Monday, January 27, 2014

The "Polar Vortex" & Some Good News

Typically January is a time when you hunker down, plan for spring and make the best of what mother nature throws at you in the way of weather.  This year has been no different, accept that things have been a bit more challenging than usual due to the extended periods of extremely low temperatures. Heating a sizable farmhouse from one central wood burner in the basement takes a lot of doing and Dave continues to cut and split a lot of wood. Thanks again to our neighbors Pat & Jim Sanders for the firewood logs!   Also, as you can see above, our new tractor grader blade works particularly well as a snow removal implement!  Dave has somehow also been doing the plowing without having to invest in chains for the tractor.  So far so good.

Call it what you will - a "polar vortex" (sounds too sinister) or just a good old fashioned winter, but these conditions do offer plenty of outdoor opportunities, and when dressed warmly enough, can be very enjoyable.  With twin seven year old boys around the farm, the opportunities are pretty limitless - sledding, ice fishing, building "snow caves", ice skating on the neighbor's pond, snow ball fights, making snow angels, snowmobiling, or even some skiing at nearby Elk Mountain.

As for farm-related activities, Farm Manager, Dave Campeau has been focused on making some much needed cosmetic touch-ups to the interior of our 1925 farmhouse. Fresh paint in several areas, a re-organized basement, and  a new granite counter top behind the kitchen sink just to name a few.

We have also recently purchased a special weather alert radio with battery backup that will alert us to local weather emergencies if and when they occur.  The radio can be programmed for a variety of settings - we chose just the flood warning setting for Wayne County.

The very good news we received recently from our friend John down at the Farm Service Agency near
Scranton was that our farm qualifies for crop insurance for all the crops we raise.  The policy will cover 55% of retail value for all crops and will cover for flood damage.  With this policy in place for the coming year, we plan on significantly expanding our growing areas with the aim of making the farm much more self-sustaining financially by having a lot more produce to sell through the local Wayne County Grown Farmers Cooperative (that name is in flux at the moment).

Knowing we will have this policy in place has put us in a position of needing not only to scale up production of certain crops (peppers, eggplants, carrots, and beets to name just a few), but also to obtain a bit more equipment in the way of attachments for the old Ferguson tractor so we can plow and till more areas and get them planted with cover crops like buckwheat and rye this coming season.  This will allow us to have more vegetable growing areas ready for the following year.  The cover crops break down weed roots in the soil, and also put back much needed organic matter and nitrogen into our silty river bottom soils.

We plan on converting the sheep pasture area on the near side of the road to a summer growing area and then bring the sheep back on in late fall for fertility reasons.  The sheep will spend the spring and summer months on the middle and possibly also the upper pasture areas.  We need to figure out our watering and transport systems soon.  We will also need to string quite a bit of electric fencing.

Dave is currently re-building the flood-damaged solar powered pump.  It appears the damage occurred when silt entered the bearing housing while the pump house was under water.

One other thing we will also be doing is using our rooftop gardens as cold frames for starting onions
and cole crops like broccoli and cabbage in late winter and early spring.  We are also working on finishing our counter tops in the barn kitchen area and also ordering a stainless evaporation pan for our small, gravity fed maple syruping set-up.

Until next time, enjoy all our winter photos, stay warm and take heart in the fact that each day is getting longer and before you know it the snow will be melting... In the meantime, become a seven year old again for a few hours and get outside and enjoy it!

Your Friends at Old School Farm

Grating Kolrobi for an au gratin
Idylic small boys sledding hill behind our farmhouse

A gold laced wyandotte hen 

Twin brothers in front of "twin" Catalpa tree

The Dyerry river icing over on top (and bottom)

Readying the ice auger to drill holes for ice fishing

Auguring holes in Thompson's pond 

2 on 1 snowball fight

Daddy and his boys

The winter hay bail delivery method 

The fat content in grain keeps a body warm in the coldest temps

Mom and her boys hit the sledding hill

Our tom has been in full color and strutting for his harem 

Where's that helmet Dave?

2nd cutting hay - great stuff

hmm...  if I could just play offense and defense at the same time...maybe next year

close to zero and still outside for most of the day

spring fed and not freezing

Owen's snow cave

A large flock of wild turkey hens on the way to Elk Mountain

sweet winter sky

a boy on a frozen pond

a zest for life - even in skates on rough ice !

First solo chairlift ride

skiing with the cousins at Elk Mountain

Coleman Benner and his cousin Sophia Seligsohn