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Quick -- Call The Vet!

You may recall that last Tuesday a calf was born to Daisy our dairy cow (we named the cute new calf Clementine). Everything seemed to be going fine with both mom and calf, and we checked in on them several times a day.

But then, something started going wrong...

The calf wasn’t taking milk from one side of Daisy’s udder, and there was noticeable swelling. Last week’s record-breaking heatwave only complicated matters. Then, on Thursday evening, Joel went to the field to bring Daisy up near the house to milk her.

That’s when he discovered Daisy, lying on her side, head down, not moving, and panting heavily. And not only that but she had a significant number of flies (like, a LOT) on her that she wasn't even trying to swat away. She was not looking good. And he was further alarmed when he couldn’t get her to stand up.

The next 24-hrs was very stressful for everyone.

The situation still unfolding but we'll be posting a full recap on the blog when its settled. Farming never does seem to settle down!

Early Bolting = Not Good

The heatwave last week made fieldwork pretty miserable. We were all dragging along, glad to finally see the more normal daytime temps and cooler nights.

It is also a tricky time for the plants. In normal weather, the plants are trying to capture as much solar energy as they can during those long summer days. To do this, they grow as many leaves as they can (which are built-in solar panels). At the same time, the roots are absorbing minerals and nutrients from the soil for that building (leafing) process. It is really remarkable to watch.

But the recent heatwave caused some early “bolting” -- and that is not good.

You see, some plants are “one and done.” You scatter radish seeds and each seed produces one fleshy radish root.

But in most leafy vegetation, you can harvest the leaves and the plants will produce more leaves – so you can harvest several times from one plant giving you more production.

But hot weather (like we just experienced) has triggered some plants to shift from building mode (the vegetative leaves/stalk/roots) into reproductive mode (which is “bolting” or going to seed). This is something we usually expect to happen later in the season (when a plant’s lifecycle signals the need to create seeds for winter hibernation and the next spring’s growth).

This could severely diminish our harvest, so, to keep the plants cooler we use two (pretty time-consuming) precautions:

1) created shade using the high tunnels

2) kept the crops wet using our irrigation sprinklers

Hopefully we won't see any more record-breaking heatwaves so we can keep our harvesting on schedule!

This [icture shows the difference between bolting crops and non-bolting... On the right you have broccoli that has not flowered and on the right you have Broccoli Raab that is producing all kinds of flowers and even starting to set seed! These two crops are about the same age, but one is a lot more prone to bolting when the weather gets hot!

Training On The Trellis

These days our vining plants (tomato and cucumber) are growing fast, which means we spend a lot of time directing their growth to improve fruitfulness and easier harvesting. Underground, the roots are acting like miners, tunneling through the rich soil and transporting it – like industrial conveyer belts – up to the plants. Meanwhile, the vines are spreading out to get more sunlight.

By using trellises, we can increase plant productivity and make it easier to harvest. But that requires us to continually direct the plants' growth, guiding the vines so they cling to the trellis in our high tunnels. Sometimes you can just tuck a vine back along the trellis, and sometimes you have to actually loosely tie it up.

In any case, these plants can easily grow 5-7 feet off the ground, so it is a job better suited for Daniel who is 6’5” and not Megan who is a foot shorter!

This chore can be tedious and repetitive. But the good news is that doing it now will make it easier to harvest since much of the fruit will be easy to reach!

Last Batch Of Chicks!

This week we will get the last batch of baby chicks for the season. The older ones are already in their mobile (floorless) cages on the pasture where they are enjoying sunshine, exercise, fresh green grasses and plenty of bugs. Treating them ethically means a lot to us.

But the new baby chicks will start in our brooder, and once they are strong enough (in just a short two weeks) we will get them to the pasture as well.

Once there they are moved each day so they get new grasses (and bugs!) and at the same time naturally fertilize the pasture bit by bit. It is a great way to restore the pasture’s vitality.

AS A REMINDER: These represent the last chickens we will raise this year, and since one batch was cancelled, it means our stock is lower this season. So, make sure you get your order in if you want to have some of these extra-tasty chickens in your freezer!

The Cattle Are Lowing …

We recently took delivery of a dozen beef cattle from a friend of ours who raises calves. They are now contentedly grazing on our pasture. Like the chickens, we regularly move them to new areas so these perpetual eating-machines have fresh grasses to munch on. As they move from pasture to pasture, their “cow patties” enhance the soil’s microbial ecology, which in turn stimulates the grass growth.

This managed, rotational system heals and rejuvenates the soil and naturally re-establishes a wonderful balance of grasses and clover that the cattle eventually feast on. What that means to you is that you can get great tasting and high-quality grass-fed beef that is produced entirely with solar power -- no growth hormones needed!

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