Yes, I know that was the title of my last blog post but this time it very purposely lacks an exclamation point. I wrote the last one at the onset of calving season as a few babies had just been born and excitement was in the air. As the season has progressed, we have encountered a number of problems which has caused our enthusiasm to wane just a bit. This isn’t our first rodeo but it has definitely been our biggest as we are in the process of growing our herd. We know it will get easier as we continue to pick and choose which cows make the best mamas but we also know there will always be problems this time of the year. Such is the life of a cattle farmer.
Mothers rejecting babies has been our plague this season. We eventually stopped fighting them and realized it would be easier to separate the struggling babies from the herd and make a little calve nursery in the stable. Some unusually cold weather and threats of tornados and coyotes encouraged us as well. When everyone else was hunkered down in their basements waiting for the storm, Daniel was loading up a truck bed full of calves to transport to shelter. Sometimes you just do what you have to do!
They are now happily growing and will one day be able to rejoin the rest of the herd. Bottle feeding will be in our past and we might even miss it a little bit…or maybe not!
Calving season is upon us at Turntime Farms! We have had three calves born in the past two weeks and are expecting 60 more in the next coming months.
The first birth of the season came in the form of twins, which in the calving world is not a very ideal thing. Commonly, the mother rejects one of the calves. To our dismay but not to our surprise, the new mama refused to let one of the calves nurse and we knew it would die if we did not intervene. Thankfully, our dear friend Emily has a kind hearted Jersey cow that has plenty of milk to spare and is willing to take on other calves. Here he is pictured below with his new mama. Her kids gave him the name “Free” because, well, we gave him to her for free. Her kids apparently have a knack for coming up with original names just like mine do!
Yesterday, our first full-blooded South Poll cow was born on the farm. In case you have never heard of a South Poll, it is a relatively new breed of cow developed around 1990. It was strategically formed by combining the Red Angus, Hereford, Senepol and Barzona breeds. The reason why we were drawn to this breed of cow is because they were developed as heat tolerant cattle that are able to produce a tender, marbled meat on grass alone. They also tend to have good maternal instincts and are gentle in disposition. This makes them easier to move everyday into fresh grass which is vital to our farming model.
While we started the farm with a few Black Angus cows, we quickly began to transition the herd to the South Poll breed. Black Angus are typically such large cows that they often need their grass diet to be supplemented. South Polls, however, are a smaller framed cow, making them more suitable for pastured grazing. We now have over 50 and this number will grow in these coming months as more calves are born. As the herd continues to grow, we hope that South Poll characteristics will be dominant throughout the herd.
Meet the Gloucestershire Old Spot. This is one of the several heritage breed piglets that as of last week, calls Turntime Farms its home. I also think this breed is the most charming. Large Black, Mulefoot and Berkshire are the other heritage breeds we currently have.
“Heritage” refers to breeds that can be traced back to pre-industrial farm life, back when pigs were raised in pastures and not squished together inside confined facilities. These breeds still have the ability to forage for their own food unlike their mass produced cousins. They use their snout to turn up the soil and hunt for grubs and acorns as well as just graze on grass. Their floppy ears slightly hinder their sight but improve their sense of smell. They earned the nickname, “cottage pig” or “orchard pig” because they are remarkably good at living off the land. In other words, they instinctually know how to actually be a pig.
Most pork raised in the US now comes from CAFO’s (concentrated animal feeding operation) where those God-given pig instincts are no longer needed. Because of this unnatural arrangement, many of the heritage breeds are becoming increasingly hard to find including the Gloucestershire Old Spot, whose status is considered “critical”. The counterintuitive thing about endangered farm animals is that eating them is the best way to preserve their future. Wendell Berry wrote, “Eaters must understand that eating takes place inescapably in the world, that it is inescapably an agricultural act and that how we eat determines to a considerable extent, how the world is used.” The lack of demand is what is driving these old breeds out of existence. Purchasing them and eating them is what insures they as a breed continue.
