In continuing with the animal sounds theme, I’d like to introduce the newest addition to the farm – this handsome quartet! While Jeff was down from NH to grab the last (we think) of his stuff, he helped me haul these young fellas up from Dudley. Although quite healthy, they had never seen an electric fence before. Turns out fence training steers is similar to fence training pigs, but much more exciting. Rounding up a loose 50 pound piglet is much easier than a big 750+ pound steer. After two days of being cooped up in a small electric fence pen enclosed by metal panels, the very minimal hay supply ran out, and I needed to either source more hay or take the gamble and turn them loose in the pasture.
Expecting them to tear out of the gates like they were in a bullring, we took up positions on the other side of the electric fence. Not sure what we would have actually done had they come full steam toward us considering the electric fence is nothing more than two charged lines of twine, but we were ready! Instead they came out slow as molasses in wintertime, and have respected the fence ever since. These guys love our already lush pasture, and will pack on the pounds eating nothing but the finest grass Potter Hill has to offer until harvest in late fall.
Between the chickens, cattle, and onions just about ready to go in the ground (Monday maybe?), it’s starting to feel a lot like a farm again up on the hill. I can’t wait to offer you all the best grass-fed beef, pastured eggs, and organic veggies around. Beef share details coming soon!
Which comes first, the chickens or the coop? It’s not your classic ‘chicken or the egg’ question – the coop always comes first right? It would be crazy to get 60 chickens before there’s somewhere to put them.
Crazy, indeed, was last week. I was expecting the chickens to arrive right around now, but instead they came a couple weeks early. Nevermind the fact that I’ve known roughly when they will arrive since January, and have been building the coop in my mind for the last 3 months…their early arrival still caught me by surprise. With much help from neighbors and friends, we 95% built a coop in the two days just before the chickens arrived. Unfortunately, that 5% uncomplete included a door and the means to drag the coop out of the barn and into the pasture.
On my second straight almost all-nighter working on the coop, I went to go pick up the ladies at 10:30pm down in Uxbridge. With nowhere safe to keep them at night, and no gas left in my tank, they stayed crammed in dog crates in the bed of my truck in my garage overnight. They got some freedom the next day, but their temporary pen was not predator proof, so we stuffed 60 chickens back in their dog crates and took them home again. The coop was finally ready the following night, but chickens are creatures of routine, so they all piled in their dog crates that night and we had to stuff 60 chickens into the coop that night (and the next).
I’m happy to report, however, that I’ve been chicken stuffing free the past two nights. Having never been outside before, the chickens are adjusting well to pecking around the pasture in the sunshine – it’s almost like they were made for it!
Happy eggs from happy kung-fu chickens coming soon. In the meantime, it’s a meat week so stock up on your happy beef and pork by emailing email@example.com by Sunday evening.
No, sadly 88 is not in the forecast. Snow was on the ground and it was only 45 degrees outside Thursday, but it was 88 degrees in the greenhouse until I opened up the door to let some heat out. Despite the unusually cool temps, the sun’s strength really warms up the greenhouse – it’s a much needed and optimistic reminder that spring is (eventually) coming (back) our way.
With the warmth and sun in the greenhouse, my seedlings are growing well and biding their time under cover until May. So far leeks, onions, celery, and celeriac have popped up, with parsley and eggplant coming up any day now. Next week is an exciting one as we’ll start kale, swiss chard, sweet and hot peppers, and all 500 or so varieties of the incredible heirloom tomatoes we grow. All your favorites and more will be back this year. Mmmm…fresh tomatoes!
It’s not an overly ambitious goal to be planting in the fields by May 1st in Massachusetts – after all, there is a farm run by a friend of mine who not only worked their soil, but direct seeded lettuce, radishes, carrots and more already. But May 1st is never a guarantee up on Potter and Brigham Hills. Misery loves company, so I stopped by to groan and grumble with Ken over at Community Harvest Project. They’ve finally, and likely wisely, given up on the noble goal of planting in late April too. We’ve never really had that option, so right now May 2nd is the dream. Fingers crossed it won’t need to be pushed back…send warm, dry, and windy thoughts up the hill!
Don’t forget, this is a meat week. Get your orders in by the end of the day to Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org for pickup tomorrow at Potter Hill 4-7pm. Inventory can be found here. Be sure to sign up for his newsletter – if not for the meat, do it for the writing!
That’s the most popular question we get from new customers, and it’s a tough one. And what does organic mean anyway?
Do you want the short answer or the 39-page version? If everything goes well in the next few weeks, the short answer will be yes! No hemming and hawing, no “yes, but”. How liberating! Thanks in large part to a friendly contact who happens to be a Certification Assistance Coordinator/farmer, and an even larger part to Jeff, who’s been doing it organically for 4 years but abhors paperwork, Potter Hill is well on its way to officially being organic.
And since Jeff’s distrust of pesticides rivals only his distrust of everything else, I won’t have to wait 3 years for certification. Unless an unexpected obstacle arrives, you’ll be munching on certified organic veggies in 2016, which clearly will be much tastier and healthier for you! I am in the midst of the review process, which so far has been easier than filling out 20 pages of the same question asked 25 different ways. Honestly though, I really shouldn’t complain – the certification reputation is all sizzle no steak. Don’t let a farmer talk your ear off about how complicated and onerous the certification process is – if I can do it, with my 5-10 minute max paperwork attention span, anyone can. Imagine that – all bluff and bluster from a farmer!
As the season ramps back up, I will hopefully get back on the weekly update train as there is tons more exciting news that I can’t wait to share with you all. Just a quick note on the upcoming season – up until this lovely April snowstorm, I was expecting an early start in the garden. That’s looking less likely given the 10 day forecast. This time of year it’s very stressful to be stuck inside not accomplishing anything tangible. We should be getting animals very soon, so that should at least give me an outlet for all this pent up cabin fever frustration!