Archive for February, 2012

Raw milk farmer Vernon Herschberger — the tragic reality of human kindness | The Bovine

Read this! If you know anyone in Wisconsin, please tell them to show their support for this farmer who is facing jail for standing up
against corporate agriculture and power hungry political hacks.


MOOoving cows

With all of the stuff I need/want to learn, I find navigating the techno stuff to be the most frustrating. I enjoy taking photos and videos of the goings on here but all I have at my disposal is my phone. Anywho, one of the principals I firmly believe in is that pasture must be rested and rotated. I’m trying to get myself more into a pattern of moving the cows on a daily basis, it’s just finding the balance of judging how big to make the paddock so that the cows eat down anything edible within 24 hours. So far, I haven’t got it quite figured out, for one thing, the grass hasn’t quite come in yet, and this pasture was overgrazed and abused previously. Each paddock is lasting about 3 or 4 days. So, with all that said, please follow this HUGE link to a video of moving our future milk cows out to a new paddock. This video is posted on my personal FB page, I tried to post it to the farm’s page but no luck.I came up with a new word: Techstration, frustration as a result of technology. Please enjoy the video and if you don’t like Blue Grass, you better find your volume controls.


On another note, our broiler chicks come tomorrow, so we’ve been working to get our brooder ready. One of the structures here was a corn crib and seems perfect for brooding. Perfect except for how the walls are all floating above the floor due to rust. I sent out an email to our farm subscribers about our coming meat chickens, and the response was good and strong so now I’ll post a link to our order form.



Monday Mission – Play in the Dirt

Oh alright, you got me. I stole someone else’s slogan. Hopefully Pike won’t get all freaked out over it. As a matter of fact, I’ll change one word and that’ll change the whole meaning. Instead, I’ll say Play in the SOIL. Have I lost you yet? Some folks don’t know the difference between dirt and soil. Soil is loaded with biological activity from worms, all the way down to the tiniest mitochondria. Dirt is all but devoid of any life. Soil that is rich in humus requires few if any inputs for growing all manner of vegetation. Today, the boys and I took an adventure into the world of soil biology while we planted potatoes.


Which came first, the milk cow or the milking stanchion?

We first discovered fresh raw milk about five years ago. I had been researching sustainable land management and pasture improvement, which led me to different farmers like Joel Salatin, Allan Nation & Tim Young. Through their websites, blogs, books, and periodicals I was also exposed to such organizations as; Weston A. Price Foundation, Rodale Institute, Eat Wild, and Local Harvest. After reading on the WAPF website about RAW (REAL) milk, I decided I had to get some. In Georgia, it is illegal to sell raw  milk unless it’s labeled as pet food, which is so idiotic because who is spending $6 -$10 a gallon for milk to feed to their cats or dogs? Anyhow, I followed a link to and found a farm near us that sold fresh milk in full unadulterated, unpasteurized, unhomogenized goodness. I couldn’t wait to take my first gulp. When we got home, I promptly took off the cap and poured a glass, without shaking. What I had was a glass full of cream and it was like drinking liquid whipped cream (actually that’s what it is). I hadn’t considered that the commercial milk sold in grocery stores has been beaten into submission by homogenization to evenly distribute the fat throughout the milk. I’m sure there is some other reason, like forcing people to have to by cream separately, perhaps one of you good people in the know can share your knowledge on this matter. Now if there is anyone who is reading this and finds themselves climbing up on a rickety soapbox to defend the horrid practice of pasteurization, I suggest you study the two websites I provided links to and get educated. Chances are, most of you reading this are open minded, capable of thinking for yourself and willing to appreciate facts supported real life experiences. Anyway, on with my tale.

People once had an intimate relationship with their milk cow. They could just walk to her in the field and help themselves.

One of the attractions for me to farming, was the prospect of keeping my very own milk cow. Now we have two who are due to calve in just a few weeks. One invaluable tool that most any dairy farmer has is a milking stanchion. The purpose of the stanchion is to help hold the cow in one spot while she is milked. It’s also invaluable in training a heifer who is milked for the first time. Even though our farm was once a dairy farm, no cow has been milked here in possibly 30 – 40 years so any stanchions, headgates, and such are long ago rotted away. Building a milking stanchion was a priority so I got my self busy. I talked with my friends, the Hammonds, over at My Dad & Me Family Farm, looked at their stanchions, made some notes (which got washed), checked out some blogs, called David and Daniel Hammond a couple of times to ask their dimensions again, paced around the barn, scratched my head, gathered some materials, then plowed ahead.

Because I have one young cow who was never handled until I got her, I wanted the stanchion to be strong enough to withstand any wild activities but still versatile enough to be easy to use. My material list was fairly simple; four 4″x6″x8′ posts, four 16′ long 2″x6″ boards, 6 sacks of concrete mix, screws, lag bolts, and carriage bolts. Since our cows are Dexters, our stanchion could be a good bit smaller than what most farms use. I planned on setting the posts 28″ wide and 54″ long.

