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Archive for March, 2011

We are trying something different this year. Last year, we got through mud season by staging bales of hay all over the upper fields and moving the cows quickly to minimize the damage done by their hooves in the mud. We didn’t like the result. There was a lot of pugged soil and young grasses grazed too early. And since we took the Cornell Soil Health Workshop, we are specially concerned about too much compaction of the soil. So this year, we have set one paddock aside and designated it the “sacrifice” pasture. The cows will stay there for a month or so, eating the rest of their winter hay, until the rest of the pastures grow to grazing height. We will reseed with a cover crop as soon as the cows leave, and who knows, maybe rotate in a vegetable garden in the same spot next year.

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Fresh Bacon

I just got Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking for my birthday. I’m reading through the definitions at the beginning, and under “bacon” it says

The kind of bacon used in French recipes is fresh, unsalted, and unsmoked… As this is difficult to find in America, we have specified smoked bacon… It is always blanched in simmering water to remove its smoky taste. If this were not done, the whole dish would taste of bacon.

I’m thinking, hey! That’s our bacon! We have 30 pounds of fresh bacon in our freezer! Maybe we should go after the francophile market.¬†Boeuf Bourguignon anyone? No need to blanch the smoky taste out of your bacon any more. Just buy your bacon from us. We will be labeling it “lard de poitrine frais” from now on.

But seriously, we have been going back and forth about the question of whether to have our bacon smoked or cured or neither this year. We are not sure what customers would prefer. So if you have an opinion, please let us know! And keep an eye out for our next newsletter soon. It will be about pork ordering for the fall.

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Egg-mobile

It’s that crazy time of year again. As we dash about the farm, we alternately slip on a patch of ice here and get stuck knee deep in mud there. We have so many projects to do, we could use forty hands instead of four.

Here is one example: we bought this old hay wagon from a neighbor. Three weeks from now, it would be really great if there were a finished chicken house sitting on top of it, ready to roll our laying hens out onto the pasture. We will do our best, and I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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Jerry Brunetti

Steve and I attended the 5th annual Granite State Graziers Conference this weekend. We came back inspired, invigorated, and overwhelmed with all the ideas. After hearing Jerry Brunetti talk about biodiversity, I think I am finally ready to start drinking the same Kool-Aid Steve has been drinking about the value of weeds. In fact, I’m feeling a bit sheepish about the hours I spent on the tractor last summer mowing the weeds to try to stimulate a little bit of grass growth. (Prompted by my sister’s snide remark: “Grass fed? So where’s the grass?”) I’m also looking at our precious open space and thinking maybe a couple of hedgerows would actually improve it.

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The severe weather is taking its toll on our laying hens. Cold has not been the problem. It’s the confinement. The deep snow has blocked their access to their yard. Even though they have double the recommended space per bird inside the greenhouse, some of them have taken to pecking the others.

This is a common problem when chickens are confined. Some theories blame it on parasites, nutritional deficiency, or genetics. We believe the most plausible theory is “misdirected foraging behavior,” and the only ultimate cure will be running around outside when the snow clears. However, we are covering all the bases with a buckshot approach: Diatomaceous earth dustbaths for mites, extra protein,¬† novel stimuli to distract them, and scratch feed in their bedding to keep them busy foraging.

The one thing we will not try is the standard industrial chicken farm cure: slicing off their beaks.

We are hoping March goes out like a lamb as usual, so we can get them outside soon. We will be working on some adjustments for next year, so we can be better prepared for this much snow.

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