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Home at Long Last!

Finally back at home, sweet home.  What a trip I had!  The last couple of weeks were very busy and quite dynamic.  I enjoyed every minute (ok, almost every minute) and learned a lot with respect to both sheepherding and my food research!  Oh, and about presenting at conferences as well.  I will write more about each when I have a little more energy.  For tonight, just a quick post to get back into the habit of writing.

I arrived back to quite a jungle in my yard.  My roommate had moved out in May, and there was no one to take care of the grass and gardens during my sojourn.  What effort I put into starting a garden has been almost completely negated in my absence.  I have to say I was quite discouraged, and remain so.  I’m not sure I have it in me to fix the damage and carry on.  I have so many other things I need to be doing this summer, and establishing garden beds at a house that nobody really cares about (and that I likely won’t be staying in past this time next year) is not the best use of my energy.  But we’ll see.  The landlord did come by on Monday and hacked off the three foot grass, which saved me the time of having to do so myself.  But the result is a lawn that looks half dead, and largely scalped.  The machine used to cut it is a ‘string trimmer mower’ (see photo here), and as you can see has no front wheels.  This means that you have to hold it perfectly even to get an even cut.  This, of course, does not happen.  So as the mower bumps along, it dips down and leaves big bald spots along with taller patches of grass.  Where the dogs had flattened the tall grass, the mower didn’t trim it at all.  I spent more than two hours raking up the cuttings, and will likely have to cut the grass again to even things out.  My reel push mower is useless for this job, the grass having gotten way too long.  Hopefully I can use it to keep things under control from now on.

To be honest, I think keeping grass short is not only a complete waste of time, but an environmentally unsound practice.  I don’t mind keeping the grass trim right around the doorways of the house, or near garden beds so that you can access them, but for the most part keeping a lawn is, quite frankly, a stupid idea.  I much prefer the concept of growing food or at least a field of wildflowers for all – especially bees – to enjoy.  The book Food Not Lawns (How to Turn Your Yard Into a Garden and Your Neighborhood Into a Community) offers a much better plan of action for your property.  And for a yard the size of mine?  A couple of sheep or dairy goats.  But of course there are bylaws against that, even out in the country where I live.  Again, stupid.  My next house will have sheep as lawnmowers – that’s a promise to myself.

So this week’s gardening time will be spent resurrecting the lawn and weeding the beds I had nicely weeded before leaving.  At least with all this rain that should be fairly easy.  I still have to empty my composters and work on the compost pile from last year.  Once that’s all done, I’ll see if there’s still enough time to plant anything!  I still would like to get some herbs going, but food crops are likely not going to happen again this year.

Fortunately my CSA is going strong and I picked up a wonderful load of food on Tuesday.  This week’s haul included of course lettuce and spinach, but also radishes, green onions, beets, rhubarb, sugar snap peas, herbs, and…strawberries!  Oh my these were good.  Yes, past tense – they didn’t last long.  What a delicious variety too.  I will have to ask for, and take note of, the variety for future reference.  I have learned that all strawberries are not alike, and it’s good to know which ones are to your taste for future planting plans.

I now have a fridge full of fresh food and I need to get down to cooking.  Also, I was welcomed back with fresh milk!  So much milk right now that I was able to get a whole milking just for myself.  That’s nine liters.  What can you do with 9 liters?  Well, for starters I skimmed off a full liter of cream and am going to make butter.  I turned 4 liters into yogurt (curing as I type) and the rest I am drinking.  Oh, how glorious to be drinking milk again.

I’ll sign off now as I’m still very tired and want to get an early night sleep.  In closing I’ll bring your attention to this study of two calves raised by Michael Schmidt – one on raw milk, the other on pasteurized.  The one raised on pasteurized milk ended up sickly, anemic and underweight.  Of course because of the small scale, the ensuing evidence would be considered “anecdotal” by ‘experts’, but the results are in keeping with other raw milk studies I have examined, most notoriously (and sadly disregarded) that of Pottenger’s cats, briefly summarized here.

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6 Responses

  1. I too let the grass get out of hand but it had some real downsides- I was swarmed morning and evening by mosquitos in the tall grass, I found the first tick ever on one of my dogs and now I have field mice (plural) taking up residence in my home. The grass within 20 feet of the house is now looking like sod. The sheep graze the backyard three times, before I mow in order to even it out. It keeps a dog on alert and listening to keep the sheep in this unfenced area.

    • I imagine it’s a trick to get sheep to mow the lawn for you, but you’re fortunate to have that ability. For now I’m stuck with a scary gas mower that chews up the grass much worse than stock. Hopefully now that it is short and relatively even, I’ll be able to use my little reel mower for the part around the house. As for mosquitos – I hear you! I have been eaten alive this week while trying to get things under control. Definitely a good argument for keeping some short grass at least around the house.

  2. With regards to raw milk versus pasteurized milk- I question just how natural is it for any species especially humans to consume the milk of another species well beyond the age where natural weaning would occur?

    With regards to the “experiment” were the calves fed free choice or di they consume an unnaturally large volume limited to two or three feedings? In my experience rearing lambs- those that get fed large amounts of either natural milk or milk replacer have poor stomach development and do not thrive like lambs reared by their mothers. By feeding small amounts frequently of milk replacer most orphan lambs outdo their same aged control lambs. Just my observations on animals in my own flock.

    • I agree with you that drinking milk of another species is likely not a natural thing to do (I question the same also of eating the flesh of another species). Certainly it seems that most forms of traditional dairy consumption is of milk that has been cultured in some way ie. yogurt or cheese. Apparently yogurt dates back over 5000 years! The injection of bacteria help break down the milk, likely making it easier for us to digest. I do find that raw milk is easier for me to digest than pasteurized, but likely I shouldn’t drink either. I try to consume most of my dairy as cultured products, and am planning to learn how to turn the extra milk I’m getting right now into cheese.

      Thanks for sharing your very interesting observations on frequency of lamb feeding. I don’t know what they did in the experiment (would be an interesting question to put to them) but the few people I know who have raised bottle calves & lambs do the 2-3 large feedings a day. It must be difficult to find time to do otherwise, unless you could rig up self-feeding system for them. Have you found a way around this?

      • I am blessed with a network of neighbors who are suckers for baby lambs. I have more volunteers than I need each day so I draw up a schedule so that nobody gets left out and nobody gets their offer to help abused. Sometimes I cart lambs in dog crates off property and pick them up on the way home from work.
        I take my holidays at peak lambing. I help with lambing at two small flocks so what goes around comes around.
        I wean lambs as early as possible. Once they are onto grain and hay I cut way back on their milk.
        I have sent a lamb out to nurse on a goat who lost her kids, but that was a rare exception.

        • Wow! you are very dedicated. And how wonderful that you have such a great support network. I expect that’s the secret to making farming work when you have to also work off-farm (and probably even more so when you are farming full-time, come to think of it). I definitely lack a support network where I live, and can’t even leave my cats alone for a day. I hope that will change once I get myself set up somewhere permanently.

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