May is a wonderful month: the grass greens up, trees bud, and the blackflies aren't out yet. But it's also a time of unbelievable workload on a VT farm. Here's an overview of May 2012 at our place.
Bees are checked, given more room to store honey, or maybe split into multiple colonies. Sheep and chickens are moved from winter quarters in the greenhouse to spring pasture. The electric fences are set up and checked. Piglets are bought from another farm, and settled in at ours (normally a minor task, but this year, a multi-day affair with escapes, chases, and injuries, but that will be another blog entry...).
The greenhouse has to be cleared out; about 150 bales of hay were spread as feed and bedding, and it all has to be moved and built into a big compost pile. Someday we might have a tractor, but for now this is done by hand. Next the planting beds are tilled up (again, by hand), four beds 3'x40'. Then trellises are erected; vertical netting for melons to climb, horizontal raised netting for bush tomatoes and peppers, twine and clips for vining-type tomatoes, strings for peas. The drip irrigation system gets set up. Finally, time to put in the plants!
Out in the perennial areas, everything needs weeding and mulching. Apple and pear trees, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, currents, rhubarb, asparagus, herbs.
We do rely on tractor power for tilling our outdoor vegetable garden. Our neighbor rototills our 50'x90' garden area each spring. One-third is planted in cover crop. the other two-thirds are shaped into 18 raised beds and walkways. The walkways are mulched heavily with hay. The beds are planted with corn, beans, squash, cucumbers, onions, celery, carrots, and greens. With the exception of carrots, all the plants are set out as starts, raised in April and May in the greenhouse.
Mowing. Oh, how grass grows in Vermont. I've never seen brown lawns since we moved here 8 years ago. Never seen a sprinkler. We use a small push mower, and scythe. A scythe is a great tool; it works best when grass is tall and wet (exactly when the mower doesn't work). The area around the house gets done once a week, and the working areas (paths to greenhouse and garden, electric fence lines, around the shed, orchard, and berry patch) are done about every two weeks.
Flower gardens are weeded and mulched, perennials divided, thinned, or moved. This is "fun work", not really necessary, but something I do to relax and unwind after a long day of farm tasks.