The first thing I did was to find a fifteen year old boy to do a share of the digging.

We had to start each hole with a digging bar because this old clay was hard as stone. Once the top 4 – 6″ was loosened, the clamshell posthole diggers did fine.

The digging bar.

I set each post to around 24″ deep.

As I set each post, I check to see that it’s plumb.

As I set the second, third, and fourth posts, I measure to ensure everything is more or less square and even.

All posts get a good surround of concrete, the first hole took barely one bag, the third and fourth took almost two each. (I had to find some wiggle room to keep things square.)

 Next, I fired up my chainsaw and mortised out holes for the rails. This is probably the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done with a chainsaw. DO NOT attempt this unless you are very experienced, have a very sharp chain, and You aren’t so comfortable that you’re complacent. Complacency kills. Note the trail of the chainsaw traveling up the post.

I did it this way so that I could remove the rails for easier access to the cow, and to make releasing the cow a little easier.

Here is Carla giving the stanchion a test run.

For the rails, I just set the 2×6 boards through the slots and then cut them to the size I wanted. I had a lot of scrap boards from other projects that I used to frame in the top and the supports for the head gate.

Next I used carriage bolts to secure the bottom of the 4×4’s to the bottom, and then we drilled a series of holes so the head gate could be adjusted to trap the cows head. Control their head, you can pretty do whatever needs doing.

As you can see, it works! For my first stanchion, I’m quite pleased with myself.

Now we just need some calves on the ground to get the milk flowing!

Learning the Hard Way

When we decided to go for this property to pursue our farm dream (not MINE ours), one of the reasons we went for this property was because it came with two houses. One is the main house, built in 1945, that we live in and the other is a small, ok tiny, cottage which was built a few years later. The cottage was still occupied by renters when we acquired the property. We knew there was work to be done to them both, the cottage more so. The occupants were given a 30 day notice, without conflict, and I got a quick peek inside. Some paint on the walls and ceiling, replace the carpet with some linoleum, and we’ll have an automatic source of regular income, right? Right?

After the prior tenants moved out, with some conflict, I finally got started on the cottage. As I mentioned in a previous post, there were four layers of carpet. Yes, FOUR. I felt like I was in some bizarre Twilight Zone episode where I was doomed to pulling up nasty, dirty carpet that never ended. Well, the carpet did end, at the mostly rotten floor. So, I start pulling up the floor boards. Tongue and groove floor boards. Why do I make a distinction about the boards being tongue and groove? These two houses were built at a time when there was no such thing as plywood or sheetrock. Wood was so plentiful, that floors, walls, and ceilings were all constructed with boards that are 3-4″ wide, 3/4″ thick and fit together via a tongue and groove system. Oh yeah, nails. Lots of nails. To make a long, uninteresting story less so, I had to replace the entire floor system and all of the walls. So now we’re ready to rent it, not so fast. We went through a number of applicants who all found things that they wanted done first, ok I admit there was still some trim to nail up and some painting that needed doing. What it boiled down to though was that it is so small, 400 square feet small with no closets. It seems that even people looking for a cheap rental, have a lot of stuff. Then along comes  someone I’ll just call Jack. Jack, like everyone else I’d met had a story about his hard times and troubles. Well, against my better judgement I settled for Jack because he said he’d be able to take care of whatever else needed to be done, music to my ears because in case you didn’t notice, I’ve a lot going on. In the end, Jack was a nightmare but I accept  that I made some major mistakes, the worst of which was to let him move in before signing a rental agreement, stupid I know. In the end I finally got rid of Jack, who left behind a lovely mess.

Besides a mess, we were also left with some questions. Do we really want to be landlords? Are we comfortable having a stranger, no matter how well they check out, on the same property that we live on? Even more important, we questioned the wisdom of having said stranger on this property while I am gone for 24 hours to work at the fire station. We both agreed that the answer to all of the above was NO. Our next next question for ourselves was what to do with this cottage and the lack of income. First of all, we’ll be making it into a “store” where customers can easily purchase our farm fresh produce without having to knock on our door and stand somewhat awkwardly outside while they wait for us. Slowly but surely, we’re figuring out the direction we are going.

Power Steer – New York Times

So what’s the big deal with red meat? For over a decade now, we’ve been hearing more and more caution about consuming beef. Why? Beef consumption has been linked with the rising statistics in cardiac disease, obesity, and even cancer. But is it really the cow’s fault his flesh has contributed to this health epidemic? Or is there something more? Michael Pollan, who has written a number of best sellers, among them “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” wrote the following article about his experience researching the commercial beef industry.  Power Steer – New York Times.