The Little House Cookbook

The Little House CookbookIf you’ve read the Little House series, your mouth was probably watering a good portion of the time. Hearty soups and homemade bread figured prominently in most of the books; Little House in the Big Woods was notable for maple treats and a huge supper at sugaring-off time; wild game abounded in Little House on the Prairie; and as for Farmer Boy—yum!

Perhaps you and your family wanted to try some of the old-fashioned cooking Laura Ingalls Wilder described so vividly. The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories by Barbara M. Walker will help you do just that.

This book explains old-time ingredients and cooking methods for the modern reader. While some of these ingredients may be hard to come by nowadays, some of them just might be accessible to those who raise gardens and livestock!

Most of the recipes are not quick or easy to make, but they are fascinating for their history. They remind us of a bygone day when meals were hearty and food was homegrown. They also provide uses for the produce of the woods, the garden, the field, and the barnyard. Consider some of these old-fashioned favorites:

  • Johnny-cake.
  • Corn dodgers.
  • Roasted wild turkey with cornbread stuffing.
  • Sourdough biscuits.
  • Doughnuts.
  • Buckwheat pancakes.
  • Succotash.
  • Pumpkin pie.
  • Homemade sausage.
  • Mincemeat.
  • Homemade butter.
  • Ice cream.

Are you hungry? If you have the time and the ingredients, you may want to explore some of the old-fashioned cooking in this book. If nothing else, though, The Little House Cookbook is a great source of information on food and cooking in the late 1800s. Enjoy!

Highland

Highland

The north Atlantic coast of Scotland is a particularly wild, rugged region. Little wonder, then, that both its people and its animals were equally wild and rugged, well suited for a struggle for existence in a harsh climate.

One of the hardy animals that has made its home in Scotland since time immemorial is the Highland breed of cattle. Small, hairy, and horned, it could fight both bitter winters and savage wolves—and win. No other breed could have survived in such unforgiving conditions, and the old Scottish crofters (small-scale farmers) valued its hardiness.

Highland cattle made existence possible in Scotland. Their strength could be used to haul heavy loads, their hair could be spun into durable clothing, and their milk and meat could be used for food. Some crofters even brought their cattle into the house at night to heat the upper story!

Between 1760 and 1820, the British recognized the value of Highland beef. Tens of thousands of cattle were driven south to the border country between Scotland and England to be fattened on lusher pastures. These cattle drives served two primary purposes: they fed the growing industrialized population of England, and they brought commerce to the Scottish Highlands, ending the days of the clans. Some of the descendants of the Scottish cattle drivers would also go on to start the cattle drive era in America.

It is unclear when the Highland first came to North America. Although it may have arrived with Scotch-Irish emigrants at an earlier date, the first recorded importation was to Manitoba, Canada, in 1882. As the Highland proved itself in that cold climate, cattlemen in states such as Montana and Wyoming started their own herds to improve some of the less hardy but more popular beef breeds. From there the breed spread across America, and by the early 1950s Canada and America were regularly exchanging Highland cattle.

The Highland is now found in small herds (called folds) all across America. Thanks to its toughness and unique appearance, it won a steady following right from the start, and the recent enthusiasm for small farms, heritage breeds, and natural foods has brought it unprecedented attention.

Popularity never comes without risks, however. The Highland breed is currently caught in a tug-of-war between the conflicting interests of the show ring and the commodity market. Some bloodlines are raised mainly for looks, while others are bred to be fast-growing producers of conventional marbled beef. What will become of the traditional hardy Highland remains to be seen.

Uses

In America, the Highland largely has a reputation as a novelty animal kept mainly for its good looks. Although it does make a good pet, tourist attraction, or photographer’s model, the Highland has so much else to offer.

The breed performs very well as a lean beef animal in low-input and organic systems, particularly when direct marketed. For more conventional beef, it can be crossed with a marbled breed such as the Angus.

The Highland also does moderately well as a homestead dairy animal. Its milk is very suitable for products such as cheese and butter.

The breed can also pull a plow or a wagon, clear land of brush, and protect sheep from predators. Its horns can be polished for decorations, and its hair can be spun into yarn. Even its hide makes a good blanket or rug.

