Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In Gene Logsdon Country, Part One

I have been missing my goal for posting frequency on this weblog. Part of the reason is my natural verbosity, and an inability to master the art of  brief but frequent blog posts. Our friend at Auburn Meadow Farm wrote me today, and I realized that I have not shared any of my impressions of the ADCA meeting, show and sale.

The trip itself was eventful. Mapquest led me to Fort Wayne Indiana on a route past the hometown of one of America's greatest living agrarian writers, Gene Logsdon.  Gene Logsdon is on of the greatest influences on my life, my favorite author, and seeing the landscapes that formed him was a great treat. While I comment once in a while on his blog, my regard for him makes me somewhat starstruck. Part of me wanted to drop off a couple of pounds of  free samples of our  Gibsondale Cheese, but like many writers, I understand he shuns visitors.

As a major Gene Logsdon fan,  I was somewhat chagrined that the town of  Upper Sandusky did not honor their most famous son in their welcome sign. The town does remember  its original inhabitants, who apparently made their peaceful  last stand there. Gene often writes about homesteaders, agrarians and other rural folk as "Ramparts People", and the connection to the Wyandot Indians is not lost in his thinking

"The voice of the turtle can be heard again, ringing through the land, as the old Wyandots and Mohegans who once roamed my farm would say-a new surge of creative energy that moves the earth in a direction of self-redemption and sustainability that not the richest PAC nor the oldest institutionalized claptrap can stop".

Next Time......................How the Contrary Farmer changed my life

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Hopeful Signs of Agrarian Revival

My off farm urbanist business occasionally requires me to be apprised of local news. In the last couple days while searching for local matters on google news I found two encouraging agrarian stories.

Hand mowing contests are returning to  Yankee country fairs. Even the Wall Street Journal  recently noted the Scything revival. 
The first one: of all places, the Wall Street Journal ran a story about Scythes as a superior alternative to the weedwacker. I have two Marrugg Scythes and love them. The article is a bit obtuse about the differences between Austrian style blades and stamped American blades. I would also question whether a scythe instructor is necessary.  Some reading and youtube watching followed by thoughtful practice can accomplish a lot and my mantra in life is the Chesterton quote that "anything worth doing is worth doing badly."  In spite of these small flaws, the fact that a major paper in darkest New York City is doing a story on scythes is pleasantly shocking. 

The second story is from the New York Times and discusses some the the economics of the growing small farm movement.   Apparently among other things, cheap migrant labor is not as plentiful as it once was, and  produce from small family worked plots may become more price competitive. If this trend continues,  my expectation is that large corporate agribusiness will respond by lobbying for more regulations on farmers markets and the small growers (all in the name of "food safety").
For now though, I am just encouraged.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

An Agrarian Hymn

We are having a dry year, though nothing like what the midwest is seeing.  "Oh that this dry and barren ground in springs of water may abound........." The musician,  Tim Eriksen,  captures the feel of what I imagine much early American music sounded like, and I love the agrarian imagery of this hymn.  I hope it inspires your Sunday too.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Gibsondale Cheese Company

 A Kerry and Holstein cow on their way in to make milk for the Gibsondale Cheese Company

I am just back from the 2012 ADCA annual meeting, show and sale. It was great time and the chance to talk to Dexter breeders from across the nation was well worth the long drive.  The trip will give me fodder for lots of blog posts, and helped sharpen the direction of my breeding plans

I unveiled Adam's current farmstead cheese lineup at the show, and the cheeses were well received. The farmstead cheese now has its own identity to differentiate it from the local cream line milk business.  With a bit of arm twisting, my talented wife prepared the website for the new endeavor; the Gibsondale Cheese Company.

The Gibsons were a prominent local farming family who settled western Pennsylvania from Northern Ireland in the years before the Civil War.  Where several of their farms met, was called "Gibsondale", and Gibsons are in both the Grossman and Dean family trees. (Sometimes I joke that local families are as inbred as our Kerry Cattle!). Dales are the term for a broad valley surrounded by low hills, and fit much of this area well.

