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June on the Farm


Sunset on the Farm
Sunset on the Farm

The temps are ramping up as we hit mid June, looking toward another record year as global heating begins to really take hold.  The farm is pretty resilient with our pastures and forests being rotationally grazed for a while now, but we have apparently failed with our front yard, which has already begun to fade from green to brown.


Our goats are cool cucumbers in the pasture however, even doing some sunbathing during the hot days, between munches in the brush. They may be the perfect animal for our farm as our summers get hotter and longer, so it may behoove all of us to work on our goat grilling recipes for the future (more about that later). It turns out that their smaller rumen, body size and the heat radiating qualities of their horns allow them to stay cool much further into high temps than the rest of us.


The goat herd is in Bramble Rampage Mode at this point, the 40 kids we kidded this spring are now full on foraging at their mother's sides, making the impact of the 70+ goats devastating to the invasive species they love so well. I cut down a large Asian honeysuckle this morning and it looked disturbingly like a combination of piranha attack and crocodile death roll as they rushed in and stripped the plant of its leaves.  It makes for satisfying brush removal even on the hottest days. I only wish the repair shop would hurry up with my chainsaw--using loppers to take down the 25+ year old plants is a lot of work.


Red Devon and White Park cattle on our farm
Red Devon and White Park cattle on our farm

The cattle on the other hand are definitely not doing any sunbathing. We always make sure they have access to trees and usually find them loafing in the shade in the heat of the day. I admit, I have to do some pretty excruciating fence gymnastics to fit trees into each paddock, but it is always worth it to see the cattle finding some relief. 


I am also seeing some benefits for the cows as we move (mooove, har har) away from my dad's favored black angus into red (Hereford, Red Devon), grey (Murray Grey) and white (English White Park) breeds. Studies have shown that black cattle coats can be 10-15 degrees hotter than red or white coats, so it seems a natural decision. So far, I have seen my white park and red devon cattle out in the sun and grazing longer than the black cattle. It is only anecdotal evidence at the moment, but maybe I'll work on a study in the coming years. 



Snooks and Ruti (our dogs) have decidedly differing views on the hot.  Ruti runs beside our UTV all day, while Snooks runs mostly to the shade of the pickup and waits to be taken home to the air conditioning (we don't let her inside nearly enough in her opinion).  Still, both love to help move the cattle and chase the occasional rabbit, so their lives aren't all that bad.


Ruti resting during his morning run.
Ruti resting during his morning run.

Our first cutting of hay (we sometimes have three) was a bumper crop due to the excellent early May rains.  We've rolled up over 350 big round bales, which should get us through even the worst fall and winter, even if we don't take another cutting.  I say "even if" because we haven't had any real rain since the beginning of the third week in May.  June is usually the wettest month of the year in our part of Iowa, with an average of 5 inches.  As of June 17th, we have had one rain of .04 inches.  Yes, that is four one hundredths of an inch.  We would need 124 more rain events like that before the end of the month to get us up to an average June.  


Luckily our soil has a lot of organic matter that is good at holding moisture, so our grasses are still growing a bit, but we need rain.  All of you out there with any influence, please send word to the appropriate authorities that we are asking.


And for those of you who love our (now somewhat) famous and extremely delicious melons, our garden is starting to take off in this heat.  Beth's Briliant Canary melons are already beginning to bloom after a slow-start spring and my Leelanau yellow watermelons aren't far behind. Beth will put out word if and when we have enough to sell in her veggie boxes (maybe Wini will even have another Happy Hour!).


The red raspberries are producing lightly as we cut back most of the canes from last year, but doing that should give us a better harvest later this season. And the tomatoes, like just about everyone else's around here, suffered a rough start, but are beginning to bounce back.  Hopefully we will see a resurgence in the later summer on all the rest of the beans, lettuce, kale and such.



Last, but certainly not least, Whippoorwill School (the arm of the farm dedicated to educational activities) is up and running in the new barn and we have had some very successful events so far.  The most recent was a sausage class sponsored in part by 99 Counties.  If you aren't able to buy in bulk from us, they are a very good source for smaller amounts of well raised meat!  We sell about half our yearly calves to them and will soon be selling some of our goat as well.


Beth is hosting Writing Your Memoir: Getting Started and Keeping Momentum this Saturday June 22--only two spots are left! Be sure to sign up quickly if you want to attend. We are also hosting a few book clubs in the weeks to come.


And as always, I'd like to invite you all to visit our farm!  Come for a dinner, a class, or just for a walkabout. It's beautiful here and we'd love to have you experience it for yourself.  Something this good has to be shared.


John




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