Thankful – November Newsletter

 

027 (800x600)We’ve been in Corinth now for over 5 years and despite our, or my, tendency towards hermitage, we’ve made a number of close friends in the neighborhood. And, as luck would have it, a good deal of these friends are similarly minded: farmers, carpenters, stone masons, wood workers, and gardeners. We find ourselves, at least once a week leaning on these friends for favors. Whether it is borrowing a piece of equipment, seeking help for an animal in need or simply general farm advice, more and more often we rely on our network of friends. Last Sunday however, was the pinnacle of our asking and our friends’ generosity has left us feeling a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation.

As some of you may be aware, Gabe and I bit off a tad more than we could chew this summer with our building projects around the farm. Between a house addition that will ultimately leave us with close to double the square footage (still only about 1500 at its completion) and a new barn to home ailing or birthing animals, Jeannette, and any unwrapped hay, we quickly found ourselves in a pickle. Which to push for: human comfort or animal? Of course, the later won out.

Our barn foundation was poured and frame put up earlier this summer, but the roof and siding were mere goals for the future…until I found myself milking Jeannette in the field in 3 inches of snow. Hmmm. Time to call for help. This is the moment at which our friends, and family from a bit farther astray, stepped in. On Sunday at least 20 amazing individuals of all ages and ability levels descended on Winter Moon Farm. The result: the barn roof is fully strapped, one side of which is also covered by metal roofing, while the sides of the barn are more than half covered with rough-sawn barn board courtesy of Gabe’s uncle. It actually looks like our barn is going to be finished before snow flies, or sticks at least, and there is NO way we could have accomplished this without the huge effort our support network put in this weekend. What an amazing gift!

All that said, this holiday season, Gabe, Eben, August and I are, without a doubt, thankful for the amazing friends we have. We are so lucky to find ourselves surrounded by such a talented and generous bunch and cannot thank them enough for all they have done for our family and farm!

Hayley

 

Hayley’s Morning

Every morning my alarm goes off at 5:30am. In the warmer months of the year I am usually able to wake before the dreaded beeping, however as the light changes I frequently find myself pulled from a deep slumber by my wrist watch. It is completely dark in our house as I grab some warm clothing, a headlamp and my milk pails. Hoping not to disturb any sleeping boys, the three dogs and I creep out the front door, the flashlight beam our only light. Two glowing eyes slowly approach from the bottom of the pasture as my calls of “Jeannette! Jeannette!” echo down the valley. It’s milking time.

As soon as I have emptied our beautiful girl of her morning milk, the dogs and I head back to the house. If I am going to sneak in my morning run, which I do at least 5 times a week, now is my chance. Strain the milk, change my clothing, and dash out the door, hoping to leave, once again, boys sleeping in my wake. Of course many mornings the boys are sprinting in circles around the house, wrestling with the dogs, or simply requesting five different breakfasts simultaneously by this point… nevertheless, it is out the door I go. Gabe is well accustomed to dealing with the morning chaos that is our home.

For my second trip into the morning darkness, though there is usually at least a hint of light in the sky, I take only Isis, my running partner extraordinaire. What dog, at mile 10 of a 12 mile run, is still jumping up to bite the leash (or my arm) in excitement? She is truly the most energetic beast I have ever known and loves, more than most things in this world, to run. We cruise down the driveway and out onto the surrounding roads, only to return 4-16 miles later (4 being the short runs of late, 16 the long) with chores looming.

A chorus of “baaa”, “moooo”, and pig grunts generally meets Isis and I as we top our driveway to hungry farm animals awaiting their breakfasts. Now that fall has truly arrived, and the grass is lacking in nutrition, most of our animals are eating a daily ration of hay and are thus arriving back at the farm from their summer grazing locations. Isis and I quickly switch modes. Grain, whey, hay for the three pig groups, hay and water for the lambs, double check the cows’ water trough and a quick peek at the layers (who generally only need water and grain in the evenings) before we hurry back to the house. By this point my mind is usually wondering what state Eben and August will be in…happy?…wild?…furious? Hoping for the former, we open the door to cries of “Mama! Isa! Mama! Isa! Mama!” The day has begun.

