“Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!” Some of us enjoy the snow, but some could live without it.
Mark, for one, would be happy to take a break from plowing out the yard for a while. To make matters worse, the plow truck lost its 4 wheel drive capacity so he had to use the tractor. The kids are glad to have a big pile of snow at the top of the sledding hill, though! The guys have kept busy in the shop processing chickens and deer. Keith went down a couple times and is now proficient at cutting legs off chickens. He can even cut burger meat off deer. Kyle also taught him a lot of anatomy as they went (“this on the deer equals this on you”).
Two weeks ago Mark and I went to a really interesting class on hoop houses. In driving snow, we trekked up to Black Star Farms, between Traverse City and Suttons Bay. Adam Montri was presenting instruction and research data on using passive solar greenhouses (hoop houses) to grow veggies year round. MSU has sponsored several such houses across the state, including 3 in the U.P., in a research project. It’s proven very successful. We toured the one at Black Star and were amazed at how warm it was and how good the greens looked even though it was blustery outside. They use a combination of cold tolerant greens and an inside tent to keep greens growing through the winter without an external heat source. Apparently all the houses in the study have been able to produce saleable crops through the winter, with exceptions in really hard cold (it hit less that 15 degrees under the tent) when the plants actually froze. Adam said they simply wait until the next sunny warm day, when it can hit 60 -70 degrees inside, for the plants to warm up. They can then harvest them. (If you want more information on this, let me know and I’ll send you Adam’s contact information.) While we don’t intend to go into the greenhouse veggie business anytime soon, we gleaned a lot of information that may help us do “hoophouse hens” (ie: actual pastured birds) through the winter. This time of year is education time in the small farms world, and it really does help us get new ideas and new motivation for our farming.
Another inservice we went to was on “finding local food funding.” That, too, was informative. There are a lot of business and funding resources out there we didn’t know about. Plus, we got to visit with some other farmers and friends, which is the other great benefit of the education events. There are going to be three more of these events, so if you are interested in this there is information on the meetings at the Michigan Land Use Institute site.