Spring is a busy time of year around here. So far the weather has made it interesting. In the ground right now we have 3 patches of sweet corn and one to go in today, 5 acres of hay/pasture seeded, 8 acres of silage corn, lots of broccoli, lettuce, onions, beets, carrots, peas, cabbage, beans, potatoes, and popcorn. We will be putting in another 25 acres of picking corn to feed our chickens and hogs and about 8 more patches of sweet corn. We should have sweet corn into the end of September. I may have Fishing Tournament corn this year (for those whoe don't know that is our town's claim to fame). I always try to get corn that late but somehow never make it. We will be planting zucchini and cucumbers today. The tomatoes and peppers are ready to go, but are still in the greenhouse. They should be safe after tonight. Overall we will have about 5 acres of saleable produce and veggies.
Yesterday we finally got some rain. It must have been 2 or more weeks without. We were dry. In all, we got about 3/4 of an inch. Most of it was a nice soaking rain. Now, they have us under a FREEZE warning for the Saturday. In mid-May. We have not put our warm weather plants out yet, but have thought about it. I guess we will just keep thinking.
Thanks to the Young Mother's Club from Warren for coming to tour the farm. We hope the children had fun and enjoyed the activities. We were happy to show you around.
Also thanks to my fourth graders for getting their hands dirty! We had our annual tour of the farm. They built their bluebird boxes (thanks to the PA Game Commission), talked about PA animals and saw some mounts, and planted their potatoes. Afterward we made homemade ice cream. It was a great day.
You don't always need a doctor, you don't always need a lawyer, but 3 times a day, everyday, you will need a farmer!
Do you know who your farmer is?
Interesting to ponder on....If you don't know where your food comes from, you should go see. Ask questions! Find out everything you can about your food source. You may be surprised (good or bad) in what you find out.
Well, last week we received our second batch of broiler chicks, and they are already sold! They will be finished and ready to go on June 29, but already they have all been spoken for. We are by no means a large scale operation (the big boys do in an hour what we do on two dates). Nonetheless, for our small operation, we will finish off 500 birds this year with all but 60 sold as of today. We order our birds well in advance of our processing dates. March, to be exact. Therefore an incredible amount of planning goes into the processing days. We plan processing dates for every three weeks throughout the summer. We then have to order our chicks on a three week interval as well. We start our birds inside under heat lamps then move them outside to our mobile coops where they will forage in our pastures for 4-5 weeks before processing at 8 weeks of age. A lot of times consumers do not realize the pre-planning that needs to go into developing these products. I have turned away at least 150 bird orders because they were not made in advance. We cannot afford to take the risk of over-ordering. While I am 90% positive the birds will all get sold, we have a lot invested in them. To be sitting on them in a freezer is difficult. It is crucial to our operation that we get pre-orders in time for ordering. I tried to order June 29 chickens (which arrived last week) in early April to provide for a large party, but the birds were already gone.
Sunday we planted our first patch of Sweet Corn. I have been desperately trying to find a good "cold soil vigor" sweet corn to come up early in our area. So far I have not been successful. This year will be our fourth variety at early July corn. It was supposed to be planted last week, but due to a broken machine we had to wait. Saturday we prepped the field and finished spreading the lime. Saturday night we pulled out the John Deere 1240 corn planter and got it all set up. Sunday morning we got to plant. Of course there was an ealry break of the planter, but after replacing a cotter pin we were good to go. I planted 560 dozen ears of Sweet Chorus, an early vigor white corn. From now until July 8 we will be planting 400-600 dozen ears of corn a week to have a steady supply of our sweet corn. We have been very fortunate to have customers that support us with our corn business. Last year was our best year to date. We look forward to another 12 weeks of great tasting corn this year. July 15 should be the start; running all the way to Sept. 18. We will also be planting my favorite, Harris 1001, a super sweet bicolor corn and the standby of silver king. Freezer corn will also be available. Coming back this year will be our surprisingly popular popcorn. That will go in the ground next weekend.
Certainly the weather plays a big role in our crops. Yesterday as I was planting the corn, it began to snow. We have harvested corn in October snow before, but never have I planted in it. We currently have about 900 broccoli plants in the ground. Broccoli is said to be very cold hardy and can survive a good frost. I guess we will see about that as it was 31 degrees at 4:45 am here this morning. Our peas and lettuce are doing fantastic after the rain. We got about 3/4 of an inch total, but it was needed to pop them up.
After school (work) today the cows will move across the driveway to new grass. They will be happy to go. I seeded a field last summer that has sprouted some thick clover. I just hope they are smart enough to know when to stop munching. Cows, not being the most intelligent, tend to over eat legumes and bloat. After that move, about 4 days, they will move out to the back pasture for a good 3 weeks of daily rotations.
We have 2 batches of broilers in the barn. The first is ready to move to pasture as soon an the weather breaks again. They are now 4 weeks old and feathered out. They will spend 3.5 weeks on grass then be processed. We get shipments of chicks every three weeks. We have only about 65 left to sell for the year.
