This cool-season pasture is rich with biodiversity, now heralding a newly-arrived, warm-season species, Big Bluestem.
This is the first year we have seen the tall plant in the middle of the picture - Big Bluestem, in this pasture. The pasture is typically dominated by fescue and clover, but in this picture, one also notes Ironweed, Cocklebur, and Johnsongrass. We seek as many diverse species of plants as possible in pastures, so livestock can choose among a buffet of calories as to what suits them best at that point in time. We also offer plants at different stages of maturity, for the same reason. Further, diversity of species is insurance against disease and adverse weather, with each species responding differently. It is often repeated that in Nature, "diversity breeds stability". The more complex an eco-system, the healthier it is. Thus, we welcome the arrival of Big Bluestem into our fescue pastures.
It arrived via bird or bovine from the neighboring pasture, where we planted a host of warm-season grasses five years ago - Switchgrass, Indiangrass, Big Bluestem, and Little Bluestem, which grow in temperatures above 80 degrees. Cool-season grasses go dormant in those conditions, so it is helpful to have warm-seasons to fill the void. They are hard to establish at the outset, but do spread once taken root.
Monocultures of corn and soybeans, which proliferate throughout the Midwest, will prove not to be sustainable. It is totally unnatural for one species of plant to grow in a field, that was once complex-prairie, for 6 months and no species in it for the other six months. Those conditions are worse than in a desert. Nature fights such a paradigm of simplicity, and, in the end, will win the battle toward complexity and biodiversity, as witnessed by increased weeds now resistant to Round-up, upon which mono-cultures depend.
When you eat 100% grassfed beef or lamb, you are supporting biodiversity on farms. The more biodiversity farms generate, the more sustainable they will be.
Given that Nature is usually a fair model for society, it would seem that socio-diversity would be a stabilizing force, in the same way that bio-diversity is. History has demonstrated that mono-cultures of people don't seem to persist for very long, in the same way that mono-cultures of plants do not.
Below are cows, preparing to calve, in their increasingly bio-diverse pasture.
Life is humbling for most of us. Sometimes we have to be reminded of forces greater than ourselves that influence the journey. Some men want to overlook their age, and pretend they are as they always were. I experienced such a reminder several weeks ago. I drove 1300 miles to Ontario and back in three days, and then jumped into a weekend of back-to-back 18-hour work days in 90 degree heat. Mother Nature thought this was rather foolish behavior for a 62-year-old man, and promptly sent the fool to a "time-out bed" for three days of vertigo and nausea.
As the world swirled during that respite, I wondered whether enough wisdom would surface from within to listen to the message being delivered. My capable uncle received the same tap-on-the-shoulder at about the same age. He rallied from the first setback to resume his former intrepid lifestyle, only to receive a subsequent setback, which sent him to bed with a severe stroke for the rest of his life.
Mother Nature always has the last word, and it is humbling to be in her embrace. We just have to be quiet enough to hear her statement. The noises of success and of love, even, can obscure deep palpating messages that need to be recognized.
On the third evening of being in the time-out-bed, I was feeling better enough to write about the Wedding Alter. In a slightly altered state, I misspelled Altar. It was very embarrassing for this English-major to make such a mistake, but life is full of mistakes. One can't be afraid of them, or one does not venture forth. It is better to try and fail, than never to try at all. Mistakes appear to make us look small and imperfect. But they really make us human. Our best humanity is in our imperfection, in our humility.
In effort to listen to signals about over-working ourselves, Susan and I are privileged to welcome to this growing team a new employee and partner - Beth Gehres. Beth is an urban refugee from Cincinnati, like the rest of us, and spent 35 years working in nearly every aspect of the insurance industry, mostly with American Financial. The call-of-the-wild brought her and husband, Bob, to a farmstead in Hillsboro fifteen years ago. Bob has been helping us part-time for the past four years with animals and landscape. Beth feels she has now completed her long mission with the insurance industry, and is eager to contribute her many talents, full-time, to issues of food, health, and land. Beth brings to us very welcome support in the kitchen, in the office, and at Farmers Markets. We are most fortunate to cross her path, as she is replete with: dignity in labor, depth of heart, strength of mind, power of soul, and beauty of spirit.
This Saturday we are hosting a Farm Tour and lunch. If you signed up for it, but have not received several communications from us in the past week, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org, to reconnect.
Susan and I are usually pretty tired after these farm tours, and instead of pushing ourselves to participate in the Hyde Park market on Sunday, we have prudently decided to submit to a day of rest. However, now that Beth is on the team, she and husband-Bob, will be attending the market in our stead. So, please stop by this Sunday to meet them with greetings and, importantly, with your business. Susan and I will return to HP the following Sunday, the 18th. Beth & Bob will also attend the Milford market on Saturday the 10th, and then will be breaking ground for us at Findlay Market on Sundays thereafter.
Above is Susan's Rio-Grande Beef Barbacoa making its way onto cornmeal tacos. This is so darned good it is hard to know when to stop eating. The barbacoa is made from shoulder of beef. It sits in a dry-rub of spices overnight, is browned, and then braised for 12 hours in chicken stock and apple-cider vinegar and more spices. It is subsequently pulled apart, discarding seams of gristle, bone, and undue fat, resulting in a 50% yield. The braising liquid is then reduced and added back into the meat, to sit overnight in the refrigerator, for a final round of marinating. We then package and freeze the barbacoa into one-pound pouches. The meat is ready to be served, by bringing a pot of water to a boil, turning it off, and then placing the pouch in the hot water for 15 minutes. The preparation of this product is an involved process, resulting in a product with a tender, gentle, and complex flavor, that is addictive!
She creates Tar-Heel Pulled Pork by the same process, with the additional step of smoking the shoulder for four hours and marinating it in a barbecue sauce, that hails from the Smokey Mountains.
These are sophisticated and delicious products, appealing to young and old, which you may purchase on-line by going to:
May we humbly advance toward a bio-diverse future!
Drausin & Susan