Mercury is "Retrograde"!
While this may be evident to you, it escaped my notice, until emphatically pointed out by my better-half.
The intent today was to introduce to you our new subscription program for prepared foods, called Simple Gifts. Susan immediately pointed out, however, that one can't introduce anything when Mercury is retrograde, unless one wants to go backwards! That is what "retro" means, afterall... Well, of course. One should know better. And since we have already experienced more backward movement on our farm than desired, it became clear it would be best not to tempt fate any further. So, in deference to astrological and marital forces, we instead pivot to an overdue update on life-at-the-farm, where much has been transpiring.
Lambs are on their way! They began arriving two weeks early, which caught us in the "wrong" pasture. We had planned to have them to the usual lambing field, in which we had placed pens, in which ewe and lamb were to bond for two days, without risk of separation, to enhance rates of survival. Usually gestation periods are fairly reliable to predict, but not always. Once lambs start coming, it is risky to move the flock anywhere, for some ewes will leave their new-born lambs behind. Thus, we had to stay put, and abandon the idea of allowing them to bond in pens. So far, all is going well. The pasture they are in is holding up and there has been little death loss. Brendan has been doing a great job of identifying mothers and eartagging lambs, as they are born, which takes finesse. We have not done this in the past, but now will have records of which lambs belong to which ewes and which ewes are thus productive and worth keeping. So the wrong pasture is turning out to be just right, thankfully.
It is often the case that best laid plans seem to go awry... They don't really go awry, but just evolve into new realities, which we can either receive or reject. But starting with a plan helps discipline thinking. It is always humbling, however, how quickly the plan becomes obsolete. In this case, it was two weeks before it was to start! So, now we have another plan, that is very different. Such variability is frustrating at times, but is also what makes the work of a grazier (one who manages grazers) stimulating and interesting.
Baby broilers, who arrived in early April, weathered the cold in our adapted brooder, and were moved to pasture last week. They quickly learn how to move with the pen, as it advances daily to new forage. Their diet, enhanced by clovers, grasses, and bugs, creates a flavor of minerals and depth in the meat that is unmatched. We will be further-processing most of these birds into parts, versus the whole bird, for your convenience. They are off to a great start. Managing baby chickens also requires finesse, as they are very delicate and prone to stress.
Last week, we and the veterinarian palpated and vaccinated our cows and castrated 6-month-old bull calves. The latter is a painless process which the calves barely notice. We have had trouble with low conception rates in the past, and finally began to examine the two home-raised bulls who were in charge. It feels like one is saving money when employing home-raised bulls, but when they prove to be sub-fertile, the cost becomes very high. Three years ago our conception rate was 75%; this year it is 96%. The difference is purchased bulls who have been tested in the field and in the laboratory for high fertility. We now have five bulls, which is a few more than we need, but it is better to have too many than too few. They are responsible for so much of the productivity of the herd. The two home-raised ones were relegated to the freezer.
We now have 58 females bred to calve this fall. With two generations of their offspring on the farm, we have plenty of animals to feed. We are finally able to begin being more selective about which cows to retain for breeding. Poor performers move to the group destined for the processing plant. This system works well, in that meat from cows proves to have much more flavor than from young steers, due to more intramuscular fat. So, we are encouraged by progress with our cow herd.
We took four Berkshire hogs to be processed last week and these are the remaining four. This is the fifth woodlot they have moved through over the past six months. Both the woodlots and pigs are thriving, reinforcing the precept that Nature is founded upon movement of animals and seasons. We are learning about frequency and density of movement with hogs, so as not to damage under-story of the woods.
Right now, at the meat processor in Wellston, we have one beef, four hogs, and 10 yearling lambs. This is a lot of meat to pay for, transport back to the farm, and stack in our freezers, in anticipation of providing it to you. We look forward to doing so!
We deal with the care and maintenance of a lot of animals and a lot of land, but we also have to deal with some machinery. We try to minimize the amount of machinery in the mix, because it doesn't reproduce or make money, but there is a need for a basic amount of it. On this workbench is a disassembled power-take-off from our ten-foot mower, whose clutch plate has gone bad. We are very fortunate to have Brendan on our team, who is experienced and patient enough to diagnose these issues and fix many of them. It is rare to be able to demonstrate finesse with both animals and with machinery, as he does.
I find it increasingly depressing at this time of year to witness what commodity-agriculture is doing to our land and our people, as explored in last week's discussion. The picture on the left was taken during the last week of April somewhere along Rt. 50 in Highland County. How can a field of grass in April be yellow-brown? There is only one answer, which is it has been saturated with Round-up. Round-up is fine for weeds in a sidewalk, but it does not belong in fields growing product for our food chain. What is toxic to weeds is toxic to humans.
In contrast, the picture on the right was taken from our front porch during the same week. The emerald green of that hillside produces meat and milk for human consumption, and is something we can trust and feel good about. If one looks closely, one can even see astral blessing about to descend upon it!
While we patiently wait for planetary approval, Susan's Soulful Kitchen has been busy. This is the latest creation, Rio-Grande Beef Barbacoa! These beef chuck roasts, from the shoulder, have been dry-rubbed, smoked, roasted, and pulled... over several days. It is quite a process, yielding quite a product. Susan has also developed Tar-Heel Pulled Pork, which is similar in process, but includes a barbeque sauce. If labels for these new products are ready at the printers, we will have samples available for sale by this Sunday. Both will be staples of Simple Gifts.
How Susan creates all of this, while working full-time, is a marvel to behold. Goddess-energy has many virtues, one of which can be creativity. It is certainly not something to stand in the way of, I have learned the hard way over the years!
This coming Wednesday the 11th will be the last delivery to East Hyde Park. Henceforth they will be made on Sunday afternoons, after the farmers market. You may place your order for that delivery by going:
This Sunday will be the last at Clark Montessori, before migrating to the Square. We look forward to seeing you this week and each thereafter.
In deference to astral forces,
Drausin & Susan