Heritage breeds supposedly produce tender, marbleized meat that is superior to taste than conventional varieties. But full disclosure calls me to tell you that I can’t even remember what conventional ham tastes like as it has been over a decade since I have eaten any. At that time, heritage breeds were something I only read about and sadly found virtually no local access to them. Now that there are heritage breeds happily living and rooting in my backyard, it seems crazy to look for alternative protein sources. So after 15 years, I am a slowly and happily recovering vegetarian. And while I can’t give a comparison, I can say that I have thoroughly enjoyed the bacon and sausage that now accompany breakfast at the Hord house!
It was heated time in our marriage, this past fall. It would go something like this—Daniel would walk in the door and I would ask him if he brought me any eggs. He would glance around uncomfortably and say no but hopefully tomorrow. Sometimes he would bring me a half dozen in hopes of keeping my irritation at bay and I would stare at them utter in disbelief. I would find myself saying things like–I don’t even want to live on a farm if you refuse to give me eggs. Having eggs is the ENTIRE POINT of living on a farm! The entire point?!?, he would dangerously question me. Yes, the ENTIRE POINT! We actually banned the word from being spoken at our house because tensions were so high over the matter. We started referring to it as the “E- word” like it was an actual form of cursing. I would hum a new version of that old Cake song to myself, “To me, coming from you, friends Eggs, is a four letter word.”
How did it come to this you wonder? We had an abundance over the past few years. I already loved eggs but having a seemingly endless supply allowed me to build my world around them. Scrambled eggs every morning for breakfast, quiche once a week for dinner, boiled eggs for snacks and on and on. We had so many that we threw caution to the wind and let our own personal flock of chickens become fully free range. If you don’t make a habit of putting your chickens up at night, it can be difficult to figure out where they choose to lay their eggs. The other issue is, the chickens themselves become an easy snack to every predator around. Needless to say, we lost our yard birds pretty quickly.
And because things just happen to chickens, by the beginning of the fall, the farm was down to only around 50 egg layers. This attrition combined with less egg production due to shorter days and the beginning our new CSA delivery that includes two dozen eggs per share left me with only meager portions.
The very good news, both for you and my marriage, is that we added 300 more egg layers this fall and again 150 more this winter. That means that we have eggs once again in abundance. More than I can even eat! If you have never eaten a farm fresh egg, I would encourage you to try them. They truly are better, habit forming even!
And just to be on the safe side, we added sixty baby chicks to our own little barn yard. Very soon I will be able to once again send the kids to get me eggs whenever we need them. After all, it never hurts to have a back up stash.
To everything- turn turn turn
There is a season- turn turn turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven
Most people assume I grew up out here on the farm. Maybe it’s because of the way our family seemed to jump in with two feet. With my grandparents living on one side of me and my parents on the other, it could appear as though our family has lived here for generations. The truth is I didn’t set foot on the farm until the summer of my freshmen year in college. My parents found out that a tract of land was for sale through none other than Justin Jordan’s parents. They live across the street and were hoping to see it remain undeveloped.
My mom was out of town at the time and I remember coming with my dad to check it out not thinking much of it. But when we arrived, I changed my mind. I can’t even put into words exactly how I felt. There was something peaceful and familiar about the place, almost like stepping back in time. It just made me happy.
It made my parents happy too because what they thought would just be a weekend escape became their full time home. I went back to college and would call our house in town first. No one would ever answer and I would track them down to the old house on the farm. Eventually they admitted that they were never going “home” and had plans to build a house out here. I was not shocked. My grandparents then moved into the original old house. It would be six more years before Daniel and I moved our old house right in between theirs but that is a story for a different day.
It was one of the first few times my dad was exploring the land when he found out that the creek running through it was named Turntime. This felt significant and left little question as to what the farm should be named. His favorite song has been “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by the Byrds for as long as I can remember and likewise one of his favorite scripture passages is Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 where the song lyrics are directly lifted from.
Turntime is a nod to the cycle that our infinitely wise heavenly Father set into motion. In this day and age, it is easy to forget about seasons especially as it relates to food. We can go into the grocery store and buy virtually any produce at any given time of the year. I laugh to myself every year by a random caller who wants to know if they can pick blueberries in November or February. Blueberry season is June and July, I explain to them. This seems obvious to me as I eagerly anticipate blueberry season all year long. But the truth is, unless you know where your food is coming from, it easy to lose track of how and when it is grown.
We are now looking forward to the next quickly approaching season. Spring time is on its way and with it comes chicks, piglets, calves and even more honey bees. Be on the lookout for more updates as there will be so much happening on the farm in the coming months!
