Baby it’s cold out side…ah yes, our first snow of the season and a good 9 inches has fallen on the farm. A great time for me to review this past season to see what worked and what problems we faced. The winter season gives me some down time to also dig into the ideas and new projects I would like to try for the coming season. Most importantly it allows me some reflective time to go through my last season farm and field reports. As a farmer these reports are our lifeline to remembering the what, where and how the farm, crops, animals, projects and events went last season. There are 3 main things I look for in these reports which are pretty detailed…first of which is the weather: temperatures, rain amounts and any changes in the ebb and flow of what I think of normal in my farm’s micro- environment. We had last season a very cold start to our spring season. Ice and snow in March and then a very dry April and early May. All of which delayed our planting, harvest and crop cycle. The cooler and drier weather also affected some of the flavor of the crops…strawberries weren’t as large or sweet…same for the black berries. The next thing I look at is what kind of pest and disease issues we had to deal with. The main problem I found were the deer, rabbits and ground hogs last season. All though the farming season last year we had horrible issue with animals destroying crops..the reason was clear…No farm dog on the farm! Which brought me more then once to tears. I have never farmed without a farm dog…grew up with farm dogs on my childhood farm. I totally understand how important of a role these animals play in a healthy, productive farm. They are our livestock guardian, they run deer and other animals off the farm and out of the field. They keep watch and alert us to any nighttime predators after the chickens…these animals are priceless to farmers and to their farm animals. Mark and I started this farm with our farm dog Geronimo who was amazing as a farm dog. We got Joe a rescued black lab mix about a year before Geronimo at the age of 14 passed. Joe was a bit of a hard-head as a puppy but truly shaping up to be a great farm dog. Everyone loved Joe…He loved to ride in the truck to pickup Lucca from school…he had such a wonderful, funny personality and he loved all the farm visitors and always wanted to be part of every wedding on the farm. Most importantly he guarded his animals..always watching and always protecting them. He was also a champ in the field…keeping it clear of deer, rabbits and other green eating critters just like his mentor Geronimo did. If you drive by the farm you will notice all the new building of homes down this once little country road..so many of them..hundreds of them. Urban sprawl..on a massive scale. We made peace with it years ago…sighting the fact there is nothing we can do..but offer a green space, a open space and sell them a couple of tomatoes in the process. They just kelp building…we are now surrounded by huge subdivisions..never saw that coming 17 years ago when Mark and I first put a shovel in the ground here. For the most part these are city people who are lovely and love the farm. And support the farm being here with all that goes with a REAL working farm which includes our farm dog running loose without being on a leash or behind a fence. The farm’s production field sets in a flash flood prone area which is the entire front of the farm so we couldn’t fence the farm in if we wanted to. This area is also close to the main road here on Willis Branch. It is a dead-in road so very little traffic most of the time. Over the past couple of years there has been an up-tick in joggers and bike riders that live in a huge subdivision over the hill from us. 600 acres of homes, sidewalks, swimming pools and clubhouse…when we let the chickens out to free range Joe is on alert for anything that looks like a threat to his birds same goes for his donkeys and sheep..people running up the street or on bikes…he would bark and chase them until they stopped and talked to him…or they were far enough away from the farm. We tried to break him of this…and for the most part he did fine…and then he didn’t. You never knew when he would consider a jogger a chicken killer..After court, tickets and fines..we had to move Joe to another farm that our friend has away from the road..my heart was and still is broken..Joe was part of our family. Without Joe we paid hard this last season. We lost a quarter or more of crops, we lost 40 birds and 1 entire sunflower planting for a wedding. In one night deer ate 3 beds of sunflowers 4 days before this beautiful brides wedding…her dream was a sunflower wedding. I had to buy sunflowers to stick into the ground to try and keep this poor girl from falling apart. After reading the complete account of what we lost not having our farm dog…I was..lets just say sad. We decided to adopt a new puppy in hopes to become a great farm dog.. His name is Echo…so far he is much more the lap dog than farm dog..we will just have to give him some time and training. But what I wanted to communicate here is: Farms like this one are dying…there being bought up and developed thousand of acres at a time. Gone forever…because people can’t farm surround by people that don’t understand what a farm is…it’s pretty, it’s green, it can be smelly..it can be noisy..and farm dogs have to run lose on the farm.
2016 spring and summer CSA signups begin February 1st. I will be posting on our Facebook page with more information about this coming CSA season.