Winter on the farm

Steve has been hard at work in the sugarbush rerouting the main line in preparation for sugaring season. The old anchor tree fell down, and while he had to do some work on the line anyways he decided to reroute to pick up some additional trees and add some taps. We’ve also been getting our new farm stand set up. We have a nice selection of beef for sale in the freezer, as well as some pork. Right now the only vegetables we have left are onions, but we are looking forward to early greens this spring and have a nice glass front cooler to make it easier to purchase veggies once they are in season. As soon as sugaring season comes around we will also have maple syrup available. Caleb and Jess Smith of Dorset Peak Jerseys have raw milk for sale in the farm stand as well. Thought I’d share some January scenes from around the farm. — Sue

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Looking for interns for the 2014 growing season

greenhouse and hoophouses

greenhouse and hoophouses

We are beginning our search for one or more agricultural intern(s) to help with all aspects of our farming operation. We are committed to providing an educational experience. We offer housing, basic board, and a stipend. Some weekend and evening hours will be part of the mix.

Depending on the person we are looking for someone who can work the full season, from April until October, and/or for the summer months. Work will include starting seedlings, all aspects of managing a 2 acre vegetable garden and getting vegetables to market and to CSA customers, blueberry care and harvesting, and perhaps some care for pigs and cows. If interested please click on leave a comment below, send us an email, or give us a call. You can also download our application and either mail it or email it back to us.

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The blueberry picking is fantastic!

Blueberries just waiting to be picked

The blueberry picking is absolutely fantastic right now. Here’s some pictures to tempt you to come out and pick. We are open 10 am to dusk, 7 days a week. Check sidebar for daily picking conditions.

Lots of beautiful blueberries

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U-pick blueberries opening up Monday July 2!

The earliest of the bushes are starting to come in! Picking is from 10 am to dusk, 7 days a week. The farm stand is set up self serve, so come on out and get some tasty organic blueberries! Keep an eye on the sidebar for a daily update on picking conditions.

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almost blueberry time

almost blueberry time

u-pick should be starting next week — stay tuned to the side bar for up-to-date info!

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Seedling Sale

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Spring Growth

As everything seems to in spring, Two Dog has begun to grow. For a number of months now it’s been only the core of Two Dog and the occasional visitors keeping the farm lively. But now the ranks of Two Dog have swelled, and more than doubled. We have two new interns, Andy and Laura,  and one wwoofer, Margaret, on board. Andy arrived in March and helped with some of the sugaring operations, and is now doing a swell job running the greenhouse, with Sue’s input here and there. Laura and Margaret, who are sisters, arrived last week and are just starting to find their place in the spring shuffle. We’ve got a full growing season ahead, but it seems that we’ve lucked out for yet another year, and landed some very intelligent, and hard working people.

The cows are waiting for spring grass

Beyond Two Dog’s population boom, growth seems to be happening every where we look. The grass is green and just starting to be of that length which cows can curl their tongue around and snap off. If you never seen a cow eat grass, or never paid attention to how effectively they mow grass with a rather dull instrument, their tongue, you should. I doubt you could mow a lawn with your tongue. Give it a try though, I’m sure someone who lives with or near you, or even just drives by would be very amused.

Back to farming and no more tom-foolery. The vegetable seedlings are well on their way to long and prosperous lives, even if they do have to undergo the torture of “hardening off” which is forcing them out into the cold to toughen up for the varying temperatures that accompany this time of year.

Last but certainly not least on Two Dog’s list of growing things is the pigs. We’ve got a new batch of nine pigs, mixes of Tamworth, Hampshires, and Berkshires, that are roaming and rooting in their luxurious new spot along the gardens, and on top of our compost pile. When we first had them they were behind my house in the little pig house, but they have since received a first class upgrade to their new digs. Where the dirt was becoming rather compacted and bare in their old spot, they now have soft soil, compost, and lots of vegetation to root and carry on in. For my part in farming, I can say that there are few things as rewarding as seeing animals in conditions that you know they enjoy. Besides amused and enthusiastic pigs, we’re hoping that their current home allows the critters to turn the compost, fertilize some of the garden, and reclaim some space to be used in future garden expansion.

