Monday, July 28, 2008

The New England Farmer

New England's history has been one of farming for literally centuries. The soil is rich (albeit rocky) and rain is usually plentiful. An old New England farmer saying (one of many) is "You can't have winter until the swamps are full."

The winters can be long and hard. They vary in my lifetime memory from Nor'easter storms dumping 2 to 3 feet of wind-driven snow, to winters with virtually no snow, but plenty of cold wind-driven rain, ice storms, and freezing rain, to frigid cold with high mid-day temps around 20 and nights dipping below zero. Did you know that it can be "too cold to snow" in New England? Ayup, typically it snows between 20 to 32F, below around 20F, its not that common to get snow.
Winter usually starts around November with frigid winds and cold, dreary rainy days. December historically begins snow season, though I recall snow as early as October 4th! January and February are long, cold months. The holidays are over, winter has settled comfortably in, and dumps snow, cold biting winds, though usually gorgeous blue skies after a snowstorm. We "make it through" January and February to windy, wet March which typically brings some short-lived heavy, wet snow storms, the ones that take down branches, trees and power lines, along with more cold wind-driven rain, and the promise and hope that spring will come soon. The rain continues through April, and by mid May, the buds are starting on the trees, and there is a green haze to the horizon, the Sugar Maple sap is running in full force, sealing my car doors shut with dried sap, which is parked under a large Maple tree.

The point of all this? New England summers are busy, busy, busy! We spend our New England summers preparing for New England winters. Spring is cleanup from the winter, repairing areas washed away with the rain and melting snow, cleaning up downed trees and branches, repairing fences, and cleaning up debrish blown around the house area. Summer is preparing, reworking what didn't work well the previous year, fertilizing, planting, weeding, harvesting, freezing and canning. Hay is cut, raked, tedded, baled, brought in from the fields, loaded in the trailer, and put up in the barn. We need three dry days in a row to get the hay safely baled and under cover. Considering it has rained about 4-5 days out of the week since March, we've been doing a lot of nail-biting! We have now been going weekly, getting one or two trailer loads of hay. Each trailer load holds 76 bales of hay, we need about 9 loads this year to fill both barns, which should get us through about 9 months or so. Each bale costs $5. You can do the math, I would prefer not to.

Putting up hay when its 88-92 with high humidity is not pleasant. As I'm driving the truck & trailer to the barn to get another load of hay, dripping in sweat from areas that should never know what sweat is, I watch all the exercise nuts jogging through the little village past the antique shops and boutiques, with their iPods firmly planted in their ears, coordinated stark-white name-brand exercise outfit and fancy sneakers. And I can't help but think ..... I've got a great way for you to get in shape without having to breath in exhaust fumes, and you can be productive at the same time. Perhaps I have a fantastic new gym idea? Build your body and sooth your soul with equine-assisted-fitness.

So, summer has been busy, busy, busy! The barn is coming along nicely. The roof is up and shingled, the dormer is constructed, as is the little deck off the loft and steps. Hubby created a rather unique option -- a removable railing off the loft deck. This way, it is still safe and up to code with the railing, but it is removable so that we can easily access it with the hay conveyor. Clever! Its built with Trex decking material ... we had some leftover from the garden project, which was from the scrap pile at the lumberyard, so we've gotten double-duty from it.

Yesterday the plywood went on the inside of the stall area. My girls (and Leroy) are not very impressed with it. They are used to being able to see all around them at all times, and having it closed it was a bit disconcerting for them. The aisle still has no doors on it, the plywood doesn't go all the way to the ceiling yet, so this is going up in stages, and they get used to it being a little more closed in each time. Leroy, in particular, was not too impressed. I told him that he needed to let me know that he came up by the barn to get water. And he did, just like he did back in January when he was introduced to the herd and learning what the lower paddock is like .... he leaves me a giant pile in front of the tank. I'm not sure if I should be pleased or not by his little gift.

Well, I started this entry 4 days ago, and have not been able to get back to it to finish. so I'm just going to finish it for now and get it posted. I have a few more entries in my brain that hopefully I will get typed up this weekend. Which proves the point of this entry ... summers are busy! Until next time -- stay cool!

1 comment:

Funder said...

What are you doing up there!? We can get snow as soon as December, but it's usually ridiculously mild all fall - think 70s for Thanksgiving. And everything turns green and lovely in March down here.

Back in '93 or '94 it snowed like 12" down here, and everyone's power went out. All the major power lines broke, and the most rural areas didn't get electricity again for TWO MONTHS. We can't deal with snow.

(Yeah, I am deliberately not mentioning the 4 months of 90+ humid summer...)

Anyway - that barn is SO CUTE with the roof and dormer! I've thought about touting stall cleaning as the ultimate aerobic exercise, but really, would you want spandex wearing gym bunnies helping you? They'd get so annoying so fast.