Après nous, le déluge

Spring is in full swing here on the farm, and the calves just keep coming.

Happily, the nurse cows have no trouble keeping up with rising demand:

And with the calves comes an increase in milk production, meaning the dairy and creamery crews are getting increasingly busy.

These two beautiful ladies are Flashy and Flame, the two most abundant milk producers on the farm, respectively. They both have a great temperament to boot; Nicole shared that Flashy is her single favorite member of the herd. The cows will be moving out to pasture in mid-may, which will of course further increase productivity and quality of life for the herd.

The thicker coats of these young fellas reveal that they've already been enjoying life away from the barns for some time now out in the farm's new silvopasture. 

Even earlier to pasture than the cows will be these handsome devils, who are moved to a new location each year. Their vigorous rooting around for anything edible thoroughly removes native growth, and this combined with their fertilizer results in well-prepared new acreage for vegetable crops the following year. This pattern serves as a fine example of the harmony possible on farms as diverse as Brookford.

However, for the next few weeks they're still happy as clams in their winter digs.

The first critters to be moved out to pasture each year are the chickens, and this year they'll have two rather furry new members of the flock with them. Predators, particularly coyotes, have taken a substantial toll on the flock the past few years. And so Brookford decided to incorporate a pair of Great Pyrenees pups this year, a breed known for its remarkable livestock guardian instincts. Pendleton recently retrieved them from a farm in Virginia. I gather that so far it has been somewhat difficult to keep their human contact to a minimum, which is vital to assuring their identification with the flock above all else. Staff and kiddos have now been made aware of this dynamic, though, and are doing their best to oblige. But I can certainly understand it being difficult to keep away--just look at those faces!

I'm sure this cutie wouldn't mind taking the extra attention away from the new pups. Bella never turns down a game of fetch in the parking lot.

Before the flock's departure the chicken tractors are due for some maintenance, with this one requiring some serious attention. The same winds that do a number on the greenhouses typically have even more open ground to rush across before they encounter the pastured chicken tractors, resulting in substantial regular wear and tear.

Speaking of the greenhouses, the covers on all three are now looking great, and the propagation house is nearly full and looking quite lush. Did you know that onion seedlings require a 'haircut' to keep them stout and sturdy, and from getting too tangled in the seed trays? Most had already received a trimming prior to this photo, but there's a good chance they'll get another before they're transplanted.

The third greenhouse was seeded with lettuce mix, arugula, and red russian kale only one day before its cover was ripped off by wind. Sitting exposed to the bitter cold for several days, Greg and the rest of the veggie crew were duly concerned about the germination prospects of those seeds. As this photo clearly shows, the seeding was ultimately successful, meaning fresh greens are right around the corner for CSA members, and the need for Marjoribou to wield her stirrup hoe against competing weeds has already arrived.

Back in the shop the crew was busy putting together Thursdays CSA shares. This is where the rubber meets the road!

Not far away, the precisely controlled environment of the farm's germination chamber (built into an insulated trailer) is housing the most sensitive and valuable seeds. There are several trays of tomatoes towards the back, many of which I imagine will soon land in the first greenhouse, where Greg was busy tilling beds during my last visit.

Out in the fields, the garlic has poked out above the surface of the soil. But a closer look to snap a photo confirmed some concern Paul had shared with me: the frost effectively heaved many of the cloves out of the ground over the winter. I suspect this is another trying byproduct of the land having been stripped of nearly all of its topsoil over the years that it was a sod farm. In addition to the challenge of returning and keeping fertility in the fine sandy soil that remains, Brookford has an even more uphill battle on its hands returning humus and more fibrous 'body' to its soils. Without it, it is much easier for the frost to displace perennial and overwintered plantings (garlic is planted in the fall). This provides another reminder that in addition to juggling myriad productive endeavors, Brookford is constantly working on repairing the overall condition of the land it occupies, which was subject to agricultural abuse for far too long.

The snow melt and rain has brought exceptional flooding this year to many rivers in the state, and the Merrimack is no exception. This photo of the pasture across the road from the garlic lays plain just how much of the river has jumped the banks, providing a choice temporary refuge for the seagulls dotting the ground. The flooding should dissipate quickly, and it will leave behind much of the nutrient that is suspended in the river water, resulting in some free fertility for the pasture.

My pup and I recently took a walk on the high banks down river across from a neighboring Boscawen farm, where the scene of the flooding was particularly dramatic. The nest of the bald eagles that often patrol Brookford is tucked away in the trees on the left side of this photo.

And back on the farm, the flooding made for quite the reflective surface to accentuate this incredible sunset captured by Nicole. We are lucky to live and work in such a truly beautiful and inspiring place.

On behalf of the entire farm, thanks again for your patronage, and the values that brought it to us.

-Matt