Monday, May 6, 2013

A busy weekend

No photos this weekend. I was too busy most of the time to take any. I cheated by posting one of Aimee's movies from her FaceBook page.

The main thing happening on the farm right now is spring fence repair and reorganization. The old ram pen, which generations of Womerlippi rams have battered until unserviceable, needed to be taken down and either rebuilt from the ground up or moved. I have been plugging away at it for several weeks now, taking a panel here and there. I took out much of the rest of it this weekend.

This was pretty good exercise for this time of year -- I'm still recovering from the winter's forced confinement, and could use to lose some belly fat while I'm at it. The hard part was getting the posts out of the ground. These were well-set cedar posts, as much as ten inches around.I'm going to be pleasantly stiff today, just enough to remind me I did some work this weekend.

The pig panels that had been added to this pen over the years -- ordinary field fence having proven inadequate to holding a ram -- needed to be recycled into the pig pen. There were enough left over to replace part of the sheep's main area, where Aimee has been unwittingly damaging fence by feeding treats. The sheep, anxious to get treats, crowd the fence and have been pushing it over. Pig panels are a lot studier and should provide extra security. There were also around seven or eight cattle-panels left over. These are taller than pig panels, with bigger spaces. These can be used for a ram pen later.

I noticed the dirt in the old ram pen was quite good under the waste hay. This is an interesting find. When we first bought the place, this was the location of one of dozens of large piles of yard trash and even kitchen trash, as well as a nasty burn pile, and yielded a least a dumpster load of trash all by itself. I have to say I never thought it could be completely rehabilitated, but time cures all wounds. Now the dirt has improved to the point where this could become another small garden.

I've been looking for somewhere to add some fruit bushes and possibly vines. This might be it. I'd better dig out the fruit tree catalogs.

In other news the long-anticipated logging of the old Great Farm property has begun. This is actually a relogging -- the place was originally cleared up 200 years ago when the Great Farm was founded. The remaining 200 or so acres of the original farm that doesn't belong to either the Womerlippis or our neighbor family, the Richards, has been purchased by a couple of very young and quite starry-eyed farmers who intend to return it to agriculture, organic beef and lamb, no less. This means they need pasture, and so they have retained a logger, who is busy chipping all the trees for pulp and pellet on site, trucking the chips off to the mill directly, as if they were truffula trees.

Although the use of a chipper like this is something relatively new, the resulting "stump farm" will be something that hasn't been seen in the human ecology of Waldo for a hundred years or more.

Stump farms were once ubiquitous around here. The old-time frontier settlers used stump farming as a way to clear up land -- they cut down or girdled the trees and then farmed among the stumps and snags until the roots rotted and the stumps could be removed and burned off. Corn could be grown between the stumps or sheep and cattle could be grazed. Pigs would be used to help till and convert the forest soil to an agricultural one. It might take twenty years, but eventually you'd have open fields and pastures, usually bounded by traditional New England stone fences. Our new neighbors intend something like this.

So our beloved forest is becoming a stump farm. Not sure how we feel about that. When you're used to living among woods, the sudden and very industrial conversion to openness is quite a shock. The noise of the chipper is loud. There are trucks on our road. Aimee has lost her beech tree test plots -- one of her science experiments. The new farm will surround us on three sides, and some of our favorite walking trails will be extinguished. And then there are the carbon emissions that result from such a massive land conversion. It may be organic, but it can hardly be claimed that it's sustainable.

Still, we've done a little of this ourselves, to be sure, having cut down enough trees to open up part of our own land for some more grazing, so we probably have no right to complain. And one right-of-way will however be retained, so whatever our new neighbors decide to do, we'll still be able to take a walk in the woods, or what's left of them. I for one will be interested to see them make a go of it, if they can.

I have to say though, common sense says that if a person could make money raising cows and sheep on cut-over land in Maine, a lot more people would be doing it. The income from the deforestry operation will eventually run out, then reality will hit.

Our worst nightmare isn't the logging. It might be the subdivision that would result as the new farmers try to finance their dream from selling off house lots.

We'll see, won't we? Aimee and I wanted to buy this 200-acre piece ourselves but just couldn't afford it.

As a result, we have to put up with whatever happens. That's the way capitalism works.

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Welcome to our Farm Blog.
The purpose of this blog is for Aimee and I to communicate with friends and family, with those of our students, and other folks in general who are interested in homesteading and farming activities.

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