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Archive for January, 2017

beating a dead horse

At the risk of becoming tedious, we urge one and all to go out and beg, steal or borrow what they can of the essays of Mr. Wendell Berry and read, read, read them.  Find Bringing it to the Table and saturate yourself in it.  We offer this quote, for the moment and to be pondered:

“When farmers let themselves be persuaded to buy their food instead of grow it, they become consumers instead of producers and lose a considerable income from their farms.

This is simply to say that there is a domestic economy that is proper to the farming life and that it is different from the domestic economy of the industrial suburbs.”

We farmers should be growing the vast majority of what we eat, and if we are not, we are selling wholesale to buy retail, and we are selling the best to buy what is not so good.  A mug’s game, that.

Come to the PASA Winter Conference next weekend and let’s talk about it.butchering5

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late dehorning

2014 and 2015 were busy years, a fact attested to last fall by the horns our heifers from those years were sporting.  Say what you might about horns being defense against predators, when only a few of the cows in a herd are horned they tend to make life for the other animals pretty dicey, so in October, when fly season was about over, we had the vet out to take the horns off two tw0-year-old heifers and one yearling.

Ouch.

The responsibility is ours.  Do you know what is under the horns on a cow’s head?  Sinuses.  Great big holes in her skull, connected in some way with nose and ears.  Cut the horn off and you expose the cow to all sorts of things getting into it.  You open her head up to whatever the weather and temperature may want to throw at it.  Sure, it will close up over time, but until then it’s a big chasm for germs to fall in and reproduce.

So it’s not surprising that we saw some serious drainage from those cavities, so serious we won’t describe it, but your imagination would have a hard time overdoing the possibilities.  Think of a bad sinus infection in a human, and then multiply by a big number.

All three heifers were so struck, but the worst was Judith, a lovely two-year-old, 3/4 Jersey, 1/4 Ayreshire.  It was bad, and looked worse, and the point of this post is to say that what was our best-looking replacement heifer is now, three months after de-horning, still looking scraggy and a little hollow-eyed.  We have no fix to propose, just a lesson to the effect that making decisions and taking action on the part of our livestock is our responsibility, and when we drop the ball there are consequences.  Judith may end up in the freezer this fall, and it looks like we’re the reason.  Good mama, good genetics, good rearing:  just one bad call, the failure to get those horns off when she was, and they were, tiny.

Oh, leave the horns, you say?  Not on your tintype.  We spend hours every week in close interaction with our dairy cows, and the near misses we’ve experienced with intact horns — a jab in the cheekbone, just a fraction of an inch below the eye, a snagged shirt that sent us flying through a fence, things of that sort — are all the convincer we need that our cows, at least, should be polled.

And, anyway, the horns won’t fit through our stanchions.

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germinating carrots

The trick with winter carrots is getting them to germinate in August.  They don’t want to.  We don’t know if it’s the temperature — hot — or the lack of rainfall — but we always water new plantings in summer — or maybe the unrelenting sunlight that burns up small plants in the thread stage, but whatever it is, carrots, as well as every other cool season veg we try to start in late summer, don’t want to come up, and if they come up, they want to die immediately of sunstroke.

dsc01248But, but, but –!  Last summer we broke the rules and started our winter vegs indoors in half-inch soil blocks in the basement (coolest place).  Lots of things germinated (not surprising), and, moreover, some of them refrained from dying even when we put them out in the garden.  Everyone knows you don’t start tap-root vegs in soil blocks, and these were disadvantaged by the fact that they were allowed to get pretty big before they were put out in beds (the only security we had that they wouldn’t succumb to the blistering summer sun).  Nevertheless, grow many of them did.  Many are forked, and many, being planted four or five to the soil block, are twisted, but carrots they are, healthy and fat, and they taste heavenly.  Maybe they wouldn’t do for a CSA, but for home use nothing better could be desired.

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We’re looking forward to presenting at the 35th annual @nofanewyork Winter Conference, Jan. 20-22 in Saratoga Springs, NY. With the addition of the first Northeast Organic Seed Conference, this year’s event is bigger than ever.   Will Bonsall will be there, which is exciting by itself; his gardening methods are myriad and fascinating. Hoping some of our friends who follow this blog will make it to upstate NY too!  For those so inclined, register by Jan 13 at www.nofany.org/conference and click on “register now.”

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