It has been awhile since you’ve heard from me, so I wanted to give you a quick update on what has been going on with us on the farm.
This time of year things get a bit quieter, as you can imagine. There is still lots to do, but certainly not nearly as much as the spring, summer and fall months provide. Winter is a time to let the fields rest, a time to plan and plot and buy seed, all with the knowledge that those plans can so easily go out the window with one big rain storm or late frost. But that challenge is part of the excitement, and so we continue to plot and plan, and rest (just a bit), in hopes that we can perfect everything the needs perfecting, and continue to grow in all the ways we’d like.
As you know, we love our strawberries at Lost Corner Farm. We have an entire acre dedicated to this sweet jewel of a fruit, and Steven has hopes of adding in an ever-bearing variety, so there is a good chance we'll be increasing that acreage before long. Ever-bearing strawberries don't produce the large amounts of fruit that the more seasonal varieties do, however, they produce all spring, summer and fall, meaning we'll have berries to share for the entire season. And importantly, that could mean open-face strawberry pies might be available all summer long — can you imagine!!
As you can see, that acre is covered under a blanket of row covers to keep the deer and deep chill out. That thin black & white twisted cord running across the image, if you can see it, is the deer fence. It's hard to believe that something like that is sufficient, but it really does work. Most of the time!
Come spring, we'll carefully take away the covers, letting the sun shine in so those little plants can come roaring back to life, and before long it will look like this again…
While the strawberries are all snuggled in and don't require anything from the crew, the blackberry bushes need tending this time of year. The guys spent some time pruning them a few weeks ago, to ensure that the plants don’t get too many fruiting canes. You want the bushes to put all of their energy into just a few branches, which results in plumper, tastier berries. The less surface area the plant has to focus on, the better. So we prune away the excess, leaving behind the just the right number of branches for an optimum harvest come summer.
he chickens are faring just fine in the cold, though they obviously have a tougher time scratching up bugs and grubs with the ground so often frozen, so Chris Wood makes sure to keep them well fed with soy-free, GMO-free feed. They anxiously await his arrival every day! They really are his lovely ladies ;)
In order to increase our egg production so that we can keep up with demand, we have doubled the size of our flock. We have around 200 mature egg layers, and we recently got in around 200 new baby chicks. They are ridiculously adorable, and Chris has been taking great care of them. He fired up the brooder, put in 6 heat lamps and brought in an extra heater to make sure his little peeps are snuggly and warm.
In order to have enough room for all these new additions, Chris & JR set about rebuilding the second chicken tractor last week, which will house the nesting boxes and provide the ladies with a safe place to spend their nights.
We also have a new addition to our goat herd! This adorable little pal joined us just a few weeks ago.
In addition to general clean-up, repairs and planning, we’ve also been getting our learn on over the last month. Avis, Ryan, Chris Wood, Erin (from Mom’s Apple Pie in Leesburg!), and I attended the Future Harvest CASA farming conference in mid-January, where we were able to check out a whole bunch of new products, brush up on our bee-keeping skills, find out about our four-season growing options, dabble in grass-fed creamery fantasies and so much more.
And at the end of January, Avis, Chris, Erin & I headed down to Richmond for a few days for the Virginia Association of Biological Farming conference. I had the pleasure of spending an entire day with an innovative farmer from Quebec, Jean-Martin Fortier, who supports his 125 person CSA program off of just 1.5 acres! He’s part of the latest swing of Rockstar farmers, including Joel Salatin and our own partner, Forrest Pritchard of Smith Meadows farm in Berryville. It was a great day packed with tons of information that I’m hopeful we can put to good use on the farm.
At VABF we also got to discuss the latest plant pathogens that are wreaking havoc, as well as learn ways to combat them and other pesky pests on the farm. We attended lectures on how to increase the beneficial insects on our land, new ideas on chicken manure (ew!) and were able to get a few questions answered about FSMA, or the Food Safety Modernization Act that is currently up for debate by the federal government.
Overall, both conferences were a success for us, where we learned a lot, got closer as a crew, and had a few late nights chatting it up with other farmers at the hotel bar. We have lots of great plans for the season to come, and are so excited that our CSA registration is open and filling up fast!
If you’re interested in joining us, click here to register!