Current Fall Projects

I’ve been writing a lot about food lately, neglecting the everyday happenings and projects on the farm. So here’s a quick photo tour of current events and highlights, some of which I’ll be detailing in other posts.

We’re done selling, but have retained enough fall greens to keep us happily supplied with fresh produce through most of the winter. These plants are hardy enough to stand cold weather and can be harvested as needed. The photo contains kale, mizuna, tat soi, collards, and mustard greens, as well as leeks.

For many farm animals, fall is a time of change. This is the traditional time of slaughter, when pasture is failing, the animal is grown, and is starting to cost feed money if kept any longer. Earlier in the fall we butchered Perry, last weekend butchered one of the kids, and will be doing the other at some point (not this weekend, though, deer season is starting). Our fall meat supplies are and will be in good shape. This is also the time to generate new life; we’re breeding the adult does in order to raise new meat kids and start milk production again. At the back of the above photo you see Squire, a Boer meat buck that we’re borrowing from a friend and allowing to run with Garlic and Gloria for a while, allowing a natural breeding that will lead them to kid in early spring and start the process all over again.

I’m almost finished building a new woodshed near the house, made predominately from cedar lumbered and milled on-farm (the rafters are pine 2x4s because I didn’t have the right size cut from cedar), with a simple metal roof. We’ve been needing a better firewood and tool storage location for some time, and it’s almost done. Just need to put the south wall on.

It’s time to move the laying hens to a winter home where they’ll be warmer and more protected. The concept of a chicken tractor, or portable poultry pen, is growing rapidly among small farms and homesteads, combining the benefits of confinement with free-ranging. This pen allows the birds access to open air and ground, and will be moved weekly to keep manure from building up and to allow access to fresh forage all winter. The side benefit is direct application of fertilizer all over the area, rather than allowing it to pile up in one place and having to shovel and move it. More benefit and less work all around. This unit has been set up in the future orchard, as a first step to improving the soil for planting, and because it’s near enough to the house to run power for a light to improve heat and laying in the cold, dark months ahead. More on this soon.

Speaking of orchards, the overarching task this fall and winter is to finish clearing the future orchard area of cedars, allowing us to fence the land and begin improving the soil. This work was begun last year, and recommenced this week. I first wrote about this way back in March, and am now back where I began. We’re looking forward to starting fruit trees, brambles, and other berries both to provide more food for ourselves (one of our biggest cash outflows, grocery-wise, is for fresh local fruit) and hopefully to generate some income down the road. And it’s just another valuable aspect of a fully diversified small farm.

Unphotographed, but also important, will be the establishment of good fencing around the vegetable field and more goat pastures, allowing for better use of that land. Many of the cedars being cut from the orchard will be reused as fence posts in this effort, especially now that the cost of steel is skyrocketing and T-posts are expensive.

So that’s where we’re at right now. Look for some more details on many of these projects as I get to writing about them, but this at least gives a sense of my days in the past and coming weeks.

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