It's already October 20. It seems as though the season has been one deadline after another - planting, harvesting, distributing, transplanting, weeding, tilling, planting. It's been one big circle. But, in between the deadlines we have so many great memories for the season. This was my second full season as a CSA farmer and it was jam-packed. We started early with planting of the seedlings in February, erecting of the small hoop (in the mud) in March, transplanting the seedlings and moving to the small barn in march, planting in the small hoop in April, and planting in the field in April, May, and every few weeks since. We've had a lot of activity here over the season. New members, our first and most-excellent employee, Sheryl, our also excellent intern, Kristina, some great part-time workers, other customers.
Our children get so excited when they see a member on the porch picking up their veggies. Often-times, Nathan (7) would guide a tour around the farm. Hannah (3) was very excited to pick basil and cherry tomatoes and bag them (or anything else) up for members or "for the peoples". Allie (5) was very serious about tending to the flowers and picking them for "the customers". Of course, they are all so excited when any member with children arrives - it's a mini play date for them and we really enjoy the camaraderie that you all bring when you visit. Of course, Dave and I love to hear about how you're using the veggies and how it's working for you. Many, many, many great comments throughout the season. Thanks so much.
I've moved from preparing 60 boxes per week to only 11 for the extended season which is quite a change. Today was the first day and all went well. In addition, I'm working on planting the hoop houses. About 1/2 of the large hoop has been planted in collards, kale, chard and carrots. There are still some peppers in there as well. Soon I'll plant spinach and mache, and transplant some lettuce, etc. in there. Onions, beets, more carrots, sweet peas, etc. will be planted in January and February for harvest in March and beyond. I'm debating about whether to plant the small hoop over the winter or to give it a break and plant again in late spring. It still needs new plastic.
We finally have taken the next step with irrigation. I invested in a drip system Trickle Eeez this past week and have installed much of it in the large hoop. Unfortunately they were out of the "round" header (or supply line) so the rep brought out some "flat" hose which is round when inflated. It's solid hosing that you poke a hole into in order to attach drip lines for each bed. When it's inflated, it's under pressure. So, poking a hole in a hose under pressure results in a geyser. Sheryl and I were soaked! The rep brought us out some round supply line today and I'll work on installing it Friday. I hope it results in a better system with minimal leaks.
Much of the fields have been harvested and cleaned up. All potatoes are out of the field along with much of the dry beans. The eggplant, squash, peppers and okra were all pulled a few weeks ago. Those areas have been tilled and we broadcast either rye or wheat. It's starting to sprout. We have a nice stand of both rye and wheat in both the east and front gardens (looks like grass). I hope this will help suppress the weeds and will also serve as fertilizer in the spring.
I still need to pull the pole beans, tomatoes and some cabbage and maybe get those cover-cropped before this weekend. I cut off the beans at the base and leave the root structure in the soil as this helps build soil fertility by leaving the nitrogen fixers which are attached to the roots in the soil. I'll feed the bean plants to the goats - they love it - along with any other yummy and nutritious plant debris.
Speaking of the goats - Dixie still has not given birth. I really think she might be carrying 4 babies because she is just huge. Her bag (udder) is very full although it's not glossy yet so maybe she has a few more days or a week before she goes into labor.
The turkeys are growing nicely. Anyone who has been here lately has most likely witnessed either Dave, the children or I chasing the turkeys out of the gardens. Yesterday, while I was gone for a few hours, the turkeys got out. When I got home, there was a message from our neighbor reporting he had to chase the turkeys out of his corn field two times. I went out and found them milling around our back yard. So I herded them into their paddock and counted. One was missing. Counted again. Still short. Which color. Counted the brown birds, then the white. Confirmed via my notes in the house. Yep - a white bird was missing. So I went to search. Our neighbor said I should check the lane by the corn field - said a dog was chasing the birds around. Sure enough, I found a pile of tail feathers. A short distance into the field, a little down. Then a beagle showed up, cute as can be, with a mouthful of feathers. I kept searching and about 20 feet later I found the poor hen. I think she had a broken leg and she had been defeathered in places. I hoped that she would be OK. But, in the end, I decided to put her down. I am sorry that she was chased and ended up dying as a result but am still happy that she was able to explore and forage as she did. Sometimes those turkeys are on the roof. Often they're in the paddock with the goats. Sometimes they're trying to eat our cover crop seeds. Her gullet showed mostly grass with a few Jacob's Cattle beans and some rye and some grain. That's good.
Many people debate about the ethics of eating animals. I can understand why people choose not to eat meat. Every time we kill an animal, we pay homage. We work hard to ensure the animals have a good life with free access to the outdoors and tasty food. We hope they'll be able to forage. So, the fact that this hen was killed by a predator does not upset me greatly. I would rather have this outcome than to eat a bird raised in a turkey producing facility housing 100,000 + birds. Yes, we could probably pen them up more closely. But you'd be surprised at how much pressure 30 turkeys put on even a 100' x 100' grassy area. We kept them in moveable pens for a few months. When the tornado took out the pens about 2 months ago, we moved them to the larger grassy area. The grass is now under great pressure - it's very short and is browning out. So, they naturally seek to escape. They can fly and fly they do.
The end result is that we have fewer birds that make it to market which results in a more expensive end product. Is it sustainable? I have yet to do the math for this year. We lost money last year. I hope we'll at least cover the cost of feed and the chicks this year. I really hope we'll at least make $100 or $200 for all of the labor (Dave has to go out every night and herd them in - they roost on the fences, trees, chicken pens, etc. and it can take 30+ minutes just to get the turkeys into the barn. If you don't, the raccoons might eat them). We'll see. We like the idea of sharing meat with people. We know how the animals have been cared for. We know they're eating non-gmo food. We know they haven't been treated with hormones and only with antibiotics if they are really sick (like when Dixie had mastitis 2 years ago). So we hope to be able to continue raising a limited number of meat birds and meat goats for years to come. We'll have to see whether the market will support the true cost of this endeavor.
Until next time, take good care and keep warm.