When ever I tell people that we sell guinea keets they always ask two questions; the first question is Guinea what? and the second question is why do you do that? Guinea keets are baby guinea fowl. Guinea fowl are unique chicken sized birds of African descent. They are entertaining, boisterous, comical and most importantly useful. The usefulness of guinea fowl is that they eat ticks and they are the bird version of a guard dog. Scientific studies have concluded that guineas reduce the tick population in the area where they spend their time. Since we choose not to spray pesticides on our property we keep guineas in an effort to keep the tick numbers in check. We have noticed a difference the number of ticks that we see in years that we have kept guineas versus years that we have not had them. My day job is as a medical laboratory scientist. In that role I have become aware of how big a problem tick borne diseases such as lyme, babesia and anaplasma have become. I have found babesia on blood smears of people in the ICU an know that during the peak season numerous positive lyme tests get reported daily. I like anything that eats ticks and guineas are easy keepers.
A friend of mine who spends a lot of time outside and is a observer of nature told me once that it won't get cold around here until the ponds are full. He shared that with me a couple of years ago and every year it has proven to be true. It's now the first week of November and up until about two weeks ago the ponds and streams were very low. Like clockwork we got about 5 inches of rain in a very short period of time. Wouldn't you know it our pond is full again. The cold weather must be right around the corner.
Our small town puts on an annual fair for anyone who's interested in attending. I've been going for the last few years, sometimes in my role as a member of the Pomfret Agricultural Commission and sometimes I'm there for Sunny Patch Farm. This year I decided to be there discussing Sunny Patch Farm while giving out grow your own mushroom logs. Hull Forest products was gracious enough to donate some 12 foot long oak poles for the project and I spent a good part of my evenings last week cutting them up and drilling holes into them. I brought the logs to Positively Pomfret Day and let folks use my inoculating tools to prepare their own mushroom logs. Once they injected the shiitake spawn into the logs I sealed them with wax and away they went. All in all it was a great day and alot of people were really excited about growing their own mushrooms.
We're now taking reservations for half and whole shares of pork that will be ready in the spring of 2018
It's been an amazing summer for our Shiitake operation. We've learning so much about the art and science of producing these mushrooms. Each week I soak logs under water for 24 hours. I then take them out of the water and stand them up under a structure that I setup. Baby mushrooms will show up a couple of days after I take them out of the water and depending on the weather will be ready anywhere from 5-10 days after the logs were soaked. I've been keeping track of the date that I soaked the logs, the daily temperatures observed while the logs are fruiting and the number of days until harvest to better understand the whole process. Now that the days are getting cooler it is taking longer for the mushrooms to fruit. After a log has been harvested it must be allowed to rest for 8 weeks. With all of this information that we are collecting I'm optimistic that next year we will be even better at managing our logs.
It's been a very busy spring here on the farm. We got off to a great early start with hatching coturnix quail chicks and we've been able to help many people see the benefits of raising quail. To date we've hatched out six batches of chicks and have had people come from as far as New York and Western Massachusetts to buy quail chicks from us. We're very happy with getting to meet people from all over who are interested in small scale food growing for themselves and their families. We've also been glad have been selling our quail eggs at the Willimantic Food Coop which is a really cool grocery store in a neat little historic Connecticut Town.
I finally completed inoculating another 100 shiitake mushroom logs a couple of weeks ago. For me this was no small feat. This years logs are 30% percent longer than last years log and towards the end of the project they felt about 200% heavier. None the less I got it done and I'm already seeing signs that the mycelium is spreading throughout some of the logs. It will be another year before any mushrooms are produced from these logs but I'm very happy that I've added to my small mushroom farm. I also built a fruiting chamber to keep the logs out of the rain when they fruit. I got creative and used stuff I had laying around the farm to build this structure and so far it has worked out great.
We super excited to be attending our first Putnam Farmer's Market on Saturday June 10 and we will be there on the second Saturday of each month through October. We'll have pasture raised pork, shiitake mushrooms and quail eggs available.
This spring we also started offering guinea keet chicks for sale. It seems like this year is especially bad for ticks and guineas have been shown to keep tick populations down so I wanted to become a place where people can come to get guinea keets.
We just got in another 1200 lbs of custom blended pig feed from a farm right here in Pomfret. The farmer has been improving his crop of non-gmo corn by hand selecting the very best ears of corn and replanting the kernels from them. The special corn that he grows for animal feed is red and has a higher protein concentration. He dries the corn himself and grinds it on is farm then mixes in other non-gmo ingredients that are good for the hogs. We're very fortunate to have so many unique farms in North East Connecticut that grow such a wide variety of produce in a wide variety of ways.
I've heard it said that the best time to plant an apple tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is right now. We were very fortunate that the good people who owned our property before us planted some apple tree some time ago. Once a year around this time I get out there and try to take a little off the top from them. I'm hoping this year it pays off and we get a good bunch of apples from them.
By around 1850 Connecticut was almost entirely open land divided into farms by stone walls. There are enough stone walls in Connecticut that if you stretched out all of the rocks in them they would reach the moon. The oldest trees in Connecticut are often found right next to stone walls. These trees were left to provide shade for livestock. We are lucky to have one such tree on our farm, it is a huge oak. Here are a few pictures of our historic oak from this morning.
Many people have asked me what do the bees do in the winter time. The answer is that they try to survive. They eat the honey and pollen that they collected and put up the through the previous spring, summer and fall and they stay in a cluster in the hive to keep warm. The bees on the outside of the cluster flap their wing to generate heat while the bees on the inside of the cluster rest. When the bees on the outside get tired they rotate inward and take a break. The queen starts laying again in the winter to restock the bees that didn't make it and to have enough bees for when the warmer temperatures and flowers return. Once the queen starts laying the bees have to keep the part of the hive where the eggs have been laid between 94-98 degrees. On days that are over about 50 degrees they will take a cleansing flight to get some fresh air. I'm hoping that all of my hives make it through until the tree flowers and dandelions are back in bloom.
Please consider supporting small scale local agriculture in your area you will taste the difference.