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Unlike the expected and usual growth of spring, the weather has been anything but usual. March was record-setting hot and with 80 degree temperatures felt more like May.  As we moved into April the heat slacked a bit, but the weather stayed warm and dry. In mid April it was dry enough that the National Weather service issued a forest fire warning for this area. In the past couple of weeks though, we’ve got some significant rain and the dust has reunited with the soil and decided to stay put for a while. Now to keep the roller coaster going the temperature is supposed to dip into the low 20’s the next few nights which is not good news for the young and tender buds and blossoms of various trees and plants. For Two Dog the blueberries and recent garden transplants are our main concern, though many other plants such as apples could be at risk as well. Oh well, mother nature may be unpredictable, kind at times, harsh at others, but at least as bosses go she really isn’t too concerned with how I spend my time.

Off the farm Two Dog has begun working with the Garden Arts Fresh Market in Manchester, VT. Currently we’re selling syrup, pork, beef, and greens at the store. As the days lengthen and the vegetables begin to come into season we’ll be offering a large selection of fresh organic produce and vegetable seedlings. We think the world of the folks at the Fresh Market, and we’re looking forward to working with them, so stop by and check the place out. They are located on 557 Depot Street on the corner of Highland Avenue in the renovated Mobil gas station.

That’s all for now. We’re hoping to get back in the blog and not lag so far between posts.

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Steve drawing off the first syrup of 2012

We had our first boil of the 2012 season on February 17, made some beautiful fancy grade syrup. Thought you might like to see a few photos!

Yes, it’s for sale, and yes, we ship! If you prefer the darker grades, we’ll be making those soon. Give us a call or send us a comment or an email!

If you are in the neighborhood and see steam rising from the sugarhouse, stop in and say hi!  –Sue

Fancy grade bottled up

Liquid gold

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And another year begins …

starting early seedlings by the woodstove

The first seedlings of the year are huddled around the woodstove to gather heat to germinate–hoophouse tomatoes, onions and leeks should all be poking their heads up within the week. We have lots of great tomato varieties this year, including many heirlooms: Yellow Perfection, Moskvich, Amish Paste, Black Prince, Ukrainian Purple, Principe Borghese, Wapsipinicon Peach, Striped German, Brandywine, and Rose de Berne. In addition we will have some fun new varieties, Indigo Rose, Cosmonaut Volkov, Speckled Roman and Green Zebra, and some old stand by’s: Sungold Cherry, Big Beef, and New Girl. For descriptions of these varieties, take a look at our organic seedling page.

sugar lines and tapped trees

We are also gearing up for the sugaring season. The sugarhouse is cleaned up and organized, the evaporator is put back together, the lines are repaired and Steve has completed an expansion in the sugarbush to increase our number of taps. And the really exciting news is that we just finished tapping the trees! Our thanks go out to Pat, Ben and Anna, and Jeannie who came and helped tap over the weekend. With the funny winter we’ve been having, it’s hard to say what kind of a sugaring season it will be, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the weather settles in to some more typical winter/spring patterns. It looks like we could get our first good runs this week and start boiling.

We’ve expanded our herd of cows to 10 and a new batch of piglets will be arriving shortly. Steve will give you a more complete update on the critters when next he writes.

Soon we will be boiling sap, planting spinach in the hoophouse, starting lots more seedlings, and sending out our brochures for the upcoming season. We’ll keep you posted! — Sue

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Irene and her ways

Well it’s been a long while since I’ve posted on here and it seemed about time. Two Dog has felt the wrath of Irene and has made it through mostly unscathed. We were spared the wind, but we got all the water one could imagine the sky could hold. I’m always amazed during significant rain events that it’s so hard to carry a five gallon bucket filled with water, yet the sky can carry tons of water for hundreds of miles effortlessly.
Just another strange way of the world I suppose.

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All the water Irene carried poured down and made the storm’s epicenter, in relation to the farm, my front yard. What is normally a steady flowing brook became a thundering brown river that put two feet of water in one of our barns, poured over the road, and came within inches of our basement. We certainly didn’t keep the water out of the basement, but we did keep the water from hitting the four foot mark, at which point it would have hit our electric panel. The furnace was really the only thing that sustained any damage. Beyond the house a few fences took a beating, all of which have since been repaired, the greenhouses were flooded, but not damaged, and the barn you see pictured was flooded. In spite of the pictures all the animals were safe on higher ground. The cows were in a high pasture far from the water, and the pigs were close to the raging river, but they too had higher ground to go to. Outside of the farm the real story was the roads, or rather the lack thereof. Following the storm there was only one road you could leave the farm on, and that was closed a few miles away at the town of Pawlet. For a time we were an island, but it was short lived as the road crew made, and continues to, steady progress rebuilding.

