CSA News April 29th
Spring is a busy season for farmers and gardeners. Dewane and Sarah Tyler are braving the wind and cold to finish planting our oats and barley. The barn calf steers are being introduced to a big field pasture. Violet and Squirt, our two Jersey milk cows, are dry. They’ll calve again in late August and early September. Until, then, there’s no need for them to be summoned up to the barn twice a day to be milked. They know the routine and, being cows that thrive on routine, they will remember.
Lucy, Lola, and Lizard are our young milk heifers. They will learn the milking routine when they freshen in a year and a half. Until then, they need to be in daily touch with—and be touched daily by—us, their human handlers. To do that, we’ll move them around the farm and house yards and along the lush grass that borders the long driveways to the fields and high tunnel garden. We’ll carry pails of fresh water for them to drink, and scratch their ears and necks. Why do we want to keep them tame? They’ll be 1000+ pound milk cows in a year and a half. We’ll milk them by hand or squat down beside them with an old-fashioned Surge milker. No robot-run milking parlor for these dames. We want them to be cows kids can sit on. Cows that come to be milked when you call. Cows whose raw milk is creamy rich for making butter or yogurt or cheese. Or quark, if you’re from Switzerland.
We transplanted tomatoes into the high tunnel last week. Five long rows in between the rows of spinach and lettuce. We’re protecting the plants closest to the walls of the high tunnel from cold seep with hotkaps, the white hat-like covers. By July, the tomatoes will be 5-feet tall and we’ll start harvesting tomatoes. We’re so excited!
You have to tread carefully in the high tunnel now. It’s crowded. But it’s wonderful to have the high tunnel do what it’s meant to do—get crops to mature early. The spinach and lettuce seedlings are getting their true leaves. With sun and more moderate temperatures (the unscientific way to describe growing degree days), they will resume growing and soon you’ll be enjoying fresh CSA salads.
We did more seed sowing this week. Broccoli, flowers, fennel, Chinese cabbage 2, head lettuce 2, kohlrabi 2, kale 1. Tomorrow, we’re starting melons, zucchini and summer squash, outdoor cucumbers, and okra. The hoophouse cukes, still in pots, are about to get their first true leaves, but we started them on April 10th.
We’ll sow radish 1, bunching onions and beets 1 this week. The weather is too unsettled to plant carrot seed. We’ll plant cauliflower and late cabbage in flats, and move the onions outside for their final acclimation before transplanting into the garden.
The snow peas are germinating. I dug up a few and saw the emerging green sprout. We’ll hang their chicken wire support fence, and plant the sugar snap and shell pea seed.
No word on when the bees will arrive. The hives that wintered over are hatching brood. While we were setting tomatoes in the high tunnel, I watched a noontime pre-flight orientation session for young bees the other day. The bees clung to the face of the hive. In small groups, they let go and tested their wings. Always facing the hive, they hovered in mid-air, then practiced landing. Then they crawled up and practiced again. Fascinating!
Sorry for the pause. I just had a fresh reminder of why we are lawn-pasturing the milk yearlings. Lizard just broke the clasp of her green nylon collar and was leaping around the yard and ended up under our deck. I managed to back her out without cracking my head more than four times. She raced me to the gray horse trailer, then stopped to rub noses with Lucy. She stood still while I slipped a temporary chain around her neck and hooked it. Then I managed to attach the other end to the trailer before she tried to scamper away again.
Yesterday morning, two of the 400-lb beef calves Dewane had shepherded into the barn broke out. I found them butting heads in the middle of the road in front of the farm. RDO is planting potatoes now, and big trucks with seed and chemicals are zooming back and forth. The road is not a good place to play. Hannah and I herded the steers with the red truck down the driveway and up to the barn. I knew we didn’t dare get up close and personal. They’re black Angus calves, not tame Jersey calves.
It was a good thing Lizard was willing to let me catch her. She’s going to make a good milk cow.