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August has arrived very quickly, it seems to me! The weekly updates I promised got lost in my my work travel and the farm. We are taking produce to two markets each week. We are in Claremont, Virginia, on Fridays from 6 to 8 PM, at the Claremont Circle Store. Then, Saturdays, we attend the Waverly Farmer’s Market on the grounds of the Miles B. Carpenter Museum in Waverly, Virginia. The market at Claremont has become something of a community party. Isaiah from the Circle Store provides hamburgers and hot dogs and there’s live music planned for this week.
It is a great produce year: cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, eggplants, green beans, cantaloupes with watermelons and pumpkins on the way. Fortunately, the pigs LOVE vegetables, especially cucumbers.
My flower garden is blooming, even as the weeds threaten to take over. I am getting started on reorganizing now, moving the liatris and obedient plant to a more prominent place. They were overwhelmed by the black eyed susans. Zinnias are coming up through the grass and I have a row of sunflowers that should be blooming soon. It is glorious chaos and I despair of making any kind of headway against the weeds.
The pigs are almost all out on grass now. We just have one sow in the pen. Her litter is almost four weeks old and will get weaned in another week or so. They will all end up on grass in the next few weeks. Some people wean at three weeks but the litter we did that early just didn’t seem to do as well. My pigs may end up as food at some point but I want them to have as much piggy fun as they can before that happens!
I put together a video with clips of this particular litter, captured over the last month. We call them Hamp’s Herd: they run around together, in and out of the enclosure, playing in the soybeans. We only lost one, the runt. The rest are just happy little piggies.
Today, we sent off Biscuit, our boar, to provide services to some sows up the road. (Did I say that gently enough? We think that loaning out our boar makes us real pig farmers.) He was easy to get into the trailer: we just threw in an overripe cantaloupe. While he is on his adventure, we are going to better secure a pen for him so we can get him out of the very muddy building and yard he currently occupies. We can’t get him on grass as he seems to be impervious to electric fence.
This time of year, I am in charge of preservation. My freezer is a lively place right now: green beans, pesto, peppers, tomato sauce and eggplant are nestled on the shelves. And we are loving eating fresh vegetables as I experiment with recipes. I’ll try to put a few together to share. I tend to be an “on the fly” cook, trying out different methods and sauces, whatever is at hand. We loved eggplant parmigiana made with pesto rather than red sauce. And, the roasted vegetable ragout had a bit of a punch with the jalapenos but was rich and tasty as well.
We continue to dream of improvements: we bought a trailer to serve as the base for a chicken tractor, our next project. That way, we can get the chickens out on grass as well, moving them as they eat the grass. They get lots of vegies this time of year, but we really want them to be more free range.
We also want to make an actual market stand on the property and aren’t sure how to do that: build or buy? We could customize one of the storage sheds more quickly but could probably save money if we built it ourselves. This is an ongoing dilemma. We usually end up using a mix of repurposed and purchased materials. For some things, like irrigation and electric fencing, buying new is the only option as all the components work together.
As we become more known in the community, we are beginning to become part of a network of farmers. We share knowledge and resources as we all work to make our farms successful. Once we get past the growing season, we are hoping to strengthen that network. It is easy to get isolated as the farm demands so much work. But networks can help support bulk buys and local advocacy. We are encouraged by local food initiatives like the one in the Roanoke Valley.
As I write, a thunderstorm is boiling up outside. The summer has been amazingly mild: today was the hottest day this week and we barely broke 90 degrees. We’ve been sleeping with the windows open and keeping doors open to the back yard during the days. The dogs love it, coming and going as they please, keeping track of the world of the farm and then retreating inside for long summer naps.