What’s Up Down on the Farm

The Aiken Farm consists of 90 acres sitting on the top of  Windmill Hill, toward the southern end of that long ridgeline. It lies at the end of a little-used dirt road and it looks to the south. It has that “top of the world” feeling, like so many farms in Vermont. Vermont had soil, so hill farms were viable. The place has remained in use up to the present day, so it never grew up in brush or second growth forest. The pastures are well-established and the fencerows are clean. A small herd of beef cattle live well off the fat of this land, and right now the mama cows are calving. Three bull calves are on the ground, looking mighty cute and flourishing, and two more are on the way.

Besides the thirty acres of open ground the farm has sixty acres of sugarbush. This is a favored stand of sugar maples that is currently being managed for sugaring, but is not yet online. For the present, it is being thinned and “organized” for tubing. A pump house will be built for the vacuum pump, which puts the pressure on the tubing, and to house the tanks for collecting the sap.  When the orchard is ready and the markets are favorable the tubing will be strung up and February will find a crew tapping out. It is expected to carry 4,000 taps.

Today February seems far away. It is Midsummer. June is lush and fresh and green green green. It was a stressful sugar season, with unseasonable cold all winter well into March, delaying the sugar season and edging up the ever-present  farmers’ anxiety. As it happened, the season turned out well, but it was followed by a very dry spring, which was beginning to stress the trees. Finally, in early June, it started to rain and the trees are showing a healthy canopy.  It almost glitters. A good first cutting of hay has just been taken off the Aiken Farm and we are just waiting for a fast re-growth to offer lush pastures to the cattle. As the calves start to graze they will eat the tender new growth and their dams will really put out the milk, as well. They should grow out fast and fat. Meanwhile, the sugarmakers take their ease . . . somewhat. A quick drive through the neighborhood found a few of them soaking in their pond, another one building motocross bike jumps in the woods. This won’t last long. There are chores waiting.

 - Lisa Chase


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