Milkstache

Today I was feeding cattle and found this little calf. He has a perfect and permanent milk mustache, and thus will be know as Milkstache. That little stache is the remnant of a genetically-dominant Hereford trait—the white face.

black baldy
Milkstache — the remnants of a bald face.

Our cattle are Hereford-Angus crosses, affectionately known as black baldy. As in, their hair is black and their faces are bald (white). The bald face of the Hereford is iconic. They are the cattle in all the western-themed art and photographs. However the Angus producers association has made the Angus breed a brand name– hence the Angus-branded packaged meat at the grocery store, and as noted on upscale steakhouse menus.

We used to be a pure breed operation. Herefords only. But the hybrid vigor of the crossbred cattle we have now is more suited to our climate and the economics of raising beef cattle. There is plenty of research in the animal husbandry world to support the complement of the breeds when crossed.

A gentle cow is a good thing to have with a little kid. This cow is eating a cube right out of Jdub’s hand.

I do miss the pure breed Hereford, but have come to love the black and white, bald-faced cattle we have now. Pure Herefords or not, one of the true legacies of our Lazy J Ranch is the demeanor of our cattle. They are gentle and docile. Most of them will eat right out of your hand.

We select for that gentle nature when choosing which heifers to keep as breeding stock and which ones go to sale.

I’m thankful that caring for our cattle and my family’s legacy are part of my daily to-dos.

Advertisements

The New Victory Garden

Gardening: the original patriot act. (source: Michigan State University)

I have been salivating over gardening books, seed catalogues, blogs and ag extension websites for weeks. It’s only January and I’m anxious to start a spring garden. My seed box has many great leftover seeds from previous growing seasons. There are numerous sources for all kinds of seeds—organic, heirloom, F1 hybrids, new plant breeds, etc. I want to plant them all.

Over the last three years, I’ve noticed a surge in the availability of heirloom and open-pollinated seeds. Considering the growing popularity of locally-grown, non-GMO or organic food, it’s not surprising that the market is meeting the demand. This trend toward organic and local foods has sprouted the long-dormant victory garden concept. Urban and community gardens have become all the rage in big cities and small-town classrooms.

The victory garden’s inception came during WWI, but really took off in America during WWII. It was a way for the war department to send all available food supplies to the troops. The idea was for private citizens to grow their own produce in their backyards, so the large-scale farm production could be sent to the war overseas. Eleanor Roosevelt championed the first victory garden planted on the White House grounds in 1943 to publicize gardening as a patriotic act. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 20 million Americans planted gardens during the WWII years.

Fall tomatoes collected before the killer frost 2012.

Today’s victory garden trend is a more grass-roots movement. People are driven by health consciousness, environmentalism, self-sufficiency, and the emerging “food culture” in America. Fueled by available resources focused on cuisine, there is a schmorgesborg of food blogs, print publications, websites, TV programs, all focused solely on cooking methods, recipes and food preparation. When celebrity chiefs cook, they use the best ingredients, which are fresh, locally-grown produce and meat.

Market demand for homegrown food—favoring organic, heirloom and specialty items—is the byproduct of our food culture. Thus, boosting demand for seeds, especially the unique and old varieties. The benefits of healthy eating is a major contributor to the new victory garden effort. The first spring in the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama created a kitchen garden as part of her healthy living initiative. Ironically, Mrs. Obama’s kitchen garden is the first White House vegetable garden since Eleanor Roosevelt’s.

Other groups advocating gardening are Americans who want to be self-sufficient, or are ecologically minded. There is also a group of people who are opposed to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). There is big debate about the long-term safety of consuming food from GMOs. Stewardship and nostalgia factor in too, since many gardeners and horticulturists want to preserve the world’s rare and unusual plants.

For me, I’m just happy these forces are culminating into a perfect storm for gardens and seeds, both rare in nature and scientifically cultured.

I love to see city folks growing nutritious food in whatever space they have available. It’s a reconnection to our roots (no pun intended) as Americans that carved out a way of life in a harsh and rugged environment. It’s also gratifying as an “ag woman” to see a renaissance of agriculture—growing our own food so we don’t have to travel, scavenge or starve. And the important lessons of knowing where food comes from; the work involved to grow it; and the patience required for a bountiful harvest.

I will be planning an entirely new garden space this year … more to come.

Ladybugs are a garden’s friend.