August 6-20, 2017
Last year brought numerous changes to our lives. Starting a research facility, farm, and bee operation accompanied no small number of challenges and daily surprises. The disruption and insecurity of our lives was made bearable with the knowledge that at some point this adventure would somehow be “done”. That life would calm to a steady state of existence that might be described as normal. A schedule that would certainly be full, but one that would permit reflection and prediction. Several have visited this summer to help record aspects of our story. They commit to following us around, requesting to record our “normal lives”. Recently hearing this request again, I furrowed my brow and struggled to define what that might look like. In weaving what has become Blue Dasher, we created a system that defies normality. A complex, constantly evolving entity that is defined by mission, not routine. I don’t know if our new “normal” will ever be captured in prose or film.
Livestock.最后让我指出，如果我们不能建设有托盘，青贮盖，胶带的东西，这是不值得的建筑前言本节。冬天快到了，我们现在有120层，这将需要一个更大的冬季比家用小8×8英尺小屋我们竖起去年十二月，以保持第一批母鸡冻死。别担心，塞德里克是就可以了。他制定了一些计划，我们在建设什么可能是我们设计了疯狂的建筑之一之中。我们做了我们需要的材料数量，而且我估计，这个小鸡舍打算耗资约1000 $。我认为自己是节俭，不吝啬（蓝Dasher的工作人员和我的孩子可能不同意），瞬间我的大脑开始思考如何使这个鸡舍便宜不少。lol外围塞德里克和我巡逻Menards，寻找物资。对于背景下，约在Menards胜利的十字军东征，在这里我们省钱罗杰和我贸易战的故事通过lol外围寻找清仓商品的小储物箱隐藏起来，或打折后得到一个免费的锤子，或拿起铜锅多一点自由为此起来改变我们看烹饪方式。一个下雨的日子里，我们深情地讲述每一个流浪的木材件，我们已经购买了价格低得离谱，因为降低了小瑕疵或裂纹的公正，并祝贺彼此是否我们需要的讨价还价项目或没有。 As Cedric and I patrol the lumber section of Menards like vultures, we became despondent in tallying what the studwall and plywood was going to cost us to accomplish this little project. By chance I looked pensively beneath the lumber, and asked Cedric “How do you think pallets would work for a studwall?” We chittered excitedly as the logistics all fell into place and we looked in amazement at how we never thought of this before. To finish the exterior and interior of the walls, we would cover them with silage cover. Cattle operations frequently have a large pile of cut corn stalks that they slowly feed to their animals. This tube of silage is covered in a threaded, heavy duty plastic that is cut away and thrown out weekly in large chunks. But when washed, it is a durable fabric suitable for all sorts of needs (we built a small hut in the barn with it, use it as a weed fabric, and will built a wind fence and hive covers this winter). Throw in some old batted insulation that was sitting in Roger’s attic, and our chicken coop is slowly coming together. As Cedric has constructed the walls, I asked him “How much have we spent on this coop so far?” “Almost nothing!” he replied, shaking his head. The walls are incredibly strong and well insulated; the rest of the barn could blow away, and this coop will be staying still. We can’t wait to get it finished, with fancy door timers, and egg collection technology.
Early August means it is time to castrate the lambs. I can’t lie; this whole procedure really gives me the heebie jeebies. Using a special metallic tool that looks like something out of a horror movie, the goal is to stretch a rubber band with the diameter of a thumb until it reaches the diameter of a wrist. Then one lowers the fist-sized ballsack through the rubber band, and SNAP! The band cuts off circulation to the testicles, which then atrophy. Options are to separate the ram lambs (we have 11) so that they don’t mate with the ewes, or have nine-headed lambs in January from son-mother matings. Neither alternative is well situated for our operation. So I have been kicking the can on doing this job; but all of the pieces of the puzzle are in place, and I decided that we would confront the inevitable on Tuesday. Dark, dark Tuesday.
我们把一些硬牛板成网围栏，然后轻轻地抓到了羊群到阉割舞台。他们很少关注进入，不知道等待他们的恐惧（心理，而不是物理。而比他们谈得更多的是美国）。在这一点上，我们的团队denutting抛开那个曾经劝阻他们承认在工作场所睾丸存在任何人力资源培训。我们的工作是球杀害，这是时间去工作。对于那些你们谁没有被周围的羊，他们的男子气概是巨大的。因为公羊被允许成熟一点，我们有一次拉扯通过一个厄运的一圈螺母。乐队看起来那么小，因为妮可挣脱工具而去，密封梦境的命运。有在所有的羔羊没有反应，因为我们发布反过来他们在每个回围场。他们没有受到伤害;他们只是......好吧，不再完整。 At one point in the process, I decided that we needed to commemorate the experience with a photo. Mike, Nicole, and I hovered over the lamb, who relaxed on his back in full display. It was an awkward photo that won’t be put on facebook. Farm life isn’t always glamorous. And many times we do things that we know we have to but don’t want to; trying our best to distance oneself from what can sometimes be a hard reality on the farm.
