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  • Writer's pictureJosh Pearson

Turner Road Farm Progress Report

Sometimes I forget just how much things have changed in the past few years. It's been ten years since Josh first purchased the farm on Turner Road and it's only been two years since we purchased our neighboring pastures. Until then we had been raising a handful of sheep and pigs, and were raising meat birds on our five acres around the farm. Operating on five acres was a challenge and definitely a scaled down version of the farm we have today.

Learning to use our five acres to the full extent is what taught us about rotational grazing, and then, regenerative agriculture practices. It was the necessity of saving grass for later, that forced us to fence off small sections of pasture, which in turn, led to a healthier farm. It was in those moments that we started to research what that practice was called, and how we could do it better. It also allowed us to be laser focused on the repairs and remodeling that needed to happen in those early days.

We quickly learned that five acres of grass could be eaten in just a day or two, or it could last all summer. We still had our limitations, but I so value the time that we spent on just five acres because it gave us a good foundation and understanding for where we are today.

Currently, we have anywhere from 30-70 sheep depending on our lambing season. We're running 25 cows and calves, just waiting on the last two calves of the year and we should be up to 27 for the grand total. Funny, we started with just four cows in 2020...Soon our cows and calves will move to the neighbor's property to graze their 80 acres and the number of yearlings at home will be far fewer than 27, allowing our grass to keep up with the grazing requirements of the cows and sheep that remain. We are now down to the remaining three pigs and a handful of barnyard chickens for eggs, a far cry from the 250 meat birds and over 100 laying hens we had in 2020.

This year's grazing started weeks later than last year. For one thing, the grass didn't have the warmth or water it needed to be able to grow. Secondly, the sacrificial pasture spaces we used for winter housing were much greater than in past years and so those spaces are still recovering and were not available in early May to be grazed at all. Lack of pasture space near the house is another reason we aren't doing poultry this year, a farm can only sustain so much life, without having a negative effect on the surrounding areas.

You may have driven by and noticed our most recent developments. Our final fence project is completed in our furthest pasture and includes a portion of our wooded areas, just enough, to brush off the bugs and keep the shrubby plants from encroaching on the pasture further. We were also able to partner with Wildlife services to install a "wolf proof" fence skirting, around our pasture fences. This will allow our farm to more safely coexist with nature as we are bordering a wetland known for housing so many integral animal species to our area. This way we hope to avoid predator interactions, keeping both wildlife and farm animals safe in their own spaces. The two guardian dogs also help with these interactions, especially once we have to move the sheep onto less secure pastures.

A major piece of our regenerative Ag practices is to work with nature, not against it. Along with the additional fence project, the farm purchased another 8 bluebird houses. Josh installed these at each of the water access points in our pastures so that we can use posts to protect these joints in our water line, but more importantly, it's so that we encourage birds to nest and to live in our pastures. Swallows and bluebirds will both use these houses to lay eggs and produce more young each year. These birds can eat thousands of insects, which keeps them off of our animals while they are on pasture. A fly free cow is a happy cow. We have added bird boxes every year and continue to see an increase in birds on our property so it must be working! Unfortunately while we have been doing these exciting improvements, our dairy barn has been continually wearing down. I understand why these barns were built to begin with, and have a serious love affair with our own barn, but jeez louise they sure are a bottomless pit of work and repairs. I'm not sure if anyone remembers just what our barn looked like ten years ago when Josh purchased the farm, but it was pretty rough. About five years ago we had the barn straightened and supported. The front of the barn wasn't built nearly as well as the original portion and it shows. It also doesn't help that our Bull lives in the barn for a good portion of the year and yesterday he decided it was a good idea to take down half of a wall. I went out to check on the lambs in the barn and found that there was a full sheet of plywood laying in his stall. No longer secured to his exterior wall, covered in you know what, and being trampled by this big galoot. I'm not sure if you've looked at lumber prices recently but seeing a full sheet of plywood laying in manure just about sent me through the barn loft roof. Besides Sarge taking it apart on a semi regular basis, the barn roof was not repaired when we had things straightened out and it is now past due for some serious roof and structural repairs due to rain and snow getting into the loft. Without this barn our sheep wouldn't have winter housing, and our lambing season would be intolerable. The barn is like Noah's arc in that it houses most of the farm during bad weather/cold months and provides a safe place for sick and newborn animals. It's also similar in that it may as well be a wooden boat, in need of constant repairs and waterproofing. This year's task is to figure out how to get the barn secured before snow falls, and to budget for future repairs that are sure to occur, even after the roof is repaired. I'm sure, being a Realtor, that the Barn won't add a big chunk of value to our property so we don't fix it for those reasons. Keeping the barn upright, and as functional as possible is something we do because the barn offers a way of life that we cannot have anywhere else. It's a commitment to the farm and to the animals that live here. And also, it's more expensive to tear down than to keep it upright. All joking aside, right now we have five lambs in the barn, including Ted, Mack, Poppy and Lily. Oh and Codeine. You can't forget Codeine. He is a lamb that broke his leg on day three of his short life, and I've since driven him to the vet on four separate occasions, having him casted, X-rayed and recasted. Talk about an expensive pet. The decision to do the right thing and fix his broken leg was easy. It was harder to actually pay for the appointments. Unfortunately it's no cheaper to fix a lamb's broken leg than it is a dog's so this lamb is now priceless. He's also a huge fan of car rides and would load up, if you asked to take him home. You haven't lived until you've driven an hour each way with a lamb screaming bloody murder in your backseat. As you might have suspected, Codeine got his name because of his habit of asking for pain medications. As he has now ingested so many pain medications during the healing process, he is no longer considered safe for human consumption. So now he is not only priceless, he's also useless. If anyone can provide a loving home for this freeloader, let me know. If you are in Bayfield this Saturday you will be able to find Josh, and maybe myself, at the Bayfield Farmers Market. We will have our pork for sale this Summer until we run out. Saturdays at the market, but available by the pound 24/7 in our farm store as well. Also, if you've ordered pork and are in our last batch, which quite a few people are, we are expecting a call sometime this week, announcing that it's ready to be picked up. At which point we will schedule that pickup, and email our remaining pork buyers. Please be aware that this is coming up, and we will do our best to notify you with as much advance notice as possible. As a side note, we do have a few additional pork halves for sale if you want to get on the list! Esme, Josh, Nori and Codeine.

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