May 10, 2012

No, This is Us in a Nutshell....

        Yikes. Long time, no blog. I apologize to everyone chomping at the bit to read the latest from Puzzle Peace. I feel like last week was February, I blinked and it is May. I will try to recap the last six months as orderly as possible.
       Thomas found and purchased a used saw mill in January. It works like a dream to me, but of course, he has modifications in mind. The saw mill will be used to mill lumber for farm buildings, roosting house, sheds and projects. One day, we hope to build a house from lumber we have sustainably harvested, milled and cured on site. This was a major acquisition and one I thought we’d never find. He also modified a John Deere tractor to build beds in one or two passes. In the past, we built beds with a walk behind tractor with rotary plow that is very precise but cumbersome and time consuming. This tractor does in one minute what used to take twenty.  He widened the front axle and mounted a series of discs to the underbelly that rise and lower and are adjustable to either bust up, shape beds, or hill potatoes. It’s the setup of a cultivating tractor with discs instead of cultivator arms.
       We began taking steps towards creating a conservation easement. The first was a wetland determination that honestly blindsided us. The designated area is less than an acre of the Puzzle Creek bottom land that we will now put into conservation and remediation. This really means, we’ll let nature heal itself and we’ll also have a wildlife refuge jutting into our field. Kinda sounds nice now that I think of it but our initial reaction was dread of the oncoming headache.
        In March, we completed the greenhouse/hoophouse which was a long time coming. It was just in time to fill it with lettuce transplants which headed up less than 30 days later producing the most consistently large lettuce we’ve yet to grow. Thomas put in a dozen fruit trees shortly thereafter. With newfound pride and a sense of accomplishment, he hauled stagnant, broken equipment out of the field clearing our view and our minds.
        April was full of meltdowns, mostly emotional. I’m not sure what made this year so daunting but thoughts of the upcoming season produced anxiety like I haven’t felt since I began farming. Sadly, we lost nearly our entire flock of hens in April to foxes, coyotes, possums, weasels and/or raccoons. Live and learn doesn’t apply to this situation. This was a huge loss economically (as we’ve been investing in these hens for over a year) and a kick to our guts. Tomatoes went in, right on schedule just in time for one last surprise frost which damaged most of them killed a few and set back the potatoes at least two weeks.
         Our nearly two year project of creating a walk in cooler and packing shed is nearing completion. Last week, we used them for the first time and felt like the two of us could reasonably manage what was historically an overwhelming harvest.  While one of us harvested crops and brought them to the shade of the shed, the other kept them flowing through the wash water and into the cooler to chill at record pace.  
         Jersey birthed one kid in April, Vincent who will likely be raised for meat. Earlier this spring, we harvested goat meat for the first time, and sold it all as quickly as it was processed. This came as a surprise to both of us and has us scratching our chins, thinking about expanding the goat meat venture in the future.
        The mantra for this winter was “We aren’t getting as much done as we did last year.” We wrapped up the growing season in December, spent January feeling very guilty and unproductive. Our productivity didn’t really kick in until February when the urgency of unseasonably warm weather kicked in and we realized if we don’t get going, we’ll be run over. Now that I look back on what all we have accomplished, I feel so much better. This writing exercise has lifted my outlook. Thanks for reading.

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