Life on the Farm

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.

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.