Temperament

The Highland is one of the few breeds of cattle that still has its natural instincts. Its quiet self-confidence makes it a docile, reliable animal, one that even beginners can handle with ease. It does not stress easily. Even the bulls, though still potentially dangerous, are fairly good-natured.

But Highlands are not lazy pushovers! They are incredibly intelligent and athletic. If they tire of their present situation, they will make a quick escape.

Also note that, while quite mannerly if handled on a routine basis, Highlands can become wild if they are not exposed to humans regularly.

Other natural instincts that the traditional Highland exhibits are a strong herd instinct and an aggressive demeanor toward predators. The cows carefully hide their calves when grazing, and the calves do not stray from their mothers. Unfortunately, some of these instincts have been lost in Highlands bred for commodity beef production.

Health

The traditional Highland has an incredible immune system and a sound body structure. Combine this with an even temperament not prone to stress, and the result is a breed with few health problems.

There are only two main health concerns that most owners will have to worry about—heat stroke and overgrown hooves. The first is mainly a problem in calves that have not started to shed yet, and the second can be avoided with regular hoof trimming.

Unfortunately, Highlands bred for commodity use tend to have more health problems. This fast-growing variety is known for structural breakdowns in the legs and udder.

Pros

  • Availability.
  • Affordable prices.
  • Remarkable tolerance of long-distance shipping.
  • Temperament suitable for beginners.
  • Extreme hardiness.
  • Hardiness against predators.
  • Small size that is easier on pastures and allows for higher stocking rates.
  • Exceptional cold tolerance.
  • Self-sufficiency.
  • Ability to thrive on poor pastures.
  • Taste for undesirable weeds and brush, including cedar and poison ivy.
  • Longevity; calves annually until 15 to 20 years old.
  • High fertility.
  • Calving ease.
  • High survival rates.
  • Excellent mothering instincts.
  • Milk production ideal for homestead use.
  • High butterfat content.
  • Good meat yield.
  • Very lean beef.
  • Rich taste, comparable to bison.
  • Fine texture.
  • Low fat and cholesterol, but high protein, according to Scottish Agricultural College.
  • Great hybrid vigor when crossed to other breeds.

Cons

  • Variable quality; some bloodlines have issues with health and temperament.
  • Strong dislike of confinement.
  • Dangerous horns.
  • Long hair, which may gather mud.
  • High-maintenance hooves.
  • Trouble with ticks and lice in hot weather.
  • Poor heat tolerance.
  • Late maturity.
  • Low milk production.
  • Slow to finish for beef.
  • Meat easily overcooked.
  • Poor prices in sale barns because of horns and hair.

Helpful Resource

Choosing a Breed of Cattle

Choosing a Breed of Cattle
Is the Highland right for you? This book will help you assess your five needs and make that decision. Includes a brief profile of the Highland breed. Free sample pages are available here.

Complete Series
Cattle Breeds

Cattle Breeds

USDA Releases Preliminary 2012 Census Results

USDA Releases Preliminary 2012 Census ResultsOn Thursday, February 20, the USDA released the preliminary results of the 2012 Census of Agriculture.  The census shows that while the number of farms in America continues to gradually decline, the value of farm products sold in the United States has increased by 33% from 2007.

Here are a few of the highlights of the census:

  • Sales values of agricultural products were up, mostly due to a 48% increase in the value of crops sold between the two census years.  In 2012, farms across the country sold nearly $395 billion in agricultural products compared to $297 billion in 2007.  Average sales per farm were $187,093 in 2012 compared to $134,807 in 2007.
  • For the second time in census history crop sales exceeded livestock sales in 2012.  Crop sales were valued at $212.4 billion, while livestock sales were $182.2 billion.
  • The downward trend in mid-sized farms continues.  Census results show that the smallest- and largest-size farms held steady.  2012 census results show 2.1 million farms in the United States compared to 2.2 million in 2007.
  • The American farmer is still getting older.  The average age of farmers is now 58.3 compared to 57.1 in 2007.

