Broad Valley Orchard

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Real Winter at Frostbite Flats

The frigid west wind blows down from Big Flat, on South Mountain, then over Piney Mountain, and spills down into our Broad Valley, before damming up on Bear Mountain. This month long cold blast almost reminds me of winters two decades ago.

We are really glad we finished CSA-Extended last week. I delivered to our members in town, last Tuesday, while the freezing rain built up. I got home, and we then had 6 inches (15cm) of wet and freezing snow and ice, which had a liquid equivalent of two inches (5cm) water. This is the storm that jammed the Keystone Interstates for three freezing days.

Up here we chipped, and mined ice slabs for five days before we had access to all our buildings. Even now, I need to put on snow shoes with ‘ice claws’ on to get to our lower coldframe, five hundred feet (160 m) away. We had to knock a ton and a half (1500 kilos) of ice off each house. To haul up fodder/brush up from our wood lot, near the lower coldframe, I had to tie the brush up into a travois, and have Jago (our farm dog who loves to pull) help me drag it. This browse is very healthy for the goats, who are self-confined to their paddock = they hate walking on ice. The roughage helps their digestion, which doesn’t thrive on sweet feed and hay.

My firewood cutting, and my orchard pruning are on hold. Chainsaws and ladders are deadly on the ice. But soon this will thaw, and I will get back to work. When I cut wood, I first give the tops to the goats, who eat the fine twigs, and strip the bark from the branches. Their manure is composted, and applied back to the orchard. Then, I cut the thicker kindling out of the brush pile, and chip the thin twigs, which become mulch for our blueberry patch. The kindling is burned in our wood stove, and the wood ash is applied back on to the orchard. I enjoy being part of a natural cycle…

Judy has started salad seedlings in our Solar Space, and we are preparing the raised beds in the cold frames for planting later this week. We drove down to a seed house in Baltimore, to pick up a bushel of spring onions starts, which we will plant this week, too. These green onions will be in our first April salads. So that is winter on the farm.

Here is a story for you: we had a tough kidding season – we lost one little buck who just ‘gave up’. We had another little doe who was at that dark threshold, but I mixed up a small cup of “Fog Buster” coffee ( that we get thru our CSA’s “coffee co-op”), with a dollop of black molasses, and administered it to her. She was on her feet and nursing in five minutes, and now is a ring leader in the kid’s gang. Now she is two weeks old; I have trouble catching her.

Spring is on its way, and I’ve had my third cup of coffee, and now have to head out to do chores.

Thank You Thom Marti

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