Sunday, July 24, 2011

Garlic Harvest 2011

We began lifting the garlic out of the ground on July 16th and finished on the 18th. This season the weather could not have been more perfect. All three days were some of the coolest temperatures of July. As always we placed the garlic in our barn's loft and use commercial size fans to begin the curing process. We began cleaning the garlic on the 23th and finished on the 25th, some of the hottest days of July. But working in the barn on those hot days with the fans going was quite pleasant. The turkey poults are still in the orchard and each of the days we pulled garlic I was surrounded by the poults and their mothers for the entire day, some times I would look up and the poults were no more than 15 ft away eating weed seeds or bugs or both. This years crop of galric looks very good with some real nice size Music and German White garlic. The image is some of the Music garlic crop.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Turkeys that look like Quail

Seeing Turkeys in New England and in our Orchard is usually not noteworthy. Jean and I were moving a piece of fencing last week and heard a flutter of wings. When we looked up it looked like a covey of quail was in the air, about eight birds. We looked down and seeing an adult female Turkey still walking we quickly realized that we had flushed a group of baby turkeys, poults. We have never seen poults fly before and were surprised how strongly they flew. The next day we noticed a second adult Turkey with poults and we now have two adult females with poults hanging out at the orchard with a total of twelve to sixteen poults. Today starts the second week they are hanging out. Very cool.

Where are the Sheep?

Shortly after we sold the bottle lamb this year we received a call from another family that purchased a starter flock from us last year. This family really liked the Soay and wanted to expand there flock. In discussing what they were looking for I suggested that they might want to purchase our entire flock. The combined flock come from three distinct blood lines with the newest line from our purchase of a lamb ram out of New York last season.. They now also have a ram and ewe that are pure "Johnson" line. The "Johnson" line was the original line of Soays prevelant in the New England area and were the Soay we began with back in 2003. We sold the sheep for a few reasons. Although we really like Soay we were ready for something different and this was an oppurtunity to place the entire flock with a family that wants to raise and breed Soay. Another reason was that we wanted to replace all the fencing in the front of the sheep's pen with new fencing and make a number of other infrastructure changes in that area. What's next for animals at Elwood Orchard? Not sure, we have a few ideas but some of our first thoughts are turning out to be difficult to find, but we are still working on them... stay tuned.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Limousine Lamb

This season one of our older ewes gave birth to twins. She, Dalilah, has consistently given us a healthy lamb since her first breeding season five years ago. She is a great mom and always raised healthy lambs. This season we noticed that she was much larger than any previous season and initially we anticipated that she would be the first ewe to lamb instead of the last. We raise heritage breeds because they rarely need help lambing and if you leave them alone you will find a healthy lamb feeding on her mother the next day. We were concerned that she was so large and noticeably uncomfortable that I broke my rule of leaving her alone. She was very vocal while giving birth and I would check on her frequently. I spooked her with a flashlight just while she was dropping her second lamb. At that point I left her alone for the night and visited her the next morning. It was clear the next morning that she did not bond with one of the lambs. I called my brother the help get the lamb some initial feedings of colostrum from the mother which is important for future health and needs to occur in the first 24 hours. We tried some techniques for bonding the rejected lamb with the mom all with no success. We had our first bottle lamb after sixty lambs born over the years. Bottle lamb feeding is relaxing but requires a commitment. Four feedings a day for the first ten days then three feeding a day until weaned in six to eight weeks. Occasionally folks look for bottle lambs as a family projects so we decided to list the lamb for sale as a bottle lamb looking for a committed family. We expected the lamb to be sold as a pet and not necessarily to a Soay breeder. We received a call from a lady who already had two Soay and had a home based business. After some conversation we realized that she bought the Soay from us the previous season. Of course the home based business was a limousine business and yes the bottle lamb was picked up in a limo.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Stone Boat

This spring we removed some more trees from the woodland section of our orchard. We did this for couple of reasons. First it will provide us, friends and neighbors with firewood for next season, but most importantly it will allow the new orchard we planted last season and added to this season with more light penetration.

Some of the trees were felled in areas that would not support the weight of a tractor this time of the year. My neighbor Jack and I were discussing how to remove the logs, which included too many pulleys and winches, when we began discussing the old time method of using a stone boat or sled to move heavy objects without the use of wheels. Jack remembered seeing a stone boat in a barn on his sister-in-laws family farm. A phone call later we were assessing the condition of the stone boat. The cast iron front was in perfect condition but all the wood needed replacing. Jack's idea was to sandwich 2" pine planks with a sheet metal bottom and a plywood top.

The results can be seen in the blog image. Jack is driving the tractor. The stone boat worked far better than we imagined and saved us a substantial amount of time over using pulleys and winches, plus we saved a piece of farm equipment history. It's also lots of fun riding the empty stone boat back into position.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Late Winter Pruning

One of our goals this season is to prune all the fruit trees at our orchard. We have never been able to do this is the past and it will take us about three seasons of pruning all the trees each season to get the trees back into proper form. Our primary goal is to prune for air circulation anticipating that this will help with some of the problems we have with fruit quality since we began our organic practices.

The image is an easy puzzle that took me way too long to figure out. Some of the trees near the wood line have chewing damage. The damage looks like a pruning cut at 45 degrees; the 45 degree clue usually means rabbits. But the damage was as high as my chest, which didn't make sense. Of course the reason the damage was so high was because for much of the winter we had 2 feet of snow with 3 foot drifts. I'd like to say I realized this in a matter of seconds but minutes are more honest.

Even with the damage it's great to have rabbits on the property after their disappearance for so many years in the 1990s.