Fall on the Farm
This is by far my favorite time of year on the farm. Not only does it mean we’ve pushed through the craziness of summer, but the slight shift of seasons has arrived and with it, an exhale of calmness. The sun comes up a little later, which means we start our days a little later, as each day is truly defined by the daylight hours. The weather has changed, the rain has begun, the warmth of the inside fires is alluring. We’ve pressed a lot of apple cider and are enjoying the fresh pork sausage we’ve made. We really are blessed to live and work here. For the crew, It feels as though we're on the journey home, the end of the season is in sight and now they know we've got this! It's a great feeling to see the results of all of our hard work over these months, to find the energy for this last stretch, and to dig deep to finish strong on what has been a really stellar year at Root Down.
The days have been getting noticeably shorter, we don't open up the coops and start feeding the animals until around 7am, which gives the crew a whole hour extra in bed, a luxurious treat they enjoy. With less animals on the farm now, the move into fall feels a little more relaxed. But we don't like to make things too easy for ourselves, because that would be boring, and who wants boredom? So we decided to take on six new Gloucestershire Old Spot X Mulefoot piglets. There is a ton of free food around this time of year, from local organic vegetables left over from markets, to brewer's grain, to apples from local orchards and food scraps from a caterer friend of ours, so these piglets will benefit from a lot of great free food. When new piglets arrive, in order to keep them mobile and moving around the pastures, they have to learn about the perils of the electric fence. Pigs are super smart, so it only takes one or two days for them to learn that they'd rather not touch it with a wet snout, but until then we set up metal fencing so that if they do get passed the electric fence they aren't able to escape out into the pasture. What we hadn't factored on this time, though, was just how teeny those piglets were and almost as soon as we put them in their pen one had squeezed its skinny little hips out through the fencing and was making a wild bid for the long field as fast as it's little legs could carry it, which was really freakin fast! Luckily, if there is anything in farming that you can rely on, its that a pig (like us) is ruled by its stomach, so before too long we found that little guy hanging around its pen, hoping to get in for a big meal and a long drink and his exciting, freewheeling adventure came to an end.
The turkeys are in very full voice about now. We have two coops of about 73 each, and they like to compete in their gobbling. Every kind of noise sets them off, motorbikes roaring by, the tractor starting up, hammering fencing, moving the coops, sneezing. And those turkeys have to echo every sound with a round of gobbling. Sometimes the turkeys group together at the end of each enclosure looking at the other group having a face off and a gobble competition. The males are getting into their full glory of feathers, which they like to puff out to become as impressive as possible for the ladies. They extend their red snoods and show off their wattles which look like bright red melting candle wax. They really are the most impressive and beautiful birds.
The most exciting development this month has been that we've had our first rain since April. If you are ever unsure of how to spot a farmer, ask them about the first rain, if it is unreserved enthusiasm then chances are they farm. We raced round, tying tarps to feed bins to make sure water wouldn't get in, and moved tools inside just in time to got ourselves indoors to watch it pour. And then it was as though the pasture took a huge refreshing gulp, absorbing all the water and nutrients from rotational grazing and almost instantly everything started to grow. It felt like we were hallucinating as the pasture turned green almost overnight. It's amazing how everything feels refreshed and renewed so quickly and the dusty, brown pasture we've been living with is being replaced by optimistic young sprouts of bright green grass. See, I told you - farmer's just love rain!
And finally, the beautiful barn is finished! The last touches have been added, beautiful iron latches and incredible antique light fittings were sourced and we have started using it as a working part of the farm. It will continue to take us a while to feel that we can actually use it as it is just so perfect and clean. As tempting as it might be to keep it pristine and empty it is truly a gift to have it for storage and a comfortable dry area to work or gather in. So we took the plunge and moved in our tractor, our tools and feed bins and will continue to settle into the space that will be used fully to make work on the farm and within our community even better.
So now we are looking forward to Thanksgiving, and we know these last few weeks will fly by with their fullness. We will enjoy more turkey gobbling, more rainy days and this years incredible crew will begin their transitions onto what is next for each of them. I’ll start settling in to the slowness of winter, pescadero high school basketball and dive into the planning for next year.
-Farmer Dede with help from Farm assistant Lucinda