Saturday, April 13, 2013

Farm Update 04/2013

Getting to know our new climate...

As I'm sure you all know, we're new to Michigan. We moved from Fort Collins, Colorado last fall, so we're getting to know our new climate this year. Today has been a surprisingly Colorado-like day. It started cold and moist, with misty grey skies and a spray of rain. Then it turned to snow, spits and starts preluding to potato-chip size flakes drifting and dissolving into the greening grass. And now the sun is out, and blue skies make promises they can't keep behind the grey dome enclosing our hillside. 

There's a saying in Colorado, if you don't like the weather, just stick around 5 more minutes. It'll change. Today feels a little like Colorado--the schizophrenic weather at the foot of the Rockies, what is called the Front Range. This past week however, was not so familiar. 

Since Monday we've had flood warnings and rain that turned many of our neighbors hills and lawns into ponds, some even lakes by Colorado standards. Compared to our own land--a sandy loam hillside of pasture sloping eastward and downward into a sandy-soiled forest--we've found ourselves thankfully pond and puddle free. Makes sense, we do live on a hillside. 

When we moved here, we heard much of the renowned Lake Effect: Stronger storms dumping lots of snow just inland of the lakes. This winter we've found that we're just outside of the zone that gets dumped on, only receiving 41-60" of snow annually, and don't get hit as hard as, say, Grand Rapids. 

Next week's forecast: more rain. 

Why does this matter? One of the biggest tenets of agriculture is that you don't plow when its wet! This causes soil compaction, which impacts soil structure reducing yield and soil health. As our seedlings sprout and grow and and our average last frost date nears, we're eager to prepare the seedbed, sowing cold-hardy vegetable seeds and transplanting everything we've started in indoors. But until the soil is dry enough to plow, we have to watch and wait. 

On the bright side, these farmers still have plenty of projects to keep our hands busy while we wait for a break in the weather. Our piglet shelter is almost complete, and we've got 30 Cornish Cross chicks on their way that need a brooder built, and a chicken tractor too. Inside the barn, the seedlings are germinating well, with broccoli and spinach now starting to emerge from the soil blocks

The hens should start laying soon. They're 19 weeks old today. They've been restless, stuck inside except for brief moments where they run around between the rain drops, grabbing at earthworms and then running around like gleeful velociraptors.  We scattered some scratch around their coop and over the last few days they dug fox holes in their straw to take dust baths in the more decomposed layers (we do the deep litter method).

We also purchased 6 Heritage breed turkeys, mostly for ourselves and to maybe keep a breeding pair, if we decide we like turkeys. We are new to turkeys, Farmer Figgins has worked with chickens, ducks, geese, pigs, and goats before, but not turkeys. From what we have gathered, turkeys have a reputation. Joel Salatin best sums it up, “Turkeys have one goal in life – to find a more creative way to die.” 

We've already had one try and make an escape, jumping clear of the brooder... so we'll see.  

Otherwise we've been keeping busy by working on Roland the White, our farm truck.  We had the Universal Joint on the Front Axle go bad leading to a horrible clack clack clack as we drove through town, you might have heard us.  Next we had the Idle Air Control valve go bad.  This little part is what regulates your car when it is idling so that it doesn't just shut off, or rev itself really high.  For us this problem showed up as trouble starting the engine and then it immediately shutting off when left to idle.   

Luckily with some help from Youtube, and the Chilton's guide,  the truck is back up and running though.  

Now to build that brooder.


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