In the dry cellar there are only four cheeses, three ropes of onions and a couple of bundles of garlic. The green spring grass will be our food now; with the lactating cows giving more milk, we can start again to fill the cheese cave with our signature cheeses, Appalachia, Franciscan and Paysano. Now there will be milk for mozzarella and ricotta; the hens are laying and there is spinach in the garden, so spanakopita will be back on the menu, and quiche with good pork sausage, or bacon —
There are only three hundred pounds of potatoes in the root cellar, half of which has immediately to be used for seed. We will fire up the oven and eat more pizza and less hash for a few months, until July at least —
and if the nettles at the bottom of the pasture will grow, we can have cooked greens and ramps.
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We have spent the last Tuesday nights in a refresher course on rotational grazing, offered, as was our first seminar, by the Eastern Ohio Grazing Council. One of the biggest blessings of farming in eastern Ohio is the presence of this institution, and I will never be able to vilify the gubment with quite the same degree of vim because of these people.
Not that they are really the Gubment. These are farmers with insight and vision, most of them young, all of them with something at stake, who really care, and really know, about sustainable farming. We hope more groups like this one will be spawned all over the country, because this is an important message to get out, an important skill to be fostered.
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There are few kinds of relief to be compared to that of the grass farmer when spring green-up finally arrives; maybe the only one would be the sensation of a man in a strange city when he finally spots the door marked ‘Gents’. We have been holding on by the skin of our teeth for three weeks, feeding the last of the hay, and whatever else we could scrounge, while we held the cows off the tiny points of green that were slowly, oh-so-slowly poking through the sodden brown trash left from our stockpiled forage. The persistent cold weather and near-constant overcast were not encouraging to those little green shoots, and they weren’t sure they were really welcome on the Beautiful river.
Now we have green! In just a few days — three, four at most — the rain stopped, the sun shone, and the grass popped and kept popping! We split the cows up again and put twelve — dry cows, steers, yearlings — on the back in enormous paddocks where they can spread out and graze all they want without hitting anything too hard, and put the four lactating cows in a front paddock where they can walk back to the dairy without tearing up ungrazed pasture. There is a beautiful brown Jersey heifer calf in there, too, because Honey, the three-year-old F/J cross, calved on Palm Sunday vigil.
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Wednesday, March 25, the Annunciation:
All winter we’ve held the lactating cows up front on the better forage, while the dry cows, heifers and yearlings cleaned up out back on the paddocks farthest from the dairy, and therefore the longest walk for the milkers. Monday morning we ran all the cows up to the front of the farm and put them in one paddock, where the the sixteen of them actually look like a respectable herd. They are pastured now on what we would call a sacrifice paddock, an area where we are going to create a lot of impact, more than we would want in a regular rotation. There are two reasons for this choice: one is so that the last of the stockpiled forage will be held in abeyance until green-up, so that the first spring paddocks will still contain some brown, high-carbon stuff to slow down the passage of new green grass through the cows’ gut. The second reason for hitting this paddock hard is that this corner of the front pasture is only lately reclaimed from the jungle. Last fall when we ran the cows over that paddock there was a lot of good grass they missed under the briars and cane, because they wouldn’t shove their faces in among the thorns to graze. Feeding hay on that paddock now, with four-times-sixteen that’s sixty-four hooves cutting into the soil, we’ll disadvantage the cane before green-up, as well as adding lots of good organic matter, some biological activity, and whatever grass seeds spills from the hay or makes it unscathed through the cows’ digestive systems. Coming up on calving we don’t want too much protein in the dry cows, anyway, so this is a win-win: good nutrition now, better grazing later.
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A twelve cc veterinary syringe with the end cut off seems to substitute fairly for a half-inch soil blocker, if you don’t mind that it only makes one at a time. We started about two hundred peppers and tomatoes this evening, and the small plug size means we can germinate on the table in the hall, more reliably warm than the greenhouse even with the heater on.
The hens in the coupe at the monastery are tearing into those winter cow pies. Scratching birds are nature’s answer to trash pickup. Tonight we hitched up the coupe and moved it to the large garden, where many cowpies, dropped here when the cows were brought up during the sub-zero weather, are waiting to be spread.
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Topping the hill to the monastery — about fifteen bronze turkeys stark against the yellow rags of the Barnes meadow, five toms fanning and thumping and strutting while their wives, oblivious, poked and peered like women in the produce aisle. Proof of spring coming, just when we had despaired of seeing anything springlike before April.
If your cow gets ringworm, and they do, try mustard on the lesions. She’ll lick it off, of course, but try anyway; it worked on D1, and it seems to have worked on Sweetheart, too — or maybe it was the homeopathic tullerian, or both.
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We had a good group for our presentation, Grass, the Dairy Cow, and the Integrated Sustainable Smallholding last weekend at the OEFFA conference in Granville, Ohio. Fifteen or twenty people joined in the animated discussion of food and fertility on the grassfed farm, especially on the virtues of the dairy cow for converting daily sunlight into high-quality, daily fresh proteins, fats and sugars. Our May and June grazing workshops are filling up; see the CLASSES page of this blog for more information or to sign up.
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