Of special interest to Kansans:

  • Kansas ranked 6th in the nation in total ag sales, 9th in crop sales, and 5th in livestock sales.
  • The value of ag sales was nearly $18.5 billion in 2012 compared to $14.4 billion in 2007.
  • There were 61,773 farms in the state in 2012 compared to 65,531 in 2007, a decrease of 6%.
  • The average size of a farm in Kansas is 747 acres.

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) continues to review the data at the county level.  A release date for the final census results has not been announced yet, but NASS Administrator Cynthia Clark indicates that the final report will be published in May.

 

Helpful Resource

U.S. and State Data
Here you can view the preliminary report by the numbers.  Or view just the highlights.

Starting a Garden or Orchard: Logistics

Starting a Garden or Orchard: LogisticsHopefully by now you have chosen an ideal location for your garden or orchard.  Don’t start digging yet, though!  You still have a little more planning to do, and one of the things you need to think about is how to make your garden as navigable as possible.  You will be spending a lot of time out there in the near future—you might as well make things easier on yourself!

This means that you will need plenty of room to walk.  If possible, allow for paths at least two feet wide throughout the garden.  These paths don’t have to be elaborate, just wide enough that you won’t trip yourself up.  Make sure you give yourself plenty of walking space in these key areas:

  • Between rows of plants.
  • Between raised beds.
  • Between boxes or blocks in a Square Foot Garden.
  • Between the fence and the plants or beds.

How you make your paths will depend on the circumstances.  Temporary paths through the row garden can be mulched with straw to prevent them from turning into a muddy mess whenever it rains.  Grass will be sufficient for a permanent path—as long as you keep it mowed.  If you want something a little more elaborate, consider wood chips or rock stepping stones.

With raised beds or cold frames, make sure that you don’t make the bed so wide that you can’t reach the middle of it.  Ideally, your beds should be separated from the fence by a path, but if you must put a bed flush against the fence, make it narrower to compensate.  Two or three feet wide is probably ideal in this situation, while a free-standing bed should be about four feet wide.

Finally, think about how you will get vehicles in and out of the garden or orchard.  If you have a very small garden, this may not seem like much of a concern, but you may think otherwise when you have to bring in the lawn mower.  On a larger scale, it’s very handy to be able to haul in a pickup load of mulch without running the risk of sideswiping the fruit trees, or to be able to back the tractor up to the garden to add topsoil without damaging the fence.  Place gates strategically, and give yourself some extra room to maneuver if you can.

Map your grand design out on graph paper and make a note of the beds, paths, fences, and gates.  But don’t shove the map into a drawer and forget about it.  Refer to it often as you modify or expand your garden or orchard.

 

Next week: Plant Selection

 

Helpful Resource

The Family Garden JournalThe Family Garden Journal
This Homestead on the Range book includes a map for planning your garden.  Learn more.

 

Complete Series

Starting a Garden or OrchardStarting a Garden or Orchard

 

Peterson Field Guides to Birds

Peterson Field Guide to BirdsPeterson field guides have been around for many years and are still favorites with nature lovers of all kinds. The bird guides have an especially good reputation, and justly so.

What makes the Peterson bird guides so useful?

  • Color plates that point out key differences between similar birds.
  • Plates devoted to special identification challenges, such as birds in flight and differences between juvenile and adult plumage.
  • To-the-point descriptions with emphasis on key characteristics (field marks).
  • Detailed range maps in the back.
  • Convenient size.

Peterson Field Guide to BirdsThere are several Peterson field guides to birds available—an eastern/central guide, a western guide, and a larger guide covering all of North America. Birdwatchers tend to be picky about the size of their field guides, however—a cumbersome book is not likely to be appreciated outdoors. Therefore, it is often helpful to buy either the eastern/central or the western guide, depending on where you live. The map below shows the area covered by the eastern/central guide.

Peterson Field Guide to Birds
Area covered by eastern/central guide

Additional features include a regional life list of birds, a comparison of bird silhouettes, birdwatching tips, and diagrams showing the parts of a bird.

The Peterson bird guides make identification easy:

  1. Quickly locate the correct color plate.
  2. Compare important field marks.
  3. Check the bird off on the life list in the back of the book.

Fun and simple!

