July 16, 2020
What is going on at the farm during these hot and dusty days?
Well, the wind is blowing, as it usually does, which helps dispositions. Animals become still, beneath shade, but activity continues at different levels. Notice the uneaten Ironweed in the foreground of this picture. Cattle always eschew it. Whereas in the following picture, sheep have grazed its leaves as far as they can reach. They also defoliate Milkweed and Chicory. Cattle will eat Milkweed but not Chicory. Graziers find these differences interesting, which offer information about the mysterious ecological puzzle we are constantly trying to understand.
Water is obviously critical during heat like this, and nothing catches our attention more than a malfunctioning water system during summer months. Right now seven watering tubs are activated, with floats in them to automatically refill after livestock drink. If any one of those seven malfunctions because of a faulty part, the whole watering system can be drained and imperiled for hours, if not days. This becomes a problem when 100 bovines are needing to re-hydrate before they become frantic.
We need about 3,000 gallons a day for our livestock, with the dairy at the other end of the farm needing close to 4,000 gallons. We have a spring, a deep well, and county water for back-up to provide supply for this demand. In the worst case, we can put livestock in the creek, but that quickly becomes a mess, which we do everything to avoid.
The picture below is the result of a second half-hitch on a string not being tied to the new float - an easy oversight. A single half-hitch can't resist the water pressure over time and eventually comes loose. We caught this problem before the cistern was drained. The devil is always in details, and we have plenty of them to attend to at this time of year.
Another issue we are observing is Scout, our new Anatolian guard dog, who is not working out as a guard dog. He loves to follow my truck around the farm, play in mud puddles, and affably greet people at the house, while not showing any interest in sheep. We are not sure how exactly to handle this unexpected outcome.
Secretariat was the greatest race horse of all time, but none of his expensive offspring have proven themselves to be close in performance. Genetics are only part of the puzzle with animals and people. Something other than breeding creates heart and disposition. More mystery to assess.
Three new hog feeders arrived yesterday. As our hog-rearing program expands, we need two feeders for each group of 15 or so. One feeder is in use and one is set ahead in the next paddock. It is difficult to access an empty feeder to be filled or moved when 20 300-lb.-hogs are trying to eat your shoelaces. Having a second feeder helps with managing them. We now have two groups of hogs going, hoping to finish the second before freezing weather descends. These feeders represent significant investment, which we hope to recover by providing high level of service and product to customers.
Our egg-washing room is working out well, creating economy of scale to the tedious tasks of washing eggs one by one. Mike was doing this in his kitchen, and is glad to have been relieved of that imposition. Once washed, they need a home. Over the past two weeks, several of our wholesale customers have pared back their orders, because of a pause in demand. But the hens at the farm keep right on giving, without pause. This creates a back-up in our cooler, which fortunately is plenty large enough. This is no one's fault, but just reflects the challenge of calibrating supply with variable demand.
This was our celebration of Bastille Day - two racks of lamb, tomato and mozzarella salad, saffron rice, and, perhaps best of all, an almond cake adorned with peaches and blueberries! We think the French would approve, even though it has been nearly 20 years since a Frenchman set foot on our farm. (That was one Waldeck Rousseau, who spent some weeks working on our dairy and with whom we are periodically in touch.) We cut the rack into chops and flash grilled them over high heat. Our lamb is a perfect summer meat, because it is light and tender, almost like fish. We have racks here for pre-orders.
Now, let us finish the summer's day in the pool...