否则羊做的非常好,和have been so much fun. They have done a terrific job of cleaning up the weedy portions of a crop field. Now I am beginning to think about expanding our flock; I think that Blue Dasher will need approximately 40-50 ewes at full capacity. This will allow us to flash graze the cropland weeds in the fall and spring, but not overtax our prairie. Going into 2018, we will have eight ewes, so it looks like we will need a few years to ramp up to this level. After our first winter with the sheep, we may change our tune a bit. But having the livestock (layers, broilers, ducks, sheep, bees) has been one of my favorite aspects of the farm.
Lab team.Summer is almost over for a lot of the students- most have left or are leaving in the next few days to head back to school or wrap up a few loose ends before going back to school. And still, a few new faces have emerged. Liz and Tommy are great additions to the team, and all will miss Mackenzie and Mia. Having the students living on site has been a great experience for us. It is hard to imagine our life before Cedric became such an important part of Blue Dasher Farm; always with a smile, eager to help on any project, and greeting each new challenge with an extraordinarily positive attitude. Many evenings can find folks on the farm playing board games or Smash Brothers on the Wii in the basement, and it is great to have their energy and perspectives here.
Bees.A cool wet August means a slow honey crop. The sweet clover and borage are blooming. We have been monitoring some hives, weighing them every two weeks to see their growth as part of an experiment. The hives didn’t change in weight a bit for 2 weeks of what is usually the peak honey flow. Indeed, a few of the hives that didn’t receive Citronella oil even lost weight. The same can be said of some hives we have been monitoring in Minnesota. Beekeeping is a balancing act, and really is playing the lottery more than any other farming practice that I have experienced. The bees in the hives have to be at just the right density in the spring in order for them to grow and pack on honey when flower hit in June. For growth to the next hive box, there has to be enough bees and brood and honey in the previous box. Pollen has to be there for brood to build up. Rains wash the nectar from flowers, sometimes for days. If temperatures aren’t just right, the bees slow foraging. If temperatures are correct, but it is too windy, same result. And so many things disrupt this delicate balance in the hive. The sensitivity of the bees to their environment makes them tremendous bellwethers for stressors that affect everything else in the system but show few immediate symptoms (things like humans, for example). I am learning so much from these creatures.
Horticultural crops.The no-till garden is growing well. The straw was incorporated within 8 weeks of us putting it out there, so weeds started to come in. It took a few of us several hours to weed it, and then we spread some more chicken litter down. Tomatoes are kicking butt, but the peppers are slow. There are pockets of the garden that thrive, while others seem struggle. Not sure what the history is there? Perhaps some herbicide legacy is to blame. The raspberries will likely take most over most of the north side of the garden next year, which was the intention all along.
我们的草原果园植被的恢复has been slow to start. Prairie seedings follow the adage “first year they sleep, next year they creep, and third year they leap”. I fear that our prairie is narcoleptic. Weeds quickly overtook the seeding, and although we mowed several times to suppress the pigweed, lambsquarters, and buffaloburr, but no germination of prairie species ensued. By accident, we found that large, free swaths of used silage cover make a tremendous weed cover (this is large, string reinforced tarps that are used to cover large piles of cow feed. Dairies cut them and discard them weekly to free up new sections of feed), and so we started to use this to cover the prairie and reduce herbicide effects and costs. A week of solarization, and the weeds were largely dead. But what was even better is that some of the first seeds to wake up were non-weed grasses and forbs. I am hoping that these are not simply bluegrass, but certainly the solarization from that silage cover diversified the planting a lot. We have set the date for moving the fruit trees into the orchard for October 14th: come one and all tree planters.
Last night I sat on the prairie looking at Blue Dasher Pond. It is beautiful and I breathe it in. The scents. The overwhelming intricacies of sounds and images that only sitting quietly amidst the complexity of the natural world can paint. I missed Sarah, our dog. She was a steady symbol in the chaos. A different set of laws govern the lives of these species than those that support any hierarchy that I have known. The complexity of Blue Dasher Farm fits really well here. And it is beautiful and I exhale.