Tour the Farm!

From 10 to 4 on Saturday, October 4th and Sunday, October 5th we will once again participate in the Culpeper Harvest Days Farm Tour! This is a good opportunity to take a lazy autumn drive and come visit our farm. You can do a self-guided walkabout, or talk to us and get a deeper explanation of whatever farm project piques your curiosity. We are a small, family farm with many interests, including: beekeeping, shiitake (mushroom) growing, gardening, baking, rug-hooking, weaving, livestock and of course, Christmas trees. We will have a bonfire going all day in front of our beautiful Blue Ridge vista—come join us!

Oak Shade Farm is located at 14460 Waterford Run Lane, Rixeyville VA. We can be reached at oakshadefarm@gmail.com

In case you can’t make it on these dates, I hope you will take a picture tour of our farm by scrolling around on this site.


Our CSA is wrapping up its first year. Here is a photographic example of what we offer in early fall in an especially squash-heavy share. Left to right: eggs from our free range hens (in cooler), shiitake, radishes, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, turnips, bell peppers, Delicata squash, kabocha and pumpkins.

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Sumac twists and curves to find light. It blooms later in the season, providing much-needed nectar and shade for the beehives beneath. Bee and beekeeper alike struggled this year and yields were not so good.

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Here is what we mean when we describe our chicken flock as “free range” or “pastured.” The coop is at the bottom of the hill and you can see the hens scattered through the field. This picture captures less than 1/4th of the territory available to the birds. Their wings and beaks are unclipped, so they range and forage freely up to 300 yards from their home, which is moved weekly. Keeping the coop in motion avoids many problems: the hens are not in one place long enough to destroy grass, create bad odors, or develop bad habits, like roosting outdoors instead of in the coop, or laying eggs in barns instead of nest-boxes. On top of that, the flock always has new ground to forage, which they are happy to fertilize on the way.  The field is visibly greener and healthier compared to five years ago, before we had the flock. This photo is from early spring, so the field is only beginning to green up.

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The next two pictures show the other residents of the pasture: sheep and broiler chickens. The photographer here is suspect–the lambs are too new to take any chances on potential predators. Most of them will not maintain that black color into adulthood.

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When the weather is warm, the broilers hit the grass on their third day in the world! Here they will learn good foraging habits and the grass will act like a diaper, keeping their living area clean until it is time to move the coop again.

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We feed the bees sugar syrup in the fall. It is important to note that the honey-like substance the bees make from this syrup will never be found in the jars we sell. It is slowly consumed over the course of the long winter and whatever remains goes quickly as the bees ramp up for the spring honey flow.  There are many opinions out there about this kind of feeding. We do not do it to “replace honey we shouldn’t have taken” as some say, but to insure against hives failing in the winter. By the time you realize that a hive put up weak fall stores, or that you will be having an extra long winter, it is often too late to assist the bees. In our case, feeding is not about maximizing profits–it is about having hives left in the spring.

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And lastly, one of our newer sections of white pine. These trees had a tough start in thick grass and are around 8 years old. The trees are slowly taming the field: thanks to their shadows, the grass and weeds no longer comes in quite as thick. We will mow this field  before harvest season begins. Maybe your tree is in this photo!

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Right now you can find us at: The Culpeper Farm Tour (Oct 4th/5th), The Warrenton Farmers’ Market (Saturday mornings on S. Fifth St. in Warrenton until Thanksgiving) or the River District Art Gallery in Sperryville. Got a message? Drop us a line at oakshadefarm@gmail.com.

 

We hope to see you soon!