Well, our season seems to be rapidly drawing to a close! Overall it has turned out to be a wonderful year for many of the crops that we grow. I’m thinking back especially to strawberries and melons, as well as bumper yields of tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and fall raspberries. We grew the CSA to just over 200 shares this season. It feels like a manageable size and are happy to not get any bigger. Our apprentices and working shares have been wonderful in helping us harvest the bounty of produce that has come forth during the season. The response to our fall CSA has been very positive and we are looking forward to the challenge of extending our season to the beginning of December for a smaller group of CSA members on a bi-weekly basis – only on Saturday. The reason that we have been increasing our CSA and have expanded into the fall has been to generate more income to purchase additional land, which we have been renting from my mother. This has been made possible by the support of my mother and siblings, who want the land to stay in the family and be owned by the farmers who farm it and by all of our CSA members who have given us an income to afford to purchase the land. I was very close to my grandmother and father, who loved this farm and used teams of horses to farm it. It is with a keen sense of stewardship and responsibility that we take on the care of the land which we love and into which my roots run deep.
We have finally had time to start on the greenhouse construction again. The walls for the foundation are made out of dry laid cement block. They will have cement poured into the core and be plastered on the outsides for reinforcement. It is a building method Ken has read about and is interested to try. It ends up being like a poured cement wall, but doesn’t require cement forms. The basement of the north room will be filled with rocks to act as a heat sink for the heat that is generated when the sun shines.
Our green house construction is currently on hold for black walnut tree cutting. We have lost three horses to colic within the last year and Ken has been mulling it over in his brain and trying to sort out why. The end result is a strong suspicion that it is black walnut that is the culprit. As I write, he is cutting down the trees along the south edge of the winter paddock area. There are different symptoms of poisoning from juglone, which is in the black walnut bark, leaves, nuts and pollen. They include skin irritation, hair loss, colic, respiratory problems all of which we have seen to greater or lesser extent in our horses. The problem is that laminitis is one the main symptoms often sited and we didn’t really see that, so it threw us off. Apparently, horses that are exposed for years can sometimes develop a problem all of a sudden. It seems crazy. We have lots of walnuts bordering our pasture fields. I expect this winter we will be cutting a lot of walnut trees! Some of them are on the fence row with our neighbors, so we will have to speak to them and apply for permits to cut trees as well. Ken is now wondering if Jethro’s dropped soles, our first stallion, were related to walnuts – not over feeding… He is a disappointed with our vets, because in all the years they have been coming here they haven’t pointed out any potential problem. Sam had severe skin irritation this spring. He also grabbed a branch of walnut as he was walking by a tree when we were digging potatoes. I ripped the branch out of his mouth in the morning and that evening he had a gas attack. He recovered that time, but not the next time two weeks later. Chester was in fields near the house with walnuts in both… His condition deteriorated for unknown reasons. When he really got sick we had just put him out in the area to the south of the quonset and thinking back it was probably walnut pollen time and there are a lot of walnuts in the trees right there… apparently even small amounts of pollen can sometimes cause big reactions. Both Gena and Gewn have suffered from strange unexplained respiratory problems. If it is the problem and we can remove black walnut from the pastures and paddock areas we hope to see a positive jump in overall herd health. Here’s hoping.
We have a new replacement nine year old gelding. “Mater” has been retired from the horse pulling circuit. We suspect that he has some Suffolk blood although he isn’t registered. He probably came east as a young foal from one of the PMU farms in western Canada where they had some Suffolk horses.