A day in the life of a farmer is unpredictable at times, but one thing remains constant: chores! Every morning I have morning chores and evening chores- these little things done consistently every day make a big overall impact in the lives of the animals on the farm and in the wellness of the land.
I start farm chores first thing in the morning. The very first thing I do is check on the egg layers and open up their nest boxes. We close them each night to keep their nesting boxes clean. Next, I feed and check on Griffin (our Great Pyrenees that protects the chickens), he is always happy to see me! After checking on the egg layers, I go to the meat chickens (or turkeys if it’s their season). I move their broiler pens the length of themselves to provide them with fresh grass and insects for the day. After the pens I top off their water buckets and fill their feeder. Lastly, I check to make sure the cows have everything they need in their current paddock.
Every evening I go out to the ‘egg-mobile’ to collect the day’s eggs. Collecting them every day keeps the eggs cleans so that the chickens don’t end up cracking an egg inside the nesting box. At the very end of the day I do my favorite chore: moving the cows to fresh pasture! Providing the cows with fresh pasture each evening is good for the cows and for the grass. This practice keeps their grazing area clean, gives the cows a fresh ‘salad bar’ each day, and allows the grass to not be over-grazed.
These daily chores may seem inconsequential at times, but they are the backbone of sustainable farming. Daily management is the key!
T he shade mobile is one my favorite tools that we use in the healing process of restoring our pastures. Allow me to explain.
As we all know, especially this time of the year, it gets HOT in our part of the country. Just like people, our cows have a hard time dealing with the heat. Their main tactic in beating the heat is to find shade and stay there as long as they can throughout the day. The only problem with this is that most structures that provide shade are fixed immobile objects that lure our cattle off of our pastures to lounge in the same place day after day where grass does not grow. To keep this from taking place, on our farm we fence out all of our wooded acres. This leaves our cattle on pasture 24/7/365, allowing us to capture the use of all of their manure and urine. This is a GAME changer folks!
Now this is where our shade mobile comes in to play. Since our cows cannot retreat to the woods during the day we provide them with shade via our portable shade structure, or as well call it, “the shade mobile”. The use of the shade mobile goes beyond just keeping our cows on pasture but it allows us to be very precise about where in the pasture we want the cows to hang out and where their manure and urine will be collecting. What this looks like on a day-to-day basis is this: as I move our cows in the evening to a new paddock bringing along the shade mobile, I look for the most infertile piece of ground and park the shade mobile over that patch. This may look like a spot where the grass is thin or maybe a place where briars have taken over. In the case of the thin grass the cows would not have spent much time here, as there is nothing for them to eat. Instead of leaving this spot void of manure we concentrate it giving that specific patch a kick-start to growing grass. As for parking it over briar patches we are able to have the cows stomp down the briars allowing more desirable grasses a chance to regrow.
All right folks, I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea here. Once again, management is the key, not poisonous synthetic fertilizers and herbicides.
D ear Coverall Friends and Family,
I am excited to announce that our new website has been launched and is awaiting your visit. It has been quite some time since we have reached out to everyone.
Let me take a minute to give a quick update as to what is happening on the farm these days. For some of you, the last time we spoke was last summer when I was headed off to intern at Polyface Farms in Virginia. I can proudly say I successfully completed their intern program and gained tons of valuable knowledge and experience. After returning home last fall I began working with our neighbor, Joey and Ramona Loudermilk, along with their daughter and son in law Jenny and Daniel Hord to help get their farm off the ground. After many exciting conversations we pulled the trigger on a wonderful partnership joining both farms together as what is now known as TurnTime Farms.
We still have the same mission and use the same practices that we implicated within Coverall Farms but at an accelerated rate. We are excited to announce we will be offering our very own TurnTime Farms grass-fed beef, pastured pork, as well as our pastured poultry and eggs that we have had in the past. We have been wide open this past fall and winter with big projects such as installing miles of fence and water lines for grazing our cows, building chicken tractors, and designing our pig paddocks. We are excited to finally have a chance to share what has been going on at the farm. We would like to invite you to check out our website, follow us on instagram, like us on facebook, and above all come out to the farm and see first hand what we are doing.