Bovine Phrenology

We tend to view phrenology and the larger idea of physiognomy as quaint curiosities, worn out ancient concepts akin to geocentrism or flat-earth theories.  But evidence keeps cropping up that there might be something to it after all, at least for livestock.  The original reasoning behind physiognomy is totally insupportable, but there is a body of evidence that suggests that physical appearance can be correlated with behavior and temperament. The ancients liked to use physiognomy to characterize humans, but contemporary science best supports the use of physiognomy to characterize animals.  That makes some sense, since wild animal breeding… Read More

Buried fence

We had the misfortune of placing one temporary fence on the north side of the bale grazing pasture in the perfect area for both snow drifts and ice accumulation.  The fence in question is picketed on 36″ plastic stakes, with polywire strung at the top clip.  The field adjacent to the fence is usually wet due to a series of seeps.  So we’ve got a situation where each snowfall drifts along the fence line.  The seep water flows over and through the drift, freeing it into a hard ice block.  The ice is now… Read More

Eating Ashes

Our pigs love to eat the ashes from our wood burning (after they cool a bit of course).  We don’t have any pig husbandry books from the 18th century or earlier, but wood ash and charcoal are commonly recommended in many old farming references.  Wood ash seems to have been used as a cure for all kinds of swine illnesses.  Several old books indicate ash improved feed efficiency and increased bone strength.  Generally, hardwood ashes were preferred over softwood.  We haven’t been able to find any recent research that digs into the biology and… Read More

Fire and Ice

On nights like this when it is going down to -20 degrees and the wind is gusting at 40mph, we welcome heat in any form we can get it.  Of course there is the wood stove, but it’s nice to have supplemental heat from a bottle, too.

Fine Feathered

The humidity and temperature overnight worked together to deposit a feathery coating of hoar frost over the windward sides of branches and fence wires.  Even exposed snow banks were covered in fingernail-sized flakes of frost.  The frost disappeared soon after the sunlight strengthened, but it was a great sight while it lasted.  I’m not a meteorologist, nor do I play one on TV, so I found this blog helpful in differentiating between hoar frost and rime ice. Enjoy the view.

Sumac and Questionable Linguistics

Around these here parts, the prevalent pronunciation for sumac is shoo’-mak.  We’ve also encountered that pronunciation among some Midwesterners.  A few dictionaries list shoo’-mak as an secondary pronunciation and soo’-mak as the primary, but it is curious that the sh supplanted the s locally.  The Amish around here also “shoo”, so I wondered if this was a German pronunciation.  Google Translate’s audio pronunciation tells me the German word is “sumach”, with the leading s pronounced like the letter z in English.  So that theory probably doesn’t work, unless there is more to the story based… Read More

Evaluating Additional Grazing Land

This week I received an unexpected email asking if I’d be interested in “grazing herbivores, pasturing chickens, and/or growing vegetables” on a long unused 85 acre property in the next town over.  This land is about a 6 mile drive from home, 15 minutes away.  We aren’t planning on doing market gardening any time soon, so the vegetables were out right away.  Chickens are a tough business simply because they are so easy — anyone with a few acres can raise chickens.  Thus there are lots of people selling pastured chickens below costs, many of them hobbyists… Read More

Is the Brain a Terrible Thing to Waste?

If the brain really is a terrible thing to waste, then we must be terrible.  There are lots of wasted brains from our farm.  If you have the craving for a breakfast of scrambled brains, we’re sorry to say you can’t buy them from us.  If you’ve just gotta have ’em, you can get a four pack of canned brains in gravy from Amazon.  Note the tasteful parsley garnish on the side.  Presentation is everything, even if you are serving brains.  Especially if you are serving brains. “Everything but the squeal” is a well… Read More