What’s New on the Farm

A lot’s been going on around here recently.

We’re getting ready for winter. This means vaccinations for cattle, ear tags for calves, and selling off all cattle and lambs that we’re not keeping for direct marketing. Did a lot of work last weekend with Henry coming out from Madison and our local “custom guy” Kurt coming over with his head gate and his son, Corey, to help, and then during the week we sent the trucker to Premier with beef steers, to Waukon with cull cows and heifers, and to Fennimore with 50 feeder lambs. We end up shipping a lot of animals to conventional markets, but that’s okay. Until we develop more “local” demand for lamb and beef, we’ll just have to send beefers and lambs to local conventional sale barns. Everything went well, though I did pull some muscle in my rib cage when I yanked a fence post out of the chute, and I am suffering from my usual “oh, my, I get so sad when critters go to market” depression.

But there’s plenty to be joyful about. Despite the record drought, we’re in balance with feed and critters going into winter; the lambs we’ve saved for direct market butchering in December and beyond are beautiful; and we made three great ram purchases this fall for the flock–Texel and Charoloais yearlings as terminal rams–and a Katahdin ram lamb to breed the best ewes for ewe lamb replacements.

Besides this on the joyful side, in only two months, I’m going to be retiring from my off-farm work as director of MOSA, and devoting my time totally to farm, community service, and other new endeavors. Among the endeavors, I have a borrowed rug loom waiting and plenty of beautiful rug yarn from our wool sheep. And (picture below) I’m getting a new pet! Despite all the work with cattle and sheep over the weekend, Henry and I found the time to drive down to the Wisconsin River and meet Moon Baby, the Sicilian donkey that was up for adoption. His owners felt bad that he had no animal companions and as they travelled more in the winter, he was left alone more. Moon Baby used to pull a cart. Well, Henry and I thought he was a pretty delightful fellow and his owners approved us, too, so we bought the cart and harness and brought it home and next week Craig, the trucker and I will go down and load up Moon Baby and bring him home to the farm. Donkey Cart–here I go! Well, at least, we’ll have a new pet I can fuss over or at the minimum an addition to the sheep protection lineup–donkeys hate coyotes and stray dogs!

Even beyond this fun stuff, we’re moving into new frontiers with sustainability. Henry and I are really into getting a solar system on the farm; he’s into doing it and I’m prepared to pay for it. We’re gonna get there. Oh, how great it will be to be not only raising livestock in the most sustainable way possible–GRAZING!–but also supporting all this through solar generated electricity. Not just the water they drink, and the fences that contain them, but the power for the extras their humans need, too!

Here’s a picture of Moon Baby. He’s going to look even better, pulling me around in his donkey cart (love my 4 wheeler, but Moon Baby will be more sustainable) or guarding the sheep out on the pastures.

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