The new processing building is taking shape. We are finishing the drywall inside now and will be putting in the sinks and counters soon. It will be an all-summer process as we are busy, but I look forward to seeing it take final shape. We will wash eggs/veggies to prep for sale in the front and be processing and bagging our chickens in the back.
We had added one greenhouse last fall that the chickens overwintered in and will be adding a Haygrove Hightunnel house this summer to extend our growing season right through DECEMBER this year. Imagine, home grown lettuce, carrots, beets, etc. during the holiday season! That will be a great addition to our program. Haygrove is a PA company, based in the Lancaster area. I am glad to be able to support our local businesses. They also sell high quality tunnels and theirs was the only one that I was convinced could weather our wind and snow.
So, I do have a knack of burning food. Dave has learned to eat bacon that is quite crispy, his meat medium-well instead of medium-rare, and his cookies very crunchy. I am far from a great cook/baker, but I can hold my own and my family is fed healthy, home-grown/raised meals. However, the cookies on the front page (see picture) WAS NOT MY FAULT! I was diligently watching them when something caught my eye out the kitchen door.
It all started this morning, my mother was watching our two little ones so that I could get some outside work done and help Dave before it started to rain. I helped Dave with the banding of our little bulls and putting weaning rings on our calves noses because they are drinking their mothers away to nothing (what can I say, we have great moms in our herd). It felt great to be a part of the farming operation, as having our youngest limits me when it comes to participating a whole lot. Sometimes I really miss it. Dave and I met each other at work in Maryland, where we were both teachers and have always worked with each other since meeting, both on the farm and off. Working on the farm together has always given us a perfect opportunity to talk and plan and well for him to secretly wish I was better at throwing hay off of the wagon, though he has always kept this to himself...he just doesn't know I'm a mind reader! So anyway, I was really enjoying the time spent together working on the farm.
Later that evening after our youngest went to bed at 6:30pm (yes, he's usually asleep by then) I decided to make cookies with David. We have always enjoyed baking together and I just figure I will make his future wife very happy one day. As long as she doesn't always burn his food, he will love anything she makes. In the middle of making my husband's favorite (oatmeal raisin), I saw something big walking by the kitchen door out the corner of my eye. I thought to myself how odd it was that my husband was back already from putting new brakes on my car. When I saw the big black object walk past the dining room window I knew something was off. It was then that I realized that we had an escapee. Sure enough good old Daffodil was walking past the back of the house. If there's a jail break with the cows, you can bet Daffodil is in the middle of it and most of the times, the cause of it. Remember, Daffodil was bottle fed, so she wants to be everywhere we are and literally plastered to our side. That was fine and good when she was 50 pounds, now at about 500, it's difficult to force her to move if she really just wants to follow you around and lean up against you. I noticed at the front sliding door, Daffodil's new best friend, our little Belted Galaway, Chatty Moo was roaming around. Daffodil was just seeing what kind of things she can get into and was starting to go down the driveway to leave. At least Chatty Moo was doing me a favor by mowing the lawn as she went.
I assessed the situation to see how many cows were out. By assessing the situation, this means literally spinning around 360* in the middle of my foyer, panicking for a split second before figuring out what to do next. I called Dave and said, "Cows are out!" then hung up. At this point I got the attention of my two hounds who were completely oblivious to the situation (a lot of good they are...) and they lunged at the door barking. David helped me to get them in the cage and lock them in. I didn't need them to spook the animals with their barking and pawing at the sliding door. Turning off the oven I told David to stay in the house and ran to get my boots and grabbed my good winter coat as I ran by (times like these you sacrifice the nice clothing if necessary). Keeping David in the house was safer as a spooked animal could easily lead to him getting hurt. I went down to the front yard to try and get them to go to the back. Daffodil, seeing Dave pull up the driveway, got excited and like all good dogs (she acts like a loyal dog when she sees us) hurried down to greet him. Needless to say, Dave never made it up the driveway all the way because Daffodil was blocking it. After some persuading, we managed to get them back into the pasture. Chatty Moo was easy; fear of the unknown led her quickly back to the backyard and to the pasture. Daffodil, quite comfortable in her surroundings with us, needed lots of pushing from Dave to get her to go in the direction we wanted. I tried to push, but I literally didn't move her an inch...if I could read cows' minds like I can Dave's...I would bet she was laughing at me.
So I raced back to the house to check on our little guys and knew David was watching out the window the whole time. The end result, the burnt cookies on the homepage. I let the dogs out to sniff the ground and occupy themselves with the smells in the yard. David came running up to me asking me questions and finally telling me, "Guess what?" I thought, "Oh, no, the dogs woke Ethan up..." so I got down on my knees in front of him and braced myself for the answer. David calmly said, "Mommy, I went upstairs to check on Ethan, and his eyes were still closed and he was sleeping and he was okay." Smiling wide, I pulled my little boy that's growing up wayyyyyy too fast into my arms and told him how proud I was of him being such a big boy and how helpful he was to daddy and me while we were outside getting the cows. Hand-in-hand we walked over to the kitchen and ate some of daddy's favorite cookies with a big glass of milk. This memory of my brave and responsible little boy will forever be filed, never to be forgotten.