Typing, invoicing, phone calls, map searches – getting our grass-fed beef to your table

I sat down to the keyboard a bit before 8:00 this morning, and now it’s after 1:30PM. How is that possible?!
Well, there were all those emails with a subject line I love to write: Your beef is ready!
Then there were the follow-up calls with customers to confirm delivery to drop sites in and around the Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN metro area.
And there were Google Map searches to find out where I’d have to make home deliveries.

Beefy soup!

And, of course, while all of this was going on, I was keeping a mental inventory of beef just picked up from the USDA processor. Hmmm, T-bones, ribeye, sirloin, chuck and cross-rib roasts, briskets and flank steaks, and lots more.
This is the record-keeping-and-communications time of the year that adds the final links to the food chain. To be honest, it’s a time I value and respect – delivering beef directly to the customer.
It represents well over two years of work on Bull Brook Keep farm.

BueLingo calves

It starts in the early spring with the arrival of our BueLingo calves. The herd grows sleek and fat as we move them from pasture to grassy pasture throughout the growing season. Midsummer marks the breeding season. We separate the bulls from the larger herd in mid-fall (away from the heifers too young to breed). Grasses shrivel as frosts hit and snow blankets the farm. That’s when we provide the cows with hay grown in our own fields. As the days warm in April and May, the cycle begins again. Dave and I work to manage our pastures and herd in harmony with nature.
Cattle that spend the last several months of their lives eating grain in feedlots reach harvest weight by the time they’re 16-18 months old. It’s a confinement approach that is often accompanied by subclinical antibiotics in the feed, and the administration of hormones.
In contrast, our 100% grass-fed cattle, take nine to 10 months longer to reach harvest condition. It means an extra year of feeding and care for us, but we’re committed to breeding and raising our beef cattle on grass – and only grass. No grains, no hormones, no subclinical antibiotics. And by practicing rotational grazing, our cows are contented and healthy, and the pastures improve. We’re seeing more farmers in our area adopting this approach.

Fresh air and sunshine 24/7


Dave and I made a home delivery last night, and I’ll be making several stops at drop-sites this week and next. It’s hard work, but to me it feels like a reward. When I hand over the boxes, it’s almost like placing a big bowl of delicious beef stew and a thick slice of homemake sourdough bread in front of a dear friend or family member. (It’s so much more fun to cook, when you’re cooking for someone you value.)
I thank God for the farming stewardship He has given Dave and me, and for the wonderful customers and friends walking the path with us.
Sylvia

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.

Storm drops cow on farm? Feeling a bit at Oz.

Squinting, I picked up my phone to check the time: 5:15AM. Why was I awake? Then I remembered last night’s storm: lightning, rolling thunder and walls of rain driven by high winds – gusts that tore tree branches ripped up my tomato plants.
The little bull calf must have been frightened. He’d been left in the field after I moved the rest of the herd across the driveway and to a fresh paddock. Darn calf. It just wouldn’t stay by its moma. It kept running around me and double-backing to the old field. Crazy kid.
5:15AM. Sunday morning and the cows were mooing like crazy. The unhappy moma bellowed the lead, and the rest of the cows provided boistrous backup.
I pulled on my patched jeans, a tattered black t-shirt and an over-sized white shirt (to keep off bugs), and headed out to find the calf and coax it in with the rest of the herd. Correction: I would try to coax it back to its mom.
(Herding a calf and herding cats have a lot in common.)
Wearing my shin-high Muck boots, I was half-way across the wet field when I noticed a strange white patch moving within a shadowy stand of poplars. It bobbed about five feet above the grass. What was that? The little bull calf only reaches my waist, so it wasn’t him. Not only that, but all my cattle – BueLingos – have either black or red faces.

BueLingo calves

BueLingo calves


The white patch kept approaching.
I stopped cold. Was that a man in our field? The white patch loomed closer. When it stepped out of the trees, I saw it for what it was – a white-faced Hereford cow. What in the world? Where did this thing come from? And how did it get into our fenced-off field?
As I was mulling this over, I also spotted our errant calf. Both he and the hiefer (young female) were standing across the driveway from the rest of the herd. They were separated by 30 feet of gravel driveway and two lines of electric fence. So all this noise wasn’t just about the calf, it was also about the strange cow.
I yelled at Dave (he was on the deck enjoying a first cup of coffee), to let him know about the visitor left by last night’s storm.
Dave responded with his usual, “What in the world?”
Visiting Hereford heifer

