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Archive for Orchard

Ruminants

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I am long overdue for a blog.  As usual, there are countless things I would rather do than write!  In the last quarter of 2014, I made some significant decisions. I had been considering using goats to progressively clear some of the brush on the three acre south facing slope, with the eventual goal of expanding fruit and nut production. This part of the property is steep, and hosts a number of wild fruit trees and sheltered micro climates. In September I met with a team from Whiffletree Nursery to explore some planting options. My intent was simply to create a plan for the next few years. However, I was quickly convinced to contract with Whiffletree to clear strategic areas of the slope and complete a fall planting. So much for slow and steady! In one day, using a skid steer and a couple of chainsaws, they had created a series of planting pockets, with strategically placed existing wild trees left to provide windbreak shelter and wildlife habitat. Following that, Steve Leroux developed a planting list and by the end of November, an additional 230 trees, shrubs and vines were in the ground.
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I was glad of the delayed onset of winter, as each one of the trees had to be protected from rabbits and other rodents before freeze up. I don’t have the boundary fences completed yet, so deer are also a concern. In the spring, I will need to create more permanent protection for the young trees as I have arranged to purchase six Old English Babydoll Southdown sheep. Their docile nature and short stature make them ideal candidates for grass control around the trees. In 2016 I plan to start breeding them. This is a significant change in plan from goats to sheep, but interestingly enough, I am right back where I began my research process two years ago looking for suitable ruminants to provide fibre, manure, weed control, possibly milk, and offspring to sell. I can see that I will need to live up to my surname and take a sheep shearing course in 2015.
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So, what is on the agenda for 2015?
Perimeter and paddock fences (kind of pressing ;))
Doors on the sheep sheds
Overseeding and renovating pasture areas
More tree protection
Grow more crops for the root cellar
Experiment with fodder crops
Nurture my trees

And the realization that the challenge of maintaining a full time professional career, establishing a farm business, and maintaining the farm as a single woman, is too much to sustain in the long haul. I plan to resign from teaching this year to focus my time and energies on developing the farm.