Whitney Farmstead May 2019 Newsletter
I'd like to send out a very late thank you everyone who came out to our Maple Syrup open house this year. As is always the case when hosting an event, and especially a March event, the weather is unpredictable and we so appreciate you all braving the chilly weekend (especially Saturday) to come out to our farm and be a part of our Maple Syrup season.
We had a record year this season, making right about 131.5 gallons of maple syrup from 250 taps. This translates into 3,685 gallons of sap that we collected each day in 5 gallon buckets over the course of about 5 weeks!
Our 2019 Maple Syrup can be found at our farmers market booths, at Argus Farm Stop on Liberty, or at the farm if you are a CSA or Herdshare member. Within the next year we hope to have an on-farm farm stand up and running, but till then please visit us at the markets! This summer we will be at the Ann Arbor Kerrytown Market (7-3) and White Lotus Farm Carts (9:30-1:30) on Saturdays, and the Webster Farmers Market on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month 12-3pm.
There is still time to become a member for our Summer Meat CSA! The first on-farm pickup for the summer share is June 5th. The summer share runs for 6 months from June thru November and includes pastured pork and chicken, and 100% grass-fed heritage beef. Pickups are on the farm the 1st Wednesday and Sunday of each month from 3-6 and members choose a variety of the types and cuts of meat they would like. All the details can be found here: http://whitneyfarmstead.com/csa
The CSA is a neat way to be one step closer to where you food comes from. To get to know us, our farm, and our livestock.
We are excited to have Whitney Farmstead t-shirts available for the first time. We worked with VGKIDS, a Ypsi printing company, to get our logo (see top of newsletter) printed on organic cotton shirts, in 3 nice colors: pebble brown, olive, and charcoal. They are $20 and we’ll have them at markets. Sizes are limited!
Okay, now that I’ve got the -how we make our living- side of our farm out of the way, here is what we’ve been up to at Whitney Farmstead:
As sap season came to end, we switched gears back to barn raising preparations. The week leading up to May 4th Matthew and Ethan began moving the piles of finished timbers from the pole barn, out to the site where the barn foundation sat ready for the Raising.
Side note, (I) Malaika usually write our newsletters, but this part is with help from Matthew, the timber framer, to be sure we got the right terminology.
With the help from many friends and family members, the raising of the timber frame began on Friday night, when the first scribed (live-edge) bent was put in place on the East wall. Saturday morning when we set out to get all seven Bents in place, all the right people came and helped in a huge way to allow us to achieve this goal. Although things started slow and we only had two bents up by 1pm, as soon as we figured out our kinks the rest were placed in relative ease! By 7 pm all seven bents were up and tied together by the plates, silhouetted by a beautiful Michigan sunset where all who helped gathered for a group picture (see top of page), and the day was very memorable and momentous. By Sunday the Lower Principle rafters and lower eave walls were erected, and all that remained was putting in the roof purlins. As the piles of timbers on the ground dwindled, the barn began to take shape.
Purlins, Plates, Principle Rafters, Eave Walls, Bents, Mortise and Tenon: There is a wonderful little book that sheds light on many of these timber framing terms called, Of Plates and Purlins: Grandpa Builds a Barn Paperback – 1971 by Elliot M. Sayward.
Our friend Todd, and his friend Mary, took some wonderful pictures throughout the day which can be found here: https://therzog.smugmug.com/TimberFraming/MilkParlor
When I think about the way that Timber Framing has influenced our farm in the past couple years, two heartwarming memories come to mind.
The first is of a family friend driving by and pulling in the drive when he saw the newly erected Sugar House in Spring of 2016. He told Matthew “I just love that barn. It looks like its always been there.”
To this day Matthew says that is best compliment he has ever gotten about the Sugar House. We strive for this in all aspects: to live, farm, build, and steward our land in a way that fits. As I ponder what this means, these things come to mind: cattle grazing in pastures, boiling down maple sap over a wood fire, pigs feasting on hickory nuts, wooden buildings, heritage livestock breeds that have stood the test of time, woolen crafts, milk from our cows, finding just the right balance of supporting the land and having the land support us.
The other memory is of our beloved neighbor and friend, Jack Brigham, who passed away this month at 94. A few years back he stopped by at the tail end of the Sugar House raising day and sat in the corner of the frame, looking around, saying “OHH! BHOY, GHOLLY, oh boy, this is wonderful” and lit up with a bewildering smile on his face. Then after looking around a bit more in beaming silence, spoke again, “golly, what good work.” He truly understood and appreciated what we had built. Jack grew up on a farm in southeast Michigan and just a short while back in March I sat with him for a good long while listening to stories about his family farm, where the values he carried through his whole full life, began. He grew up milking cows and working a team of horses. At the age of 16 his father gave each of his sons an acre of land to grow a crop of their own. With the help of his team of horses, Jack grew an acre of potatoes. Later his family sold their farm to a development and Jack’s life took other directions. But when Jack told me these stories about this place, the farm where his long life began, you could see the farm boy shining through in his eyes. He was so happy to see Matthew and I farming my family’s land. He was a good friend of my grandpas and many times since my grandpa passed away last year, has told me, “your grandpa would be so proud” and “it is so good to see young people doing this work.”
Though Jack didn’t get to see the frame of our new barn, he knew about it, and if he had the chance to see it, I am sure he would have sat in the corner, looking at the frame, beaming, and gently shaking his head saying, “Gholly gee”.
For Jack, I think part of what made the Sugar House so special was knowing that these traditions, once commonplace, won’t be lost. That there are young people willing to do the work, and carry on a way of life that may not be the easiest, but is surely one of the most gratifying.
And it is incredibly gratifying to see how these graceful frames; intricate puzzles of timbers, mortise and tenons joinery, wooden pegs, and patient skill; inspire awe and reflection.
The summer before Matthew and I moved home, we lived and worked in southern New Hampshire. I, on a raw milk Jersey dairy, and Matthew for a timber framing company. Now, here we are 5 years later, still working to meld and entwine our passions. This building is a culmination of us; a timber frame barn built by Matthew to house what has always been my dream, have a small dairy.
On the livestock front, somewhere in the midst of raising day preparations, the cattle got their first taste of spring grass, marking the end of hay feeding. As the last of the hay is fed, the cattle herd leaves their settled winter home, and began to travel across the pastures, portable electric polywire marking their daily pasture meals. This time of year, as we get back into the groove of our portable grazing systems, I am reminded of my skills as a professional fence reeler-upper and post picker-upper. Spare reels, extra posts, water totes, water lines, and mineral buckets all travel across the pasture fields with the herd. These things are carried mostly by hand, sometimes with the help of a cart that bounces across our still water-logged pastures.
Our seven month old daughter Able, on my back during these moves, often carries a single fence post in the strong grip of her little hands.
Nearly 5 years into rotational grazing on some of our fields, it is satisfying to see the diversity and productivity of our pastures increase each year. We have one more hay field to till and plant this year and then the farm will enter a stage of managing these perennial pastures through grazing, making hay, and re-seeding to add density or diversity with a broadcast seeder or feeding out hay. The plow will sit, feeling a bit abandoned I am sure, as we use our cattle, sheep, chicken and pigs, to manage the farm. In addition to keeping the pastures mowed, building soil, fertility and organic matter, they give us nourishing meats, wool, eggs, and milk. Incredible!
Thank you, as always, for taking the time to read our newsletter, and for supporting us on this journey to carry on the farming and food traditions of this place. We hope to see you soon,
Malaika and Matthew