It’s hard to believe we are half way through December already! Ken and Bill have been busy tackling things on our list of farm jobs that have been in the “Later Maybe Never” column all season. They cleaned out the lean-to of the workshop. It was so full it was impossible to even walk to the far end let alone find anything. They also filled a huge scrap metal container, as they cleaned up behind the workshop in what Michelle called “tetanus alley”, and gathered up various pieces of derelict farm equipment that Ken had stashed away. Yesterday, they finished the job of replacing all the nails with screws on the metal roofs of the workshop and middle barn. Bill’s help has been a huge boost to Ken and allowed me to be free to pursue other things.
I feel as if I have retreated to the kitchen…I started by cleaning out the freezer of all the berries I didn’t have time to deal with in the summer. Our pantry is filling up with jams and juices. Black currant juice is Ken’s favourite. Since the Fall CSA is over and we no longer have a ready market for all our eggs we did our annual cull out of the old laying hens. I have been busy pressure canning chicken and chicken broth for future soups. I’ve also been making butter, yogurt, quark, sour cream, cream cheese and cheese with Mabel’s milk. We have taste tested the first Gouda. It had only aged two months, but it was quite tasty and I am encouraged to keep going on my cheese making endeavours. I get quite a charge out of going to the grocery store and waltzing past all the dairy products! Mac is growing well and still enjoys his 2 quart bottle of his mama’s milk twice a day. Now it’s time for me to change my “domestic focus” and get out my sewing machine. I have a little Christmas dress I want to make for now six month old Della Jane, who is coming for a holiday visit with her parents. We are looking forward to her Uncle Grayden being here as well. Ken is getting his workshop ready for some wood working projects and has at last got a stainless steel chimney for his workshop wood stove.
Bill is now ready to concentrate his efforts on building wheel hoes. He is taking over the production of “Ken’s wheel hoes”. Ken designed and built many stirrup wheel hoes using ash from our woodlot and bicycle wheels. We have had lots of positive feed back from people who have used our wheel hoes and Bill is now taking orders. If anyone is interested they should email him at: email@example.com
Now it seems like the new year on the farm has really begun with the arrival of our apprentice team for the season. We have a new group this year and they have arrived with a welcome burst of enthusiastic energy. The whole crew took a turn driving our Suffolk Punch draft horses, Gwen and Gena, as they ploughed a round in the potato plot, yesterday, with oversight from Ken and Caesar. The apprentice team and I also spent the better part of the day wrestling with row cover for the early garden planting. Row cover seems like one the necessary evils of organic farming. We are using it this time of year just to keep the soil warmer where we have tucked in the early garden seeds and it does make quite a difference in the early garden growth.
Bill van Zanten actually arrived a week earlier than planned because the weather was so warm and we were over whelmed with all the early spring work to be done. He helped us get our hoop houses ready to go and worked in the greenhouse and with the early planting. We aren’t sure what the weather is going to do from here on out. We have left the strawberries covered hoping that it will protect them from the extremely cold nights we have just had. However, we don’t want them to start growing under the mulch because that is also hard on them, so we will have to uncover them soon and hope for the best. Our early peas, spinach, carrots, beets, radishes and mesclun are planted out doors. One of our hoop houses is planted to spinach and we are going to plant more of our hoop houses later this week. It is a challenge to time it so it will all be ready at the right time to go with our perennials of rhubarb and asparagus and then be able to dovetail with the outdoor plantings so that we have a continuous supply of produce once we start the CSA pickups.
Ken’s new sawmill did arrive. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had time to do much more than try it out, because all the fields are calling to him. We are expecting to have some windows of time to do some sawing a little later after the oats are planted. The earlier you plant oats the better they do. We are hoping to get them planted before the end of March, but we are still waiting for our new seed to arrive. The early spring has everyone feeling like they are behind before we even get started!