Hereford

HerefordThe Hereford, affectionately known as the Whiteface, is probably the descendant of a cross between the large black cattle of the Welsh and the small red cattle of the Britons of the Roman times. The original Herefords existed as early as the 1600s in Herefordshire, England. In that day they were primarily draft animals, although surplus calves and oxen past their prime were consumed. Herefords were not specialized for beef until around 1742, when the Industrial Revolution increased the demand for meat in Great Britain.

The first Herefords in America were imported in 1817 by the famous statesman Henry Clay of Kentucky. These cattle interested many Americans, but the Industrial Revolution had not yet begun on our shores. A specialized beef breed was of somewhat limited use, and Clay crossed his Herefords with the dual-purpose Shorthorn in an effort to avoid inbreeding. In 1840, however, William H. Sotham and Erastus Corning of Albany, New York, established a purebred herd of 22 Herefords. This time the cattle maintained their foothold in America and were used to feed swelling population centers on the East Coast as the Industrial Revolution dawned in New England. More importations followed, and slowly the Hereford expanded across the growing nation.

The end of the Civil War marked the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in most of America. It also marked the beginning of a Hereford-dominated beef cattle market. Texas Longhorns filled the demand for beef immediately after the Civil War simply because there were so many of them available so cheaply, but they could not satisfy the flourishing tallow industry. Tallow was a critical product in that day because it had so many uses ranging from soaps to candles to lubricants. The Texas Longhorn was too lean to produce much tallow, and in the haste to drive well-fleshed beef steers up to the railheads the leanest, toughest cattle were typically left behind on the range to breed the next generation of calves. Hereford breeders saw their chance and began promoting their cattle heavily at shows and exhibitions. In the 1880s, over 3,500 head of Herefords were imported to America. In short order, the easy-keeping Hereford was the number one beef breed in both Canada and the United States.

This trend lasted until around the 1960s, when consumers demanded leaner beef and feedlots demanded cattle that would more efficiently convert grain to muscle. In the 1970s, a wave of massive, lean Continental breeds that would not grow obese in the feedlot overspread the nation. To compete, seedstock producers created the modern Hereford—a longer, taller animal that would not fatten quite so readily. Of course, not everyone agreed that this was the right direction in which to take the breed, and the miniature Hereford was created in protest. A few far-sighted breeders also hung on to their mid-sized classic Herefords, predicting that breeding for larger frame sizes would have serious repercussions, particularly in the areas of fertility and overall soundness. They were right. The bigger Herefords had a variety of health, fertility, and occasionally temperament problems that damaged the reputation of the breed for a time.

HerefordBut many Hereford breeders eventually caught on and worked hard to bring back the hardiness and excellent reproductive capabilities of the old cattle. Part of the impetus to do so came from a new source of competition—the Angus, a smaller breed historically known for fertility and resilience. Additional efforts to create a more marketable breed produced the Black Hereford, developed in the 1990s for breeding Black Baldies without the occasional “Red Baldy” offspring sometimes seen in Angus x Hereford matings. The recent development of the Certified Hereford Beef program may also have contributed to the Hereford’s comeback.

The classic red Hereford is currently the second most popular breed in the nation, partly because of its proven versatility in crossbreeding as well as its other desirable characteristics, such as docility and high-quality beef. The newer black Hereford is also increasing in numbers on commercial operations, while miniature Herefords are becoming popular for small acreages.

Uses

The Hereford is one of the most widely used beef breeds worldwide and is especially favored in tough range conditions. However, it is mostly used in crossbreeding. Many well-regarded composite breeds have Hereford in their ancestry, and of course the Black Baldy is living proof that the Hereford has much to offer. The reliable Whiteface can even be crossed with a dairy breed to produce good beef calves.

In some parts of Canada, the Hereford doubles as a draft ox. Miniature Herefords can also make good pets although, like their larger counterparts, their primary use is beef.

A final, frequently overlooked use for the Hereford is crossbreeding with a dairy breed to produce a family milk cow. The Hereford element of the cross will ensure good disposition without lowering the milk production too much for homestead use.