We have no e-store yet for the cheese, but I would appreciate any feedback on the new website. I think "granny miller"-- AKA my lovely bride did a beautiful job.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Heritage Beef for sale in Western Pennsylvania

I am a fan of traditional roasts, cooked slow with carrots, turnips, and potatoes. In my book, that beats a steak any day.  This fellow looks like he is hiding some fine roasts under that red coat. 
I am pleased to announce that our friends from Auburn Meadow Farm have beef for sale from their rare and heritage breed Milking Devon Cattle.

On the surface, eating rare cattle might not seem like a good idea, but its actually the best thing for the breed. Rare livestock were bred for a purpose, whether milk, meat, eggs, draft or wool. If rare breeds are only kept as part of petting zoos, or menageries to satisfy their owners' ego, they will remain rare. If rare breeds can find an economic niche related to their original purpose, they will recover. I think the American Dexter Cattle Association is a good example of this. Twenty years ago, Dexters were  endangered and hard to find. At present there are  4 farms I know of with Dexters just within 15 miles of me. Part of the reason is the promotion of the Dexter as a practical cow for direct sales of tasty beef. As a consequence, the Dexter has grown in numbers from endangered to recovering status.
Rare breeds also offer a chance to create a resilient agriculture adapted to local conditions. Auburn Meadow Farm lies only a few miles form us, and Western Pennsylvania is a good climate for growing British cool season grasses. Our summers are relatively cool and we get precipitation from both the Great Lakes and the upper Ohio River Valley. A climate that grows British Grasses well, should naturally be a climate for traditional British Cattle and both Dexters and Milking Devons are a good choice for this area.

 Milking Devons have died out in England, where they originated. They survived in New England  mostly because of Ox Teamsters dedicated to the breed. They are now about as rare as Kerry Cattle, and most people are likely to only see one at a farm museum like Sturbridge Village. If they recover, it will because dedicated breeders and educated consumers got together over some good meat.

I saw the price list and Auburn Meadow is asking a reasonable price for their beef bought in bulk. If I did not have parts of our own three steers and a lamb in the freezers I know where I would be buying my meat.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Getting ready for the American Dexter Cattle Association Annual Meeting

I will be at the annual meeting, show and sale for the American Dexter Cattle Association next week. It will be held at the Allen County Fairgrounds near Fort Wayne Indiana. Here is a link for show and sale information. I will be bringing about 120 pounds of farmstead cheese for sale (made with milk from the Craighill herd)--- if I don't eat it all myself during the drive.  

If any readers are near Fort Wayne, it will be a great chance to find out more about Dexter Cattle by seeing lots of them and talking to breeders from across the US.

Hope to see your there!  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dexter Heifer Calf and Rat Terrier

Short post today as our weather has cooled off again and we have lots going on! I wanted to call the  heifer calf above  Craighill Mary Ann McCracken, but I can only have 21 letters for registration purposes. I need to figure out a contraction. Miss McCracken is the is the daughter of Chautauqua Lully, AKA "Peewee"  who was pictured in the dairy barn a few days ago. If you like history, here is a link to her historical namesake, a great lady. the heifer is a very active lively calf, and a friend has dubbed her "pogo stick".

If starting this cattle blog has taught me anything so far, its that photographing live animals is difficult. She preened her head up, then down. I tried to take these pictures from the inside of a then empty hutch next door. Our young Rat Terrier came to see why the boss was sitting down in a calf pen. While there, she got distracted by a snack! Lizzie the rat dog will eat anything nasty. Her favorites are the rotten lamb tails she finds in the pasture from banding and the sticky, smelly turds that healthy new baby calves expel. Oddly, she will not eat scrambled or fried eggs. No wonder Gene Logsdon recently railed about dogs licking babies.