December 2012 Archives

Our CSA Sign-up Open Jan 4th!

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Hey-a, folks! We're happy to announce that we'll be opening up registration for our CSA on January 4th! Currently, our farm will be servicing the surrounding community, with weekly pick-ups at the farm but if we don't fill up the slots by early February we'll consider offering shares to our Brooklyn pals.

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To find out more about pricing and sample harvest lists, please send us an email. Our farm website will be operational in the new year so stay tuned for that!

<3 Meg, Michael and Neil!

It's been a week since the kits were born to our three does and quite a bit has happened in that time. We've had some losses and some pretty stark comparison in terms of growth that I thought would be interesting to share.

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As Michael mentioned in a previous post, we've got two of our does, Salad and Hazel sharing a nest completely of their own volition. Our rabbits are raised in a colony, so theWe decided to allow them to continue to do so, as they had been getting along well during the process. Hazel even helped to clean Salad's kits as they were born. It was really interesting to witness.

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What's more, they have been taking turns mothering and nursing the kits. I got to see it for myself. As I was feeding and haying the gang, Salad ventured to the nesting box, arching over the pile of little rabbits and allowed them to nurse for a few minutes before venturing off to have a drink of water. No sooner than she left the nest, Hazel hopped on to feed the rest of the gang. As a result, the kits are huge. We've lost 6 of the 21 the two does managed to produce, which isn't strange, as does have a hard time feeding more than 8 kits at a time whether raised in colonies or not. We are now down to 15 kits in the nest, with 3 completely average in size. The rest are of the babies are monsters. I had to make a larger nest just to keep them from smothering one another.

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Jonna has a nest all to herself and her babies have done well. They are easily 1/2 the size of the other kits, though born on the same day. All six of the kits are healthy and now that the risk of rejection is passed, Jonna is out and about in the common area with the rest of the girls again. We have a total of 21 kits now, which isn't too shabby for a bunch of rabbits that just started living together, out in the open!

You can see the comparison between Jonna's and Salad/Hazel's babies in the pictures above. How crazy is the difference??

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Hay there, Readers!

It occurred to me a few weeks back that music has begun to play a big role in our day-to-day here at the farm. Wether belting out ditties with the Louvin Brothers in my pick-up truck or poring through seed catalogs to Bob Davenport's Balladeers, my new life has a soundtrack and I'm looking forward to sharing it with you all.

This first playlist was made with the quiet of winter in mind. We've been spending a lot of time planning the garden over creamy goat milk coffee with fat cats on lap. These are the songs often playing in the background. I hope that you love them as much as I do.

We usually listen to LPs at home, but I use Spotify often, since it has an iPhone app that I can use both on the road and at the farm so if you have an account, click HERE to access my first playlist!

Enjoy, friends!

Kindle Fire up in Here

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I've had experience keeping chickens over the past few years, but here at Seven Arrows, I'm learning goats, ducks, bunnies, and guard dogs alongside Meg and Neil. Getting the hang of things feels good, especially now that when it's my turn to do morning chores and critter feeding/watering/check-ups/milking I feel plenty capable on my own. And mastering new lingos is part of the fun.

peachshelter.jpg (Peach guarding the rabbit house in the rain)

When a female rabbit (doe) gives birth to a litter of baby buns (kits), it's called kindling. Not "laying", as I like to indiscriminately apply to any animal birth.

salad.jpg (new mama Salad munching on hay)

For Christmas, our girls didn't give us any old kindle... it's like the Amazon Kindle Fire HD of kindling up in here.

A few weeks ago, Artie, one of our male rabbits (bucks) snuck over the divider to lady-land and had a field day. We weren't sure which of the does received his affection, but it turns out that all of them did. And that Artie's got some gold-medal swimmers.

Watching Hazel scurry around collecting straw to build her nest yesterday (like she were gathering kindling to start a fire?), we knew some kits were on the way. Hazel, Salad, and Jonna dropped record litters, leaving us a total of 28 kits, as far as we could count. Hazel and Salad built a nest together and are sharing it, and Jonna's receiving the penthouse treatment in a comfy cage complete with nesting box.

jonna.jpg (Jonna taking a break from hungry kits)

So far, three of the babes haven't made it, but we're crossing our fingers that the rest hold on. According to one of the couple rabbit books I'm burning through currently, an appropriate litter size for any doe is eight, since that's how many nipples mama's got. So we'll see what happens.

In a matter of weeks we'll be overrun with thumpers, so if anyone out there is looking for pet buns, we're happy to supply.

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Sure are some cute little pipsqueaks.

