Farm Week: May 26, 2014

This week was an intense week on the farm, in a few different ways. On the one hand, we got quite a bit done. Our greenhouse tomatoes are pruned and trellised! Our fields keep filling up with transplants! We are (so far) keeping up with the cultivation! The sun came on strong and hot this week—we are apparently skipping spring for the most part this year. Our first CSA boxes went out this week, which included over-wintered leeks, pea shoots, asparagus, rhubarb, and mint. The relative scarcity this early in the season will be compensated for with some very heavy, full boxes later in the season. For now, though, we have a few spring delicacies to offer. 

The other thing that made this week intense was that we lost the family milk cow, Frida, very suddenly to bloat. Bloat usually occurs in the spring when cows return to the pasture after eating hay all winter. You can mitigate the risk of bloat by not putting cows out onto wet grass and by limiting access to very rich or high-nitrogen pasture until they become slowly accustomed to fresh pasture again. We did both of these things, and we still weren’t able to prevent it. It happened the same day that we had to deliver CSA boxes and drive feeder pigs to another farmer a few hours away, so we were all pretty busy. We brought the cows in after less than two hours on pasture, and there were no warning signs. Hours later, when we went to do the evening barn chores, we was gone. Once a cow is bloated there are a few last-ditch things farmers can try to save them. A risky approach is to use a needle or a thin knife to puncture between the ribs and let the air out. This comes with quite a risk of infection. Another option is to lubricate a length of garden hose and force it down the cow’s throat until it hits the rumen and expels the gas. Not a pleasant task, but you’d be willing to try it if it might save the family cow. But it’s a moot point, as we missed any window for action. It’s a sad thing to lose any animal, but a family milk cow is closer to a pet than any other livestock on the farm. Looking for that silver lining, we did just gain a milk cow in Redtop, so we won’t be without milk. Also, Frida’s calf from last year is a young heifer, almost ready to be bred. By this time next year, she’ll have a calf of her own, and Frida’s legacy will continue on the farm.

Thinking about: constant vigilance, setbacks, progress

Eating: asparagus, ramp, and morel omelets; homemade oatmeal and flax seed cookies

Reading: Steven Apfelbaum’s Nature’s Second Chance: Restoring the Ecology of Stone Prairie Farm, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic