From what I understand, Saturdays are work days, but can be less intense than the rest the week. The plans for this particular Saturday were chores and then a field trip to Staunton for a farm show. And then whatever needed to be done when we got back. The weather that day had taken a turn for the worse. That morning we woke up to a rain/snow mix (more rain than snow) and headed down to do chores. I got the chore of feeding the cows in the feeding barn (they weren’t eating grass on the pasture at this time because it was winter). This was interesting for me since I have limited experience with cows. And by limited, I mean none. Nonetheless, I did as I was told and put the hay in the feed dispensers. I also did this same chore in a different feeding barn on the morning of the last day and learned and invaluable lesson…when feeding the cows, start placing the hay from the inside of the barn out, otherwise the cows will begin to feed and box you in. Lesson learned!
Anyway, the feeding barn is where great stuff happens on the farm…it is where compost is made! I will learn more about this, but during the winter, when the cows feed in the feeding barn, they (obviously) poop. The manure collects and is layered with organic material (wood chips, etc.), and corn kernels. The layering continues throughout the winter until a nice thick, base exists. Then in the spring, they bring the pigs in to pigaerate. Pigaerating is the act of the pigs rooting and digging for the corn kernels thereby aerating the compost. The result is rich, fertile compost that is used to help the grass grow to feed the cattle. This is just one example of how the animals have a symbiotic relationship on this farm and one example of the closed-loopness of the farm. In other words, there is no need to bring in outside fertilizers because the animals produce it themselves.
After morning chores, we changes clothes and headed into town for the farm show. I rode with Leanna and Brie (former interns, current employees) and it was a lovely ride. The landscape is simply beautiful, even in the drizzly rain. The farm show was pretty much what I expected. There were tractors and other farm implements for sale. There were booths with all manner of tools to make the farming life better and easier. The one thing I had not expected was to be in the company of so many Mennonite/Amish people. Turns out, we were in Mennonite country! This may not seem very exciting to you, but my heritage is Mennonite, so there was a certain comfort to it.
After the show, Leanna and Brie and I went to a store called The Cheese Shop. It is an Amish store that sells much more than cheese. It is basically a grocery store with cheese, meat, all manner of bulk food items, etc. Leanna needed to do some shopping and I was very content to look around at all of the offerings. I bought a cookbook called Mennonite Recipes from the Shenandoah Valley. I was interested in seeing if the recipes were similar to the Mennonite recipes I know. Turns out, they weren’t. There were a number of recipes that called for Velveeta or other pasteurized, processed cheese food. Surprising or not?
When we got back to the farm it was time for afternoon chores, so we changed clothes and headed down to gather eggs, close nesting boxes, and wash eggs, among other things. Again, I really enjoyed the egg washing because of the camaraderie. I look forward to doing this again very soon (10 days)! That night after dinner, a few of us sat and watched a movie together. It was a nice time to relax and wind down. Some people have asked what I look forward to the most. Well, there are a lot of things, but one of the things I look forward to the most is the fellowship and friendship.