Thursday, May 29, 2014

Unity Farm Journal - The 5th Week of May 2014

The Memorial Day weekend included shearing day on the farm.   Every year in May, we trim 15 pounds of fiber from each alpaca, removing a body size “down jacket” just in time for Summer.  The animals are transformed from teddy bears to Dr. Seuss animals.  We gently halter the animals and reassure them with ear and chin massages.   Then we lead them to a foam pad and use a soft rope to restrain their legs so that they cannot move while the sharp clippers are shaving their fiber.   We also use the opportunity to trim their teeth and nails.   In two hours, the work was done and the newly sheared animals were back in their pastures.   Here are before and after pictures which suggest that alpacas are more fiber than body.

This weekend we worked on more mushroom totems, adding 36 stacks of logs to a new mushroom area underneath the shade of a 100 foot pine tree.   We added 6 different subtypes of oyster and bagged the logs, keeping them warm and moist for a 3 month spawn run.  This Fall, we will see some fruiting.  Now that we have 144 Oyster logs in production, we should achieve commercial quantities over the next 12 months.

Now that Spring mud season has dried up a bit, we’ve begun to maintain all our trails, using the Terex front loader to haul chips.  I placed and raked a bed of poplar chips 4 inches deep and 4 feet wide over the entire 1000 foot length of the Orchard trail.  Next weekend I’ll do the 1000 foot Old Cart Path and the 1000 foot Gate Path.    The real challenge will be the 1500 foot Marsh Trail, which is bounded by a stream at both ends and the only passage is via two 12 foot bridges.   Last year I did it wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow from our composted chip pile.

The warmth of the Spring days is perfect for extracting the thick honey from the hives that did not successfully overwinter.  We used a capping fork to gently open the wax covered frames and then placed them in our hand cranked centrifuge.   Our Summer honey is mostly clover and wildflowers.   Later in the season, the nectar flows are mostly goldenrod and Japanese knotweed.   We bottled 3 gallons of dark, late season honey.   Think of the difference between early season honey and late season honey as similar to the contrast between white sugar and molasses.  The goldenrod brings a complex herbal aroma and taste to the honey, which some people find overpowering.   I enjoy it as flavoring for soy yogurt.

The hoop house is exploding with Spring vegetables.    Our meals now include large bowls of fresh salad, using a dozen types of lettuce accompanied by a mixture of fragrant, spicy greens.   The peas, beans, chart, squash, and peppers are growing fast in the heat and moisture of the raised beds in the hoop house.   We recently added misters to the beds, since keeping the soil moist in the steamy environment of the enclosed space took an hour of hand watering a day.

I was in Beijing on Saturday and hauling logs/chips on Sunday.     You can appreciate the contrast I experienced from standing in the Beijing financial district to standing in the Unity Farm orchard, 24 hours later.

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