Thursday, April 10, 2014

Unity Farm Journal - The Second Week of April 2014

As is typical for New England, the second week of April is filled with 50 degree days and sub-freezing nights, making agriculture challenging.   The morning soil is frozen hard, and tender sprouts in the hoop house must be kept warm overnight with row covers.

Last weekend we did herd health - the complete medical examination of every animal on the farm.    We gave immunizations, trimmed toenails, examined skin/teeth, and weighed everyone.     The good news - our winter feeding program of hay, alfalfa and small amounts of grain worked well.  Not one animal lost weight over the winter.    We skipped a few months of toenail trimming , which is hard to do in ice and snow.   A few of the white alpaca have very fast growing toenails and had “Howard Hughes” nails in April.    We have a close relationship with all of our animals - they recognize us as sources of food and support.   They do not fear us or medical treatment.    We roll in the hay with them and run through the mud.   As a farmer, you’ve got to be more comfortable in muck boots than Manolo’s.

I finished the bridge and pier to Cattail Hollow.   In the shade of an enormous pine with Japanese-inspired swooping branches, you can now sit among the cattails and listen to the sounds of wood frogs and the wind blowing through the rushes.   My next task is to build a bridge and pier in the forget-me-not meadow, a football field sized carpet of flowers that grows every summer adjacent to our stream.

The winter of 2013 was very hard and the combination of snow melt/rain eroded several of our farm roads.   Using the Terex front loader, I moved a ton of wood chips into the mini-grand canyons that developed on the orchard road.    Later this summer, we’ll excavate a swale and line it with rocks, so that torrential rains have a path of least resistance to flow.

As we expand the number mushroom logs under cultivation, we’re making the process easier by cutting access roads to shady pine groves and covering the road with wood chips.    Last weekend, I created the road and the 72 log area pictured below.   It’s moist and shady - perfect for Oyster mushrooms.    I ordered another 60 pounds of mushroom spawn and will inoculate logs with 6 different types of oyster mushrooms over the next few weekends.

The Spring vegetables have begun to sprout in the hoop house - we have garlic, lettuce, spinach, chard, peas, and bok choi growing now.   Voles have a particular affinity for pea sprouts, so I’ve put hardware cloth cages around the tender shoots.

Last weekend we bottled the first of three hard cider batches.   Batch #1 is sparkling without malolactic fermentation - it’s a crisp, tart cider crafted to pair with food.   Batch #2 is sparkling with malolactic fermentation - it’s a smooth, rounded, complex cider for drinking on a hot summer day.   Batch #3 is a still cider with malolactic fermentation, created for sipping.     Bottling involves sterilizing all the equipment with 5% potassium metabisulfite solution/ascorbic acid, washing bottles, and measuring ph/titratable acidity.    Batch #1 has a ph of 3.55, while batch #2 and #3 with malic acid converted to lactic acid have a ph of 3.9.

Finally, we completed the first draft of the farm website, Unity Farm Store.   As the growing season evolves you’ll begin to see the availability of mushrooms, honey, fiber, and foods online.    We're making progress.

1 comment:

Janet A said...

Your website is lovely. I told your mom that Unity Farm is on my bucket list to visit some day.