The wheel of change is always spinning, and it does so especially rapidly with laying hens.
A few weeks ago our egg production suddenly crashed. After a good bit of second guessing, we finally concluded that the path of the hens had crossed their own previous path too soon. Their rich manure had not yet been fully absorbed, and was thus somewhat adverse to them, as they dwelled upon the same spot. Hens express themselves quickly, both in distress and in healing. We have adjusted management to move them more often and provide longer rest periods before returning to the same spot. Egg production is accordingly returning.
Another note of significant change on the farm is Clark and his family have returned to Colorado, to preserve body and to offer skills of land management to a broader audience. This is a loss to Grassroots, as his sense of excellence brought us to higher levels in managing our livestock and pastures. Perhaps what is most remarkable is that Clark personified Wendell Berry's sense that the concept of "affection" ought to be part of every economic equation. Affection leads to caring and caring leads to high quality of product. Clark demonstrated this actively in his caring regard for people, livestock, and land. He spoke about soil with a respect and reverence I had not before witnessed. He taught us much, we will miss him truly, and we thank him for helping us climb another rung up the ladder toward a sustainable business.
Just before Thanksgiving, we enjoyed an overnight visit from my niece, Sylvana, who was returning home to Massachusetts after a six-month stint participating in an internship program at Caney Fork Farm, in Tennessee. She is an environmental studies major at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, and was participating in a soil science project at this 400-acre farm. She also worked with animals and vegetables several days a week. One could tell by her boots, hands, and smile that she has been hard at work. That farm proved to be a perfect place for her to wait out the covid storm, as she and a roommate could attend classes remotely while also working in the fields. Before arriving at our doorstep, she reassured us she had tested negative. I assured her she tests positive in every way in my book, allowing us to enjoy wonderful hugs. We look forward to the return of her footsteps.
Susan and I enjoyed Thanksgiving solo, and found the peacefulness rather peaceful. We ran out of our own turkeys, so ended up with a 30-lb Tom from our neighbor. We cut it in two and roasted a half in the steam oven, which took about an hour. The piece de resistance was paw-paw ice cream served on cranberry bread for dessert. Brett and Dominique collected the paw paws from our farm this fall, and returned them to us in form of ice cream and sorbet, which are elegant in flavor and presentation.
Breeding season has just begun for both bovines and ovines. We turned bulls and rams into their respective group of ladies on December 1st. Before doing this, however, we have to sort out the young females we don't want bred and put them in a different group. All cows and calves and all ewes and lambs have to be run through the sorting chutes. This takes quite a bit of time and by the end of the two days of doing so, I felt as if I had walked one hundred miles. But those are miles of footsteps and affection.
Below Bo proved instrumental in moving 3 bulls and 11 two-year-old heifers out to join the cow herd.
We also received at this time our two-year-old group of steers and heifers back from Virginia. They gained 350 lbs. in 8 months or about 1.5 lbs. per head per day. They gained enough weight that we needed a different truck to haul them back than was used to deliver. That meant the beeves had to be loaded and unloaded at local stockyards, rather than at the farm, which added to cost. Below a group of 15 is making its way out of Nick's stock trailer. They are now residing on the gravel pad and lot we constructed this fall.
And then the rain came followed by snow, insulating wet ground from freezing temperatures, making for mud! Below we see strip-grazing in clear definition, as a hot-wire holds the herd from extensive grazing. We give them a new break of grass every day. As soon as we turned the bulls in with the cows, however, our orderly process was extinguished. The bulls plowed through both hot wires and the herd was over the hill the following morning when I showed up, lightly distributed throughout the pasture. Oh, the tribulations of boys in heat.
Another way the wheel of change is spinning on our farm is we are preparing in the next month to place a conservation easement on 140 acres, so as to create more wetlands. The pastures involved are the ones the cows are currently grazing, so this is their last graze on this land. We are grazing "close", since we won't be back again.
One of the realities I have been appreciating, while navigating in this wet sloppy weather, has been the road system we have installed over the years. One of our talents is choosing exactly the wrong place to place roads, such as along the edge of wetlands. But sometimes one goes where one has to go. This laneway below doesn't look convincing, but it is underlain with several layers of geotextile cloth and copious amounts of gravel. The cloth keeps the gravel and pick-up from sinking.
The spinning wheel has brought much activity and change to our fabric over the past two weeks. A wonderful family is currently moving into our house at Lark Hill, and I look forward to introducing you to them shortly. The tapestry here grows ever more wondrous.
A recent meal included strip steaks and broccoli souffle, made with egg whites folded, not stirred... The salad included bacon bits, grilled pineapple, and blue cheese dressing, made with our aioli.
Bob and Beth will be at the market on Sunday at Madtree, in Oakley, and I will attend the following Sunday. With the few hours left in this evening, pre-orders may be placed here.
The turkeys that were delivered late and missed the Thanksgiving deadline are maturing on grass. We will take them to be processed on the 16th. If anybody would like a whole turkey still, we will have plenty available. Orders for them may be placed here. We will probably grind the rest, and see how ground turkey sells. If you would like parts, I am pretty sure we can arrange for those as well. Let us know.
As the wheel spins in your own lives, thank you for letting us reside as a thread in your special tapestry.
Drausin & Susan