I’m up a little early today as I am on morning chores. The roosters are crowing in the chicken coop - I let them out as I head up to the farm house to make a quick breakfast. I fry up a couple eggs from the chickens and eat them with bread baked the day before in the farm’s outdoor cob oven. Fresh butter churned from our cows tops it off! I’m looking forward to when we get to steal a bit of honey from the farm bee hives to go with my toast.
This morning I am milking Artichoke with the help of Satira, one of the farm workers. I’m still new at milking and my hand muscles are getting stronger all the time. Artie (as we call her) swishes her tail when I squeeze a bit hard, but she is a very patient cow! Once the milking is done, we strain the milk and throw it in the cooler. We have time to clean out a stall or two before grabbing our books and heading to class.
Morning work session. We are still busy getting transplants out. I work for a couple hours on setting out the tomatoes and peppers. Our transplants come from the farm’s greenhouse and are raised in soil blocks that do not need any pots. I focus hard on developing my speed and am proud to say that by the end I could put out 100 plants in under 30 minutes.
9:30 a.m.: The oxen are plowing today, and I get pulled away from transplanting to take my turn at the plow. What a cool sight to see the soil turning over in waves. We studied soil management a couple weeks back and I know that the moldboard plow is not the most sustainable tool. But it is still awesome to be walking behind 3,600 pounds of oxen flesh.
Our instructional field time today is focused on bugs. In particular, we are dealing with the Colorado Potato beetles. First we did an assessment to estimate the number of bugs present. We found several life stages—eggs, larvae, and adults. We also found some cool predators like an assassin bug caught eating a beetle larva. Then we mulched the potatoes heavy with hay as this provides habitat for predators and also makes it harder for the adults to get to the plants. We’ll be tracking beetle populations to see how effective this is.
Lunch—my favorite time of the day! It is still early in the season, so not a lot coming from the vegetable beds yet. But I had a great arugula and paneer sandwich. Paneer is a super easy cheese we learned to make with the cows’ milk. Several of us take our lunches outside and eat in the sun.
This afternoon we are learning about insect ecology. Kenneth gave us a slide show of some of the common vegetable pests in the area and discussed their life cycles. He also showed pictures of several of the “good bugs” and described their habitat needs. I particularly like the idea of planting patches of plants specifically to attract beneficial insects.
Even though the water is still cold, we can’t resist the call of the swimming hole. After getting clean and refreshed, we hike down the Poultney River and explore. I might come back to some of the fishing holes we found.
We all sit down to dinner together. It is such a pleasure having other people cook for me, although my turn is coming in a few days. Although the vegetables are just warming up, we still have a surprising array of food to eat. The main course is roasted root vegetables. Things I never thought I’d be excited about—turnips, beets, and carrots—taste incredible when freshly pulled from the garden and roasted with fresh parsley and chives! We also have more bread and butter, a mesclun salad, and of course, ice cream for dessert from our cows.
I retreat to my dorm to write up my work for the day and do my reading for tomorrow. There will probably be a fire and music tonight, but I may save that for the weekend. It has been a great day and I love working hard, but tonight I'll probably go to bed with the sun.