Snow Now Spring Later

Winter is a great time on the farm. This may seem a bit counter intuitive to most you as the natural world appears to be frozen solid, but to farmers this time is when we dream up the year to come. Maura and I have been busy at work crunching numbers, looking at seed catalogs and ordering endless varieties and quantities of things like six foot oak stakes and rubberized work gloves. It is truly amazing all the little bits and pieces that go into making a season on the farm happen. I often wonder what is the truer view of the farm; what I see looking out over the fields in July or what I see sprawled out across my desk in January. I know which one I prefer looking at!

CSA membership is on track compared with years past and we have high hopes for the quality of the coming growing season. There are lots of shares left for those of you who have yet to sign up. If you have neighbors, friends or co-workers who you think who enjoy a share please pass on our information or let us know a street or email address for them and we’ll send out our latest brochure. Just a reminder to those of you on the winter payment plan, the February 1st payment of $138.33 is coming up.

Our next big task after the planning and ordering is done will be lambing. Starting the first week for February we expect our 83 ewes to begin a three to four week process of birthing 130-150 lambs. This should be an average of 5.6 lambs a day (I’ve never looked at it this way)! For the shepherd, lambing is an intense time (not as intense as for the ewes!) as we keep a close watch over the process. One of the most important things in choosing ewes for our flock is their ease and skill at mothering. How well does a ewe deliver lambs (most are twins)? Optimally she does everything without any help from us. After delivery, how eager is she to clean them and encourage them to nurse? New lambs when encouraged by the ewe, can walk and find their mothers nipple within minutes. These traits in ewes, just like fleece color and size, are highly heritable and we think have a major impact on the long term health and vigor of the lambs. If all goes well we check the flock four to five times a day, recording new lambs information like weight, sex and to which ewe they were born. This alone is tiring, but when things go wrong, like breech births and lambs that are rejected by their mothers at two in the morning, the process can wear us down. All in all it is an incredible time and when most of Maine is beginning to doubt whether spring will ever come, we are given the gift of seeing new life springing forth.

2010 has already proved to be a bumper crop for us in regards to apprentices. We have hired three of the four we are looking for and all of them are top notch. Bethany, a superstar from this past season will be returning soon for another year, after a month long trip to India. Adrian apprenticed last year for Willow Pond Farm in Sabattus (remember their cider we had in the fall) and Emily has worked for both Chewonki and Ferry Beach Ecology School. We hope to hire the fourth apprentice soon and will be ready to hit the ground running with them the first week of April.

Winter at the Farm: Half-day education programs for kids coming up February 16-18th. This year we will be offering half-day programs at the farm during the February school break. Kids will work with Maura and Seth as we feed, water and care for our new lambs and chicks. We’ll also warm up in the greenhouse sowing seeds and having a hot drink and healthy snack. There are four slots to choose from for 5-10 year olds: programs on Tuesday or Thursday (16th and 18th) are from 9-11am or 1-3pm. Preschoolers can come with a parent on Wednesday (17th) from 9-11am. Each session is $20 ($15 for a sibling) and will be limited to a small group. Please call or email Maura for more info or to register.

Crystal Spring Farm Day Camp sign-up begins this week. Maura has added several new options and programs for kids of all ages during the summer vacation to experience a real working farm. For all the details and registration info see our website.

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