Unity Farm Journal - First Week of December 2014
As the snow falls and windy/moist winter weather envelops the farm, the work has become a combination of managing warmth, tending the vegetables in the hoop house, and indoor activities.
Woodlot management has become my major winter exercise - walking the trails and inspecting the forest for fallen trees, broken branches, and pieces of long dead cedar that have not decayed. I’m still working on processing ash trees that fell during Hurricane Sandy. Ash does not need to be aged and becomes instant firewood. I do my best to leave stable dead trees in place so they can become bird habitat .
I leave fallen/decaying logs in place as they are an important source of food and shelter to many species. Up to 20% of the species living in the Unity Farm forest depend upon dead trees and fallen debris.
However, I do harvest freshly fallen trees/branches, cedar, and leaning trees that are caught by other trees. The technique for cutting leaning trees is challenging and dangerous so I hire professionals to take down the larger trees that are likely to cause me harm.
I've divided the property in zones per the lessons I learned from The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach by Ben Falk, which I read on my Kindle Paperwhite while traveling. This weekend, I'll be in Zone 3, which includes areas accessible by our trails that I visit at least once per week. In the upcoming weeks, I'll work in Zones 4 and 5, those in the deeper parts of the forest that accessible only by wandering off our trails. Since the snow has melted the fallen cedar is again visible and I'll be cutting/stacking over 50 years of fallen cedar on the western border of the property.
The cold has had an unexpected effect on the hoop house. Large numbers of voles have burrowed under the hoop house walls (and the 3 inch deep hardware cloth that surrounds the building). A entire family set up a vole household in the bed of Japanese purple carrots. Voles can eat a lot of carrots. I placed humane traps in the raised beds, using carrots as bait. Thus far I've removed 8 voles including this chubby fellow
This Spring we'll be repaving the 25 year old farm driveway and running electrical conduit from the barn to the cider house. In anticipation, I'll begin wiring the cider house with a barn light (we generally clean up from a day of apple crushing in the dark), and provide power for our future expanded honey and cider production which are likely to overtake our ability to hand crank the extraction methods - 600 pounds of honey and 6000 pounds of apples. Another typical farm weekend of woodlot management, vole removal, and electrical wiring!