Hayley

Fall

IMG_3595 (800x600)Fall is my favorite season but it is also the one that I get the least time to enjoy. Fall is a foreshadowing, bringing the prospect of winter and 7 months of frozen ground and cold. To be ready for winter we must have all of our winter animal shelters ready, water, hay and fencing all lined up properly. I am not going to pretend that I am ready or that it will be smooth. We were overly ambitious this summer and the roof needs to be put on the new barn, the new water system needs a pump and winter pig area needs a bed of wood chips. Oh and the house addition needs a chimney, insulation and a roof.

We are just beginning to think about bringing our cows and sheep back from their summer pastures. The sheep have another 3 weeks of grass but the cows need to be brought back and put on hay. This week will be our last summer farmers market and we will say goodbye to our last batch of meat birds and turkeys. I like to think that with these things wrapped up I will have time to finish the barn and our house addition. The truth is I am not so secretly hoping for a glorious and long fall, another three months before snow and frozen ground please. This is a dangerous thing to do with our increasingly unpredictable weather but this is my favorite season and I would like for it to last.

Newsletter – Synergy of July

IMG_3228 (800x352)How do our two wild chickens survive the marauding fox without an electric fence? By living with the pigs of course. Winter Moon Farm is an attempt at symbiosis or at lease synergy. We graze different animal species consecutively so we can minimize parasites. We rotationally graze our pastures working with the natural cycles of ruminants and perennial grasses. Our farming practices are underpinned by the assumption that agriculture is the most productive and sustainable when it mimics or follows natural cycles, symbiosis, and ecology.

Yet we have spent a lot of the past few weeks trying to upset the natural rhythms of predator and prey (fox and chickens), the inclination of the pigs to duck their fence and roam through the wilds of our neighbor’s gardens, and the tendency of turkeys to fly the coop and get chased by our dogs. Multi-species interactions, planned or not, are what keeps things interesting and meaningfully differentiate us from a bigger mono-culture.

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Back to the wild chickens. We have two of them. One is a five year old layer that escaped the butcher’s block by flying away at the right time. She has been living on her own scavenging dropped grain along with bugs and grass for a couple years now. The other is a meat bird who we nicknamed “runty” as she was much, much smaller than her brethren. She jumped out of the pen while we were slaughtering chickens. I was thinking of sparing her anyway. Each of these chickens bonded to separate groups of pigs. Runty sleeps with a sow and her young litter and has grown much larger sharing the sow’s grain. She is often the early alarm system jumping up and squawking as we approach. At times she has taken to roosting on top of sleeping pigs. It became clear after the fox ate a few escaped chickens that these two had an advantage and were protected by their porcine associations.

Thanks,
Gabe and Hayley

May

 

lambsThis is a wonderful time of year to write about – piglets, lambs, greening grass, and budding trees. We have been thinking a lot about sheep. In the fall we bred three ewes and two of them lambed. Myrtle gave us two big lambs a couple weeks ago and Spruce this week gave us two ewe lambs. Nettle, our dominate ewe, must not have liked the look of the young ram that we used to breed and looks like she will miss motherhood this time around. This fall we will breed at least five ewes, Grace and Gretel – black Romney sweethearts born a year ago will join those mentioned above. We are planning on buying 8-10 feeder lambs this spring for fall butcher dates and have reserved a registered black Romney named Harvey from a nearby farm who may become our flock sire. Hayley has been actively exploring adding another breed and several more ewes to the mix.

Meanwhile our 19 piglets have just been weaned and we are getting the sows ready to be put in with a boar in a couple of weeks. As this summer is full of building projects I has been spending some time sawing timber. We expect to break ground on the house addition in a few weeks and are finalizing the plan for the new barn.

Busy, busy, busy.

Gabe

February Update

toms

Greetings!

It’s still February but things are changing – our friends with greenhouses are starting seeds, a couple days in the high 30s hastened our maple trees tapping, and we are looking around the corner to piglets and then lambs being born. February and March are often sited as the cruelest months. They get your hopes up for warmth, snowmelt and flowers and then dump two feet of snow and a wind chill of minus 20.

gilt – a young female pig who has not yet produced a litter

farrowing – the act of a pig producing a litter

piggy – a technical term referring to the body changes associated with the last stages of pig gestation.