HerefordTemperament

Herefords are renowned for their easygoing dispositions. They adapt readily to the presence of people at a young age and have very good manners—usually. Some of them, however, would prefer to act more like big dogs than cattle and do pose a bit of a safety risk to anyone who is willing to pet them! Even bulls, though alert, are quiet and respectful.

Health

It is important to purchase Herefords from a reputable source because there are still some bloodlines with health issues such as prolapse and arthritis. Another factor to consider is the white pigment, which is prone to sunburn. Many responsible breeders have gone to great lengths to address these issues, however. A well-bred Hereford will be sound and healthy, and will have some red pigment on its udder and around its eyes to protect it from the sun.

One issue common to Herefords that is harder to breed out is pinkeye. While cattle that get pinkeye year after year should definitely be culled, occasional bouts of pinkeye in the herd may suggest that nutritional needs are not being met, making the animals more susceptible to both the disease and the flies that carry it. That said, choosing Herefords with some pigment around their eyes will help prevent pinkeye, as the flies seem to be particularly attracted to unpigmented areas.

ProsHereford

  • Availability (reds only).
  • Extremely calm disposition, which is easy on both people and equipment.
  • Suitability of miniature Herefords for small acreages.
  • Great hardiness.
  • Extreme heat and cold tolerance.
  • Easy-keeping ability, especially in miniature Herefords.
  • Suitability for grass-based operations.
  • Early maturity.
  • Longevity.
  • Great fertility.
  • Calving ease in well-bred Herefords.
  • Strong mothering instinct.
  • Fast growth on few inputs.
  • Ability to finish well on grass alone.
  • High yield, particularly of valuable cuts.
  • Miniatures sized just right to feed a small family.
  • Great taste and tenderness.
  • Crossbred offspring highly regarded at sale barns.

Cons

  • Scarcity of black Herefords at the current time.
  • Wide variability in soundness, although this is improving.
  • Expense of really good breeding animals.
  • Tendency to get too fat unless kept on a strictly grass-based diet.
  • Purebreds sometimes docked at sale barns for red color and for horns (a polled variety does exist).
Helpful Resource

Choosing a Breed of CattleChoosing a Breed of Cattle
Is the Hereford right for you? This book will help you assess your five needs and make that decision. Includes a brief profile of the Hereford breed. Free sample pages are available here.

Complete Series

Cattle BreedsCattle Breeds

 

Silkville: A Utopian Experiment

Silkville: A Utopian ExperimentMore than one utopian dreamer has chosen Kansas as the place to found his grand experiment. A list of state ghost towns would be full of communities founded on some form of idealism—Victoria, the Vegetarian Colony, Silkville….

Silkville? Yes. One of those little towns started out with silk farming as its principal industry.

This experiment began around 1869 along Old Highway 50, about 3 miles southwest of Williamsburg, Kansas. The founder, Ernest Valeton de Boissiere, was a Frenchman disenchanted with the politics of his native country. His outspokenly socialistic views had earned him the disfavor of French President Louis Napoleon, and he had sought refuge in America after receiving a hint from the government that it might be a good idea to “go abroad for his health.”

De Boissiere took the advice. He came to America sometime around 1852. A school and orphanage for black children in New Orleans was his first visionary project in his new country, but he met with more opposition than he cared for and began looking for someplace else to experiment with reforms. In his travels, he happened to visit Kansas and was favorably impressed by the climate. It reminded him enough of the silkworm-raising regions of France to convince him that this should be the site of his next venture—a utopian community founded on silk farming.

Accordingly, de Boissiere bought 3,500 acres in Franklin County in 1868. He planted about 70 acres with mulberry trees to feed the silkworms, and the rest served as pasture for dairy cattle. De Boissiere also began seeking French settlers for his colonies, people who were tired of the political turmoil in their home country. Over 40 settlers answered his summons and, on paying a deposit, were admitted to the community.

The colonists were to share equally in the labor and the profits of the silk farm. They would all be provided with room and board, provided they paid their rent two months in advance. They were to each seek the interests of the others and to treat one another as they expected to be treated themselves.

