Raccoons

July 16, 2010

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Some of our chickens  fell prey to the raccoons of Mt. Washington. Mael found the chickens pecking at the head of one of the chickens the raccoon got to the night before. We tried to put wood siding on the chicken coop so the raccoons would have a harder time getting to the chickens in the night…But, a day or two later three headless chickens were found in the chicken coop, from the night before. Apparently the raccoons were reaching in and ripping the heads off when the wide chicken bodies wouldn’t fit through the fencing holes. Another coop has been moved in and we’ve covered the fencing with tarp…Hopefully this will help with the chicken problem, however, the raccoons have moved onto the pig feed (we’ve recently added a door to their food, so it can be locked up when the pigs are sleeping). Recently, after putting the chickens away we heard three raccoons squabbling so we sent Justin’s dog maggie to scare them up into the trees…and after a long night of hide and seek with a flashlight, Justin’s dad shot them. Obviously these two raccoons aren’t the end of our problem, especially considering while we were hunting down the two that we could see, we heard another squabbling group of raccoons approaching. We’ll have to stay vigilant.

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Since our last post the temperatures and the growth of our plants, pigs and chickens have sky-rocketed. With temperatures reaching into the mid 90’s our crops are getting a good lesson in withstanding heat, as we reduce the amount we water. We’ve decided to cut back on watering the plots every day, now that our roots have established themselves in order to make sure we aren’t consuming more water than necessary and also with the hopes that this will make our plants stronger, thus making the seeds that we save able to withstand the varied weather pattern of New England. That being said, a majority of our plants are flourishing. We’re harvesting rainbow swiss chard, romaine lettuce, summer squash, kale, radishes, beets, escarole, mesculin mix, zucchini, sweet peppers, peas, carrots, hot cherry peppers, and onions.

We are happy to report that we are approaching our third week of our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Our harvests have filled our CSA baskets to the brim, so much so that we have decided to expand the number of CSA members we serve from six to nine!

Our excess produce, along with our jam and pickles are being sold at our roadside farm stand on Mt. Washington. We are partnering up with the Blueberry Hill Farm of Mt. Washington, exchanging our maintenance  work for their blueberries, so we can bring fresh organic blueberries to our farm stand! We plan on holding “Farm Stand Days” with live music, arts and crafts and delicious produce. In the meantime we’re working on the aesthetics of the farm stand so we can better attract passerbyers.

We’re also working on getting our residential cooking license so we can sell our jams, pickles and baked goods at the Sheffield Farmers Market, in addition to the produce we’ll be selling there starting July 30th.

Pests, pests , pests, and some more pests. We’re dealing with almost all of the most common vegetable pests, including cut worms, cucumber stripped and spotted beetles, cabbage worms, Japanese beetles, aphids, corn borer beetles, slugs and crows. We’re working with a field that has been hayed for quite some time, allowing pest populations to thrive. We’re trying not to get too worried but its hard when you show up to the field and two hundred corn seedlings have been ripped out by crows and all the soy bean leaves have been devoured by the Japanese beetles and pesticides are not an option. We introduced ladybugs who are known to eat other insects and planted flowers to attract wasps, bees, and deter non-beneficial nematodes and aphids. We’ve consciously gone light handed on our weeding in order to create a habitat that is hospitable to spiders and other insects that prey on the destructive pests. The most satisfying pest control practice has been  hand picking the bugs off the plants and squishing ’em in between our fingers.

As we all get more accustomed to the daily tasks of farmers we are getting better at dividing our time and focusing on energies on specific tasks. We’ve got big plans for grants, secondary products, educational workshops, a community kitchen, food and social justice work, additional farm stands and a load of other stuff…but we’re trying to take it one step at a time. And  can we just say…we’re beyond excited to announce OUR TOMATOES WILL BE READY SOON!! We’ll check in soon!