Campers celebrated our Michigan winter with gusto on our first day of Tollgate Farm Wild Winter Break Camp. The morning began with flag ceremony which includes the flag raising, the pledge of allegiance, and the 4-H pledge.
Next, we took a wagon ride to the forest to explore our CARES contract and the ideas that lay the foundation for how we care for the farm and each other at camp.
During a visit to Ms. Darby, in the greenhouse, we each made a mini-greenhouse through a project called ‘winter sowing.’
Animal chores was definitely a highlight for many of the campers. Caring for our cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, and rabbits, campers checked to make sure the animals were displaying normal behavior and by feeding them. From harvesting eggs from the chicken coop to giving Colton, our youngest steer, milk were exciting and memorable experiences for all. The blue peppers were thrilled to find a hen in the barn laying on 15 eggs!
We made bird feeders to help care for our resident songbirds in the cold of winter.
Campers set out sardines in an effort to capture some animal tracks and explored the Tollgate forest in winter, including a visit to our partially frozen vernal pool!
Later, campers worked with science and engineering practices to design and build sleds from cardboard, feed bags, and tape. Sledding ensued with lots of fun discoveries about which material provided the most speed.
A pinnacle moment for many campers, garden kitchen included pumpkin pancakes with Tollgate maple syrup and, combing Italian and Greek cuisines, pizza hummus!
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We wrapped up the 2019 season feeling pretty good about the amount of food that we grew and the systems that we created, maintained and/or refined. Our last distribution of the season was the week of Thanksgiving and since then we’ve been enjoying a little down time with family and friends and of course planning and prepping for next year! We also attended the Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference in Traverse City and then the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Lancaster, PA with a stop at Gettysburg getting to know our 16th president.
We have a few major projects that we are working on before we can get out into the fields this spring. Our first project was revamping some of our spreadsheets so that they can work easily for both planning and seeding/planting. This excel sheet now shows both spatial data (field and bed placement), quantitative (number of trays, amount of need needed), temporal (when to seed/plant), and descriptive (variety, irrigation and mulch type). While this spreadsheet was time intensive to put together, we are hoping that it will save a lot of time this season and as well as next year as everything is a formula and can be easily updated from year to year. Simplified versions with only relevant info for greenhouse seeding and then another for transplanting and direct seeding are easily generator to view in the field via the Google Sheets App.
After a season of mechanical issues with our Farmall 140 we took it back up to the farmer we bought it from for repair work. Hopefully it will come back ready to work because we are looking to incorporate it much more into our system. We are looking to set it up with discs to open and close the furrow for potato planting, install a simple plastic mulch laying system for cucurbit and solanaceous crops, and install our rolling bed marker. All these things, save opening the furrow, had previously been down by hand. Incorporating the 140 will hopefully save us a lot of time and help us get important crops in the ground much faster!
Remember we still have spots left in our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and you can sign up or learn more here.
The Club spent the month of January focused on animal science and community service. We completed an activity on beef, learning breeds, anatomy and care. Also another ultrasound session was held to use the ultrasound to check on the goats (due in March).
Sorting seeds for our annual seed give away is ongoing. This project gathers seeds from seed companies and distributes them to school and community gardens.
February Club Activities
Our teens will be going on the road again, visiting a commercial sheep farm, Lauwer’s Lamb in Capac, to participate in lambing.
Cherry Slurp Time: We will celebrate Michigan cherries for Valentine’s Day
Market lamb projects begin
Interested in joining 4-H? Contact the Tollgate Farm 4-H Club by email, visit their website,or facebook.
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Now that breeding season has come to a close, we think that we have 4 pregnant sheep and 7 pregnant goats. This was confirmed by a recent activity using a veterinary ultrasound to confirm pregnancies, a unique experience for our youth members. First our teens learned how to use the ultrasound. To reinforce the learning, the teens in turn showed younger members how to use this equipment. We looked for and found heartbeats, spines and movement, Lambing Starts around Jan 13th!!!
This is one of many educational activities that the club makes possible for its youth showmen. 4-H Livestock and Poultry projects provide great opportunities for youth to learn about animal and veterinary science, as well as animal production practices. There are also life skills acquired through these projects. Youth learn goal setting and problem solving, improve communication skills and gain confidence.
Many think that you need to live on a farm to participate in a 4-H Livestock or Poultry project. However, through the Animal Project Leasing program at Tollgate, youth can work hands on with livestock and poultry at Tollgate Farm, learning and growing. Currently there are still a few market lamb and duck projects available to interested youth ages 8 – 19. To learn more about this program, contact: Mary Hutka or visit our website or facebook.
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