It sounded wonderfully simple, but after a while things seemed to go wrong. Although de Boissiere made interesting discoveries about silk production in Kansas (for instance, that silkworms can thrive on Osage orange leaves), he simply could not compete with cheaper silk from Asia. He fell back on his more successful cheese business to support the community, but that did not work either. For one thing, the girls of the community were in the habit of marrying local farmers and moving out, depriving him of valuable workers. Similarly, many of the men seemed to have a deeply rooted instinct to either find jobs with better wages or to take advantage of the Homestead Act to start their own farms. Either way it was difficult to maintain a stable population of dedicated colonists at Silkville.

Silkville: A Utopian Experiment
Map of Franklin County; Silkville was just to the southwest of Williamsburg, toward the bottom left corner.

De Boissiere knew his experiment was a failure, and in 1884 he returned to France. Silkville struggled on without him for a time, but it was no use. The colonists abandoned silk culture in 1886. They continued to raise livestock until 1892, when de Boissiere deeded the property to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows to be used as an orphanage. He died two years later.

Today there isn’t much to see of Silkville. Most of the buildings were destroyed in a fire in 1916. A sign reading “Silkville Ranch” and de Boissiere’s one-room schoolhouse for the children of the colony still stand by Old Highway 50. Also still in existence on the nearby ranch are some mulberry trees, two stone barns, and a house made of the remains of the colony living quarters.

The best-laid plans of mice and men….

Starting a Garden or Orchard: Location

Starting a Garden or Orchard: LocationSo just where will you put your garden or orchard? If you live on a small acreage, your choices may be limited in this regard. However, you probably still have some options, so do the best you can with what you’ve got. Here are some things to consider.

 

Sunlight

Probably the most important criterion for a good garden location is sunlight. Most plants will appreciate as much sun as they can get, the main exception being cool-weather crops in summer. In general, therefore, you will want to choose a sunny spot for your garden or orchard. You can always cover a shade-loving plant with shade cloth, but you will be hard pressed to get sunlight to a warm-season plant growing in the shade.

Take a good look at where the trees on your property are located. A few trees as a windbreak on the north side of the garden may prolong your growing season somewhat, but trees on any other side may cause a problem. And don’t forget that those little saplings are going to shade the surrounding area one day!

 

Proximity

Your garden or orchard needs to be in a spot that you will visit frequently. The best place is by the house, since you’ll be more likely to pass it on a regular basis. Plus, if you need something for the kitchen you can run out and grab it quickly.

It’s even better if you can see your plants from the window of a room where the whole family spends a great deal of time together, such as the kitchen or living room. The garden will stay fresh in your minds and provide an excellent topic of conversation.

 

Temperature

Did you know that even a small yard has a variety of microclimates? In general, the areas that receive the most sunlight, such as south-facing slopes, warm up the fastest in the spring and stay warm the longest in the fall. But there are other variables, as well. For example, a house radiates heat, which will keep nearby plants warm at night.

One of the best ways to identify warm and cool microclimates is to go outside on a morning with some patchy frost on the ground. If possible, avoid planting a garden in the places where you see a frosty crust on the grass; areas with only dew are a better bet. This type of planning can help keep the growing season going as long as possible.

 

Drainage

Once you’ve narrowed down some of the possibilities, consider drainage. You don’t really want your garden to look like a pond in spring, so it’s best to avoid low spots. If you have no choice but to plant your garden or orchard in a poorly drained location, you may be able to do a little bit of landscaping to improve the situation. Build the soil up, and consider digging a drainage ditch or two.

Also bear in mind that your soil (see below) plays an important role in your drainage situation. Clay soils tend to drain very poorly. Adding plenty of organic matter will help.

 

Starting a Garden or Orchard: LocationSoil

You may not have any choice about the type of soil you’ll have to work with, but if your property is large enough to give you some options you may want to consider basing the final selection of a garden or orchard site on the dirt. Keep in mind, though, that sunlight, proximity, temperature, and drainage are far more important considerations. Poor soil can usually be remedied without too much trouble; a shady garden usually cannot.

The ideal soil type will largely depend on what you are growing. However, a good loam with a neutral pH will provide a happy medium that will suit just about everything you may decide to plant. Some perennials may appreciate either a more acid or a more alkaline soil, but for a diverse garden with frequent crop rotations a neutral pH will be more suitable.

