Friday, August 5, 2011

Black and White Brethren

When one thinks of four-legged, black and white, bamboo eating animals, one would most often think of the panda bear.  After today, however, I will think a little closer to home.  (And you may, too!)  Why?  Well, we happen to have a small bamboo forest by our pond.  We call it a forest, it's more like a patch.  I happened to glance out there today and saw cows in our bamboo forest, munching away on what leaves they could reach.  I tried to get a picture, but the guilty little things came out before I could snap one off, choosing instead to pose in front of the bamboo.

I attempted to get them back into the pasture, but they just kept running from me, either around the pond at top speed or into the water.  As angry at them as I was, they were beautiful standing by the pond.

Free cows ended up being a battle all day.  They tore down quite a bit of bamboo and ate almost everything in our vegetable garden, including my rare heirloom Festivity corn (corn that looks like indian corn but is really sweet corn) that I was really excited about.  Luckily I have a handful of seeds that didn't fit in the garden I can try planting next year.  They chose to stay out of the garden full of blue Hopi corn, winter squash, and pole beans we planted for the livestock.  They came back into the pasture, by jumping the fence, during evening chores.  Guess they wanted to see if what I was serving for supper was any better than what they could find on their own.  I went ahead and put them into an extra stall in the barn.  We can't have them keep escaping, and it will cost a fortune to provide all their feed without pasture, so it looks like they may be getting butchered sooner rather than later.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Monsanto Field Day

Today I got to accompany my husband to Monsanto's field day in Union City, TN.  I thought this was my first field day, but looking back I did go to one in high school for roughly 30 minutes in one of my ag classes.  This one was much more memorable.  (I hope!)

We started the day at a 1-hour presentation about cotton, at which I more than quadrupled my cotton knowledge.  I learned all about white flowers and early vs late producing plants and cotton bolls and perfect weather conditions for each stage of cotton and how to tell how close a plant is to harvest by either counting bolls or cutting open a boll.  I also learned about defoliant (which I had heard of only once before) and chopping a field (which I still don't really know why or when).  I also learned that they use A LOT of chemicals on cotton: one or two chemical applications to kill weeds before planting, more chemicals at planting, more one or two weeks (or both) after planting, more as needed for weed and pest control, then one or two passes with a defoliant.  (Just listening to all these chemical applications made me want to run out and buy all new only!)   The great thing was, I thought of all kinds of questions, such as "is there a defoliant that is approved for organic cotton?" and "how does a cotton plant not look like a cotton plant" (which he had mentioned about one of the experimental varieties).  Unfortunately, everyone else in attendance was a real farmer with real farm questions (especially about pig-weed, which seems to be a big problem right now with the cotton), so I was left only wishing I had a guide to explain terms to me and to answer my more general questions.

Next we visited a presentation about weeds.  The plan seemed to be to talk about all weeds and Round-Up Ready products, but the farmers wanted to concentrate on pig-weed.  I did finally get to see this Pigweed (Amaranthus palmeri...a pigweed that is resistant to the protein glyphosate used in Round-Up Ready products).  I also learned about a pesticide that kills caterpillars from the inside out (which made me glad we don't use chemicals on our farm).

We finished out the day by checking out the corn varieties.  Nothing too exciting there: we are from Illinois, after all.  Overall, it was a very interesting, educational day.  And I don't mean to put down Monsanto at all and am sorry if that is how this blog has come across.  They do what they do well, it is just not necessarily the way I would choose to do things on our farm.

By the way, I Googled organic cotton when we got home.  According to HAE Now's article "Why Choose Organic", no defoliant is approved for use on organic cotton.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Got Milk?

A couple of weeks ago our Apline doe's udder started looking bigger on one side.  I didn't think much of it: we got her at an auction and don't know exactly how old she is, so maybe she was just growing.  Then today her udder was MUCH bigger on the one side, like full of milk bigger.

I cornered her, pulled on the teat, and MILK CAME OUT!!!  I got her up on the stand and milked both teats, getting almost as much out of her as we do each of the other goats.  I ran in and told Matt, dreams of a super-breed of goat floating around in my head, a breed perfect for hobby farmers who wanted the milk but not necessarily a billy or kid goats. 

Once I had come back to reality, I Googled the phenomenon and found out it is actually rather common.  They are known as precocious does.  There are all kinds of opinions on what to do with these does.  Some people milk them because it helps the goat to avoid mastitis and gives them a bit more milk.  Goats who are milked as precocious does can give as much as a half gallon per day if stimulated (about as much as our current two goats give together).  Others do not touch the doe and allow it to dry up, waiting for milk until after the doe has kids.  I read on one Homesteading Today post that someone had experimented with her precocious does, finding hers do best if she milks them up until bred then drying off...also finding those gave more milk after kidding than precocious does she did not milk at all.  One thing everyone agreed on was becoming precocious is a sign of a great milker: it looks like we can expect to get over a gallon per day after she does kid.  (Yeah!!!!!)

We discussed it and decided to milk her until she is bred.  We even discussed trying not to breed her since we are only interested in the milk and would be happy with a half gallon per day, but I couldn't find if there would be any negative consequences to that option.  For now, we will just enjoy this little suprise!