Tuesday, January 21, 2020

It's the How Not the Cow. Or Something.

So while all the world has become fake hysterical about global warming and meat and cows I went out and did the obvious thing of buy some cows.

Because if I'm managing things properly these cows will actually improve the soil and sequester carbon.  I'm not promising that I know what I'm doing but hopefully in time I'll work it out.  Books, YouTube videos, local farmers/workshops, a visit from a Holistic Management consultant mixed in with a pinch of panic and more than a few fitful nights are what I have to go on here.

The Mommas, Lily and Lucy

With their babies

They are hopefully, probably pregnant with the calves due in 6 weeks or so.  More books and YouTube and fitful nights coming up as I figure out what to do.  So far the answer seems to be, 'Not much'.  I saw one of those calves being born and the owner stayed well out of the way and let nature take care of things.  The calf popped out no problem, in fact one moment his feet were hanging out and I blinked and looked away for a moment and next thing he was out on the ground.  Hopefully things will go as easily this time around.  Both mommas are experienced and have had easy births in the past.  They're from grass fed lines the owner had spent 8 years building up.  He's getting older though and had to downsize a bit.  He still has cows and a pretty big farm operation going on but a smaller herd now.  I was so thrilled to have these cows, they were very well looked after and loved and very tame.  Lily will let me pet her as will the calves.  Lucy will let me pet her is she's distracted with fresh hay but doesn't seem to care for it so I don't push the point.  They respect the fences andso far have been very easy to manage.  I have to get a head catch type thing for possible vet treatments and I don't feel comfortable having a bull here so they'll be bred again with AI (artificial insemination) and will for sure need to be restrained for that.  More books, YouTube, fitful nights.

We did have a problem with Lily (and maybe more of them) eating the plastic fence posts.

I was at wits end with this and consulted a regenerative grazing group on Facebook who gave me some useful suggestions that led me to the solution of wrapping wire around the posts.

The cows all respect the wire and they're very observant.  As soon as I replace a naked post with a wire wrapped post, Lily came right over and gave it a good stare and sniffed at it.  So far it's working.

But yeah, lots of weird, unforseen problems and problem solving.  It's both fun and nerve wracking at the same time.

I love having the cows here.  There's something very calming about their munching and grass tearing.  And they make me laugh on a daily basis.


So far we're planning on keeping Moxie.  She has a wonderful temperament and seems to be turning into a nice looking heifer.  For all I know.

So far I'm not very pleased with my grazing plan or lack thereof.  The Holistic Management consultant was very helpful and calmed me down considerably but she came out once last July or August and what I really need is a mentor, someone I can consult on a regular basis.  I do consult the former owners from time to time and they are super helpful.  They've even come over to visit the cows and sometimes drive by when we're not home.  But I don't want to be a pest.  And they weren't really doing the type of grazing management I have in mind.  So we'll see how the pasture goes this spring.  We had a very wet winter and spring and the grass was totally out of control in May before the cows came.  Then we had a terrible drought over the summer, worse than last year, so the grass didn't come back in places as I was expecting.  We have irrigation water but not enough for such a drought and we're not sure exactly how much water we can take which is a post for another day.  I'd buy more water if I had a better idea and maybe a meter or something but I feel stupid buying more water when I'm not sure if I'm even taking what I'm already allowed.  Another problem to solve down the line.  Right now the fields are a muddy mess, melting snow and falling snow/rain mix right now.  I think the only answer is to keep at it and keep reading.  And keep better records.  I've been terrible about that but part of the problem is that I don't know what to record or how to record it (photos, videos, verbal description, all of the above?).  Better record keeping and planning are the goals for this year.

I go back and forth about whether I should write about the cows and if so how much.  A few years ago a farm not far from Boulder had and 'open to the public' day where they taught people how to process chickens and let them tour the farm.  A group of vegans showed up and stole a few chickens and made a scene outside the farm gates - https://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2017/09/18/denver-based-animal-rights-group-steals-chickens-berthoud-farm/678055001/

If they want to make a stink over at Tyson I'm all for it but this is a small, 5 acre family farm that was nice enough to open their doors to the public and teach folks a useful skill and a bit about regenerative agriculture.  And the animals were being treated really well.  But Tyson has security and money and power and this family does not so they're an easy target.

And while I'm not the least bit worried that a vegan group would target me given how isolated I am, I'm not sure I have anything to gain by bringing attention to myself.  On the other hand I think it's important stuff to share.  One of my big frustrations with my former fellow Boulderites was how they would jibber on and on and ON about global warming and their hybrid cars and how they are vegetarians on Mondays then the next moment start going on about their latest trip to Nepal.  With no sense of irony whatsoever.  And while what I'm doing here is a very very small thing, it's still something more than posting a Greta meme on Facebook next to photos from a trip to Costa Rica.  So we'll see how it goes but for now I'm going to carry on writing about this stuff.