The animals seem ready for spring. As the temperatures flirt with 40 degrees they begin to get frisky, smelling the grass not yet growing under the snow. We have been watching our gilts closely for signs that they are beginning to go into labor. Crescent, Gibbous, and Luna have been looking piggy for a couple weeks and we have just crossed the earliest possible date for their farrowing. It’s our first round of farrowing (previously we have been buying piglets that are 6 weeks old) and we are anxious that it all goes well. Pigs are amazing and prolific animals. They can have 14 piglets and farrow twice a year. While it’s not likely, our three ladies could produce an amazing 96 piglets this year. We are hoping for mid-sized litters of 8-10 healthy piglets or a total of 50-60. We are planning to raise to slaughter 20 piglets from each farrowing and sell the rest to other farmers and homesteaders for them to raise.

About a month after farrowing lambing will start – by then we will be deep into mud season.

Gabe and Hayley

Winter is a Reason to Brew Beer

IMG_2006Lately the season seems to be coming and going – cold then warm, snow then rain and now finally cold and snow. The worst effect is that the variability affects our conditioning. Sunday I went out to do chores and was planning on accomplishing a few outdoor tasks after chores. Shockingly it was 15 degrees with a light wind. The shock was too much and I had to pull out my holiday “get out of work free card” and went inside to brew beer.

Making Sausage

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Happy December All,

Up here in Corinth there have been moments of winter punctuated by the weather of March. Most of our fall work is finished – although Gabe is not so secretly hoping for a January freeze to get some more fence posts in. As the cold settles we have been inside working on our business plan and strategizing. One of the things are on mind is how we make our sausage – compared to the legislative process the details of our sausage making is uplifting.

Currently we are getting our sausage links made at the Mad River Food Hub by their chef/butcher Jacob. We really like Jacob, his boss Robin, and the facility. The Food Hub was created to serve the needs of small and growing farmers like ourselves. It is set up to help incubate businesses – give them a place to make their products until they are large enough to own or rent their own facility (if they are ever that big). Robin – who manages the place, owns the building and stewarded the creation  set it  up as an L3C (vs LLC or 501c3 for the tax buffs) which an innovative model that combines some elements of the non-profit world and the for profit world. Being an L3C and having a community minded mission are a couple of reasons that we are happy to work with them.

 

Honestly though it’s the incubator model that most excites us. In the long run having control over our product, being able to test our own recipes and saving money by doing the work ourselves are additional reasons to work with the food hub. For the last couple of batches of sausage Jacob has been doing all the work. We are planning in January to do it ourselves. This means that we can set aside a bit to try out new varieties of sausage – maybe a maple flavored breakfast with our own maple syrup? Our nephew River would like an apple flavored variety.

What kind of sausage would you like us to make? Let us know.

Enjoy the cold,

Hayley and Gabe

November

Happy November All,

We are well but still scurrying to finish all of our fall projects before snow blankets the farm. So much to do and so little time…

As I write, the boar, the ram, and the bull are all outdoors in their respective breeding groups. We have lucked out finding very well mannered male animals this year. The Tamworth boar is exceedingly calm – Eben always says hello to him at chore time. Our Romney ram, whose maturity and virility was in question, appears to have figured out the birds and the bees. And finally, our newest addition, a young Angus bull (who Gabe has named Angus King in deference to the political season) has joined our herd. We are hoping the Angus genetics will increase the growth rate of our future calves. The bull is peacefully sharing his new winter quarters with the remainder of the herd – here is where Gabe breathes a sigh of relief as cattle moving can be stressful. If all goes well, we should have March piglets, April lambs, and (late) August calves!

Another large project around the farm has been the construction of our new milk shed, which, by the time you are reading this, will house Jeannette our new milk cow. A 3-year-old Jersey, Jeannette comes to us from Blythedale Farm and is due to freshen on January 3. We are incredibly excited to welcome Jeannette to our farm and looking forward to morning and evening milking with the boys, fresh milk at all times, and all manner of homemade milk products from our own kitchen…butter, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream galore. If you are in the market for raw milk, we will have an abundance come early January. Let us know if you would like more information!

Wishing you all a healthy and happy Thanksgiving,

Hayley and Gabe