Sow Be It

First off, blog fans and followers, my apologies for the lack of recent posts.  We’ve been busy, of course, but we’ve also had some technical difficulties.  Due (we think) to the release of a new version of WordPress, a couple of weeks went by where I wasn’t able to edit anything or create new posts.  Our good friend and web guy, Ezra Ball (known now as “Big Ezra” since the arrival of “our” Ezra), has worked his magic, and we’re happy to be up and running again.  There’s much to catch up on, so read on…

I feel like I’ve fallen into the habit of starting every blog post with some rambling about the weather.  Variation is a good thing, but how can I resist the urge to comment after waking up to the sight of 2 or 3 fresh inches of snow on the ground yesterday morning?  After a couple of days before that of serious, freezing, mind-numbing, soul-sucking wind?  After last week’s appearance of full-on summer, with temps so warm during the day that we had to open up the sides of the greenhouse and so mild at night that we didn’t need to bother with running either greenhouse furnace (we have a woodstove out there plus a propane unit for back-up)?  Wacky!  March in Maine is always unpredictable, but these weather swings seem really unusual.  And also physically challenging.  We’ve all been battling colds and various bugs for nearly 2 weeks now, and I think the weather extremes have something to do with it.  What will tomorrow bring?  We shall see…

Overall, of course, spring sprang early and the weather has been mild.  A question we’ve been getting a lot these past couple of weeks has been, “So, are you guys getting a jump on the season with this early spring?”  The simple answer is…no!  Sure, no snow and warm weather is great…it’s good for the soul, gets us outside and excited to get going, and allows us to get a jump on farm season prep (outside clean-up, repairs, wood-cutting, etc.)  However, for seed-sowing and, eventually, planting we stick to the script.  We wouldn’t consider bumping up planting dates because the fields still need time to dry out and we don’t want to tempt fate (or frost) by jumping the gun.  Today’s snow is a perfect example of why you have to be patient.  All in due time, folks…

And, yes, the season has definitely begun!  Sonya got the greenhouse up and running 2 or 3 weeks ago, sowing onions, leeks, tomatoes, and peppers, plus some assorted herbs and flowers.  Everything is doing well so far, and she spends a day or two each week out there sowing more seeds, thinning some trays, and even already moving some little seedlings into new trays with larger cells (a process known, at least at Riverbank Farm where we learned much of what we know, as “pricking out”).

Our little flock of laying hens has also seen some changes.  They had been living inside their coop in the front of the greenhouse, warm and cozy under a heat lamp, until we needed the space for seedlings.  They have now moved, coop and all, into the back of the greenhouse, where they are learning to free range, hunt bugs, dig around, and munch down some radishes we planted as a winter cover crop plus assorted weeds.  Very soon, they will make the jump to the outside world, probably over near the Field 1 raspberry patch.

We’ve had plenty of activity around here, as you’ve read, but perhaps nothing so exciting and inspiring as the arrival of spring lambs to Summit Springs Farm on the morning of Tuesday, April 20th.  We had known Sienna was getting close based on a number of physical factors (the firmness of her udder, the obvious large belly, etc.), and I had been busily getting things ready inside the pen, reading through the lambing sections of a few sheep books, and purchasing some supplies in case of trouble (powdered colostrum, powdered milk replacer, rubber gloves, nutrient gel, etc.)  I was ready for a long night, too, when the time came.  But, as it turned out, everything went smoothly and there was no need for human help.  Sienna is a healthy ewe and an experienced momma, and she did it all.  I was up early with the kids, puttering around in the kitchen getting breakfast for Lydia, when I glanced out the window and saw Sienna grazing.  There was something under her…and it had ears!  I rushed out, and spotted two lovely, tiny little lambs, already up and taking their first few steps.  I quickly set up a rudimentary jug for momma and lambs, a little pen inside their shed to keep everyone together while the lambs got established, bonded with their mother, got the mechanics of nursing down, etc.  A very hungry Sienna got fresh hay, some grain, and warm water with some molasses drizzled in as a special treat.  It was obvious that the lambs were strong and healthy, so after a few hours I trimmed their cords and dipped the nubs in iodine.  It was then that I determined we had a boy and a girl, soon christened Palmer and Lake, respectively.

 

Mr. Palmer

 

Miss Lake

 

 

Savannah, our other ewe and Sienna’s daughter from last spring, seemed a little shell-shocked by all this change…she especially didn’t like being separated from Sienna while the new family were confined in the jug.  She’s pregnant, too, though many weeks behind Sienna, and it was good for her to see all this.  Everyone was soon back together…mother and lambs were out of the jug after a day and a half, with Lake and Palmer exploring and leaping around the winter pen.  They are nearly 2 weeks old now and are growing amazingly fast.  I’ve moved the whole flock back and forth between the winter pen and our hoophouse a few times now to allow the ewes to munch down on the grass and weeds that are vigorously growing out there.

Lambs, day 2 - out of the jug and exploring the pen!

What about Poppa?  Well, Logan didn’t get a chance to meet his kin.  Starting sometime in February, he began getting aggressive with me, giving me a few hard butts to the thighs and making my forays into the pen much more interesting than I wanted them to be.  As a 3 or 4 year old ram, we learned that this aggressive behavior was normal and would probably escalate.  With lambs coming, we reluctantly decided that he had to go.  So, a mere week before Lake and Palmer appeared on the scene, we had the old man picked up and delivered to the Windham Butcher Shop.  He’s back now, in the freezer in the form of 40+ pounds of sausage, but he lives on in the next generation.  Logan, farewell, and we thank you.

A couple of weeks ago, I had another high school speaking gig, this time at Lake Region High with Jason Thornton’s students as part of an Extended Learning Opportunity program.  The kids involved in the program listened well and asked some good questions as I outlined the farm’s history, focus, and philosophy, and I enjoyed checking out their endeavors.  The students had made their own large planters on wheels to start plants indoors and then simply roll them outside.  They had also constructed a basic hydroponic chamber to experiment with growing plants without soil.  It was all very neat and hands-on…good luck, guys, and thanks for having me!

Thanks to everyone who came to our March potluck!  It was a large and festive gathering, and we ate and hung out outside in the summer-like weather.  The lambs had been born just that morning, and it was a treat to show the little critters off to everyone!  We’re going with another brunchy potluck in April.  Come on over to the farm on Saturday, April 28th between 10AM and 1 PM.  Bring along a dish to share, and meet and greet your neighbors and fellow CSA members!  It’s also a great chance to see the farm in full spring swing…a greenhouse full of seedlings, our hens out and about, lambs getting bigger and bolder, etc.  I’ll post another reminder as the date gets closer.

Potluck, March 2012

And, finally…yoga!  Sonya plans to teach right here at the farm in her studio up on the third floor all season long this year, and some special classes are beginning very soon including a 4-week Introduction to Kundalini Yoga session and new Wednesday morning classes for all levels.  Please click on over to the website’s yoga page and/or find and “like” Sonya’s new yoga Facebook page for more information!

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