Thursday, December 3, 2015

Unity Farm Journal - First Week of December 2015

Thanksgiving was a busy time at Unity Farm, turning our harvest into dinner for the family, “in-laws to be”, and all the animals.  

Life on the farm is one of constant learning - every day is filled with new experiences and challenges.  We somehow muddle our way through.

On Thanksgiving, one of our Americauna chickens, Amelia, was scared by a fox and hid under the shed in our pasture.   At times,  various creatures hide under the shed, but they always come out.   Two days later she was still under the shed and we had to take action.   The usual techniques - bamboo poles, a Stihl blower and 2x4s did not work.  We had no idea what to do, so we improvised.   We waited until after dark and when she was asleep we dug a trench under the shed and I delicately grasped her legs, protected her wings, and brought her back to the coop.   She ate and drank heartily.   At this point, she probably thinks the shed incident was just a dream.

We are a commercial kitchen and thus every year we have to sterilize our well to ensure good hygiene - no soil coliforms.    Our well is 300 feet deep and 6 inches in diameter.  Think of it as a 450 gallon column of water.     We add half a gallon of  8% sodium hypochlorite solution (germicidal bleach), then flush the resulting solution through all the pipes in the property.    This year, we did our sterilizing a week before our Thanksgiving guests arrived and all went well.   With all the guests in the house, water usage peaked and they drew down on the column of water much faster than Kathy and I would.    The end result was that more bleach passed faster  through the pipes than usual and the iron in the water precipitated turning our water orange/red.   We had no idea what to do so we improvised.   We connected a hose from the house to the well and ran it for 4 hours, passing it through a course filter along the way.      The end result was clear water with minimal chlorine smell.

The tractor parts we ordered for winter arrived this week - a pair of forklift forks and a 52” snowblower attachment for the Terex.   I’m very excited about sitting in the Telex, listening to 1970’s tunes, staying warm/dry, and moving 10 tons of snow per hour.

Last Fall we planted Ginseng - 5000 seeds and 500 roots on an east facing slope.   The deer ate many of our seedlings and it was not clear how many sprouted.  This year, we’re taking a more scientific approach.   Last weekend I built 10 raised beds laid out in a grid around the property - in shade, partial shade and partial sun.   In wet soil and moist soil.   In oak woodland and maple woodland.    I fenced each area using 5 foot welded wire fence on 6 foot T-posts.  By next May we’ll be able to count successful seedlings and determine what environment is best.

Now that every night is dipping below freezing, I covered every raised bed in the hoop house with row covers to enable growth even in the low 20’s.    At this point, our spinach, chard, lettuce, turnips and carrots are still doing well under row covers despite freezing nights.

Next weekend I will begin refining our Mushroom log collection based on what fruited this Fall and what did not.  I’ll retire some logs and layout new areas for freshly inoculated logs.   Our plan is to keep a steady state of 500 Shiitake logs, 24 Reishi mushroom logs, 24 Nameko mushroom logs, and 50 Oyster logs.    As a farm, we need consistent production that matches supply and demand.   After this weekend, our mushroom areas will be optimal.

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