by Pete on April 23rd, 2013

It has been one of the busiest springs Jen and I have ever had on the farm!  Since moving down the street late last year to a new house and more land, we have been busy clearing neglected fields and building lots of new infrastructure for the animals and vegetables.  In fact, we've been so busy building new shelters, clearing land and planning that we've neglected to post just some of the exciting changes we have in store for this season.
One of the very first projects we began last summer was to install a new 30'x72' greenhouse to be our "anchor" on the farm.  Since there is more space now we felt we really needed to have our own greenhouse to grow mixed veggies and to extend the growing season a little bit.   2013 will be our first season growing crops in the high-tunnel and so far the spinach, lettuce, bok choy and chard look great!
  Coming soon to the greenhouse we'll add seedless cukes, tomatoes, basil and other warm=loving plants.  Keep an eye out in the mini-store for some great organic veggies from our new greenhouse and fields.  Chard, onions, kale, cabbage, spinach and lettuce will be planted this week with more to come!  All our produce is organically grown and super-fresh!

Other new additions to the farm include our new Rabbit Chalet and Broiler Brooder.  Since we had to abandon our old backyard with the shelter for the rabbits and the brooder for the baby chicks, we decided to build all new and improved structures.  The rabbit chalet houses over forty cages suspended over slanted drop pans so cleaning cages is a breeze.  The sides roll up so in the heat of the summer their will be plenty of cross ventilation but still shady and cool - which the does and bucks enjoy.  The chick brooder in the far left, is almost 2x the size of the old brooder with automatic water system, lots of windows and cross ventilation as well.  More detailed photos of each will be posted soon.

And then...the animals!

The goats...

Yes yes, and the beasts.  Much to say about them.  We are please to welcome five pure-bred Boer goats to the farm this year!  Since there are lots of brambles and woods to clear we thought having some goats to munch around would help with the clearing process, and add character to the place too.  They are a fun loving and spry group of boys.  Folks stopping by the farm to pick up meat this season will meet them for sure!

The pigs

Back this year are more wonderful, healthy, and curious pigs.  Our first group has been on the ground rooting and playing for over a month now with many more to arrive in the next few weeks.  We have lots of Tamworth and Large Black heritage pigs and a small group of Mangalitsa's.   They are all having quite the time playing in the woods and running to and fro.  Growing fast too! 

This year we were awarded a SARE grant (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education...a USDA off shoot) to study a new system of keeping the pigs cool in the summer.    We are in the process of building a mobile cooling wagon which will be moved around the field throughout the summer providing cool shade and regular doses of cool showers for the pigs.  The goal of the grant is to reduce heavy impact on soils by the pigs, keep them cool and comfortable during the hottest months of the summer, and to more evenly distribute manure throughout our fields.  Stay tuned for more info.   We'll be posting regularly about the grant as the season progresses.

The hens

Our new layer flock arrived about ten days ago and are already settled in and laying.  Pullet eggs (the small tasty ones!) are available in the mini-store now!  They are usually available for the first month of so while the hens first begin laying, so get them now if you are a fan.  We think they are the best eggs of the season!  The hens are currently located behind the Verrill Farm greenhouses on Wheeler Road.  Within a few weeks they will be moved the White's Pond field on Plainfield Road, then later on moved to Landmark Field on ORNAC.  Look for the red coops when you are driving around town! 

The meat chicks

The 2013 season of meat chickens is well under way!  Our first group of birds are in the brooder and growing very nicely.  We will again be growing the Freedom Ranger type red feathered birds as well as the larger Cornish breed.  This weekend we'll be moving the broiler coops to Soutter field on Sudbury Road...preparing for the birds to be moved to pasture within two weeks.  Keep an eye out!

by Pete on February 10th, 2013

Thanks to our good friend Jared, who is on his way to becoming a Master Charcuter-ist, if there is such a thing, we have the following photos.  Jared documented part of the breakdown of one of the Mangalitsa pigs we grew in 2012.  Beautiful animals both inside and out!  Note their fat coverage and beautiful flesh. 

by Pete on December 30th, 2012

This is the final week for these wonderful woolys.  They head off to wooly heaven this week so they can be enjoyed by many.  We've loved having them on the farm this past season.  They are all unique individuals and we will miss them.  I'll be photographing them a few times this week as a parting gesture of thanks.

