Fall, Finally

Well, it took long enough. But we finally got our first killing frost along with a light snowfall. So fall is here.

The conditions this year created an unusually warm October. Apparently the trees were confused by the weather, since they made a disorderly retreat from leaves to bare branches, each one seeming to turn colors and shed foliage on its own schedule.

Elsewhere on the farm we’re experiencing the seasonal transition. Almost all the red apples have fallen from the hedgerow trees, but a few of the yellow varieties are still hanging on. The cattle are all beginning to noticeably bulk up as their coats grow shaggier hair for winter. The livestock guardian dogs stand patiently each day as I pull great gobs of burdock from their fur. And more and more geese are flocking up, usually crossing our farm in a north-easterly orientation as they steer toward the mud flat at the nearby bend in the Mohawk River.

This week we reached near the end of the main grazing season, so now it is time to start dropping off a few bales of hay each day. We still have a few more pastures to rotate the cattle herd through, but we prefer to allow them to gradually transition from the fresh grass that they harvest themselves to the bales of hay (which of course is stored grass, cut and wrapped from earlier this spring and summer). With cattle, slow and careful transitions are always the ideal since their digestive systems are based so significantly on their population of rumen microbes helping them digest forage. In a real sense, we aren’t so much giving the cattle a chance to adjust to the change in diet as we are giving their bacteria that chance to adjust.

Cattle standing around a hay bale
First hay bale of the season attracts lots of attention.

For our work schedule, autumn usually involves a rush to finish off projects before things get buried in snow, locked in ice, or rendered inaccessible by mud, depending on the fickle changes of weather. We’re bringing in thousands of feet of garden hoses and hundreds of portable fence posts and fence reels. We’re moving all the chicken and turkey shelters to safe storage for the winter. I’d like to say that we’re fixing some things that broke over the summer, but mostly we’re just putting things away and we’ll probably end up fixing them at the last minute next spring. Rachel’s been planting all the rest of the garlic bulbs and mulching down the garden for winter. And of course since pre-Thanksgiving and pre-Christmas are our busiest sales periods, we’ve been packing orders in any spare moment.

Speaking of busy sales periods, this is a good time to remind folks that there’s just a week and a half left for ordering turkeys for Thanksgiving. Turkeys are available first-come, first-served, with the inventory on the website reflecting what’s currently available.

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