Franklin Family Farm
Home of Cocoa, Marge and Nanner
Lights, camera, farm action
We told you last year that our farm was used as a setting for a movie. Filming here went on for 8 or 9 days for "Northern Borders," which had its premiere in early April and is now touring Vermont.
A cow in our herd, Fudgems, played a key role, and we couldn't be prouder. Mary Ellen says Fudgems was picked because she could be led on a halter, and she was quiet and docile—perfect for movie-making. The movie is based on a book of the same name, written by Vermont author Howard Frank Moser. See it if you can!
Springtime means manure time
Manure-spreading was the first task for our farmers, once the weather warmed up. They do it every spring and fall, using the manure produced here over the winter. This spring, spreading brought our college students, Neil and Paul, home to help out. Spring manure spreading helps the fall hay fields grow well and the spreading in the fall really helps enrich the soil throughout late fall and winter, making for good growth in the spring.
Another task we'll have to undertake here soon is moving our piglets out from the old horse barn into their own pen. We're raising 6 piglets right now and they're really cute. They help us use up much of the waste on the farm that would otherwise go into the compost pile. That's because they aren't picky eaters.
29 new calves
Among the many calves born this spring, we gained six new heifers that will join our milking herd. All the others were boys and were sold off the farm. It's too expensive to feed animals that aren't producing milk, so that's pretty typical for a dairy farm.
Best sugaring season ever
Last year's maple syrup crop was dismal, but 2013 was a record sugaring year for us! Mary Ellen says weather conditions cooperated for once and the end result was 450 gallons. We'll sell all the syrup right here, through our own farm store. It's been several years since the sap really came through. The previous high record was 430 gallons.
A straw house for bees
You might have heard that something is killing the honey bees in this country and elsewhere, and that's of major concern for farmers and others. Honey bees are necessary for fruit, nut and vegetable pollination, but 7 out of 10 of the beehives in the U.S. have collapsed over the past year.
Mary Ellen's hives survived and she's thrilled about it. Before winter came, she built a kind of house around her beehives, made with hay bales and a make-shift roof and, while she doesn't know exactly why this helped, she says the bees are thriving. Perhaps the hay bales helped even out the extreme temperature changes that can happen here in Vermont or perhaps it was something else.
Seniority matters in the barn
Our Have-a-Cow heifer Nanner is one of the longest-term members of the herd and she's not afraid to let you know it. Like most herds, ours enters the milking barn twice a day, morning and evening. Nanner insists on being first cow into the barn, but not because she wants to eat first (we all eat while the milking is happening, you see).
She leads the herd down the ramp, into the milking parlor and then just stands there at the end of the ramp. Have you ever had a heifer stand in your way? She knows she's just going to get yelled at by the farmers, but she seems to enjoy it. Mary Ellen says it's her way of showing everyone that she's at the top of the pecking order here and there's nothing any of the rest of them can do about it.
Well, ciao for now. We'll be back in touch this summer.