If you have extremely acid or alkaline soil, however, you may need to correct it. Lime will raise the pH, while sulfur, sawdust, and peat moss will lower it. A particularly clayey or sandy soil should be corrected as well. In either case the solution is to turn in compost and/or well-rotted manure.

 

Toxins

Those of you with black walnut trees on the property may want to be careful about where you put your garden. Black walnuts release toxins that will poison many garden plants. If possible, choose a walnut-free location for your garden. Those of you with small acreages and little choice in the matter may still have success growing vegetables in raised beds, provided that you keep the beds swept free of leaves and nut hulls.

You may also want to consider adjoining land use and take steps to avoid inadvertently contaminating your garden or orchard with chemicals from your neighbor’s cornfield. One common practice is to maintain a buffer zone between an organic farm and a non-organic farm. For those of you who will be seeking organic certification, this type of planning is a must. For more information, please contact your certifier.

 

Next week: Logistics

 

Complete Series

Starting a Garden or OrchardStarting a Garden or Orchard

 

Found: God’s Will

Found: God's WillMany of us have some funny ideas about what God’s will is.  Too often we’re so busy looking for it that we don’t have time to actually do it.  Other times we’re pretty sure we know exactly what God’s will is: it’s the thing we absolutely do not want to do.

Neither of these perspectives is Biblical, as Dr. John MacArthur points out in his brief but excellent book Found: God’s Will:

As believers—people in God’s family—if we do not know God’s will, what are we?  Uniformed?  No.  Searching?  No.  We are stupid.

“That’s pretty rough,” you say.  “The Bible doesn’t talk like that.”

Oh?  Try this.  “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).  Can you think of another word for unwise?  I’ll give you a hint; it starts with “s.”

Dr. MacArthur then searches Scripture to find out just what the will of God is for every believer.  The conclusion is that God wants each of us to be:

  1. Saved.
  2. Spirit-filled.
  3. Sanctified.
  4. Submissive.
  5. Suffering.

The Bible clearly teaches that every Christian should see these five S‘s in his life.

But what about the things that are a little different for each of us?  What about those daily decisions we each face?

You may be amazed at the answer the Bible provides.

Found: God’s Will is an entirely Scripture-based explanation of how a believer can know and do whatever it is he is called to do.  It’s a little book; you can read it in only a couple of hours if you have a mind to.  But it contains a message that may set you free to be what God wants you to be.

If you find understanding God’s will confusing or intimidating, please consider reading this book!

Guernsey

GuernseyAs its name suggests, the Guernsey cow comes from the Island of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands located off the coast of France. Much of the breed’s earliest history is speculative. Some researchers suggest that Roman and Viking cattle were abandoned on the island and gave rise to the Guernsey. The most common theory, however, points to France for the breed’s origins.

This theory suggests that there were several breeds of French cattle, some of which had arrived there after a long journey from the Middle East via North Africa and Spain. The Guernsey has a unique type of beta casein in its milk which would point to the Middle East for its ancestry. Some of the Middle Eastern cattle probably arrived in Brittany and came to the Channel Islands in A.D. 960 with a group of monks. These monks were sent over by Robert, Duke of Normandy, to fight pirates in the Duke’s dominion and to teach the islanders how to farm.

The rich-milking cattle from Brittany were later influenced by more French cattle brought by more monks sometime in the 11th century. The new stock, a variety of the Normande breed, were also known for large quantities of high-quality milk. The two breeds mingled over the years, isolated from outside influences by the waters of the English Channel. The Guernsey was the result.

It is possible that some Guernseymen moved to America early in our country’s history, and if they did they almost certainly brought their favorite cows with them. The first recorded importation of Guernseys, however, occurred sometime around 1830, when a schooner captain named Prince took two heifers and a bull to his home in Boston. Another captain named Belair brought three cows to New York around the same time.

