Farming

Progress

stumping

Our friend Henry and his crew arrived this afternoon to clear out overgrown nursery stock.  Much of it was half-dead, and we had already lost over an acre of cluster birches in an ice storm our first winter on the farm.  There is another two-acre area of trees that never seemed to take off and the cows have largely knocked those down.

These spruces are popping right out of the ground and leaving the soil in place (thank goodness!).  The remains of the trees will either be burned or dragged to the gravel pit along our west border to compost.  Pigs, cows, and goats have all grazed in the area and we are hoping we’ll have an opportunity to cover crop here before it gets too late in the year.

Between the livestock and the mechanical help, we will have added four more acres, give or take, of cropland.  That’s going to increase our CSA and farmstand capacity, as well as what we will be able to donate to area shelters.  Yay!

You can just see the maples turning there behind the little excavator.  Gorgeous.

An Unexpected Visit

“Brendan’s here!” 

An unexpected, and wholly pleasant surprise.  Brendan and his wife Katia, and their two lovely boys were some of our very first farm friends.  They grazed their cows on our farm for our first two seasons. They have been so generous with their farm knowledge.  Last winter, they realized their dream of buying a large farm of their own.  Sadly, that has meant that they moved their family away to Maine.

combine1

One thing that wasn’t moved was their combine, which has been parked in our barn since last fall.

Last Saturday, Brendan arrived atop his blue Ford 7700 to collect the combine and take it to Maine for harvest.  After a brief visit and tour through the house to see the progress of the renovations since last year, he hopped onto the tractor and hooked up the combine and towed it around the barn, along the tractor path.  He stopped again, and stepped down from the tractor to shake Brian by the hand.

“If I don’t see you again”

And climbed back up.  He waved goodbye to the children, promised to give our greetings to Katia, and drove away down the road.

It was such a poignant moment: to be so happy for him and his family in their new home and doing so well, and to be so sad to see him leave.  Farmers don’t get much time for visiting, or for traveling around for social calls.  It may be a very long time before we do see either of them again.  But they are always close to our hearts and in our prayers.  And we will always be grateful for their kindness and friendship.

combine

Date Night

It is a rare treat for us to be able to go out {almost} alone together.  Our evening began with a Pro-Life event at St. Mary’s Church in Shrewsbury.  We listened to dear Dr. Paul Carpentier explain the science behind NFP, NaPro Technology, and the Creighton Model, followed by a talk by Dr. Chris Klofft and his wife Bridget.  I was encouraged to see some young couples there in addition to us older folks.

After the talk {and lots of post-event chatting on the way out}, we packed Georgie and ourselves into The Squirrel and struck out for dinner.  We landed at Volturno, a new place on Restaurant Row in Worcester.  It was very quiet at 9:30 on a Wednesday – a few folks dining al fresco on the patio, and one couple inside.  The décor is really cool, they’ve worked out how to make ‘industrial’ feel warm and homey.  And the music was pretty much Brian’s iPod playlist.

We ordered a salad to split for starters – Bibb lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and a creamy garlic dressing.  Oh that dressing.  Put it on anything.  Everything.  Gorgeous, pale green deliciousness.  And then we ordered two pizzas – the pistachio and the funghi.  The first was spread with pistachio pesto and topped with mozarella and sausage.  The second had mushrooms, goat cheese, mozz, and a drizzle of jewel green olive oil.  And the crust: sublime.  Make you cry.  Soft, thin, chewy.  Sourdough beauty that was.  And the pizzas are made in the ancient Neapolitan version of the microwave, but fired with wood.  The ovens are a work of art,  covered in luminous mosaic tile.

Volturno

Volturno

Back to that salad.  Our server came to check up on us and ask if we needed anything {absolutely nothing.  seasoned to perfection}.  I asked if they made their own cheeses or if they had them made locally.  The mozzarella was that fresh.  He told us that they source their ingredients from local farms and creameries.  Brian and I beamed.  “That’s cool!  We’re farmers.”

He offered to introduce us to the chef, and just after our pizzas came to the table, Neil came out to meet us.  We spent dinner chatting about the exciting direction of agriculture in New England, about heritage breed pigs, farmer’s markets, and kids.  We were invited to a special event this fall at the restaurant, and went away having exchanged details with each other.    But not before Neil had dessert sent to the table: a salted caramel gelato sandwich.  OMGoodness.  It is a wonder I didn’t die of happy on the spot. SO good.

Volturno

Sharing a passion for good food with our clients and customers really inspires us.  We are really looking forward to the prospect of working with him.

Hoppy Day

Far northern Massachsusetts is a beautiful place to spend a summer’s day.  Last Thursday, Brian and I attended a hops field day at Four Star Farms in Northfield to check out the hops operation of the L’Etoile family.  Despite feeling pretty crummy otherwise, I had a wonderful time.  We were treated to homemade coffee cakes {made from grains grown on the farm} and – at lunch time – sandwiches made by a local shop {note to all: I LOVE sprouts on my sammies}.

Lots of other farmers and homebrewers attended, as well as the nice folks from University of Vermont {co-sponsors} and Berkshire Brewing Company {who brought tasties}.  We heard about success of certain varieties, trellis design, harvesting and processing – at least how it’s done on Four Star Farms.  Hop growing is experiencing a renaissance here in the northeast, where it once was commonplace. Much of the knowledge of how to grow hops here died in the 19th century with a widespread blight that killed nearly every hop yard.  So farmers are trying to find their way, learning from what remains of information from the time, from the Europeans, and from large hop farms in the Pacific Northwest.

There were LOTS of questions about organic hop yard management.  And that is a good thing because we are an organic farm.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t as much collective experience to give us any more than what we’ve learned on our own over the past two years.  So, we’re going to have to give it a go with what we know and see how it applies to hops.  Our plan is to manage the hops yard as the rest of the farm – using a holistic approach.  Feed the soil.  Animal impact, trap plants, companion and cover planting.

This is what we are looking forward to seeing in our fields:

Hops

Hops

Hops

Hops

 

 

We were also treated to a demonstration of the harvester that the L’Etoile’s imported from Germany.  I suspect that Brian had machine envy.  He is totally enthralled with machinery.  This one was pretty neato. The bines (vines) are attached to clips that run along that track and are hauled up and into the machine through those blue flaps.  There are fingers that flick off the cones and separate the bines, leaves and cones.  The wet hops are then brought to a dryer rightquick to remove almost all of the water.  They are then compressed and vacuum packed for delivery to the brewer.

At some hops yards, the hops are further processed by the use of a hammermill and pelletizer to make little nuggets of hoppy goodness.  One day, we would like to see how all of that works, too.

Hops

Hops

We have had some interest from a handful of local brewers in having us produce hops for them.  Anything measurable is at least two seasons away, so we’re talking about how to raise the capital for the first section of yard.

 

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