Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Maisie c. 2000 to September 8th 2014

Yesterday we said goodbye to a dear old friend.  We never knew exactly how old Maisie was - she came with the farm when we bought it in 2006.  By all accounts she had had a hard life up until the previous owners had taken her in a few years previously.  A Walker hound, she had deformed paws and claws, which may have been due to early days kept in a cage.  A road accident had left Maisie with a permanently injured back and leg, which never stopped her outrunning on three legs, the other dogs on four! For all her troubled past, Maisie was the eternal optimist, grinning from ear to ear her lopsided dog smile accompanied by the ever swishing tail whenever dog cookies were mentioned.  Evenings, after supper when the other dogs went out, were her special time and "first dessert" was called!  Especially good were those times we reached fourth and even fifth dessert as she conned Jorg and I into believing we hadn't reached her limit!  There is a big hole in the evening routine now, and although time will heal it, Maisie's particular enthusiasm for life, despite its setbacks, will always be remembered. She is free now to run unfettered by a gammy leg and enjoy time in the sun with old friends Jack, Shandy and Brigitte.  RIP Maisie.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Welcome Violet

Violet just a few hours old

Triskelion's Violet finally appeared at breakfast time on Saturday 14th September 2013.  Mother and daughter doing fine.  Another successful delivery by Rosebud, even though she was some 3 weeks late by our reckoning!  Never mind, she's a healthy heifer and that gives us two beautiful girls who will be looking for homes in 2 to 3 months time after weaning.  As with all our calves we will start handling them and teaching them to halter and tie straight away.  With a height of 21 inches a few hours after birth she will be a mid-sized adult, perfect for milking and will undoubtedly have the easygoing personality of her mother.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Phoebe at 5 Weeks

Phoebe with Tuna

Phoebe is now showing her real character.  Still a baby she is playful and has a lovely personality.  As with all our calves, she is being taught to lead and be tied, with lots of handling.  This time we are trying something new.  The mini-Jerseys do pose problems with keeping their feet trimmed.  If they are easy to handle you can try trimming in place, but even our even tempered ladies find that a bit much!  There are trimming boxes that have an array of supports and pulleys, and we have used the services of such a trimmer.  However our smaller girls do not fit the adjustments intended mostly for full grown Holsteins, and the consequent anxiety and rubbing of lower legs is upsetting.  Phoebe is going to be taught to lift her feet and be trimmed by hand!  Absolutely no reason why not, if horses can be taught then so can our cows.  More in future posts.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Corn Smut

Now growing corn in Virginia is hardly newsworthy in the Country where it is the main crop.  However, after two previously unfruitful attempts, that included not getting a stalk never mind a cob, we were pleased to see two healthy rows of corn complete with cobs.  I initially spent some time watching over them, as one does with a new born, but a freshening cow and a plethora of new rescue horses drew me away; watching paint dry might be more rewarding than watching corn ripening, but it is a close call!  So imagine my disappointment on returning to the corn rows, expecting to see bounteous fruits ready for picking, only to see some of these:

Aghast, I call on our chief researcher (Jorg) to identify the offending horror, and find out what new blight has descended on our veggie plot.  This year the rain has been the main offender, as many of the bugs of previous years seem to be in limited numbers, and rain it seems unleashed this fungus on the corn.  Huitlacoche, pronounced WEET-LA-KO-CHEE is well know in Mexico, and by corn growers all over North America.  The latter have been trying to eradicate it, without success, for many years.  The Mexicans, however, love it, and the article in the link under my photo gives a number of good nutritional reasons to try it.  It also transpires that a crop of "corn smut" sells way over the price of regular corn!

Well, Jorg and I have always been willing to try new dishes, and as huitlacoche is supposed to be packed with lysine a nourishing meal of corn smut is on the cards.  We'll let you know how it goes, but that evil looking corn cob might just have a saving grace.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Phoebe and Bessie
Mother and daughter doing well.  I have to say that each birth brings with it a different crop of fears for me.  Last year I worried for days that a calf's eyes didn't seem right, and was worried that she was blind!  There has been the inevitable "slow to feed calf", with some bottle feds over the years.  This time I agonized over Phoebe's stiff gait and apparent "bandiness".  Now if you had been ejected onto the ground head first, then expected to stand up and walk around, all in the space of a few hours, you might find yourself a little stiff, even after three or four days!  In the end both stiffness and bandiness have gone as you might expect (although just occasionally there are joint problems in new calves) and Phoebe is a normal week old calf.  Our cow vet, Dr Lincoln Rodgers, is to be thanked for his patience in answering our interminable questions.  We may have got over the initial "Two pregnant cows, and no experience" phase, but we still have a lot to learn!

Trophic Levels


Possibly a confusing post title. and yawn inducing grimace for those of you without a science background!  Simply put, every time we convert energy (in this case by consuming plant or animal life) we lose efficiency.  We happen to be vegetarians, for ethical reasons, and so our animals will live out their life spans and return to the soil; where their nutrients will once again be part of the process that has gone on for millions of years.  Now this isn't a sermon on "veg is better than meat", we leave each and all to decide how they wish to approach that question, but Trophic conversion is important from a sustainability issue, given ever increasing populations, countries aspiring to first world status, and looming climate changes.

Understanding the trade-offs in water usage, protein and other nutritional factors, cultivation, and the use of pesticides, between different crops and food chain elements, is more than an esoteric discussion for scientists.  As farmers, even on a small scale, it is essential to understand the impact that lifestyle has on food production and, in our "designer-led" society where appearance seems to matter so much more than substance, what pitfalls that might lead us to in the future.