Sliding seasons

Two days ago, it hit nearly 90 degrees. And the humidity – it was awful. It felt as if I was breathing through a sponge.
This morning, the dogs and I walked to the mailbox in a cool drizzle. It was 58 degrees and I was glad I’d pulled on my old denim barn jacket and cap. Although our driveway’s only 600 feet long, my low boots and the hems of my jeans were drenched before I got to the road.
Our driveway ends at a cattle grate that works to keep the cows inside our property (they balk at the light and dark pattern created by the grate’s heavy horizontal pipes).
I put Siggy (my Corgi) on “stay” at the grate and walked the last few yards across the road and to our weathered mailbox. It’s worst for wear because some vandal decided to use it for a piñata a couple of years ago.
I pulled out a short stack of junk mail, and a magazine I was very glad to fold up under my arm to protect it from the light drizzle. Siggy, Parker (Dave’s English Setter) and I made our way back up to the house. Half way, I made a quick stop at the orchard. One of the several fairly young apple trees was bending under its ripe burden. Note to self – pick, dry, freeze and can apples – yesterday.

Fall = applesauce

The dogs ran and romped around me, clocking a couple of miles as they zig-zagged across the gravel, around the orchard and across the open grasses.
Despite their doggy activity, it was quiet. I like that about drizzle.

Contented BueLingos

The driveway slopes up to the house, and as I neared it, I looked East. Most of the cows were reclined on a near pasture, contentedly chewing their cud. A good sign of health and calm.
As I opened the garage door, I began to mentally tick off today’s to-do’s: notify customers of the summer sausage now available for pickup; write up meeting notes from last week: start a batch of French sourdough, contact prospective students for upcoming artisan bread baking classes, contact potential guests for Deep Roots Radio; and schedule our next beef harvest. Because Dave and I farm in rhythm with the seasons, harvests are a sure sign of the shift from summer to fall.
The window of my small home office opens to a southern slice of the farm. I can see some of this year’s calves. Boy, but it’s a healthy group. It’s amazing how some of those steers have gained hundreds of pounds and nearly a foot of height in just four months.
The sky’s brightening a bit, and I can just make out a pair of sandhill cranes on a ridge. I love their call, and the way they slowly wing just 40 and 50 feet above the ground.
Leaves are turning. And even though we’ve gotten lots of rain and considerable sunshine, the grass just doesn’t grow as quickly or as thickly as it did in early July. Despite this annual slow-down, we’re still able to rotate the cattle to fresh paddocks (grazing areas) even now because the pastures are so much more diverse and healthy than even two years ago. This is important for us because our BueLingo beef cattle are 100% grass-fed and grass-finished. They grow and fatten on grasses, legumes and herbs. No grain. No hormones. No subclinical antibiotics. This means it takes up to a year longer to get our cattle to harvest condition, but again, that’s what it means to raise cattle as nature intended.

Our third-crop hay is baled and waiting for me to move it off the field and to the storage area. At this time of year, it’s the very heavy morning dew that presents a challenge. I just don’t like driving a tractor really wet ground. On a typical late September day, I’ll often wait until mid-afternoon before venturing out in my John Deere. Given the last two days of rain, I’m going to hold off until we’ve had a couple of sunny days to dry things out a bit.
Drizzle, drenching dews, cooling days and lengthening nights. Every turn of the clock moves us from the growing to the harvest season. Again.
It’s fall.

Audio

Rancher Gabe Brown on regenerative, holistic farming on any scale, and profitability even in transition

I hope you enjoy this Deep Roots Radio interview with North Dakota rancher Gabe Brown on the principles of regenerative farming that will yield health and profitability even as you transition your operation – large or small.

Gabe will be in Amery, Wisconsin February 9th for a full day workshop in which he will describe how he, wife and son have worked to transform their 2,000-acre, diversified farm to a healthy, profitable business while improving soil and regenerating the landscape. In addition to raising and direct-marketing grass-fed beef and other livestock, Gabe grows and sells cash crops from his sustainable farm.

Go to hungryturtle.net to register for the workshop. I hope to see you there!

Sylvia

How long has it been??? What’s happening on this city-girl’s farm.

What happened?? Where did the summer go?
Well, if your life’s anything like mine, your Monday-Friday went to work and family. And your weekends, if you planned well and were able to add a dash of good luck, were spent doing lots of chores. You know – the laundry, food shopping, buying school supplies, banking, and repairing this-and-that. Hopefully you took some time for coffee with friends, and maybe dinner out with your sweetie.

A few 2016 calves

A few 2016 calves

The growing season started with the arrival of our spring calves. All our new little BueLingos were born out on our pastures and unassisted. This season also required that we up our game and manage our pastures for a slightly larger herd. This summer’s frequent rains helped keep the much-needed grass growing.
We began harvesting in July, and will take our final two beeves to the custom USDA processor in a month or so. (Those two animals will go exclusively for ground beef and summer sausage.)
Today, we get ready for an annual right-of-passage – tagging every calf, and castrating the bull calves. Once castrated, the male calves are called steers, and they’ll graze for two years to harvest age and condition. Until that time, all the cattle will enjoy the best of care: 365 days a year on grassy fields, sunshine and fresh air, a 100% grass diet, and the company and calm of their herd. It makes for contented, healthy cattle, and, ultimately, great-tasting and highly nutritious beef.
And that’s the heart of it: health and happiness – for the the cows, the land, and for you and me.
We all benefit from farming and living with a tiny carbon hoof print (TM)*, truly sustainable farming.
Thank you for visiting the farm and sharing the story of your food journey. I really enjoyed making frequent deliveries in Amery, Polk and St. Croix counties, and the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area.
I look forward to meeting you. Please visit. And until then, enjoy the cooling fall weather.
Sylvia

*tiny carbon hoofprint is a US registered trademark belonging to Bull Brook Keep.

Jan. 3, 9-9:30AM Central, LIVE with bovine guru Gearld Fry

What: Live, Deep Roots Radio conversation with bovine genetics guru Gearld Fry
When: Saturday, Jan. 3, 2014, 9:00-9:30AM Central
Where: Broadcast and streamed live from the studios of WPCA Radio, 93.1FM and online at www.wpcaradio.org

Gearld Fry, bovine genetics expert

Gearld Fry, bovine genetics expert


I met Gearld Fry five years ago. It was in a crowded hotel conference room in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Fry was one of four instructors taking us through a two-day grazing school. We were transfixed.
It was December and Dave and I had just bought our 72-acre farm in western Wisconsin. Fry’s presentation introduced us to principles we’re using to improve our herd and to produce healthful 100% grass-fed beef.
Fry talked about working seasonally, feeding only grass and why, how to identify a cow that will give rich milk for her calves, and the huge influence the bull has on the quality of future generations. He also stressed the importance of “line breeding,” using your own bulls to continually improve the quality of your animals.
Line breeding?
Join me and Gearld Fry tomorrow morning for a live chat about his approaches. Nationally known, Fry’s counsel is based on over 50 years experience with cattle – beef and dairy.

The reluctant lover

Spring 2014 Farm Update He called to say he’d be an hour late. A tiny inconvenience, but unavoidable. He’d had to drive to Eau Clare earlier in the day. Fortunately, the breeze was gentle. I didn’t mind standing in the bright sunshine. When he arrived, he pulled the long trailer up close to the milking parlor and disappeared inside the barn. Five minutes. Not a sound. Ten minutes. Birds sang over the alfalfa field. Fifteen minutes and nothing coming from the barn. What was going on? I paced, but made sure I stayed away from the barn windows. I didn’t … Continue reading