At this moment of black-eyed glory, we offer the following report on brush piles.

If you have always wondered how to stack a pile of brush, it is easier said than done. The doing is in flipping the branch or sapling, which you have just dragged to the pile, so the trunk ends up at your feet and the splayed branches just beyond, upon a relatively contained and growing vertical pile. One needs head-room for these acrobatics and the branch needs to be light enough to flip, which is a matter of cutting it to size. If you just drag the branch forward and drop it in open space, the pile quickly becomes dispersed horizontally, creating more of a loose, meandering hedge-row than pile. This takes up much more space, makes eventual burning more difficult, and looks somewhat chaotic, with inaccessible weeds that will grow up between branches. Even when you create a pile, the pile never looks terribly organized, but it certainly feels a lot better than branches strewn all over the area.

So, how is this relevant? Well, on the farm we are always wrestling with tree branches. They have a relentless habit of growing toward sunlight every day of the year! When we replace an old fence at the edge of a woods, as we did this spring, one ends up with a lot of saplings and branches to dispense. It becomes a challenge to manage them, so one ends up studying how to create brush piles of different sorts. This long-awaited report is the outcome of that study... It is sometimes said one can tell how a man thinks by the looks of his junk pile.

So, the next time your boss asks how you are "adding value", tell her that on weekends, in the backyard, you practice the fine art of flipping branches into tight brush piles...

We recently sorted through the cow herd and weaned ten-month-old calves from their mothers, in anticipation of calving approaching in mid-September. Cows need time to dry-off and rebuild body reserves before calving. We also don't want two sets of calves trying to nurse a cow at once. If the cow doesn't kick the older one off, the newborn suffers because it can't compete. But we leave calves with their dams as long as possible, so the calf receives the nutritional benefit of Nature's perfect food. The more butterfat a heifer calf receives during her first year of life, the more fertile she ends up being and the more butterfat she will give to her own calves. Likewise, the more butterfat a bull calf receives, the more fertile he is. So, butterfat is essential to productivity of livestock and is only available through the udder.

One benefit of waiting until ten months to wean calves, rather than five months as is typical, is calves are ready to be weaned. When calf and cow are first separated after ten months, they call to each other intermittently for several days, and then stop altogether. We employ "fenceline" weaning, so the two can see and smell each other, but can't nurse, minimizing stress of separation. It works well.

Weaned "yearling" calves have been grouped with two-year-olds, and sent to graze in their own domain. They are now on the pasture where we planted sorghum-sudan grass, which has fared rather well. In the picture below, yearlings and two-year-olds have just grazed the foreground. In the background, the sorghum-sudan is about 2 ft tall, and is adding considerable supply of palatable feed for these young stock.

The complex interaction between soil, grasses, livestock, and brushpiles, on our farm, combine to provide nutrient-dense, local food you can trust. We are always cooking, and below are steps for our Rio Grande Beef Barbacoa. Beautiful, well-marbled, spiced pot-roasts from the shoulder of beef are slow-roasted for ten hours, then pulled apart, packaged and frozen, to be reheated for mouth-watering tacos. Many, many steps here, each with deep integrity, producing an excellent food.

Remember our Farm Tour on September 10, if you are interested. Space is limited. Sign up by apprising us at the market or by going online:

We look forward to seeing you both this week and next at Milford and Hyde Park Farmers Markets.

We have just sold a side of beef and a whole lamb to Lehr's Prime Market, in Milford, so if you can't make it to the outdoor market, this wonderful, historic indoor marketplace now offers many of our products. We look forward to working with this great store.

In the meantime, let us tend to our brushpiles.


Drausin & Susan