These two importations introduced America to the Guernsey, and the breed quickly became a favorite, first as a family cow, then as a supplier of milk for dairy businesses. More importations followed between 1850 and 1880. At first these cattle mainly found homes in the New England area, but their golden milk caught the attention of dairymen from across the country after the breed appeared at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Before long, the Guernsey was the dairy cow of choice, following Admiral Byrd to Antarctica and supplying American cities with nutritious milk. Their popularity rose to a peak from the 1950s to the 1970s, but by 1970 a new trend was beginning—mass production of Holstein milk. Although Guernsey milk was far superior in quality, no breed could outstrip the Holstein for gallons of milk per lactation. Decline was inevitable.

GuernseyAlthough the Guernsey is still one of America’s favorite dairy breeds, its fortunes have not recovered since the Holstein phenomenon began. In an effort to compete, some breeders are upgrading their Guernsey herds with the red-and-white variety of Holstein to increase production. Meanwhile, inbreeding increases as the breed’s numbers decline. It would appear that the Guernsey is currently caught between two conflicting trends—increasing milk yields to meet the needs of commercial mass production and preserving traditional characteristics to fill the demands of an increasing number of small farms. How the conflict will be resolved in this breed remains to be seen.

Uses

The Guernsey is primarily a dairy breed, one of the favorite choices of self-sustaining family farms and direct marketers of grassfed dairy products. The composition of Guernsey milk is ideal for making cream, butter, cheese, and yogurt. Interestingly, it is also just right for making a stable foam in specialty coffees.

Because the breed has many desirable characteristics, it is a popular choice in dairy crossbreeding programs. For instance, a Guernsey can be crossed with a Holstein to improve the temperament, calving ease, and milk components of the offspring. It can be bred to a Brahman or other zebu-based breed to produce a heat-tolerant dairy cow for tropical climates. It can also be crossed with any beef breed to raise beef calves.

Draft work is a less common use of the breed, but its steady temperament makes it a good choice for beginners.

GuernseyTemperament

Guernsey owners love the rich personality of their cows. They are kind, gentle animals with cheerful dispositions. Although Guernseys are not given to passionate outbursts of affection, by the same token they are not prone to fits of irritability, instead forming a quiet bond with their owners. They are intelligent cattle that pay close attention to their surroundings, although they do not spook easily.

Some Guernseys do have a domineering streak, but it is rarely directed toward a gentle but firm owner. Instead, they seem to take it out on the other cattle in the pasture.

Bulls, however, are another story. Most dairy bulls are notoriously aggressive, and the Guernsey bull is no exception.

Health

Although Guernseys are not as frail as commercial Holsteins, they are still prone to a variety of health problems ranging from lung problems to udder infections. Calves in particular tend to be delicate. Some of these problems are probably due to the increase of inbreeding in this breed.

Owners should also be aware that the Guernsey reaches puberty at a young age. Heifers should not be bred too early, or they may injure themselves by producing too much milk. They can safely have their first calf at around age two.

ProsGuernsey

  • Adaptability to most climates.
  • Excellent grazing instincts.
  • Ability to thrive on poor land.
  • Longevity.
  • Early maturity.
  • Decent fertility.
  • Calving ease.
  • Good mothering instincts.
  • Ease of hand milking because of large teats.
  • Steady milk production, even in hot weather.
  • Rich, flavorful milk and butter.
  • Good levels of protein, butterfat, beta-carotene, and other nutrients.
  • A2 beta casein, which is easy to digest.
  • Particularly high yield of value-added dairy products such as butter and cheese.
  • Ability to fatten rapidly either as a beef steer or as a cull cow.
  • Lean meat.
  • Excellent flavor of the beef.

Cons

  • Relative scarcity, and therefore expense.
  • Amazing ability as an escape artist.
  • Somewhat delicate health.
  • Limited selection of bulls to breed to.
  • Unusually long reproductive tract, which makes artificial insemination difficult.
  • Golden milk, which actually indicates nutritional value but may deter some customers.
Helpful Resources

Choosing a Breed of CattleChoosing a Breed of Cattle
Is the Guernsey right for you? This book will help you assess your five needs and make that decision. Includes a brief profile of the Guernsey breed. Free sample pages are available here.

The Jersey, Alderney, and Guernsey Cow
An old book in the public domain. Includes the history of Channel Island cattle, as well as information on how to select, feed, house, breed, and milk a cow.

Complete Series

Cattle BreedsCattle Breeds