Our “vole attack” of last week has a followup. Although we removed an adult vole from the hoop house, we did not consider the possibility that she had hidden offspring. Over the course of the week, we found 5 young voles - timid enough that we could pick them up by hand. I reunited mom and babies in a new home 1000 feet from the hoop house. Now that we have fully protected our planting areas with hardware cloth, I hope our vole adventure has come to an end. The lettuce is growing much faster without the voles.
On Saturday, I discovered a slightly different rodent problem. The Revolutionary War-era rock wall in our orchard has become the favorite tanning spot for a marmot - the New England Groundhog. He's shy so I do not yet have pictures other than the burrow. It will be interesting to see what happens when an 8 pound rodent begins grazing in the orchard.
A coyote also visited the farm during the day on Saturday. The guinea fowl all began alarming and I ran over to the poultry hard to check out the threat. A very healthy looking coyote looked at me then slowly trotted away. It’s normal for coyotes to hunt during the day while raising their pups in spring and summer. Since our orchard gates are purposely constructed to allow foxes and coyotes to hunt rodents, maybe they'll feed on the voles and not on the chickens!
We prepared a series of raised beds with leaf compost, chicken manure compost and alpaca manure compost for inoculation with Agaricus Subrufescens, the almond mushroom. Using a the end of a rake, I punched 6 inch holes in the compost every 12 inches and filled them with Agaricus impregnated sawdust. I then raked the bed to ensure a 3-4 inch covering of compost over the spawn. During the heat of summer we should see fruiting and it will be interesting to document the growth patterns in different types of compost.
On Sunday we weighed every animal on the farm, cleaned ears/eyes, trimmed toenails, and gave anti-parasitic inoculations. Memorial Day weekend is scheduled for shearing - about 10 pounds of fiber from each alpaca will be carefully trimmed, cleaned and spun into yarn. The alpaca are enjoying the new orchard grasses of springtime.
Finally last Sunday, we installed a 30 foot windbreak on the north side of the bee yard. Weather in New England has been increasingly severe with 40+ mile per hour winds. We want to protect the bees and the hives from Northeast storms.
Next weekend we will install trail signs on the Vernal Pool/Cattail Hollow/Forget-Me-Not Glen trails, finishing the initial paths that make all 15 acres accessible. I'll add a few more Agaricus mushroom beds, haul a few tons of poplar that fell during Hurricane Sandy, split wood, and prepare an area behind the house for new grass planting, protecting it with specially made fodder boxes that keep the ducks and chickens from eating the early sprouts. The following weekend I head to China, so my farm activities will slow for a few days.