Visiting Hereford heifer

We guessed this young Hereford was spooked by last night’s pyrotechnics, wandered over from the neighboring farm, and found (or made) a breach in our perimeter fence.
We took a breath. Seeing that both the Hereford and our little Buelingo were safe, the first order of business was finding the hole in our fence line.
I searched for an hour before church services. Nothing. Dave and I resumed our inspection after brunch. Nada. Our theory: the heifer is a jumper.
If you’ve never seen it, it’s a sight that stops you in your tracks – a 1000-lb bovine easily clearing a 5-ft fence. Breath-taking.
OK. The heifer is safe. The little bull is safe, if temporarily separated from its dam. Our fence line is intact.
Next step: knock on a few doors and find out if any of our neighbors is missing a heifer wearing an ear-tag marked #1.
It took us just a couple of tries. The worried owner lives just across a main road from our farm. She’d been frantic when she discovered her pretty red heifer missing this morning. Mystery solved, but the issue’s far from resolved.
Getting the Hereford back to her farm may take a bit of time even though her pasture is just 1/4-mile from us. It could take two days or two weeks to have her join with our herd, calmly move through rotational paddock changes, and finally make it back up to our corral. Once in the corral, we would get her into a hauler, and make the minute-long drive back to her home farm.
BREAKING NEWS: Just got a call from the Hereford’s owner. Seems the heifer jumped fences, trotted along the busy county road, turned into her home driveway and jumped back into her own field.
Theory proven. Issue resolved.
Just checked my phone. Storms forecast for Thursday.

Sat., Aug. 15, 9-9:30AM CT, Deep Roots Radio – the health & eco-benefits of bison

What: Deep Roots Radio chat with Mary Graese of North Star Bison about the environmental and human health benefits of bison.
When: Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, 9:00-9:30AM Central
Where: Broadcast and streamed live from the studios of WPCA Radio, 93.1FM, and www.wpcaradio.org
Why: Millions of bison roamed America, grazing as they moved. Their grass-only diet, combined with the weight and hoof action of the huge herds, helped create the deep and fertile top-soil that was, once upon a time, six feet deep across significant portions of our continent. Today, many ranchers are capitalizing on the best qualities of bison to restore grasslands while producing excellent meat products.
Join us tomorrow morning, as co-host Dave Corbett and I chat with Mary Graese about the Wisconsin-based bison ranch she runs with her husband Lee and family.
I hope you’ll tune in.
Sylvia
About-Us-Bison-History

Connecting the dots between what we eat and how its grown

Connecting the dots between what we eat and how its grown

Video

Video: moving cows to fresh pasture. Great beef starts with the soil and grass.

My husband Dave and I are committed to a handful of values: living in thanksgiving to God, nurturing our marriage and family, producing delicious and nutritious beef, using agricultural practices that regenerate soil and pastures, improving our financial sustainability, and contributing to a thriving local community.
These core principles matter to us, to our neighbors and to our customers.
Moving our cattle from paddock (small field) to paddock is one of the things we do to regenerate soil, reinvigorate our grasses, and promote the health and growth of our BueLingo beef cattle. This practice, called rotational grazing, accomplishes several things at the same time: it puts fresh, sweet grass under the noses of the cattle; their hoof action churns up the soil and exposes dormant seeds to sun and rain, thereby increasing the diversity of plants in the field; the herd deposits fertilizer as the move; and it avoid spending money and fuel to move feed to the cattle and to remove waste from a barn. At the same time, the cows move as a herd across open fields. This is important because cows are social creatures – they are most calm and healthiest when they are with their herd. Because they are on pasture, the herd is also in open sunshine and moving on springy grass and soil. This promotes strong bodies.
I hope you enjoy this very short video of moving the herd from one paddock to the next. Although it takes time and effort for me to set up the electric fences for the temporary paddocks, moving the herd is easy because they’re always eager for fresh grass.

May 9, 9:00-9:30AM CT live w grass-fed rancher/author Cody Holmes.

Well known for his development and workshops around management intensive rotational grazing, rancher Cody Holmes is also the author of Ranching Full Time on 3 Hours a Day. In the last few years, he’s expanded into multi-species grazing, delivery and farmers markets. Now he’s working to build a local food hub based on real foods.
book_cover_small_ranchingJoin me for this conversation with Cody Holmes.

What: Deep Roots Radio live conversation with Cody Holmes.
When: May 9, 2015, 9:00-9:30AM Central Time
Where: Broadcast and streamed live from the studios of WPCA Radio 93.1FM and www.wpcaradio.org

I hope you’ll tune in.

Sylvia

Connecting the dots between what we eat and how it's grown

Connecting the dots between what we eat and how it’s grown

A day in the life

6:00 AM – As always, MPR’s Cathy Wurzer’s bright voice from the bedside radio let’s me know the world has survived another night and Minnesota is involved in all kinds of activity. Although I now farm in Western Wisconsin, I pulled many of my Minnesota habits with me when I crossed the river. In an hour the radio will automatically switch to Wisconsin Public Radio – new alliances. 6:45 AM – Doing some laundry. In the heat of summer, and when you’re dealing with livestock, sweat, dirt and manure build up on everything. Dave and I often go through two … Continue reading

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