A Beautiful Day

For the past several weeks the weather forecast has either called for rain or snow, with nary a drop of precipitation despite the gray skies. All the recent storms have brought have been high winds. So this morning when the weather said rain I ignored it and started making plans for what needed to be done outside, wind permitting. Imagine the shocked delight when I finished a couple of indoor tasks and looked out the window to see how bad the wind was blowing. The wind was indeed blowing — snow horizontally. What a beautiful sight.

DSC01649-001 This has been one of the driest winters I can remember since moving here and it followed an almost non-existent monsoon season last summer. It will take many more days of snow or rain before I can be assured of any pasture this spring so I am hoping this is just the harbinger of more to come.

Carbon Footprints

DSC01644-001The Quibeyn Farm Blog was created to educate people to the value of, and need to preserve, heritage animals and heirloom vegetables as well as introduce them to the delights of truly fresh foods.

This indirectly ties into climate change and related topics. Reducing one’s carbon footprint* isn’t just about downsizing to a smaller, more fuel efficient vehicle. Indirect consumption, such as dependence upon items that are shipped from out of the area, are also part, and often a very large part, of one’s carbon footprint. While I’m not in a position to alter some of my activities, I can do some things that both reduce my carbon footprint and encourage my neighbors to reduce theirs as well. One of those is to provide quality meats, eggs, and dairy products.

It has been suggested that the most effective way to decrease one’s carbon footprint is to either decrease the amount of energy needed for production of something or to decrease the dependence on carbon emitting fuels.

Buying locally grown, or raised, products fits both those categories. Locally grown and raised foods do not require transportation by refrigerated trucks or railroad cars. Small farms, unlike most commercial enterprises, tend to rely more on sweat than fuel on a day to day basis. In addition, well-run small farms tend to be more environmentally friendly as the farmers are very concerned about maintaining the health of both land and animals. Large scale producers, whether growing vegetables, fruits or animals, are focused on the bottom line. In most cases this means using genetically modified (GM) seeds and chemicals to grow produce and maintaining animals in feed lot environments, feeding a non-natural diet of grains and using hormones to promote fast growth. Stressing animals in this fashion also means antibiotics are necessary to keep the animals from succumbing to disease.

Raising animals on a natural diet, without using hormones and antibiotics, and using heirloom seeds while minimizing or eliminating artificial fertilizers to grow produce, translates into better health for those who eat local products and a better environment surrounding them. Let’s be honest though, it costs more to buy fresh foods grown without hormones, antibiotics or chemical additives. The small farmer cannot compete with a commercial business on a price basis. However, buying locally grown and raised produce, meat and dairy provides the consumer with fresher, healthier and tastier food, less likely to be contaminated; it reduces the consumer’s carbon footprint; and promotes a better environment to raise a family.

*The amount of carbon dioxide emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group, etc.

And the Cow Jumped Over the Moon

I never knew before that cows could jump. Not only jump, but jump really, really well. (Where was this cow when I was riding hunter/jumpers?)

One weekend, a few months after purchasing the calves, I woke up to find a storm had knocked out my power. I have a gas stove so making the morning coffee was possible but the biggest problem was water. I’m on a well (two actually) and no electricity translated into no pump and hence no water. While I keep a gallon or two in the house for emergencies, there simply is no practical way for me to store enough water for the livestock. I fed as usual but couldn’t fill water troughs that morning.

The dogs and I puttered around, doing what we could without power, until the crews got the problem fixed shortly after noon. I immediately headed out to fill water troughs only to hear the heifer lowing. It didn’t sound like the lowing was coming from the pasture and sure enough, through the trees, I could see her running up and down the easement my neighbors use as a driveway to access their property behind me.

My first thought was that the fence was down (this is an expensive but poorly built fence so that wasn’t a huge surprise) and I gathered up my fencing tools and Tuck and went off to retrieve a cow and mend a fence.

