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April News on the Farm

Tuesday I turn 61 and that challenging state of entering a new decade is past me. Now I have nothing to do but turn up the gas and go full throttle into this wonderful decade when just doing what one feels is right is easier to accomplish - as childrearing, income generation, and the like, are not so pressing (if you have a husband on social security!). And it is raining – almost April showers! I keep wandering outside, not able any more to contently focus on my mountains of desk work. Spring is finally in the air, and I can’t wait.
 
The long March, cold and brutal, was a productive one here. Ed, Jason and Kyle accomplished filling all of our woodsheds – to overflowing, and are now cutting down trees to get ahead of the game. Jack and I will not have to jockey over farm staff in the height of the season to get the wood cut and caught up. Kudos to Ed who expertly managed the whole operation, kept the chain saws running, planned ahead of the snowfalls and ran the whole operation with panache.
 
Meanwhile Jason took charge of repairing our worm bins and then filling them with Robinson Farm cow manure, cutting and drilling and stuffing oak logs with shiitake spores, and running our greens operation. We have been able to sell spinach, arugula and mesclun to Living Earth twice this month, along with dozens and dozens of eggs.

Jack ran the pruning operation, and the three of them are almost done, with one more week of grapes to finish. We are now scheming the cheapest way to grind up the fruit tree prunings to use in Jason’s smoking operation for the pig he will raise here, and host the slaughter of said on June 29 as a NOFA workshop. Jake Levin, a professional butcher from the Berks, will run the workshop. Meanwhile Jack, Jason and I will go see Dominic Palombo from Moon in the Pond Farm in Sheffield next weekend. Dom is Jason’s “mentor” for his burgeoning hog operation that still resides mostly in his head.
 
In early March we held the first half of the annual NOFA bulk order breakdown. We spent the day sloshing through the mud (thank God it was warm that day), and sorting hundreds of items for 58 orders. This more than a ¼ century event is a true rite of spring for us.
 
I spent the month of March on daughter Ellen’s cleanse, lost the hoped for 4 lbs, seem to have developed a new healthier relationship to food, and came out of it with a great welling up from inside to join the climate change campaign with farmer and gardener appropriate activities. I often wake these days needing to jump out of bed to read more articles and watch YouTubes, call another expert or collaborator on the phone, write up articles on cover crops, pull together strategies and ponder the best ways we can most efficiently and effectively raise organic matter on our farm and build that marvelous humus. We had originally decided to not raise cows the year, but probably will go ahead. One day I hope to read, “Cows Save the Planet and Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth.” By Judith Schwartz.  Read the Chelsea Green write up here.
 
But this month’s project is earthworm enhancement. I hope to have a book review of "Harnessing the Earthworm" by Dr. Thomas J. Barrett, Humphries, 1947, with an Introduction by Eve Balfour; Wedgewood Press, Boston, 1959; Bookworm Pub Co, ISBN 0916302091 for you by next month.
 

 

The north field is the site of our very belated entry into serious and continuous cover cropping and chicken pasturing experimentation. We started last fall with rye and vetch overseeding in late crops. This year we will send the layers through in their mobile homes, then plant early cover crops, chicken grazing, mid season covers, chicken grazing and a late planting of overwintering cover crops. I am going to take soil tests this April, again in October and again next April to see what we can see before we turn the north field back into veg crops in 2015. Then we will turn to another one of our fields – south, garden or west, and start a 4 year rotation around the farm. I will stay in touch with what we learn. Of course many organic growers have been at this kind of covercropping for decades, but better late than never . . .  .
 
Some of the seedlings – lettuce, cabbage, leeks, onions – have made the move to the hoop house as of the 28th. Jason had to do 25 push ups cuz he lost the bet on the date of the big move. They are happy, and we have our basement back! Soon we will be out planting thousands of seedlings. But Mary comes back April 1, and Clare is now taking baby Eliza outside to work.
 
Professor Jack and wife Julie to go on about organic farming
Join me and Jack on the week end of June 21 and 22 for all sorts of organic fun and excitement. You can get 1 credit at WSU for your efforts and cage a few nice meals off of us to boot.
Says Pat Benjamin,   “People should sign up and pay through the University's continuing education site.

Here's the link to the site
.
And this link leads directly to searching and registering for summer courses:
 
Support the kids at Stetson – no money needed!
Shawn Ilinitch continues to burn up the pavement. Pretty soon there will be a full fledged farm at Stetson School  in Barre.. You can help with yet one more of his fundraising schemes thus-
 
NOFA-Member Fresh Start Organic Garden needs your help! The garden, a service learning project based out of Stetson School in Barre, is seeking a grant from Seeds of Change. Finalists will be chosen based on voting from the public, which begins on Tuesday, April 1, and runs through April 21. To cast your vote for Fresh Start, visit www.seedsofchangegrant.com beginning on April 1. Choose gallery on the top of the page, and search “Fresh Start.” The garden, established last year, hopes to use the grant funds to help construct a greenhouse or perhaps get its start with chickens.  Please feel free to share with all your friends and family.
 
Korean Natural Farming – May 3 at Heifer Project
Aaron Englander will lead a very interesting workshop on May 3 for NOFA/Mass. Korean Natural Farming (KNF) is an agricultural method that encourages self-sustaining, closed loop systems through minimizing external inputs.  Developed by Master Han Kyu Cho in South Korea, KNF echoes many of the principles central to Masanobu Fukuoka’s Natural Farming technique as well as Permaculture. This all-day, hands-on workshop will focus on both the philosophies and the practices of KNF.  Workshop attendees will learn to make various KNF inputs such as Indigenous Microorganism (IMO) soil inoculant, Fish Amino Acids, Water-soluble Calcium, and Oriental Herbal Nutrient.  KNF is applicable to many types and scales of farming, from backyard veggie gardening to larger scale livestock operations.  Students will walk away from the workshop equipped with the knowledge to implement KNF practices on their own farm or garden. Read more here.  If you are big on “not” using inputs, this one is for you. And it is only $45 for NOFA members.
 
Don’t forget to stop in at the website and place your orders for the CSA and/or meat for 2014.          

Enjoy the April showers!        Julie