Life on the Farm In Pictures

Sheep shearing several weeks ago. The sheep were getting hot with their three or four inch thick wool coats still on.

New kittens and their mother on the porch of Melody’s log cabin playhouse.

Sheep grazing in the silvopasture demonstration plot.

Silvopasture Demonstration Plot

The Forest Service Department of Maryland Department of Natural Resources has asked us to work with them in developing a Silvopasture Demonstration Plot on 10 acres adjacent to the farmland that we are currently farming. It will combine timber/trees with pasture and will give Maryland landowners an example of how they can use their own land to produce timber and at the same time receive income from the land by grazing livestock while the trees grow. The silvopasture will consist of rows of trees planted in a pasture with 50′ grass spacings between the tree plantings. We will provide the livestock to graze the grass and we will also mow as necessary.

The silvopasture concept appears to be an excellent way to increase carbon sequestration on farmland without totally removing the land from food production. We look forward to working with the Forest Service on this project and applying some of the things that we have learned in carbon sequestering to this test plot. There will be some other tree plantings on adjacent parcels that will be used as controls to compare with the silvopasture experiment.

Daniel and Joel cutting up a dead tree at the edge of the silvopasture to get ready to put up a fence for the sheep.

Chestnut Orchard Update

Last spring our chestnut orchard was inoculated with both a strong and a weak strain of chestnut blight to test for blight resistance. In the fall, the trees were evaluated and the trees with the least resistance were cut down and burned. Two weeks ago, members of the American Chestnut Foundation again came and evaluated the trees. They were very impressed with the blight resistance that the trees in our orchard exhibited. Over all, the trees exhibited much more blight resistance than what the trees in other orchards have exhibited. At this point, only about half of the 500 chestnut trees in our orchard have been inoculated with the blight. The rest will be inoculated next spring. Because this is a breeding orchard, only the best trees will be kept. In the end, only about 30 trees will remain of the 500 trees that were planted.

Personnel from the American Chestnut Foundation evaluating the chestnut trees for blight resistance.

Chestnut Blight Inoculation Evaluation in the Chestnut Orchard

Earlier this year, several hundred of the chestnut trees in our chestnut orchard were inoculated with two different strains of chestnut blight. Last week a group from the American Chestnut Foundation came and evaluated the inoculations. We were pleased that many of the trees showed good resistance to the blight. The trees with the weakest resistance will be cut down and the trees with the strongest resistance will be kept for further breeding purposes.

This tree is an example of good resistance to the blight inoculation. The cracks in the bark are an indication that the tree is fighting the blight and is “walling off” the blight to keep it from spreading.

This tree has blight around the crotch of the tree from a naturally occurring source. It looks like the blight is really bad, but the tree actually has good resistance in the way it is fighting the blight. The chestnut orchard is an interesting project, and our family is learning a lot from caring for it. We are looking forward to what happens in the future.

Curatorship Work on the House

We installed new steps and railing on the back porch of the house. Our daughter, Melody, is painting the porch posts.

Our son, Luke, painting the porch posts on the front porch.

Sons, Joel and Daniel, scraping paint on the back of the house.

Tour Group from the International Chestnut Symposium

Recently we hosted a tour group of people from around the world who attended the International Chestnut Symposium at Shepherdstown, WV. The tour group leader later commented in an email that the chestnut orchard on our farm was really spectacular given its age. The trees are much bigger than what most are at their age. Earlier this summer, we helped inoculate about 2/3 of the trees with two different strains of chestnut blight. Next year the trees will be evaluated according to how they respond to the blight. The best ones will be used for further breeding purposes.

Two big buses drove up in the pasture to the chestnut orchard.

Part of the tour group.

Historic Reproduction Playhouse

Our youngest daughter has wanted a playhouse. This summer, on Memorial Day and on July 4th, we built a log cabin playhouse as a “historic reproduction” example of the log cabins that used to populate the area around our farm. It is behind the red building where you pick up chickens and it sits beside an old road that probably dates back to 1787. Here is what the sign reads that Melody wrote and posted on the cabin:

Historic Reproduction

This playhouse is like the log cabins that used to be along this old road years ago. This was a main road. To the north was a glass factory and a school, and to the south was another school, a kiln, and an iron furnace. The iron furnace used an acre of wood a day. In the 1800’s the ridge was stripped of trees. Both the glass factory and the iron furnace started in 1787.

They also blasted rock from big boulders for the C&O aqueduct over the Monocacy River and carted it away by a train that ran on a sturdy wooden track. There are also other old roads in the woods. On a walk through the woods along an old road, you might come to a stone wall that surrounded a field, or you might come to a foundation or a flat spot where a house used to stand, or even better, a rotting away house. By the early 1900’s the wood to power the iron furnace was gone; the people, business, and activity were gone and the ridge was covered in grassy fields where cattle roamed. Now everything is once more covered by trees, but evidence still remains that this used to be a very busy active place.

The log cabin playhouse. One of the unit studies that the children will have in our homeschool this year will be on historic preservation. Part of that will be learning how to put mortar between the logs, building a door, and installing the windows.

A small potbellied coal stove sits in one corner of the playhouse ready to cook many imaginary meals.