Sunday, January 31, 2010

Winter (Redux)

After a week of warmth, Old Man Winter returned to Tennessee with four inches of snow. The storm came in fast and heavy on Friday, leaving a thick blanket for the weekend. The sun came out today, the world glowed, and the animals at Ecotone enjoyed an uncommon brightness.

"The months of the year, from January up to June, are a geometric progression in the abundance of distractions. In January one may follow a skunk track, or search for bands on the chickadees, or see what pines the young deer have browsed, or what muskrat houses the mink have dug, with only an occasional and mild digression into other doings. January observation can be almost as peaceful and simple as snow, and almost as continuous as cold. There is time not only to see who has done what, but to speculate why."

--Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Monday, January 25, 2010

Porcine Love!

At dusk I was heading out to close up the hens and gather eggs when I topped the hill and saw a hog's head above the high brush. Looking closer, Rambo had mounted. I approached slowly and waited, and can confirm the successful copulation of Rambo and Sadie. Three months, three weeks, and three days until piglets (that's May 13th)!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pharming the Future

Jen and I have been talking about this piece for several weeks now. Notably, it was published in 2007, and to my knowledge this stuff hasn't made it to supermarkets yet. But is this form of meat product inevitable simply because, once they get it down, it will be easier and cheaper to produce? Will those who base their vegetarianism on objections to animal suffering be satisfied with this? That is, with no pig to suffer, is it bacon for all? Or will it now be possible for all 6 billion of us to eat meat "sustainably"? Thoughts welcome.

Egg Count 2

While all the animals made it through the winter weather fine, the daily egg count is down a bit from where I would otherwise anticipate it. During the coldest of the cold weather, the egg count dropped to 3.5 dozen a day. Yesterday, the ladies laid 4.5 dozen. It is raining steadily now, and I think we're all looking forward to some better weather.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Welcome Rambo!

On January 12th, the newest permanent resident of Ecotone arrived: a fine young boar named Rambo. Like Ruby and Sadie, he is a Red Wattle hog -- a heritage breed esteemed for their pork and their ability to perform well on pasture -- and soon enough we hope he will become the father of piglets. In the video below, you can see that he is significantly smaller than the two ladies, but also that he's becoming friendly with them (at least enough that they let him sniff their piss).

Friday, January 8, 2010

American Roots

A few relevant selections from John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley: In Search of America. Charley is a standard Poodle who accompanied Steinbeck on his journey cross country, and because of his distinctive affect is almost certainly a distant grand-dog of Ozark.

"It occurs to me that, just as the Carthegenians hired mercenaries to do their fighting for them, we Americans bring in mercenaries to do our hard and humble work. I hope we may not be overwhelmed one day by peoples not too proud or too lazy or just too soft to bend to the earth and pick up the things we eat."

"Driving the big highway near Toledo I had a conversation with Charley on the subject of roots. He listened but he didn't reply. In the pattern-thinking about roots I and most other people have left two things out of consideration. Could it be that Americans are a restless people, a mobile people, never satisfied with where they are as a matter of selection? The pioneers, the immigrants who peopled the continent, were the restless ones in Europe. The steady rooted ones stayed home and are still there. But every one of us, except the Negroes forced here as slaves, are descended from the restless ones, the wayward ones who were not content to stay at home....But that is the short view. Our remote ancestors followed the game, moved with the food supply, and fled from evil weather, from ice and the changing seasons. Then after millennia beyond thinking they domesticated some animals so that they lived with their food supply. Then of necessity they followed the grass that fed their flocks in endless wanderings. Only when agriculture came into practice - and that's not very long ago in terms of the whole history - did a place achieve meaning and value and permanence. But land is a tangible, and tangibles have a way of getting into few hands. Thus it was that one man wanted ownership of land and at the same time wanted servitude because someone had to work it. Roots were in ownership of land, in tangible and immovable possessions. In this view we are a restless species with a very short history of roots, and those not widely distributed. Perhaps we have overrated roots as a psychic need. Maybe the greater the urge, the deeper and more ancient is the need, the will, the hunger to be somewhere else."

"What I am mourning is perhaps not worth saving, but I regret its loss nonetheless. Even while I protest the assembly-line production of our food, our songs, our language, and eventually our souls, I know that it was a rare home that baked good bread in the old days. Mother's cooking was with rare exceptions poor, that good unpasteurized milk touched only by flies and bits of manure crawled with bacteria, the healthy old-time life was riddled with aches, sudden death from unknown causes, and that sweet local speech I mourn was the child of illiteracy and ignorance. It is the nature of a man as he grows older, a small bridge in time, to protest against change, particularly change for the better. But it is true that we have exchanged corpulence for starvation, and either one will kill us. The lines of change are down."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Happy New Year (from Ozark)

Winter Wonderland

After five days of hard freeze, the snow began this morning. The meteorologists forecasted 3-5 inches, but we got a dusting of Tennessee powder instead. Here are a few snapshots of the change in scene:

Ice Skating at the Pond

"Walden, being usually bare of snow, or with only shallow and interrupted drifts on it, was my yard, where I could walk freely when the snow was nearly two feet deep on a level elsewhere and the villagers were confined to their streets. There, far from the village street, and except at very long intervals, from the jingle of sleigh bells, I slid and skated, as in a vast moose-yard well trodden, overhung by oak woods and solemn pines bent down with snow or bristling with icicles."

--Henry David Thoreau, from "Winter Animals"