July Update

After a two week visit to see family in The Netherlands, it’s back to work at Leafhopper Farm. A fabulous new scythe was waiting for me when I got home, and the timing was perfect, for the wheat had turned golden yellow and it was time to cut.

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cutting grains with a new tool

Learning proper technique with a scythe is challenging and takes time, but you have to start somewhere, and I did, right out the front door. In the foreground, you can see the herb spiral and a host of rosemary, chives, lavender, and mint. I think the rock gardens should be a more developed herb production spaces. Though I have gotten a nice winter crop of chard, and onions are in for next fall, most of the other vegetables I’ve tried to establish have suffered predation, crowding, or struggle to germinate from seed at all. The herbs are thriving, and I would like to expand, adding a few new varieties and establishing others from elsewhere on the property.

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the rock gardens are thriving

The rock gardens were a little overgrown, with borage dominating the beds, so a lot of trimming back had to be done, but herbs love that kind of treatment, so I harvested a lot of mint, lavender, and camomile. Above you can see a collection of baby trees in the lower right. A river birch, red bud, dogwood, and blueberry are grouped together behind a hazel screen to keep deer from browsing the young leaves.

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Many of the wildflowers I planted in early spring are now hosting a variety of insects and even a humming bird or two. Below you can see a bumble bee in mid flight through the pollination garden. This bed is a transition space into the kitchen garden. In the first two years of establishing the veggies, I noticed there were not a lot of flowers around the garden. Wildflowers, pollination seed mixes, and beneficial insect plants were selected to attract fauna to the plants in my garden. It’s paying off and I have more diversity in and around the farm in both fauna and flora.

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pollinator in flight

The Ayam Cemani chicks turned into awkward teenagers and are now growing miniature versions of their future adult selves. I’ve found a great source for breed standards and am now watching to see gender characteristics form. It’s all about the wattles. I am glad of that, because the majority of the birds in my flock have what look like pronounced combs. By the standards, both cockerels and hens can have large combs. When it comes to what hangs under the beak, roosters have unmistakably larger wattles.

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Ayam Cemani Birds

There is more information about these rare Indonesian birds on the web every day, and I hope that this special investment at Leafhopper Farm will grow into another economic boost in the farm’s business development. Though my plan is not to become a full time chicken breeder, I do like the idea of cultivating a rare breed and learning about this bird that is more closely related to partridge than the chicken most people raise in the backyard today.

The goats are back after spending a few weeks at a friend’s house working on clearing one of their pastures. The two kids are growing fast, but their legs are still much longer than the rest of them. Having just one doe and her kids now has been a lot more manageable, but I notice the green wall closing in around the property again so quickly, and the pigs have not been eager to jump into black raspberry bushes as I’d hoped. I’m going to put up some hot fence again to see if I can focus graze the kids. Brownie will still be tethered, as she jumps the hot fence, which is why I built the goat enclosure and started tethering rotation. I’m also going to work on moving Brownie every day to a new spot within the hot wire fence paddocks I erect. More to come on that project once the fences are up.

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The goat enclosure has grown back in nicely, with far less blackberry and more diversity of flowers and ground cover. I’ll move the pigs here by the end of the month, as it’s time to get those pigs into their summer space in preparation to do some heavy rotational tilling with them before fall planting begins. I hope to make this fenced paddock a garden next summer, sowing cover crops this fall before tilling everything up again next spring with a rototiller to do some line crop testing. This could also stay a livestock paddock for another year to bank up more fertility in the soil from manure. Judging from the quick recovery of the growth in this pasture, I think the garden can happen next year.

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Bran and Branwen are going to be eating more and more as they grow. I did not mow the lower pastures this year to bulk up growth to tide the three goats through the winter with more fodder. I hope to be moving them in a more focused rotation through the next three seasons. By then, I can assess the brows control and decide if three goats is enough, or if it will be ok to start breeding again, with the intent to have a smaller goat, and maybe a milker.

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