A Look At Last Summer

I’ve been spend­ing some time recent­ly look­ing back at pic­tures and video I shot last year.  It’s amaz­ing how much the farm has changed in such short time.  It’s also remark­able how much fur­ther along we are this year than we were at the same time last year.  For exam­ple, last year at this time we had JUST start­ed form­ing the rows of our main garden.


I also came across some video I shot one morn­ing last August with my sis­ter’s Canon 60D.  It’s excit­ing to think that the gar­den will soon look like it does in this video.


Meet the Newest Member of the BBFg Team: Diamond! (plus new piglets, chicks etc.)

First of all, I hope that you’re all enjoy­ing our new site. Aside from hav­ing a sleek new ban­ner, some new pages and a bet­ter URL address, our web­site also makes it pos­si­ble to reserve meat online using Pay­pal. Just got to our Pre-Buy Meat Online page.


I’ve been mean­ing to post for a very long time, but so much has been hap­pen­ing around here that I did­n’t real­ly know where to start. How­ev­er, yes­ter­day there was a big enough change that I could­n’t help but come online and share it with all of you…

Meet Dia­mond!

Meet Dia­mond, our new lla­ma from Pel­ham, NH. Dave and I just went to pick him up yes­ter­day, and so far he’s exceed­ed our expec­ta­tions for awesomeness.


I’m get­ting ahead of myself though. This all start­ed because we’ve been look­ing into find­ing some oth­er pas­tures for our sheep to graze on this sum­mer. Because we bred all our ewes to a Finn ram, a breed that’s known to throw triplets, quadru­plets or even quin­tu­plets, I’ve been get­ting a lit­tle ner­vous that we were going to end up with more sheep than we have pas­ture for at Black Brook Farm. Add to this wor­ry the fact that we’ve been get­ting very lit­tle rain so far this year, and we have to ready our­selves for the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a very dry sum­mer, and you can see why we might want some back up fields. How­ev­er, the more we talked to peo­ple, the more obvi­ous it became that there was no way that we could put our sheep out on pas­ture some­where with­out pro­tec­tion against coy­otes. Dave and I have yet to see a coy­ote since we moved to BBF (which could be because of all the bark­ing dogs, or the hors­es, or just blind luck) but there are sure­ly coy­otes in these woods too — so that’s where Dia­mond comes in! We researched some dif­fer­ent ways to pro­tect our girls and their babies from preda­tors — guard dogs, per­ma­nent struc­tures — but a lla­ma seemed like the best solu­tion. Dia­mond eats the same things that sheep do (unlike a dog), he does­n’t require any spe­cial train­ing, and he’ll stay behind 4′ elec­tronet fenc­ing! Plus, he’s a per­fect gen­tle­man, and appar­ent­ly has nev­er spit at a human, he just does­n’t like coy­otes. There’s lots of infor­ma­tion about guard lla­mas online, but here’s a nice suc­cinct study if you want to read more:  http://www.sprucelane.com/guardllamas.pdf.

The ewes check­ing Dia­mond out

So hand­some!


The sheep also have got­ten sheared and look more preg­nant than ever! We’ve expect­ing lambs to drop any day now.






And now, final­ly, our new baby chicks and piglets…We were on our way up to get our breed sow from Ver­mont when we got a call that she had had a mis­car­riage, so we decid­ed to go with piglets instead. It’s sad that we’re not going to get a big beau­ti­ful pig mom­ma, and that we did­n’t get to see our piglets birthed, but it’s nice to have con­trol over exact­ly how many piglets we have (six right now!) I’m just going to post some pic­tures, and I’ll write more lat­er. It’s almost 9 AM and there are things to do today so I have to wrap this up.

Baby chicks under the heat lamp


More baby chicks (note all those feet under the heat box)


Com­ing home in the trailer


Chow­ing down on whey


And final­ly, the pic­ture you’ve all been wait­ing for…

Our new sign!

Chicken Processing Day Meets Hurricane Irene

The last two days have been pret­ty excit­ing. Yes­ter­day we processed our 75 meat chick­ens, which would have been a daunt­ing enough job with­out the threat of Irene bar­ing down on us.

