Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lamb Management

We hope to raise 1000 pounds of grass-fed lamb for the kitchen for the coming school year; here, students learn the processes associated with lamb management--dewormer, CD&T shots, hoof trimming, and weighing for biweekly weight gain.

Monday, June 29, 2009

First Cultivation of Potatoes

While we seem to be stuck in the same weather pattern as last year, daily rain and lots of it, our storage crops are thriving. Here, as part of the Agriculture Power Systems course, we are cultivating our potatoes using a horse-drawn two row cultivator--this is tricky since one wrong step by the horses or one misjudgement by the driver operating the foot treadle can cause lots of damage to the young plants. Students gain confidence working the machine outside the garden area then proceed to working over the plants.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Learning to Drive: Logging and Cultivation

Students are gaining confidence working with the horses as they move logs around the log yard and work the cultivator in the bean patch. Working in a relatively low risk environment such as this will pay dividends once we begin skidding logs from the woodlot and working with the two-row riding cultivator.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mowing with horses

Over the winter, we rebuilt a McCormick Deering Number 7 horsedrawn mowing machine; today, with the help of teamster Nick Hammond and his horses, Peter and Paul, we took the mower out for her maiden (at least in a resurrected since) voyage. We intend to use the mower to clip pastures behind our animals or in front of our animal rotations if the grass moves too fast for them to keep up. Our next project, a McCormick Deering grain drill is moving into the shop and repair work is scheduled to begin next week.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Chicks, Logging with Horses, and Pasture Management

As we approach week 3 of the summer farm semester, much is happening around the farm, in the forest, and in the gardens; and, of course, in the classroom! Meat birds and turkeys for the kitchen and laying hens for the farm are growing in their brooders, logs are being skidded from the woods to soon be milled into lumber, and pastures are being managed to ensure that our grass will not only last into the fall but that next season's grass will have the best start possible. The last of the transplants have been removed from the greenhouse and are in their beds. 500 bales of first cut hay are in the barn and the next cut awaits a stretch of good drying weather.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Garden chores

Each day at 6:30 a.m. and 4:45 p.m., students not taking care of the livestock descend upon the gardens to weed, plant, transplant, mulch, trellis, hill, harvest and nurture our food for this coming season. A new addition this season, strawberries, are being established between the other berries and the apple trees. Hopefully, the plants will thrive and we will be able to supply the kitchen with enough strawberry jam to furnish the needs of the Sterling community.

Friday, June 5, 2009

First day working with horses

This week, one half of the Agriculture Power class began working with Lincoln, Rex, and Pete--all draft horses that provide much of the motive power for the Sterling College farm and forest operations. Much like Driver's Education, the first lessons are centered around in-hand work such as turning on the forehand, turning on the hindquarter, movement commands such as gee and haw, back, and step up. Basic pre-work grooming and hoofcare along with harnessing complete the introductory component of the course. The next step involves ground driving the single horse through obstacles and taking a nice walk around the common. Once students become comfortable with these procedures, they will move on to more complex movements with the single horse followed by real work applications such as skidding logs and cultivation.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Spring Lambs

With frost warnings again tonight, tomatoes and strawberries will spend the night in the hothouse. On the farm, we purchased 13 new lambs from a local flock owner, these lambs will combine with the seven of those born here to complete our sheep flock for the summer. Chores will now consist of lamb management(vaccinations, deworming, tagging, banding, and weighing) with the goal of producing premium grass-fed carcasses for the nourishment of the Sterling College community. In the fall, students enrolled in Agriculture Techniques will trim hooves, shear, supervise the transportation and oversee the butchering of the carcasses based on the needs of the kitchen. We will manage the sheep, as with all our grazers, following good rotational grazing practices and hope that in addition to sound-growing animals, we can improve our pastures to grow good grass and other beneficial species of forage.

Opening Week

Eleven students arrived on June 1st to begin a 77 day intensive Sustainable Agriculture Semester. Joined by five faculty and four academic interns, the students will immerse themselves in the daily rituals of managing the farm and gardens at Sterling; livestock and garden chores coupled with intense classroom sessions focused around our theme: Conscious Farming in the New Economy.

Each morning, students rise and are working by 6:30, crews are at the farm feeding our current load of animals (lambs, heifers, cows, beef steers, poultry, horses and oxen), moving fences, or building projects in preparation for the arrival of poultry (100 meat birds, 25 turkeys, and 50 barred rock laying hens) and 15-20 lambs; or, working in the gardens where seedbed preparation and transplanting are in full swing. This summer, we are expanding our small grain operation to include nearly an acre of wheat, oats, and rye. With the construction of our new bread oven, we are hopeful to offset our dependence on outside sources for flour.

The draft horses are in full operation finishing primary tillage responsibilities and beginning to cultivate young crops. Students are split between horse power and mechanical (tractors) systems to learn what type of motive power system is best applied to a specific farm application.

One large project, the development of an improved compost system, is in full swing as compost bins are being constructed next to each six garden sites. Our potting mix for next season is nearly finished with the active stage of composting and will be set aside for curing--this took only 21 days with our new bin system!

Permaculture projects are emerging in preparation for the Permaculture Design Principles course taught by Keith Morris of Prospect Rock Permaculture. Students are already looking at our landscape and brainstorming ideas for their projects.

Food, as always at Sterling, has been wonderful--localvores are in culinary heaven as Mary (our cook extradonaire), interns, and students prepare delicious meals for our nourishment.