Next up, chickens.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Photo Catch-Up and Keeping the Wild Places Wild

I thought it would be fun to post some of my favorite photos from the past year.  Part of the reason I gave up posting regularly on the blog is that I've felt conflicted about sharing photos of the places out here.  So many wild places are becoming trashed by Instagram and other social media outlets, I've become a bit cagey about listing specific locations in the photos I post to Facebook and Instagram.  And while I don't think my Facebook friends are going to come out here and trash the place, I wonder about this effects of this blog which anyone can access.  Colorado's Front Range has experienced enormous growth in the past 7-8 years and while there are many reasons I have to wonder about social media's influence especially on Boulder's growth.  I wonder if I'm partly to blame and I'm particularly loathe to call attention to where I'm living now.  But I do love to share the beauty of this area.  So for now I'm going to post some photos but keep some of the locations vague.

Colorado's only natural geyser

Morning Walkies

Somewhere along the Dolores

Somewhere in the San Juans

Mesa Verde and Various Other Archeological Sites

Somewhere in the La Platas

Does my ass make this bike look fat?

First sunset of 2020

I guess all of that hardly catches me up but it'll do for now.  More personal farm stuff later.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Fall of the Vegans

I know, I disappear for over a year then start back with a post that seems strange and irrelevant.  But somehow I couldn't let a whole year go by without a post and this issue is somewhat relevant to me and my current life so here we go.

It seems a strange topic given all the current mainstream hype for veganism and the various products you can buy.  Veganism is hitting the mainstream with a vengeance thanks to funding (investing) from Silicon Valley/Bill Gates and his cronies and Hollywood stars including James Cameron and his 'Game Changers' movie touting the 'benefits' of a vegan diet for athletes.  However the reality of a strict vegan diet is now starting to hit the early adopters in full force.  Perhaps most notably Tim Schieff, outspoken vegan activist/parkour athlete, has finally admitted the extreme toll the diet took on his health and athletic career, including the demise of his America Ninja Warrior career, and has started eating meat.  He was supposed to be included in the 'Game Changers' movie and they even shot footage of him but his health declined and he began eating meat before the movie was finished and he was taken out.  Of course they don't mention that in the movie because it's not an objective, scientific look at the vegan diet and athlete performance but rather pure propaganda.  Chris Kresser does an excellent job of debunking this film here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dq4Apc2Xk7Q  And yes, I'm aware of the debate/response to this also on Joe Rogan and all I have to say about that is that Chris Kresser is just too nice of a guy to deal with the aggressive, slithery James Wilks.  I'm more interested in science and truth than I am in debating skills and ability to dodge the questions at hand.  And given that this is a photo that his wife proudly posted on Instagram of her vegan shopping haul, I'm not inclined to take dietary advice from this guy.

Anyway, examples of high profile vegans finally throwing in the tofu abound.  There's a nice summation of them in this Vice article:  https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/j5ymak/rawvana-vegan-youtube-influencers-quit-veganism  The short version is:  Person gets sucked into vegan ideology, starts a YouTube channel gushing about how awesome they feel on a vegan diet, lots of videos about what they eat in a day, lots of high horse moral posturing about animals and the environment, health eventually starts declining and videos start trending toward spirituality and other topics as the re-branding subtly begins, then finally the tearful confessional 'Why I'm No Longer Vegan' video.  And there will be a lot of tears.  Then the puzzled response of, 'I can't believe you all are so hateful and judgemental', when the inevitable backlash hits the fan.  And of course more tears.  Then the cheerful 'starting my life over anew' video complete with re-branding and maybe some more tears but probably not.  There's at least one high profile vegan already starting the re-branding, we'll see if he lasts out next year before the tearful admissions start.  It's tough though, at $5900-$9500 a pop for a spot at one of his spiritual retreats he's going to have to be strategic about it, perhaps playing up the, 'I'm human, I made a mistake, sorry, let's focus on the re-building and starting anew' theme he's so fond of.  Given all those early adopters who've finally had to cry uncle this year he's got plenty of templates to follow.

Why do I care?  For the most part I don't.  Except when it comes to the kids and the pets.  There's a nice compilation here of fascinating and horrifying tales of people who were harmed by their vegan diets and finally gave them up, some after allowing their health to reach shockingly poor states.  Some suffering irreparable damage.  But the most heart breaking thing about this gruesome compilation is the list of babies and children who were killed or maimed by their vegan diets.  Never mind the pets, especially cats, that ex-vegans have admitted to killing with vegan diets.  Ideology is an ugly thing when it's inflicted on those who don't have a say.

I suppose the only good news here is that strict, ideological, militant vegans are in the very small minority.  A quick Google search puts them at about 0.5% of the U.S. population.  Also, 85% of vegans and vegetarians eventually return to eating meat and at any given time there are many more ex-vegans than vegans.  There are also those vegetarians and vegans who aren't really.  In fact most of my 'vegetarian' friends eat fish and/or chicken yet still call themselves vegetarians.  The only explanation I have for this is Virtue Signaling.  They like the idea of vegetarianism and they identify with it but can't quite pull it off in reality.  Or perhaps they truly don't understand the technical meaning of vegan/vegetarian.  There's no such thing as being 90% vegetarian, it's like being 90% pregnant.  It's a binary thing but many people don't use the terms properly.  And most long terms vegans cheat.  Because, ideology.  The diet is unsustainable but lying about it seems more ethical than betraying the cause, never mind the social shunning and financial loss for the 'gurus' and 'influencers' (Rich Roll's net worth is estimated at $8 million).  Taken to the extreme, if the Catholic church will lie about and protect priests who rape children is it such a far leap to imagine a vegan will lie about eating an egg or some salmon now and then?  Which is fine for them but not so fine for those who adopt these diets thinking that they're sustainable and healthy in their strictest forms and drive their health into the ground in an attempt to be true to the cause (again, see link above for those disturbing stories).  There are myriad examples of crazy, hateful vegan rhetoric but this one is perhaps my favorite, "Always trust a junk food vegan over a health vegan, you basically always know the junk food vegan is in it for the animals. It’s always the health ones that ending up shoving eggs/fish down their throats and become ex vegans I swear".  That quote is from a 'certified personal trainer' who runs an online coaching business.