Fri­day, Mom and I har­vest­ed as many toma­toes from the gar­den as we could in antic­i­pa­tion of the storm and sort­ed them out to store in the garage. We also rushed to stake down and secure the gar­den. Mean­while, Dave set up every­thing nec­es­sary for pro­cess­ing day. Our last pro­cess­ing day went pret­ty well (see here for details), but it took about 16 hours and there were clear­ly improve­ments to be made. Also, this time we were pro­cess­ing 75 birds instead of 36. We want­ed to make sure that we were com­plete­ly pre­pared for so many birds and so we made sure that every­thing was in order before we went to sleep Fri­day night. Very thank­ful­ly, our bravest friend Mar­ka Kiley came out of Boston to help us for the week­end. Sat­ur­day, we all woke up extra ear­ly and Dave and I went out in the dark to catch the chick­ens. We got off to a good start, start­ed the pro­cess­ing at about 6:30 AM and were done by 1 PM. Thanks to Marka’s help, as well as sev­er­al oth­ers, we were able to qual­i­ty con­trol and pack­age the birds as we went, so the sec­ond half of the day went quick­ly and we were com­plete­ly cleaned up by 5. Moth­er nature helped us clean by pro­vid­ing some drench­ing after­noon rains. It was a long day, but sat­is­fy­ing. Pro­cess­ing chick­ens is nev­er fun, but we did the best job we could. We made sure that the chick­ens went to their deaths with min­i­mum dis­com­fort and that their meat was treat­ed with the respect it deserves. All of Dav­e’s work plan­ning and prepar­ing real­ly paid off.

Mean­while, Dav­e’s mom Tam­my had four pots of our toma­toes bub­bling on the stove all day and into the night, work­ing hard to can, freeze and oth­er­wise pre­serve as much of our crop as pos­si­ble. Between her hard work, and my mom’s efforts to secure us some big restau­rant sales, it looks like none of our toma­toes are going to go to waste.

This morn­ing we got 4 inch­es of rain, but luck­i­ly, the hur­ri­cane was tamer than we had feared it would be and, oth­er than a few blown down toma­to trel­lis­es and (pos­si­bly) the loss of our corn crop, it looks like the gar­den is going to be okay. The chick­ens are safe­ly in the refrig­er­a­tor and freez­er (we did­n’t even lose pow­er!) and we can relax — and blog.

Our toma­to boun­ty and Mom’s new vespa
Sort­ing cher­ry tomatoes
Before (tune in tomor­row for After pics)
Art­sy Pic: to remem­ber them by in case they were all blown over
Kill Cones
Our bravest friend Marka
Lyn­da, anoth­er brave friend
Hur­ri­cane Irene

Free Range

Alright, as usu­al these days I don’t have a lot of time, so I’m going to jump right in…

With the addi­tion of a new back­yard dog fence, we’ve final­ly been able to let our lay­er hens real­ly free range. We’ve been putting the dogs away mid after­noon every day and our chick­ens have been wan­der­ing around as they please.
free chick­en!
Our dark cor­nish chicks are get­ting real­ly big and are almost ready to go out into the chick­en trac­tor. We’ve moved the chick­en trac­tor out into the pas­ture with the pigs and Dav­e’s been mak­ing improve­ments, more on that later.

Mean­while, despite some pret­ty crazy weath­er this June — 90 degrees one day and then 50 degrees, cold and rainy for the next five (thanks glob­al warm­ing!) — the gar­den is look­ing good.

Teepees for pole beans, and in the top right hand cor­ner you can see where we’ve cov­ered the kale with row cov­ers — to keep pests away
Despite a rough stretch after trans­plant­i­ng (you can see that the low­er leaves look kind of unhealthy) the new growth on this egg­plant looks great!
baby pak cho
a very hap­py look­ing toma­to plant
…and baby tomatoes!
brus­sel sprouts

There’s so much going on here every­day that I’ve had a hard time keep­ing up. I real­ized that I’d for­got­ten to men­tion that we’ve been sell­ing at the Carlisle farmer’s mar­ket all this month! It’s been a slow start to the sea­son for us, most­ly because we were so behind till­ing the field, but we’ve man­aged to have enough greens and eggs to hold our own. This last Sat­ur­day we had sug­ar snap peas, beets, let­tuce, herbs, flow­ers and straw­ber­ry-mul­ber­ry and goat-cheese and dill scones.

