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Archive for January, 2014

Saturday, January 11, 2014:

   The night is darker since rain has dissolved all the snow.  After negative temperatures last week, now we have spiked at something over forty.  With the ground frozen several inches down the rain has nowhere to go but sideways; when it hits the house foundation it comes in and makes a pool in the clay studio, which used to be the oil room.  We are used to this inundation and ignore it.

   We lost a calf last week.  Two nights the mercury dropped below zero, with wind chill below negative thirty.  The last thing at night we carried hay and corn down to woods where the cattle were bedded, but hindsight says we should have run the lot of them into the barn.  Our first experience of such cold temperatures coincides with our first winter with cattle in that pasture, and the result is disaster, at least for one nine month old Jersey steer.  The coyotes are eating well these nights.  We’ve brought the rest of the young stock up to the sheepfold for the duration.  One good result of last week’s loss:  the Franciscans seem more than willing that we should put up a run-in shed in the pasture.

   The young pigs know every time we forget to turn their fence back on after feeding.  Today at milking time they were down by the tire tank frolicking with the dry cows.  With the ground frozen so they can’t root, salvaged produce from the little grocery store in the village is welcome supplement to their grain ration.

   Smoked two hog bellies last week; we have to cook them outside because the frying smells like boar, but the bacon is delicious.

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Thursday, January 2:

Our informal survey of laying-flock owners, carried out over the past year, to date presents results of unqualified unanimity:  not one of the farmers we’ve spoken to has seen an even remotely reasonable second lay.  That means that their young hens, after a first few months of laying and a moult, do not go on to a second year of egg-laying.  In other words, they become sterile.

When the girls and I butchered forty one- and two-year-old hens in September, not one of them had a fully formed egg in her, and only two had partially formed eggs.  Until the past couple of years, we would have seen eggs in at least fifty percent of them.

Go look up the article in the Huffington Post on GMO’s and infertility, and then check the ingredients list on your poultry feed.

And if you want to know why, then, the egg-factory farmers aren’t complaining, perhaps it’s because in their operations, a hen never gets a chance at a second lay — she’s shipped to the soup cannery.

Time for new chicks and home-grown feeds.

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