I've had this quote from Jack Kerouac swirling in my head for the past week or so:
"Will you love me in December as you do in May?"
In the winter, my relationship with farming begs this question. We have been lucky to have such mild weather for the past two months - but the cold snap this week hit me like a ton of bricks.
If I was ready (read, smarter) I would've taken all the floats out of the water tanks and tucked the hoses safely inside the farm house, away from the bitter wind that so quickly freezes them. Nothing incites panic more quickly than finding frozen hydrants on the farm - the cows alone drink 300 gallons of water each day, a quantity that I wouldn't want to carry in buckets from the kitchen sink. Gray clouds threaten snow, which is beautiful, but also incredibly difficult to trudge through when carrying fifty-pound buckets of feed out to the pigs in their pasture. These months bring a lot less daylight and a lot more work.
It's easy to think back to the days of May when everything is coming alive - the fields and trees exploding in green in what seems like the blink of an eye, calves being born, the chirping of new chicks. The sun is warm, the air is sweet, and the water is automated. (Ok, maybe I'm starting to romanticize all of this a bit, with myself as a Carhartt-clad Snow White of sorts.)
I realize, though, that the cold and wind and snow are hard on all of us on the farm, not just the humans. It may make our work more difficult, but this is when the animals need us most. Breaking five inches of ice in water tanks in order to run 250 feet of hose from the one trusty hydrant we have suddenly doesn't seem like a chore, but a duty.
So we throw on an extra layer of thermals, a balaclava (life saver) and some New England grit. May might be more kind, but December brings renewed sense of purpose, and these farmers are grateful for it.
p.s. Our continued thanks to our expanding family of CSA members - your support and enthusiasm for real food is awesome.
When I walk down to the farm every morning, it is always with a yawn, a smile, and bated breath - I love my quiet, foggy mornings on the farm, but when you care for so many critters, its not unusual for something or someone to be amiss.
Goats aren't running down the driveway? - great. Pigs are still asleep - good; much easier to feed them that way. Make sure the cows haven't wandered into the neighbor's alfalfa field - phew, I don't have the energy to chase them around this morning. So far so good.
Climb up in the hay loft to grab a bale for the heifers. Check on the bantam hen and her newly hatched chicks. Peek down on the cows' water tub to make sure they didn't pull the float out -
WHAT IS THAT?
Race down the ladder, climb the gate, run to the fluffy ball of black fur on the ground....
Hi cutie, where did you come from? Certainly not from one of our cows. We only breed in the summer. Our calves are only born in the spring.
In runs Jane, udders full of milk. MOOOOOO she says - step away from the fluff ball. -moo- says the fluff ball. What do we do, say the farmers. He's dry. He can stand. Has he nursed? It's too cold for a calf, bring him inside. No no, he's better off with his mom. Put a jacket on him and back out to mom he goes.
The first moments between a cow and her calf are incredibly tender. I cry (and John laughs at me) every time I witness a new mother softly cooing to her baby.
Hello, I'm your mom. When you hear this moo, and only this moo, come to me. I will feed you. I will clean you. I will protect you. And when I hear your moo, I will run acres, through our herd and fence lines if I have to, to get to you.
The bull let himself out of his paddock a few times over the winter.
It's November 13 - this fluff ball must have been conceived around Valentine's day.
I'll call you Valentino.
What a year this has been! Our big project this year was our fodder system. We've been researching the concept, attending seminars, and trying to track down untreated non-GMO seed for a couple years now. The stars finally aligned and we were able to get to work. There are pre-fabricated systems that you can purchase that already have the framing, trays, and water set up for you - but we tend to be too thrifty for those types of things, and what fun is the easy way? We sprout barley hydroponically for about 10 days using just water and light. It turns out the amount of light, temperature and humidity need to be kept in very specific ranges, so controlling the conditions can be quite the task, but it is so worth it. The animals love it and will be able to eat fresh greens throughout the long New England winter we're about to head into.
We are so overwhelmed by the response we've had to our new CSA. We had hoped to engage about 10 families, but we are now close to 20 already! We know that finding time to grocery shop at multiple places doesn't fit into everyone's schedule, so we've made it easy by delivering beef, pork, chicken and eggs right to your door. Check out the CSA page for more information. If the standard share seems like too much or little, we can certainly customize your order every month. Plus, the November share includes a pasture-raised turkey just in time for Thanksgiving, and we have 6 new sausage flavors to enjoy (think apple spice, maple breakfast, and toulouse).
Though we sometimes are a bit jealous of our vegetable-growing farmer friends and their winter respite, our little farm is so beautiful in the winter covered in snow. The animals really don't appreciate the scorching summer days and often seem happier nestled into their hay beds in the cold months. So for now we'll be gearing up to make sure huts aren't drafty and waters won't freeze. We hope to see you at the upcoming Pre-Thanksgiving and Holiday Norfolk markets (dates and locations on our home page).
"A farm includes the passion of the farmer's heart, the interest of the farm's customers, the biological activity of the soil, the pleasantness of the air about the farm -- it's everything touching, emanating from, and supplying the piece of landscape. A farm is virtually a living organism." -Joel Salatin
Brutus and Juno are our newest additions! Geneva gave birth to Brutus on Thursday, and he definitely lives up to his name. He is a big boy and caused a pretty difficult birth. HUGE thanks to our friend Will (Cream Hill Veal) for coming to our rescue at a moment's notice. Baby Juno was born to Pearl during (what was supposed to be) Blizzard Juno on Tuesday. She is a tiny little thing - so small that our normal kid jacket was too big on her, so John made her a sweater out of a wool sock! Though she's small, she is full of life and loves playing with her pal Brutus.
This Saturday you can catch us at "Pints for a Purpose" - a fundraiser for the Northwest Connecticut YMCA. Tickets are just $35 at the door and include beer tastings from over 12 different brewers and a Blues Brothers Tribute show. We'll be selling beef chili, pulled pork sandwiches, and bratwurst with beer onions. Of course, part of our proceeds will be donated back to the YMCA. We hope to see you there, 6:00 - 9:00 at the Whiting Mills, 210 Holabird Avenue, Winsted.
(sunset on the farm)
Real food enthusiast following nature's template