November 30, 2010

Lilac's New Calf

Lilac has been as big as a house for a couple of weeks, and we moved her into the barn a few days ago before the cold spell.  This morning while I was mucking the stalls, I noticed that she stopped munching her hay, laid down, and about 15 minutes later... 

November 24, 2010

Stormy Weather II

Winter came early to the farm this year with about 8 inches of snow falling through the evening yesterday, followed by clear skies and sub-freezing temperatures.  We usually get these kinds of storms in December and January, but hardly ever, according to the long-time locals, before Thanksgiving.

The cold probably finished off the mangel tops, which were providing good feed for the chickens and the pigs, but there are still plenty of the roots themselves which should have weathered the cold without much trouble.  The carrots are likely finished, but the collards should be fine.

We spent some time this last summer getting the barn more warm and snug for the winter months.  Mike finished all the doors and windows, and we have plenty of good hay and straw.  

November 20, 2010

Ed Mowing with Fred and Barney

Here is a nice picture of the early days of the farm. Ed is hooking up Fred and Barney, neither of whom are still with us, to a McCormick-Deering #9 sickle bar mower. The #7 and #9, along with the John Deere Big 4 (see photo on previous post), represent the apex of horse drawn technology. Thousands of these mowers were manufactured from the late 30's until 1945 or so when tractors began to displace horses at a rapid rate. These mowers are ground driven, taking power from the wheels and transferring it, via the pitman stick to the sickle itself. These late model mowers feature an enclosed gearbox in which the gears run in an oil bath "just like an automobile." There are still several thousand of these gems doing good work on farms all over the country, a testament to the good workmanship and sound engineering of the farm machinery of the this era.

November 16, 2010

Stormy Weather

The fortunate alchemy of air, water and mountains that bless Western Washington with an almost ideal climate for farming becomes something of a curse on those rare occasions when the weather does turn bad.  Here on the farm, in the valley of the Stillaguamish River, the wind hardly ever blows harder than 10 or 15 miles an hour, and usually, not at all. So when we do get a wind storm (with the obligatory downpour) we also get a lot of downed trees.
Last night a strong weather system rolled across Puget Sound with gusty winds, lightning and heavy rain. We were without power for most of the day here on the farm, but that doesn't really put much of a damper on the day's work of cleaning up. Surprisingly, not too many trees came down, and none directly on any of the roads or power lines. In the photo we see Terry looking over a tree that just missed the road, and will probably be stacked firewood within a week.  As luck would have it, last night was the start of our winter schedule for the horses, and so they were all warm and dry in the barn.   

November 6, 2010

Winter Cover Crops

Here's Ryan mowing a cover crop of oats sown back at the end of July following potatoes. Surprisingly, some of the oats were actually starting to head out. Last winter's oats were killed by a hard freeze in December, which was ideal for planting early spring crops. When a cover crop winter kills, you don't have to deal with knocking back a live cover come spring. With our generally mild winters, I doubt oats will winter kill every year. We shall see. For fields and garden beds that will not be planted until later in the season, and where we want robust spring growth, winter hardy rye is a good choice.

Cover crops are important for protecting soil from winter rains, trapping and holding excess nitrogen, competing with weeds, adding organic matter to the soil as well as contributing to a healthy soil structure. Nature abhors bare ground and so should we.