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Follow organic dairy farmer Jonathan Gates as he reports weekly from his Vermont family farm. Howmars Farm is a certified organic dairy farm, one of many Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative farmer members who supply the milk that goes into making Stonyfield's yogurts and smoothies. The entire family pitches in on this third-generation farm. Check out some of the happenings on his farm and post your comments. Jonathan loves to get feedback from readers.

A cool day to cut wood for spring's maple sugaring

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Son Benjamin helps split the wood.

A change in the weather brought us a nice, cool, sunny day... a perfect day to split and stack firewood for our maple sugaring operation. We burn 6-8 cords of wood each sugaring season (March-early April). During the summer we try to fill up the sugarhouse woodshed so that we will have a good supply of dry firewood come next March.

We had a few rows of 3-foot-long wood that needed splitting. We use a hydraulic woodsplitter run off a tractor PTO (power take off) to split the hardwood/softwood pieces that are too large for the firebox of the arch. I had the splitter hitched on, and had split a couple loader bucket-loads, before Ben came along to give me a hand. He stacked the wood in the bucket and then dumped and stacked the wood in the woodshed while I continued splitting the large pieces. In a couple of hours, we had the rows of wood all taken care of, and we had another 2 1/2 cords of wood ready for next spring. We did all the splitting under the watchful eye of a snake sunning itself on a section of the woodpile.

We use wood in our sugaring operation for several reasons. It's a renewable resource, we have an ample supply of hardwood and softwood on the farm, it's the traditional fuel that sugarmakers first used to boil the maple sap, and we think it makes our syrup taste better. Many of the sugarmakers now use fuel oil to run their sugar rigs, taking away some of the tradition that makes sugarmaking so special.

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--Jonathan, Howmars Farm
Franklin, Vermont

** Tell me what you would like to know about organic dairy farming in northern Vermont and I will write about those things in the near future! Just fill out the comment box below.


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I love reading about the cows! :) Some pictures of them would be great. I am interested to know just about anything about dairy farming, since I'm a city girl and know very little about it; and I love dairy products! I think this blog is great.

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