Thursday, June 30, 2011

feeding babies not your own

Experts tell us that a cow will reject calves not born to them. That the mother cow can distinguish the smell and sight of her calf from any other, and will kick away an unrelated calf if it tries to nurse. We read an article about tricking a cow into believing that successive calves were hers, a way to keep milk production high even if the farmer goes on vacation and cannot milk the cow. The method required cover of night, penning of cow and calves, clandestine feedings until she was tricked into feeding 2 calves of different ages. Then periodically taking milk from her for our consumption.

With 700 chickens, 200 turkeys, 180 laying hens, 7 pigs, a whole herd of calves, an acre of vegetables, fruit trees, blueberries, geese, ducks, bees and a little dog too..we don't have time or energy to monitor and influence Sybil and the calves. But when Homer went to milk her the other day he came up dry. Her teats had no milk in them and we wondered how this had happened so quickly. Then we saw the reason why.

Our farming methods continue to be the same. We listen to the experts at lectures and conferences. We think about what people did for centuries. I reread Heidi..whose solution to regaining health was to go outside and climb around, collect flowers, be in the loving care of her grandfather, drink milk from grass fed cows..and contemplate how much of our intervention is really necessary. Part of why we have so many different things growing here is that we love it all: bees and honey, flowers and pollen, cows and milk/cheese/yogurt and meat, pigs and their easy recycling of everything extra or funky that we have on the farm, chickens and their fertilizing and meat, or their eggs, turkeys and the massive consumption of thistle, vegetables and their delicious taste, herbs and the wonderful addition to everything and all of these things keep us busy. Too busy to worry about any one thing, because as the focus on cows might require more time than we have, they are working it out themselves.

 Homer is seeing opportunity everywhere for multiple uses of the land. We have succession plantings everywhere with lots growing. Last fall, just before our pig roast, the hoop house was cleared of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, watermelon and cantalope plants. This year on their own all those plants have sprung up in that same area where the pigs consumed them. We grow open pollinated varieties, not hybrids, so these will grow back identical to the parent plants. A little extra bonus of growth, in an area we had not intentionally planted.

This year as the pigs have been digging up the back fence line Homer has been adding pockets of compost and putting seeds in them. There is not water that far from the house and hoophouse, but he has discovered that the line of trees and the hill above this area are providing a watering system of its own. Every morning it is as wet out there as if sprinklers had been running all night. Now buckwheat and melons are growing there.

The honeybees are happy with this arrangement. The hives are growing and we are adding supers every other week. Feels like prosperity.

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