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Archive for May, 2014

locust poles

Monday, May 26, 2014:
Memorial Day.
Judith, the new heifer calf, is the subject of jealousy among the three lactating cows, with SugarPlum by far the most aggressive of the mothers-elect, shoving her body between Delphi and the baby when the calf wants to nurse. We have seen the little one on all three of the cows, but she does seem to spend the most time with her real mother, which is good: only Delphi can give her colostrum, a calf’s first food, nutrition and immunities and emetic all in one.
Cutting a locust tree up on the hill we remembered all the reasons for carefully calculating where it will drop. This one was dead, the few branches at the top looking corky and rotten, and we decided – incorrectly – that they would give way when they hit the neighboring beech tree, in the branches of which the tree was embraced. Not so. An hour with a come-along left a zig-zag of deep grooves in the rich forest mould, and the seventy-foot tree still snagged in the top of its neighbor. Time was getting on for milking when with a last two or three cranks on the winch the trunk, high up where it was most narrow and decayed, sagged, groaned, and with a rush like water over a precipice, snapped and fell. The sound was, as we have heard it described somewhere, “disastrous.” We cut two eight foot posts from the widest part, for the gate to the pig pen, and one fourteen footer for the run-in shed. The rest is fence posts, and, probably, firewood.

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Friday, May 23, 2014:

The phone rang with the sanctus bells at consecration. They rang, stopped, rang again and kept ringing, right through the supra quae propitio, until I was sure that either one of the boys had ended up under a tractor, or the sisters were calling to announce the birth of our expected calf. I made up my mind that if, when I looked at a clock, I found that the phone call had come just at eight, it had been the Franciscans, who would have had to stop trying to reach us at that hour because their own Mass would begin then.
Halfway through our eggs the phone rang again. In honor of the day – Fr. Vincent’s fiftieth jubilee – we named the sturdy black heifer Judith (his middle name is Jude), and established the unifying principle of our heifer names for 2014: Old Testament women of strength and virtue, initial ‘J’. Jemima, Jerusha, Johanna, Julia, Junia – the possibilities are many. Mother and daughter were still in with the dry cows, from where we were to have moved them before the calving but the time got away from us. It is a quarter mile to the front pasture where the lactating cows are paddocked, farther than the calf could walk and considerably farther than we wanted to carry her, so we loaded her into the back of the farm vehicle (shabby green Saturn) with a small child; the first-time mother trotted anxiously alongside, poking a nose through the window at intervals to make sure that her baby was really there. Delphinium — ‘Delphi’ for common use – is shaping to be a good mother, and an easy milker.

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overgrazed and underfed

Thursday, May 22, 2014:

Sad sight last week, where the place across the road fed out beef cattle on round bales last winter and built up a huge pad of manure and waste hay, spilling nutrients into the water shed (not ours, fortunately) and grazing the pasture down to dirt. There are about ten or fifteen brood cows and a bull, plus a calf or two, on maybe ten acres with a barn, only the five acres nearest the road, where the round bale ring was, are devoid of plant life. The back half of the place is grass grazed down to plush carpeting, and a lot of very healthy multiflora rose. I guess the owner ran out of round bales because he stopped feeding them, and maybe he figures that now that spring in here the cows must be eating grass, only there isn’t any in there. So the other day when we drove by, all the cows, which are usually spread out trying to find a bite of anything to eat, or crowded under a tree looking for a shady place to ruminate on the mouthful or so which is all they got, were instead lined up at the neighbor’s fence, crowded right up against the barbed wire. It was such weird behavior that we took a second look. It was then we realized that the neighbor, who was mowing his lawn in a counter-clockwise direction, was blowing his cut grass into the fence wire. The poor cows, who, although surrounded by lush spring grass outside the fence haven’t had a square meal for weeks, were pushing their faces into the barbed wire trying to pick up the little clippings of grass thrown out by the lawn mower. Beef cattle are usually blocky and solid, but these poor animals are thin, bony, with ribs showing and hip bones sticking ‘way out.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014:
I guess we hauled about four tons of hog and horse manure today and spread it on the new garden where the field corn and sunflowers are going to be planted. We borrowed the Sisters’ Kubota to lad the truck, which sped up the process considerably, but we still had to unload with shovels at the garden. We didn’t want to drive on the cultivated soil, so we just flung the manure as far into the garden as we could, and about half of the area got covered with a good inch or so of black, sticky (because it was wet) half-composted manure. This part of the garden was only brought into cultivation this year, and we don’t expect much from its first year in corn, but the manure will be a big help. So will the worms. We only finished the fifth load just in time to milk the cows, shower, and get out the door to a pasture walk (thank you, Eastern Ohio Grazing Council) out in Harrison County. Beautiful hills covered with bluegrass and crimson clover.

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on the roundabout

Saturday, May 17, 2014:
There are three inches of rain in the rain gauge, and a frost advisory for tonight. The forsythia, violets, and trillium were scarce after the long, cold and icy winter; tent worms are thick in the wild cherry trees, but the dwarf apple trees in the yard, which have always suffered from spider mites, are clean this May without any oil spray. It is a law of Nature, maybe, that for every reduction there is somewhere an increase; when the livestock die the flies flourish; what you lose on the coconut shies you make up on the roundabout. Weather is, in any case, always original.

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wet spring

Friday, May 16, 2014:
The spring grass brushes the cows’ bellies and the brown-headed cowbirds are loping through it in search of insects like detectives examining the spot marked ‘X’. The rain has been so generous that the last seventy pounds of seed potatoes are still waiting to go into the ground, while the mangel-wurzels – no, that’s not a joke – need to be rake-thinned, they are so crowded. The first tomato seeds started in the greenhouse completely failed to germinate and we had to resow; the second planting, four hundred strong, is doing well but only about five inches high, pricked out into military rows in four wooden flats. Winter squash started in four inch pots we set out yesterday afternoon before the storm hit, sixty hills of butternut, L.I. Cheese squash, and cushaw. The onions are mostly thinned and transplanted, but now the ground, saturated by days of rain, is too sticky to work.
The non-GMO chicks are a mystery; more anon.

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