Fall on the farm is the busiest time for slaughtering animals. With winter closing in, the gift of green pasture that our grazing herds depend on won’t return until spring and any extra meat they might put on in the coming months comes at a high cost in hay and work. Recognizing our limits in both we have been busy with the work of moving our meat animals on to “graduation”. CONTINUE READING…
(At right) I missed all the sunrises this week since I was busy making breakfast for everyone (part of my household chore duty). So since our week began and ended with horses, I’ll start there.
Bongi and Tess prepping our Belgians, Kelly and Arthur for a day of logging. In order to keep a team of draft horses, it’s important that they are worked regularly. Our team, at 20 years old, is in the twilight of their professional life but are still content to be worked every other day for up to four hours at a time.
Bradley helps Kim steer the team into position to pick up an Ash that was recently felled for chord wood.
This chicken was the survivor an attack by a Coopers Hawk this week. Although “we don’t do vet work on chickens,” according to our Josh, our livestock manager, Nora and Sarah took time to separate the bird from the flock and did what they could to tend to her wounds (including a pretty gnarly left eye). Amazingly, when the hawk attacked, the rooster of the flock (named Bon Jovi for his elaborate and fluffy feathers) sprung into action, herding all of the frantic hens under cover of the hen house and not seeking shelter himself until all the ladies were protected.
This week also saw the departure of my rammy friend, Mr. Marbles, who had to be loaded up for transport in the undignified manner seen here. Previous attempts to lead him with a halter only worked for about 25 feet before we resorted to putting him into the bed of a truck and sitting on him.
Mr. Mables was furious about being in the trailer, thrashing himself against the metal sides and jumping high in the air to get a glimpse out of the windows. But in less than 20 seconds of being reunited with his original harem, he found a ewe in standing heat and got back to the business he was programmed to do. Fun fact: when ewes are corralled in the vicinity of a ram, they all begin to cycle together, a phenomenon called the Whitten Effect.
We also had the pleasure of butchering a 110-pound year-and-a-half old buck that had been bagged near the school. It was an intensely satisfying process and beautiful to touch and behold the animal’s anatomy upclose. That guy above making the funny face is yours truly, thanks to some nice camera work courtesy of fellow farmer Sarah.
Here’s a view of the neck’s beautiful musculature up close. Most of the meat will be made into jerky or frozen for grilling.
Dr. Major returned for his second visit and to teach an introduction to animal health class. Here, he walks us through the anatomy of the hoof.
And if there is any surefire crop in New England, it is rocks. Fifteen thousand years ago there was a mile of glacial ice standing on this spot. When the glaciers receded, they left us with an unending supply of glacial till, which helps us better understood why our farming predecessors packed up and moved to Ohio.
Moose meat chili, as well as moose roast in the style of a New England boil (seen here) were on the menu for this week’s community dinner. The meat came courtesy of a student’s parent who shot the moose with a compound bow and arrow from 42 yards away. I guess moose aren’t scared of people, which is why you can get that close.
I also learned how to replace a starter on one of our trucks this week. Knowing embarrassingly little about auto mechanics, I’m pretty excited to be getting a basic picture. The new starter didn’t ultimately fix the problem, so we had to call in the big guns, our friend Warren, who helped us figure out that we had a corroded ground wire.
We also started work on a mobile chicken tractor this week, using the chassis of an old hay wagon as the frame’s base. The finished piece will ultimately hold 150 laying hens, which we’ll pull behind the cows’ rotation through the pastures. The chickens will not only help spread the cow’s manure, they’ll also do a great job of eating the little buggies that live in it.
And here’s Tess, a.k.a. ‘True Grit,’ hula hooping to stay warm, mid-project.
And as the week ended, the Draft Animal Power Network (DAPNet) descended on the farm for their annual workshop. Here, Carl Russell of Earthwise Farm and Forest in Vermont gives a demonstration of his horse’s tremendous pulling power. Sadly, I have no better pictures to capture the explosive power of his team’s work. I was too busy watching, jaw agape.