Winter Greenup Conference

Friday and Saturday I attended the 7th Annual Winter Greenup Conference in Latham, NY.  I’ve made a point of attending each year ever since I first heard of it five years ago.  In fact, it is the only farm related conference I regularly attend.  The main focus of the conference is grassfed beef, but other pastured livestock are featured regularly.  So far there has been little direct discussion of pastured pigs.  Pigs are mentioned each year, but usually as a small side enterprise for farmers.  We are a bit off the beaten path… Read More

On A Personal Note

Today marks eleven years together.  

Solar Eggs, Pagan Chickens

Like clockwork, we have our first egg of the season.  The chickens slow down egg laying in October and completely stop by early November.  Each year, the first egg comes the last week of January or the first week of February.  After a few spotty weeks, the whole flock will be laying eggs regularly by the end of February. Elliot Coleman has popularized among gardeners and growers the designation of the season from November to the end of January “the Persephone Period”.  By the way, who’s the real victim in the Persephone myth?  Not… Read More

Agent of Destruction

“…another instance of the untoward fate which so often attends dogs and other philosophers who follow out a train of reasoning to its logical conclusion, and attempt perfectly consistent conduct in a world made up so largely of compromise.” Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd In a passage full of poignance to anyone with experience raising livestock, Shepherd Gabriel Oak finds that his young herding dog has been overenthusiastic in his duties and caused an entire herd to panic over a cliff into a chalk mine pit.  The pup had an “insuperable… Read More

Cant Hook This

Putting an old tool back into service and a lesson hard-learned.

Pork Pricing Update

As much as we hate to do this to you, we think it is time to raise the prices on pork.  We’ve held the price steady for three years, but our costs have been increasing unrelentingly.  Despite whatever economists say about downward price pressures from lower oil costs, our feed costs haven’t budged.  Two years ago, grain prices shot up for both conventional and organic feed.  Since then, conventional feed costs have gone back down but organic prices stayed high.  So instead of a 2:1 price premium for organic grain, we are… Read More

Bale Grazing 2015

This is our third winter bale grazing the cattle on pasture.  The idea is simple — fence off hay bales with portable electric fences and as the cattle eat through bales, roll fences back every few days to expose new feed.  There are different ways of looking at the economics of bale grazing versus winter yarding or barn feeding.  There are situations in which either one might make more sense than the other.  In our situation, bale grazing makes the most sense since it requires almost no infrastructure (buildings, concrete pads, permanent fencing),… Read More

Chopping Whey

Keeping whey liquid during winter is a constant challenge.  The greenhouse we use for the storage tanks has been a huge improvement in keeping the tanks and valves working, but on the coldest days there’s still a lot of work defrosting valves.  Even trying to position the 2″ hoses and making up the connectors is a task, made harder by the loss of dexterity when wearing gloves. Given the salt and lactose content, whey actually doesn’t freeze as readily as water, so we have a little leeway.  But when the temperatures get to zero and… Read More

Rodeo Aspirations

Young animals have a joie de vivre that can’t be matched.  As they age, they settle into their routines, eat their meals with purposeful solemnity, and nod disapprovingly at the antics of the younguns.  Occasionally you’ll find an old cow kick up her heels and then look around to make sure nobody noticed, but calves will turn any event into a celebration. The calf area in the hoophouse was starting to get messy (notice the dirty flanks), so we led the calves out, cleaned the manure and general mess, put down fresh bedding, reloaded… Read More

Sunrise Pillar

This morning we were treated to a prominent and long lasting sun pillar.  It became visible about ten minutes before sunrise and remained in place a few minutes after the sun had fully cleared the horizon.  Driving along Route 162, there were a number of other people pulled over to get a picture.  Too bad none of us had anything other than mobile phone cameras, since the crammed-in optics do a poor job with sky shots.  The actual pillar had a lot more contrast than shown in the photo, far exceeding the camera’s dynamic range. By the way,… Read More