Wednesday, July 25, 2018

obsolescence

The phrase planned obsolescence gained currency in the early seventies, concurrent with environmental concerns and the establishment of "Earth Day".  Today however, it is increasingly difficult to avoid the conclusion that much more was implied than we thought.  The "throw away" culture that was a concern then has expanded exponentially until today it includes throw away people, also known as the multi colored working class.

Consider the explosion of advertisements touting the value of daily home delivered meal packages, by use of, if not now, we are assured, soon, a driverless vehicle.  See where I am going?  Not only do we not need a driver to deliver, but what he/she/it would be delivering would be substitute food, food which would be machine made, thus probably void of much in the way of nutrients, to a home where people are most happily incompetent when it comes to preparing food.

The evident pride connected with all of this gives especial punch to the thought that human uselessness appears to be our modern goal.

Wendell Berry's useful little essay written more than fifty years ago gains currency as we go.  The title is a question:  "What are People for?"  Indeed!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Farmer thinking


Traditionally farmers have kept in their minds the idea that a problem can be a solution.  In these pictures, the rocks that must be collected and gotten off the cropping acres and especially the hay fields so that cutting equipment is not damaged can be used to firm up the generally soft soil at the entrance to a livestock area to help hold up the tractor or skidloader carrying bedding in or manure out.  Thus a problem in one place becomes, by means of work and thought, a solution in another.  Many barns and outbuildings formerly were built on foundations of collected field rocks, and for the same reasons.  The results of rock picking work also work well for controlling erosion by means of slowing water runoff.


A higher order of this thought pattern leads to thinking about using one enterprise to correct and improve another.  Thus, when free range laying hens are introduced into an area where hogs are fed, they will disrupt the fly cycle by scratching apart piles of wet wasted feed in their search for good things to eat.  The hens do not require much in the way of feed during the season, preferring instead the results of their own search and find.  The eggs are excellent, with bright orange yolks.

Flies are no longer a problem on the farm yard we share with the hogs.  But they do pester the cattle on their pastures and we are now in the process of expanding the egg production and making some of it mobile so that we may follow the cattle through the pastures with rolling egg laying houses, letting the chickens find what is out there that would taste good in an egg.  As one customer exclaims:  "Those eggs are like gold!" 



Saturday, July 14, 2018

cattle working

When it is time to handle cattle for treatment or sorting or whatever, there is a sequence of moves to be carried out.  First the herd is brought in from pasture.  The easiest way is chosen, and this is made easier so far as the cattle can be made to think it is their idea.  The human handler needs to have his mind engaged.  When the herd makes it to the yard, they land in a lot which is much smaller than the pasture paddock, and with more substantial fences.  After a calming five minutes or so, another gate is opened and the cattle are allowed to drift into an area close to the handling.  By this time the cattle are mostly moving themselves.  The fences and gates grow more substantial as they progress and if the handler understands them well, they grow calmer as well. 

After another passage of time, they are brought slowly around a corner to land in a well fenced box. The handler knows the cattle have a built in tendency to circle around him at a certain distance.  From there they will be brought up in the box, a few at a time, toward where they entered and calmly squeezed with a gate in a rough semi-circle until one of their number steps into the approach chute, which features seven foot solid plank walls.  The rest follow.  One at a time, they get to the working, or squeeze chute and put their heads into the headgate, where whatever procedure is needed can be carried out. 

Is it just me, or is this a pretty good description of what is happening to us humans sponsored by Silicon Valley and Amazon?   Our situation gets tighter all the time, more under control.  Ownership is being centralized, on the farm and everywhere else. All repair work is being abolished in favor of planned obsolescence.  Local retail is being put out of business, first by Wal Mart and Menards and Home Depot, and now by Amazon.  Soon the package delivery services and the Post Office they have crippled over the years will be owned and/or controlled by Amazon.  And like the cattle we keep stepping along, thinking we have a myriad of choices.  It is past time to ask what people are for.  The headgate is looming just ahead.   


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

heat advisory

Heat and humidity, seemingly on the increase, puts us here at Pastures A Plenty in the circumstance of needing to pay close attention to the livestock, providing shade, sprinklers and sometimes extra fans, while we watch ourselves for signs of heat exhaustion.  This weather, 92 degrees and humid, is dangerous. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

calves



 The snowstorm of April 14 and 15 demonstrated once again how powerful the life force really is.  As was pointed out before, we had two calves born before the event and then the cows took several days off.  The calves in these two pictures were all born since the storm, born wet and onto snow.  The boys got some corn stalks spread for help in getting them off the snow, and soon out of the mud.  You can see in the pictures how very hard this was on the pasture paddock, with the pugging and the mud showing, where they are being fed.  But there too, we can have some confidence that the same strength that is in the calves will also be in the grass.  Livestock farms teach this over and over.  Nature is anything but weak, if we would just try to stay out of her way a little. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

spring

It is a slow and difficult spring here at Pastures A Plenty.  Sometimes a livestock operation as exposed to the elements as is ours suffers from it.  And yet, we managed to luck out in the late April snowstorm.  Two calves were born before the storm hit and were doing well.  Then the cows took a five day break while the weather blew through before they started calving again.  So far, they are all happy and healthy out there.  Andrew needed to spread several bales of cornstalks to give the cows and new calves a way to stay out of the mud, with which we have been plagued since middle March.

Another big concern is the hog production.  We use bedding in every aspect of it and by this time of year our hoops and buildings are all bulging with mixed stalks, straw and manure.  We itch to start hauling to the pile where it will soon be applied ahead of the crop, but the frost is in very deep this year and is keeping the soil surface soft and wet.  Too soft and wet to haul heavy loads of manure out.  So we are faced with the choice of piling it temporarily closer to the yards and house and hauling it out when we can.  Extra work and an unsightly mess.  But that is what farming is sometimes. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

"Man shall explore without ceasing
and the end of all his exploring
will be to come to where he started
and know the place for the first time"
T.S. Eliot (from my memory)

How much better could our farming be if we kept this poem in mind?