The canines earn their supper

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Yesterday we lost another young Sussex pullet. I ran outside to check on Stevie, who was barking like a hellhound. When I made it to the chicken coop, I saw that none of the hens were out. Something was definitely wrong. Stevie bounded up to the fence with noisy fervor and ran back to the rear of the paddock, behind the coop. I opened the fence and ran it just in time to see a Cooper's Hawk attempt to fly off with the dead bird. I was stunned by the sight of the large predator. Stevie ran after it, causing it to drop the pullet and it was gone.

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My immediate reaction was to feel let down that Stevie let the hawk kill one of the chickens, but I thought about it a bit as I let her smell the carcass in the hopes that it would help form a narrative in her canine brain. It might help her do her job better. I considered the fact that she is a 9 month old pup working alone with the birds. I also considered that this was really the first time a hawk had the gumption to fly into her territory. She did the best she could to deflect this strange thing and call for help from her pack. She'd do better next time.

Turns out, "next time" would mean a mere halfday later. As Michael and I were expanding their paddock, the hawk returned with a sneak attack that Cooper's Hawks are known for...fly in low to the ground and just before you reach your prey, swoop up over it and down upon the unsuspecting victim.

Well, at least that's what it tried to do. Instead it got caught in the netting just as we cleared all of the brambles and ensured the wires weren't shorting on anything. That bird got over 8,000 volts through it before it got loose and went after the chickens anyway. The hens were hysterical we were in shock. Stevie took control, charging at the invader and barking it right out of her domain. Peach joined in from the goat pen. I think I may have done some barking too to encourage them. Both dogs ran circles around their yards, looking skyward and continuing to blast their warnings at any other potential troublemakers. When dust settled and our pups were sure the coast was clear, Stevie leaped towards us with tail whipping, seeking confirmation that it was a job well done.

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"Good girls. Good girls."

Yesterday was an historic day for us farmers here at Seven Arrows... We finally finished plowing up the field.

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Over the past several weeks, we've spent some time marking out, planning, re-marking, and re-planning, and all the time looking down toward the water wondering how on earth we were going to get that darn field prepared before the ground froze up. We started with shovels, turning over grasses and clovers and plantain and sorrel and henbit all grown into a thick sod. In two full days of work, Neil, Meg, and I had managed to turn over only about 3% of our total planned vegetable plot. Meaning, we'd need more than two full months of digging with shovels, every day, all day, to get it done.

Plowing, or more broadly, tillage, seems to have become a hot topic lately among farmers and gardeners. I've been hearing about no-till growing more and more over the past few years and have heard of some interesting and promising results here and there. But to be clear, I believe that tillage and tilling deserve their rightful place in agriculture... it just has to do with scale. There are distinct differences between a draft plow and a walk-behind tiller, and between a walk-behind tiller and a tractor-pulled plow/ripper/crumbler/finisher. And there's no way we could have a serious growing operation next season without some tilling.

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For us, tillage originally involved spades, shovels, and forks. Then, through bartering with a great new friend and neighbour, we managed to borrow an old walk-behind tiller. I'm not a big petrol head - a real part of why I decided to pursue faming has to do with fossil fuels - but if it weren't for that borrowed piece of machinery which in all used up six gallons of gasoline across a half-acre, we would still be out in the field digging. The fact that we used some gasoline to help with the very initial plowing of our field is something that won't keep me up at night, but I do want to think about other human-, draft-, or no-till-powered ways to prep a field quickly and efficiently. Meg and I have joked about hitching a plow to a wether (castrated male goat), but I still really think about testing it someday.

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Our soil is a lovely sandy clay with lots of worms. But it needs some good love to make the kind of intensive growing we have planned possible. We are adding years worth of composted leaf-mold, composted right here on the farm from trees right here on the farm thanks to our landscaper pal Catarino, organic amendments like kelp and alfalfa and spent grain from our friends nextdoor at Carton, and droppings and soiled bedding from the critters. By next spring we will pull back mulch covers and dig into some serious black gold, let me tell you.

With initial tillage finished, we sowed field peas and wheat as cover crops in certain sections to help out-compete and smother some of the turf. It's cold out, I know, but with a good soaking rain last night and some row cover to boost soil temps, I think we can eke out a decent germination. Experiment and see what happens, that's my motto.

We also planted out garlic, our first crop for the 2013 season.

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We chose to do a mix of softneck storage and heirloom hardneck varieties. Can't wait for some scapes.

It was a week full of milestones: I moved, fields are prepped for winter, garlic is in. We celebrated with a trip out to Carton to fill up some growlers and had a big pot of goat mac 'n cheese for dessert.

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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