Thursday, October 30, 2014

Unity Farm Journal - 5th Week of October 2014

One challenge of being a farmer is that the animals, plants and infrastructure need you 24x7x365.   This Fall, I’ve had to travel to China (last week) and will be in Europe (London, Berlin, Copenhagen, and Amsterdam) next week.

Last weekend was filled with catchup for the time missed and preparing for the time to be missed.

Luckily, the farm was buzzing with activity - my daughter and her partner David, David’s parents,
 and Kathy were all able to join me for farm work.     Our tasks were

1.  Crush 450 pounds of apples.   We made 3 batches of hard cider, two of which will be for drinking and one of which will be cider vinegar for next year’s Unity Farm pickles.   Our small batch methods are labor intensive but we have total control of the process, ensuring a perfect blend of apples - sweet, tart, aromatic, and astringent.   This crush involved a combination of Spencer, Golden Delicious, Baldwin, Macoun, McIntosh, and Northern Spy.   I've moved the cider to our mud room since the cold nights could result in a stuck fermentation.

2.  Plant 4000 ginseng seeds and 100 ginseng roots in 1000 square feet of forest.   American Ginseng  (Panax quinquefolius) is a tricky plant to grow given its unique habitat requirements - a forest slope of 10-25% grade, covered in maple/oak/ash, with 70% shade, in moist leaf humus that is not too moist.    I raked a 1000 square foot area of the forest, clearing rocks and roots, then placed the roots at a 30 degree angle to the surface, cutting a v-shaped trench with a shovel.  I created  a template to plant 4 seeds per square foot over the area.   Then we spread 50 pounds of gypsum over the plantings, to add calcium, and covered the soil with 3 inches of leaf mulch.     We should see ginseng sprouts in the spring, and have harvestable roots in 6-8 years.   Why do this?  Part of goal at Unity Farm is forest farming with ginseng, paw paw, black cohosh, goldenseal and other challenging crops as part of permaculture - sustainable crops that have resale value.

3.  Plant 600 cloves of garlic - every October we plant hard necked garlic (about 10 different varieties) outdoors so that it can set roots, over winter, and the begin growing as soon as the Spring thaw arrives.   We harvest garlic every July and use it in the majority of our cooking/canning.    This year we created 7 beds and used a template to set the cloves in perfect 6 inch rows, 2 inches deep.   When then covered the beds with salt marsh hay to keep digging animals out and heat/warmth in.

4. Pick raspberries, turnips, daikon, beets, and peppers - all our crops are mature at this point and needed to be picked before the first freeze.   We picked a bucket of raspberries, a bushel basket of turnips, a picking box of daikon, an armful of beets, and a double peck of peppers.      Kathy combined fresh daikon, Japanese mibuna greens, and Japanese chrysanthemum leaves into a wonderful daikon soup pictured below.     The mushrooms continue to fruit and many of our Shitake logs are covered with emerging fungi.   The meadows are filled with shaggy manes, wine cap, and champignons.  Pictures are below

5.  Herd health - all the animals received their inoculations and we released our final flock of 8 week old guineas.   We have 68 to overwinter, so I built extra roosts in the coop.   Our 50 bird coop can now accommodate 80 birds and our multiple generations of guineas have bonded together as a single flock.    The mornings are crisp and the compost piles are steaming

At the moment, the farm is entirely ready for my absence next week.    The plants and animals are prepared for the possibility of snow and the harvest is complete, although we’ll continue to grow greens for the next few months.  2014 may very well be the last time I accept extensive foreign travel commitments.    Occasional trips are fine, Skype is better, and the farm needs my nights/weekends.

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