early november

Wednesday, November 13:

   Updates.  The lactating cows are still on the front pasture, and it looks like they will be able to graze there another two or three weeks, making two months in all.  This pasture was only worth a month of grazing in July.  The conclusion to these facts is that the second-growth forage has a higher feed value, due in part to the beneficial effects of rotational grazing.  This is predictable, but still gratifying.

   The dry cows are moving across the back half of the farm, where there is still about five weeks’ grazing before they must be moved closer to the frost-free spring tank.  Even paddocks that were grazed only a week or two ago show green regrowth, and the west side of the hill, over which the cows passed in September, is emerald green and smooth the fuzz on a peach.  This area is remote from the monastery; a six-year-old boy with a golf-club and no interest in the work at hand returned from a dusk stroll with reports of two coyotes patrolling the wood’s edge, and a frenetic skunk doing the hoochi-coo in the naked raspberry canes.  It is an interesting life.

   Eight small piglets were moved to the monastery garden last Thursday, where they patrol an area some thirty by thirty-five feet, grubbing for whatever pigs grub for.  We have not yet put them in the barley patch; right now they only have access to frozen beans, which are of only slight interest, and the beets and turnips, which have more appeal.  Unforeseen is the disparity in size between the turnips – many are larger, considerably larger, than a softball – and the tiny mouths of these fifteen-pound baby pigs.  The tops of the vegetables are eaten with relish, but the roots themselves are just too big for the  babies.  Shall we cut them up? – lengthy job – or pull them and cart them back to the barn for Hunk and Porca, the parent pigs?  Actually, Hunk, who lived his first five months on commercial feed, shows little interest in roots, but Porca, who has been with us since she was a little piggy and knows all about vegetables, loves beets and turnips.  Come to think of it, it will be nice to know that there is at least one food Porca will get to enjoy without having to compete with Hunk, her ungallant lover.  At any rate, the pig garden looks like giving us a good deal of pig food, one way or another.

   Our first snow of any consideration fell late on Monday night, and the cows’ consumption of water went down to almost nothing.  Who needs water when every bite of grass includes a good mouthful of snow?  But paddocks have to be bigger now, when the cows require extra food just to keep warm.  The two-year-old steers that have been out on grass an hour west of here on the farm of a friend with more grass than livestock, were fetched home yesterday and put in with the dry cows.  The grass must have been good where they were; they are huge, for Jerseys, solid, with a look of meditation in their dark eyes.  One will go to the locker on Monday, his karma being to provide fuel for the monastery’s prayers.  They knocked down a fence this afternoon, so I, for one, will not miss him.

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