With the beginning of a new year, we wanted to give an update on the happenings on the farm. We’ve been staying busy with a few big projects and preparing for the spring. For the first time, the Norfolk Farmers Market is continuing right through the winter. Markets are being held upstairs at Town Hall from 10-1 on January 24, February 14 and 28, March 14 and 28, and April 11 and 25. Then the regular summer season will pick up every week starting May 16. We had a great turn out last week and are looking forward to seeing everyone again on the 24th. My favorite thing about the market is meeting new people and talking about food. We trade recipes with people all the time, so I decided to add a “recipes” tab to our website, where I’ll add recipes with pictures as I make them. If you have any favorite ways of cooking with our beef and pork, please share!
Our flock of laying hens have been on strike for the past few months. Last spring we battled with a pesky crow flying into the coop and stealing eggs. Over the summer we spent a lot of time deterring a fox who managed to get in and take a few birds on more than one occasion. Then, at the end of the summer, we lost even more chickens to a hawk. Needless to say, the girls were under a lot of stress and stopped laying eggs completely. BUT, I am so happy to say that the girls are back to business as usual and we have eggs again! The lack of stress from predators, combined with extra protein from bird seed and a handy light in the coop have all worked together to encourage the flock to lay eggs again. We’ll have our beautiful blue and brown eggs at every market.
Our biggest project has been building winter housing for the pigs. In the past we’ve kept the pigs out on the back pastures, but getting water all the way out there is a huge burden once our water lines freeze and it’s a far walk for the sows when it’s time to come in to the barn to farrow. John, Kelley and I had been brain-storming about this project for months, and now that it’s finished we couldn’t be happier. Now the pigs are closer to the barn, which means a shorter trip when its time for piglets. We also ran new water lines (extra deep to prevent freezing) to heated and automated water troughs. I have to say, these were expensive but are without a doubt the most useful things we’ve bought on the farm aside from the tractor. No breaking ice in frozen water buckets, no trudging through snow with buckets of water. These provide a fresh source of water for the pigs at all times with no work on our end. Heaven. We have to extend a HUGE thank you to my brother, Josh, and our friend, Kurt, for their amazing work on this project. The pig huts came out beautifully and I really can’t say enough about the water set up done by Kurt. (Our cat, Carla, was also very helpful!)
Now that the chickens are laying and our pigs are moved, it’s time to look ahead to kids and piglets! Our goats are due to kid over the next month or so. Of all the animals on the farm, goat births are definitely the most stressful, but kids may be my favorite baby animals. They’re so soft and are ready to play right away. We’ll then be preparing for 7 litters of piglets at the end of February. Yes, 7 litters. We are going to be inundated with piglets and I can’t wait.
As I write this there is snow falling outside my window, but our summer garden is on my mind. I’ll be ordering seeds and starting them inside in no time. After almost 4 years working our land, I’m finally getting a handle on what crops grow best in our soil and what the animals will and will not eat. Farming is such a learning process and with every challenge that we figure our way through I find myself more deeply rooted in choosing this life. I think back to a conversation I had with Will Kennedy of Cream Hill Veal. While sitting on a Q&A panel with other local farmers, we were asked what the most crucial aspect of farming is and we decided on integrity. As a farmer serving our community, we no doubt have to represent ourselves and our practices honestly and sincerely. But another part of integrity speaks to character and ethics. It isn’t lost on any of us that in order to supply meat to our community, our animals lives must end. That’s heavy stuff. But while they’re in our care, it’s our responsibility to treat them humanely and with respect. I’ll just end with an excerpt from “Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food” by Wendell Berry:
“Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: “Love. They must do it for love.” Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. “
We really do love what we do. Thanks for your support.
Real food enthusiast following nature's template