May 12th – May 19th

I don’t think that I will ever get tired of watching our dark red cows wading through the rich green spring grass pasture with the the chirp and hum of the warm weather birds and insects, and the steady drumbeat of the tearing and chewing of grazing, filling the air. The contrast between the condition of the land, the animals, and the natural world just a month ago, and where they stand now, is amazing, intricate and humbling. With a little sun and warmth, the world has seemingly come to life, and the lives of our livestock

The beef herd under dramatic skies. 

have been transformed from patient dallying to eager alacrity. The mud and hay have been replaced with fresh green grass stretching to the horizon, growing fast and good to eat. Jostling around the hay feeder, shoving and leaning to get the daily allotment of rationed feed, waiting for chore time to come around again; all of that is over, and now there are seemingly endless fresh vistas of grazable food all around, and the space and time to wander over all of it. Now there is more than enough to eat, the animals are filling out, shedding their matted winter coats, and beginning to take on that grazing season sheen. Now there is open space to run, to leap, and to put those new bodies to the test. There is new strength in the lambs that will not be repressed, and their frantic troop is compelled to tear around the pasture at full tilt in a bouncing boiling black and white riot. Now there is movement, and the herd of cows makes their gradual sweep across the pastured landscape earnestly devouring the grass’s labor, and the sheep, always moving together, go in and out from pasture to shelter, over and over again. Now we are moving forward again, growing and advancing, and hopefully building toward big healthy animals when fall harvest comes around. These days I find myself lingering with the cows every afternoon, just after they have been moved to their next fresh paddock. I have been watching and listening as they go to work, heads down, intent and focussed on getting as much grass as they possibly can into their rumens as quickly as they can do it. They are professional grazers, supremely skilled and capable at this work, forged for this event. Those are some of the most rewarding moments of livestock farming, when I get to see the animals contentedly doing the thing that they were designed to do, doing it in a healthy place, with the natural world swirling all around them.

We ordered a new pig feeder several months ago with the hope of replacing the big round metal one that we have been using for the past few years. It had worn down over the years, and it was beginning to require too much time and effort to keep it dispensing feed consistently. Last year it only let feed out on about just over half of its circumference, and I found myself messing with it pretty regularly to achieve even that. Not only did it perform poorly, but it also let the feed get wet in rainy weather, and since we had more rainy days than not, we had wet feed just about all the time. Our new feeder finally arrived on Friday, and I am really looking forward to installing it on the

The mushroom yard has moved up to the shade of the Secret Forest. 

pig’s deck, filling it, and seeing how it works. This is a large plastic rectangular unit with doors over the food access holes that the pigs can hold open while they eat. We brought the pig’s long wooden trough and black rubber dishes down from the piglet training area to keep them fed while we waited for the new feeder, but those have limited capacity and it always seemed like the pigs were waiting to be fed. They seem to be pretty excitable pigs, and I am really eager to see if having a constant supply of feed will help them settle down a bit and to feel more content. Once the feeder is in and working, the pig area will be all setup for the season. I have a few little tweaks in mind to make it just right, but having that enterprise checked off the list will be a relief.

With the weather a tiny bit drier this week, our veggie work moved ahead nicely to catchup to the planting schedule. The soil dried a bit, beds were formed, and the potatoes went into the ground. We have just passed what they say is the last day for possible frost around here, and we did even have temperatures down in the lower thirties one night this week to remind us that that’s a real possibility. Now the veggie work can charge ahead, as long as we have enough dry weather in the mix to keep the soil workable with a tractor.

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