do. This is the same dynamic as the doping problem in professional sports. If you can’t stop elite athletes from putting harmful illegal drugs into their own bodies to make money, how can we expect to stop conventional farmers from doing it to their livestock—especially with a voluntary labeling program?

(Just in case it is not clear—we do not put antibiotics or added hormones in our feed.)

spicesWinter means working my way through half a side of beef in the freezer, so I’m always on the lookout for new ways to prepare ground beef. I tried this “Chili with Moroccan Spices” from a Cook’s Illustrated cookbook this weekend, and I entered it into my church’s annual chili cook-off. I didn’t win, but I suspect the voting was rigged—the Moroccan chili was divine. Actually, it tasted even better the next day left over. Maybe next year I’ll prepare it a day ahead and re-warm it!

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In this video, one of our cows demonstrates the use of a frost-free nose pump, while her calf demonstrates why mother cow needs to drink so much! This pump is powered by the cow, herself. Cows learn very quickly to push on the lever to draw water up from the shallow well. After the cow is finished drinking, the pipe drains automatically to keep from freezing. No electricity is required for pumping or for keeping the water from freezing. This makes it possible to over-winter the herd far from an electric power source.

CSA Reminder

early-birdIf you are thinking about signing up for our certified organic vegetable CSA this year, please remember that we are offering a $40 early-bird discount for paying in full before March 1. That leaves today and tomorrow, so act soon!

Bill has given us his preliminary vegetable list. It includes arugula, string beans, beets, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celeriac, Chinese cabbage, chard, sweet corn, popping corn, cucumber, eggplant, fennel, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, melons, okra, peas, peppers (hot and sweet), radish, rhubarb, spinach, squash (summer and winter), tomatillo, tomato (cherry, grape, slicing), turnip, and herbs. Also, Bill is going to experiment with sweet potatoes in the greenhouse. Very exciting!

Life’s a Boar

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Last year we decided to keep back two gilts for breeding so we can start producing our own piglets. Our Hazel and our Charlotte are celebrating their first Valentine’s day with a new boar-friend. Since his arrival two weeks ago, Big Red has been a huge hit with the two smitten gilts as he wooed them with his mild manners and really easy going nature! Our hope is that he sires a couple of litters and that the piglets have the same mellow temperament that he has. This will be the first two litters of pigs to be born on the farm!

Steve had the great honor of receiving the Farmer Mentor of the Year award from the Northeast Organic Farmers Association last Saturday. Except, he didn’t actually receive the award. When his name was called at the award ceremony in Concord, NH, an awkward silence followed. Steve wasn’t there. At that exact moment, Steve was tracking down a runaway calf a mile up the road from the farm. The independent-minded calf led Steve, the Litchfield police, and a handful neighbors and friends on a tour of the Litchfield School Conservation Area before finally giving himself up. The things Steve will dream up to avoid public speaking!

Escape map


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