If he or she does, we have our own version of The Ugly Duckling happening on the farm this spring. One of our turkey hens laid on a clutch of eggs for way more than the 28 days it takes to hatch them (we think the old tom turkey may be past his prime). The eggs rotted and the turkey hen was disconsolate. Meanwhile, the Americauna chicken who had been squeezing into the nest next to the turkey (imagine!) laid a new clutch of eggs that the turkey started brooding. Last week two chicks hatched and the turkey mama couldn't be a better mother to those two CHICKENS. We laugh every time we see them in the yard - the chicks are so tiny! Yesterday I saw the turkey mama chase a crow that was getting too close to her babies. What will happen when they mature? Will they join the turkeys or the chickens? Always a new adventure.
This year we were ready for March 1, which begins what feels like the 50-yard dash except that it lasts six months. It helps a lot to know that this is the cycle of farming, and that it will slow. Meanwhile, Tom works 12 hour days, and hits the hay early. Then feeds the hay, then hits the hay....
We're finding our balance points with the various operations of the farm. We have 60 laying hens and sell about 15 dozen eggs a week. We've done two chicken processings of 90+ birds each and have sold out within the week each time. We have four more to go this season. We've had to buy piglets but are very excited to finally be pasture-raising the pigs. They do tear the fields up some, but not as much as we had thought they would; Tom rotates them every few days like he does with the cows. It should improve the pasture over time. The two goats provide just enough milk and cheese for us and some to share with friends. This year we're making goat cheddar for the first time - hard cheeses are a whole lot harder to make because they are aged and the temperature and humidity have to be just right. We'll see what happens.
Tom and friends put high tensile wire above the current garden fence so the deer have an eight-foot barrier. So far so good. However, last fall's groundhog is back. I read an entire chapter of a farm book about techniques for winning a battle with a groundhog. The groundhog won. I'm not conceding, at least not yet. There is also very good garden news. A friend of a friend asked to volunteer weekly in the garden. He was a Buddhist monk for 20 years so we have had wonderful conversations as we work together. What good fortune! In case anyone is interested, the gardening book that most informed my garden ways, and also a good deal of my spiritual path, is called One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka. I first read it in 1982 and then again a couple of years ago, and was surprised by how much influence it had had on me.
We also have the great good fortune of having a farm intern for the summer. Ben wants to join the Peace Corps after college and knows that agricultural expertise is needed. We sure are glad to have his muscle and his great ideas. Thanks, Ben!
And finally, this spring we have had many more school field trips, our first paid farm tours and a five-week (once a week) class for homeschoolers called Spring Times. Beginning on the solstice we'll have our first week of Summer Days, which was a wonderful experience last summer. It was fun for us to see the kids have such a great time on the farm. So the gate has been wide open and we're glad so many kids are getting a glimpse of how food can be raised on a small, diverse family farm. Thanks to all of you who support what we're doing.