We’ve also been sell­ing our deli­cious eggs to a restau­rant in town, 80 Thore­au, where they’re fea­tured on their farm sal­ad. See the menu here.
This week­end we’re going to be one of the ven­dors at Old Home Day in Carlisle. In addi­tion to our rapid­ly grow­ing pro­duce selec­tion and scones, we’re also hope­ful­ly going to be sell­ing some of Dav­e’s fresh­ly baked bread. Come vis­it us if you can!
Love­ly lit­tle sour­dough loaves being proofed

My last week in pictures


Installing the irri­ga­tion system
The trans­plant­i­ng begins! Lettuce…
Toma­toes, toma­toes, tomatoes!
The trel­lis­es start going in (thanks to Bob Hannan)
The egg­plants must be cov­ered to pro­tect against bugs and wind
And this morn­ing, baby chicks! Dark Cor­nish­es, they look like lit­tle tigers

Rainy Week

Those of you who live in the Mass­a­chu­setts area can prob­a­bly empathize with me when I say that this past week has been the absolute worst.

We woke up on Mon­day morn­ing and real­ized almost imme­di­ate­ly that there was no way we were going to be able to per­form the final till on Wednes­day, it was cold, rainy and drea­ry and — accord­ing to the weath­er report — there was no end in sight. Nat­u­ral­ly, this real­iza­tion was fol­lowed by a cou­ple hours of mop­ing, fin­ger-point­ing and rock-kick­ing. Why had­n’t we paid atten­tion to the weath­er report and tilled on Fri­day when it was still sun­ny and dry? What were we going to do all week in the mud and the rain? Was our sum­mer har­vest ruined by one poor deci­sion? Was it a poor deci­sion? What was worse, to till too soon and face the weeds or to be plant­i­ng our field at the very end of May? And what to do with all those crazy two month old toma­to plants over­run­ning the greenhouse????
Well I’m writ­ing now to say, we did it! We slogged through the mud­dy, rainy week and now we’re pulling our­selves out the oth­er side alive and well (except for a cou­ple of chick­ens — but that’s a sto­ry for anoth­er post). We plant­ed some more in the kitchen gar­den, did some Spring clean­ing, built a shel­ter for the pigs and got the toma­to plants out­side where they’re hard­en­ing off. Now we’re glued to the weath­er report  hop­ing it’s going to dry out in the next cou­ple of days so we can get our fields up and run­ning and our trans­plants in the ground. Who knows if we made the “right” deci­sion, or if there even is a “right” deci­sion, but we’re forg­ing ahead.
And as the weath­er improves, so do our moods. I see sun so I’ve got to get out­side, but here are some pictures.
We’re using a cou­ple emp­ty raised beds to keep toma­to plants out­side. We have wire hoops ready if we need to tarp them against the cold at night.
Flower trans­plants
Build­ing the pig shelter

Outdoor Chickens

When I got a fever two weeks ago I fig­ured that my num­ber had final­ly come up and I had got­ten the flu. After a painful, sweaty and bor­ing three days in bed I felt much bet­ter and got back to work. Five days lat­er a huge rash broke out on my neck. Unlucky again, I thought, I’ve swiped my neck with a work glove cov­ered in poi­son ivy. Easy enough to believe, con­sid­er­ing I’d spent the last month brush clear­ing and burn­ing. How­ev­er, this last Sun­day when I col­lapsed into bed with anoth­er fever, the rash still itch­ing and burn­ing on my neck, I start­ed to put two and two togeth­er and real­ized that maybe this was more than just a string of bad luck. Sure enough, a vis­it to the emer­gency room lat­er, it was con­firmed, I have Lyme dis­ease. Lyme dis­ease is a pret­ty nasty tick-borne ill­ness, and even though the antibi­otics I’m on have got­ten rid of my fever and most of my rash, they’ve left me pret­ty weak and tired.