This morning they awoke, like the rest of us, to a wintry wonderland.  They seemed unfazed and enjoyed their usual stroll through the woods and into the open fields to graze the clover under the snow cover and to play in the fluffy whiteness.  Their thick coat of hair and large deposits of back fat insulate them quite well.  They seem as happy as ever!

For those interested in visiting the Mangalitsa's on a plate, contact EVOO, Bondir and Beacon Hill Bistro restaurants in Boston.  They will all be receiving one our fine friends this coming Friday, January 4th.

Happy New Year to all! 

Have a tasty 2013!

by Pete on November 5th, 2012

Over the last two weeks we lost about a dozen laying hens to an unknown predator.  After years of raising chickens we have become pretty adept at figuring out which critters were nabbing our birds.  A poof of feathers means a coyote, a heavily nibbled carcass with feet still attached but head and all else gone located inside the confines of the fencing means an owl.  An innocent chicken with it's head pulled off and bits strewn apart all over the place is the work of a wiley racoon.  Feathers strewn about with the chest ripped open, a hawk.  But these last few weeks we had been stumped.

It began about two weeks ago when I found a random hen laying in the middle of the field, clearly dragged their by some critter but only partially eaten and not in the usual way.  Then another one inside the fence line, dead, but with barely any sign of attack of bite marks.  And again -  another bird dragged to the fence line (from the inside) and left there with it's head bitten off and part of it's neck chewed.  Hmm, what could it be! 

After doing some research I was thinking it could be a fox.  Someone had told us they'd seen a fox run through the field a few weeks back.  It was fairly easy to tell the direction most of the attacks were coming from since the majority of the birds were dragged in one direction and specifically to a corner of the fence line.  So I set some traps.

I set up two Have-a-hart live traps with the carcasses of the dead birds lying in repose in the back of each one.  These are the traps where the animal walks inside, steps on the trip plate and the opening slams shut trapping them inside.  We normally catch woodchucks in them but I was hoping they were big enough to also catch whatever was killing our birds. 

After the first nite I caught nada.  One of the traps was knocked over, oddly enough, but the birds were still inside.  So this next night I added a third trap, baited it with some tasty anchovies for added attractiveness and also put out our game camera to see if we could catch the critter on film....A N D.....Oila! 

The culprit was a Fisher Cat.  These are medium-sized members of the weasel family not native to these lands.  They were brought here long ago to reduce the porcupine population and now they are a vicious predator of chickens, rabbits and house cats.  They can dig and climb trees with their strong claws and large feet, and munch on most anything with their strong jaws and large teeth.  They are an incredible creature but we'd rather they keep their distance from our hens!

by Pete on October 9th, 2012

It's been a great season growing our largest ever group of Mangalitsas (aka, Wooly Pigs!) !!  With the help of our quasi-employee and friend Jared, we raised eight Wooly's this season, most of them at his farm at an undisclosed location close to Concord.  Tomorrow, four of them head off to heaven and we have been grateful to have shared time with them over the past many  months.  These are rare pigs originally from Hungary and with few being grown in the U.S., we find ourselves lucky to have the opportunity to know them.  Below is a small sample of some photos from this season. 
Should anyone be interested in discovering the culinary delights of these wonderful beasts, contact our partner restaurants:
Bondir, chef Jason Bond
EVOO, chef Peter McCarthy
Beacon Hill Bistro, chef Josh Lewin
Tomasso Trattoria, chef Neil Rogers

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