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.
We are doing so much writing on our book, The Grassfed Homestead, that we have done very little writing of posts. Winter is not uneventful, but long, cold nights and short, cold, overcast days leave us saturated with snow, and keeping livestock warm and fed, and the never-ending struggle to keep stockwater unfrozen. Sometimes a ‘possum gets a hen and eats it slily, head first, in the brush behind the henhouse. JohnPaul shot one on a nighttime raid on the hen coupe at the monastery, where fourteen — less one — hens shiver of a night, waiting for the spring to come. Five spotted feeder pigs eat mangel-wurzels and hog mash in the bottom of the white barn, burrowing in straw bedding and likewise waiting for the year to turn. Up by the garden, four lactating Jerseys are eating good green grass hay until the ice melts in the lane and we can turn them out again on the stockpiled forage beyond the shrine. The dry cows in the very back pasture are getting hay, too, because the ground is frozen so hard that we would have to use a hammer and spike to make new holes for step-in posts, and the cold is so bitter the last two weeks that we sleep better knowing everyone has hay in her belly. The yearling calves are most comfortable of all, bedded in hay down in the run-in shed that backs to the north against the woods in the corner of the paddock behind the garden.
Sunrise comes earlier now, but the cold’s grip is tightening.
Our book, The Grassfed Homestead, has been accepted by our number one favorite publisher, Chelsea Green! Now we just have to get it all written. Look for it some time in the second half of 2016!
Sunday, January 25:
I don’t think we’ve seen the sun more than a dozen days this winter. That’s about par for this area, which receives about as much sunshine yearly as Seattle, WA. Even so, the grass grows and fuels the whole farm via rotationally grazed dairy and beef cows, a small flock of sheep, a pair of breeding pigs and their offspring, and our pastured poultry. Not that we’re not all looking forward to spring!
We forgot to run up to the monastery and shut the chickens’ coupe the other night, and in the morning there was a headless hen on the wire mesh floor. So that evening we went up after dark with a .22. Mr. ‘Possum was just thinking about fresh eggs and chicken heads when we showed up and spoiled his party. Everybody has to eat; just not in our hen house.
Sharing our grass-based family farm systems with other interested people is always a pleasure for us. Saturday, January 10, a dozen people braved below-zero temperatures to attend our full-day sustainable homesteading/ rotational grazing seminar sponsored by the Shepherd’s Bridge in Deersfield, Ohio, where we spent six hours sharing farming experiences and some delicious home-cooked foods. Attendees included people of all levels of information, from no farming experience at all, to a couple of dairy farmers and a professional greenhouse grower; but low-input integrated farming is becoming important to a wide public, making our workshop days some of the most interesting we spend. We look forward to the OEFFA conference in February, when we will present on grass-based homesteading, focusing on rotational grazing and the family dairy cow, and to the summer, when we will host several on-farm seminars and farm tours. See out 2015 schedule for more information on our summer courses.
We are offering our class Raw Milk 101: five fresh and soft cheeses on January 31; check out our classes page for more information. Herd-share co-owners may have one family member attend free. Class is limited to ten participants, with a second session scheduled in February if there is enough interest. We are looking forward to a great class — hope to see you then!
We give thanks that, last week, with the help of four Franciscans, one of the boys living away and two nieces, we got two of the three yearling steers and four hogs cut, wrapped and in the freezer. The bacon isn’t brined yet, and I won’t render lard until Advent is over and I can make doughnuts at the same time, but the bulk of the job is done. Just a few more seasonal chores — ten, or maybe twenty — and we can turn our winter focus to Shakespeare, clay, and our book, for which we now have a publisher — and for that let us greatly give thanks!