Need­less to say, this news has made the last cou­ple of days pret­ty stress­ful for Dave, who has been forced to do all the heavy lift­ing on the farm (instead of just most of it). Luck­i­ly my mom’s here every­day to help. She’s been han­dling the green­house, the kitchen gar­den and the lay­ing hens while Dav­e’s been work­ing on get­ting the meat birds out­side and ready­ing our tem­po­rary pen for the piglets. In the last week we’ve lost a hand­ful of chicks, which has been pret­ty heart­break­ing. We are in charge of all of these frag­ile lit­tle lives, and although we know that it’s inevitable that we’re going to lose some, it does­n’t make it any eas­i­er. A major­i­ty of the chicks that died appeared to have been smoth­ered by the rest of the flock. This can hap­pen when they get too hot or too cold and all clump togeth­er, but we were pret­ty sure that it was also because they were get­ting way too big for their brood­er. We felt as if we real­ly need­ed to get them out­side and into some fresh air and sun­shine. As always, the weath­er was­n’t mak­ing it easy for us. Dav­e’s new chick­en bible, Joel Salat­in’s book Pas­tured Poul­try Prof­its, had instruct­ed him that it was best to put the chicks out on a dry, sun­ny day. If the chicks are exposed to heavy rains too quick­ly they can get wet and cold, or drown, and die. With fore­casts of rain for Wednes­day and today, we knew that we had to get the chicks out fast, or risk los­ing more in the brood­er this week.

The frame was all set, but the trac­tor still need­ed chick­en wire sides and cor­ru­gat­ed roof­ing. Luck­i­ly, a local farmer gave us the roof­ing for free (the only cost was Dav­e’s time pry­ing it off the roof of an old shed with a crow­bar) and so all day Mon­day and Tues­day morn­ing, while I lay in bed recov­er­ing, Dave fin­ished up the trac­tor. Tues­day at around 10:30 AM we moved the chicks in (I watched). We decid­ed to only move out half at first, just to see how they would do and open up some much need­ed room in the brooder.

Mov­ing the chicks in
Our Chick­en Trac­tor. 10′ x 12′ x 2′
Home sweet home

If you look at the trac­tor from the angle above, the back half is cov­ered on all sides by cor­ru­gat­ed steel roof­ing while the front half has chick­en wire sides. Both the roof pan­els on the front half are remov­able. The left-hand side con­tains the water­er and the right hand side con­tains the feed­er trough. It is nec­es­sary to have 3/4 of the trac­tor cov­ered by roof­ing because the chick­ens need a lot of escape from the sun, as they can eas­i­ly over­heat. We copied the trac­tor from Joel Salat­in’s design. You can watch a great video about it here:

We moved the trac­tor for the first time this morn­ing to a new for­ag­ing spot. It went well, aside from the fact that it’s heav­ier than we would have liked. Salatin specif­i­cal­ly rec­om­mends that you don’t use cor­ru­gat­ed steel for the roof (it’s much heav­ier than alu­minum), but since we got it for free we could­n’t real­ly be picky. Luck­i­ly, we only have to move it 12′ a day, just enough to give the chicks fresh grass. Even though there was still a lot for them to eat in the first spot, it’s nec­es­sary to move the trac­tor at least every two days as their feces will start to grow bacteria.

The rest of the chicks are going to go out tomor­row morn­ing, after the threat of rain and cold has past. Until then, they’ll have to con­tent them­selves with their new feed­er. They’ve got­ten MUCH too big for the old one.

This feed­er is just a piece of 4″ PVC pipe cut in half with ply­wood stands on either side. We’re get­ting bet­ter at cut­ting costs everyday.

Some Oth­er Things We’ve Been Doing:
* Turn­ing over any sod clumps that the plow did­n’t catch out in the field. It’s impor­tant that the grass is under­ground so it rots and does­n’t con­tin­ue to grow. We’re plan­ning on har­row­ing the field on Sun­day. We’ve also been try­ing to pick out any rocks.
* Trans­plant­i­ng TONS of toma­toes, pep­pers and egg­plants in the green­house, and plant­i­ng brus­sel sprouts and late sea­son cabbage.
* Seed­ing the kitchen gar­den with greens so we’ll have some­thing for the first farm­ers market.
* Get­ting ready for the piglets. We decid­ed to wait until Mon­day to go pick them up, so hope­ful­ly I’ll feel bet­ter by then.