We walked the fence line along the easement without finding a break. The gate in the cross fence was open to allow the cows and goats access to both pastures so evidently the cow had found  a break in the fence in the furthest pasture. Tuck and I trudged back across the field to the gate and then across the next pasture to the fence line along the easement. We walked that entire fence line without finding a break. While that explained why the steer and all the goats were still in the pasture, it didn’t explain how the heifer got onto the easement. Time enough to worry about that after Tuck and I retrieved the heifer though. Back into the first pasture we went. I found a section of fence that had been spliced and set to the task of taking the fence down. Of course, the goats were fascinated by what I was doing so Tuck was given the job of keeping the goats away from me and the fence. Tuck moved the goats to the far end of the pasture and came back just as I was rolling the fence up to provide an opening large enough to move the cow through without difficulty.

Now came the tricky part. The cow was down the easement close to the entry to the neighbor’s property. I didn’t want to push her further that direction but the easement was only wide enough for a single vehicle so getting past the cow without her moving the wrong direction was going to be tough. I called Tuck to heel and off we started. We had just managed to successfully get behind the cow so that we would be driving her towards the gap in the fence when the goats, realizing Tuck was no longer in the pasture, came over to investigate the opening in the fence. I quickly sent Tuck past the cow to push the goats back into the pasture and away from the fence. He moved the goats back across the pasture but now we had this problem. The cow was between Tuck and me. I had already discovered that the cow had no respect for me by myself and wasn’t going to move back down the easement without a dog. Worse, Tuck was very likely going to push the cow right over the top of me if he tried to come back to where I was.

With trepidation I moved as close to the fence as I could and called Tuck. With a wary eye on the heifer, Tuck stuck close to the fence and came. Together we started to move the heifer. For a couple of minutes it looked like the whole process would go off smoothly and without a hitch. Tuck and I stopped moving forward just before the heifer came abreast the opening of the fence. The intent was that she would stop moving at that point, notice the gap in the fence and go join the steer and goats in the pasture. At first, all went according to plan. The heifer stopped in the right spot, she looked over at the others in the pasture, and then . . . she turned and started moving down the easement towards the road. By the time she got ten feet past the opening in the fence it was clear she wasn’t going to turn around again. I sent Tuck and he hugged the fence line past the cow and ran in front of the heifer, stopping her forward motion. He very slowly advanced and to my surprise and delight she turned and headed back towards me. Holding my breath (and hoping he didn’t keep moving her right over the top of me) I waited and Tuck very slowly advanced until the cow was abreast the opening of the fence again. Without any direction from me, Tuck stopped and let her settle. I gave Tuck a command, he moved, the heifer moved and then all that was left was to repair the fence and wonder how the heifer had gotten out.

A couple of days later when I came home and found the heifer in the driveway I mentioned the problem to a neighbor who laughed and asked if it was a heifer. I said yes, and was told that heifers, unlike steers, were notorious for that behavior and that she was jumping the fence.

Lesson Four: Heifers don’t taste any better than steers and are a whole lot more trouble.

New Spring Project

When I first moved to the farm the perimeter of the property was fenced with barb wire. When I got livestock I needed to fence some pastures (Tuck and I couldn’t spare more than a few hours a day supervising goats.) I couldn’t afford to fence the entire property so I decided to fence a section of land on the south side of the drive in front of the house and running to the road. The guy who I had hired to put in the horse corral was no longer in the area so I was starting from scratch looking for someone capable of putting in a decent fence with woven wire. Unfortunately no one I asked could provide me with a recommendation so I was forced to rely upon the yellow pages to find a company in my area which did fencing. That was a very costly mistake*.

So a couple of years later when I needed another pasture fenced in I negotiated a trade where I would buy the materials and help with the fencing in exchange for running some additional animals on pasture the coming spring and summer. I could (and have) spent hours walking that fenceline checking for problems and marveling at how well it has stood up and came close to crying when a branch fell on one section and damaged the fence.

Now that I’m in a position to fence in another section of property, I’ve arranged to have the fence erected by the same person who did the second fence. In preparation for the project, I discovered a huge cottonwood had fallen on the barb wire fence in a very hard to get to spot. I prevailed upon another friend with a chainsaw to come out and remove the cottonwood.

Not a redwood, but . . . .DSC01612DSC01617

*Lesson Three: if a person doesn’t know anything about livestock they probably also don’t know anything about putting up a fence intended to keep livestock contained.