The barn which flooded is still filled with mud, but the hay inside was the real story. All the hay didn’t get soaked, but the bottom two rows of bales were completely submerged.  Initially, I hoped the hay on top of the wet bales would be alright, it was the best hay I’d made all summer and that’s why I put it close to the house. Unfortunately, none of the hay was alright as I learned last Wednesday. I knew I should check the hay sooner, but for the two days after Irene I was too busy tending to the obvious and glaring problem Irene had created. So on Wednesday I went to check on the hay, which invovles sticking a hand into and between the bales to check for heat. My fingertips were greeted with the warmth of a hot ember buried in an unsufficiently doused pile of embers.

The flood that almost burned the barn

I’m sure this has some of you confused as to why there would be heat in wet hay bales. The explanation for this is because bacteria begin to break down the wet hay and as they do, inside of a tightly compressed hay bale, the temperature begins to climb. Think of a pile of mulch and the way it steams when you dig into it with a shovel.

Realizing the hay was hot and knowing that if I pulled the bales apart they sometimes burst into flames due to there exposure to oxygen, I left the hay where it was and headed to the house to call the fire department. If you’ve seen or even heard of hay fires you know they move extremely fast, and engulf a barn before anything can be done. So if there’s a chance of a hay fire it’s better to have the fire department there first.  With the fire department in route I sat and waited hoping that in the next few minutes the hay wouldn’t reach the point when smoke suddenly became flame. Thankfully the fire department arrived quickly and began to deal with the situation. When it was all said and done the barn was emptied by multiple fire departments, and Two Dog was left with a steaming and smoking pile of hay that could safely consume itself in the open of a pasture. This event was the closet I’ve ever been to a hay fire, and I don’t care to ever get any closer. We lost about 300 bales in the incident, but I consider that a small price in the scheme of things. I do want to extend a huge debt of gratitude to all the volunteer firefighters who showed up, and especially to the hometown Danby-Mt. Tabor fire department who arrived first. I can’t stress enough that people need to be extremely wary of hay that may have gotten wet in flooding. It may seem a benign thing but it’s only a matter of time for that to change.

So all told we lost 300 bales and had some damage done to a furnace. In the larger picture that is a very small price to pay compared to some of the damage that was done. Two Dog has heard countless other stories of farms that have sustained damage that goes way beyond our loses. Countless people asked me prior to the storm if we were prepared. In all honesty, I had no idea it would be as bad as it was, and as a farmer there is no way you can be prepared for everything a natural disaster will throw at you.  The business is one which exists outside, often extending for acres and acres, encompassing multiple facilities. You don’t know if the winds going to wreak havoc on the sugarbush or tear down fences. Or if the water is going to rise into houses, barns, or fields, and if so which stream it is that’s gonna do the most damage. Instead of being ready for any single thing the farmer must watch patiently as weather and events unfold and be prepared to deal with whichever situation arises.

Add on top of trying to triage an unfolding disaster, the fact that there are days when you love mother nature for her dry and sunny days, or for the light rains she puts on a sun-scorched crop, and it makes for a very strange day when that same force that helps you survive seems as though it’s trying to wash you off the face of the earth.

Beyond Irene the farm is continuing on. The pigs are growing quickly and simply seemed to be confused by the water racing through the lower part of their pasture. The cattle weathered the storm fine, content to watch the river race by as the rain poured down. The gardens and hoop houses are beginning to slow down and fall crops are starting to be the focus. All the moisture from the storm and that which continues to fall is definitely promoting disease, but there’s not much we can do about the rain.

Otis being tired

Last, but certainly not least is the addition of Otis to Two Dog Farm. Otis came from North Carolina and has come to live with me and Jeannie. Otis’s sister, Annabelle, lives with my sister and husband, arriving as a birthday present. Otis we heard nedded a home too so after my father’s long drive he’s got a new home in the northeast.   And to answer before you ask, no we are not changing our name for the new addition. Otis sure is cute, but we like our name and logo so Otis will just have to fill in for Syd or Boone when he gets a chance.

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