Again, these folks are an extreme minority and it's a self-correcting problem.  Mother Nature and Darwin will have the final say.  More concerning is what's happening in the mainstream.  People cutting down on meat consumption and gobbling down Impossible Burgers under the guise of improving their own health and that of the planet when the exact opposite is the case.   Marketing over truth.  Virtue Signaling.  People like the easy, feel good solution.  At the expense of human health and planetary health.  I'll put my grassfed beef, lamb, poultry and eggs sourced from farms within 10 miles of my house up against an Impossible Burger any day.  In fact a study has done just that, showing that Beyond Burgers dump carbon into the atmosphere while grassfed beef from regeneratively managed White Oak Pastures Farm is actually a carbon sink, putting more carbon back in the ground. Here's a link to an article about the study.  The article contains a link to the actual study, I can't figure out how to link it directly.  Interesting to note is that the study was commissioned by processed food giant General Mills who is actually trying to find ways to work with regenerative farms.  Presumably because we supposedly have 60 more industrial agriculture harvests left in the country.  The UK has an estimated 30-40 years left.  Returning to holistic, regenerative farming methods is the only option we have left.  And while not everyone can have these guys in their backyard, they can support local farmers using regenerative practices over soylent green.  Eat Wild has lists of farmers in the US and Canada, Polyface Farm has started shipping and White Oak Pastures and Butcher Box also provide mail order meat.

Happy New Year to all.  I'm off to feed the cows.  I'll probably have more posts next year, we'll see.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

The Big Move

Yeah I know, the blog went on hiatus for 6 months.  But it's because I moved!  Finally!  So I took a break from the public eye, partly because it was a busy, hectic, stressful time and who wants to read about that? but also because it's a vulnerable time and on the heels of the ID theft issues I didn't want to announce I was moving and where until all the money and information stopped flying around.

Then the thought of picking this up again became overwhelming.  Where the heck do I start?  I'm 6 months and zillions of posts behind.  So much change, so much good stuff.  But I have to start somewhere so here goes.

In short we finally found a place that ticked most of the boxes and was reasonably priced.  However some serious structural issues came up at inspection and the owner, who had acted as his own contractor and was sure he knew all about building, refused to offer any money back to have them fixed.  This resulted in a lot of drama and excitement up to the wire because I got past the point of no return with selling my Boulder house and was in danger of ending up homeless.  This went on for several weeks as deadlines got pushed forward and I had to rent back my house which thankfully the buyer allowed us to do.  Except we couldn't exactly afford it but Jonny negotiated to have his work pay for him to stay a bit longer.  A lot of moving parts.  But finally it all came together and we only had to move once.  In the end the owner's realtor took the money to fix the structural issues out of her commission because I was absolutely serious about walking even if it meant being homeless.  With 2 dogs.

It was all worth it though because this is my new back yard.

The house is a bit bigger than we were hoping for but not too gigantic at 1900 s.f.  It was mostly in good condition but there was/is a lot of deferred maintenance that we have to deal with.  And some cosmetic things, like the super super creepy light switch thingies.

There were around a dozen of these at almost every light switch.  Not only were they super creepy to touch but the switch itself was deeply recessed in some of them so it was difficult to flip the switch.  I know, about as First World Problem as it gets but they had to go.  I ordered new switch plates from Amazon and after waiting for what seemed like forever, the geniuses sent me this.

I had to live with those creepy things for weeks before I finally got normal looking plates with a proper hole in them.  The struggle is real folks.

It also took about 6 weeks to get the upstairs shower working because the diverter from the tub spout to the shower didn't work and the fixtures were so ancient that it took 3 trips to Home Depot in Durango an hour away and then finally several hours on Amazon before I could find something that would work with the plumbing.

Golden Oldies

Now before somebody things I'm super snobby, I lived with almost these exact same fixtures in my old house for about 14 years before we finally renovated the bathroom about 4 years ago.  I just couldn't face it again and the faucet was broken anyway.  I finally found replacements that fit the plumbing that look identical but in brushed nickel.  Except for the shower head, I found something a little nicer but still not super fancy.  That was the one thing that didn't need to fit the old plumbing.  I also replaced the matching towel racks, toilet paper holder, etc.  I am still living with the creepy medicine cabinet that smells funny on the inside.

There was so much to do, I had to pick my battles.  The owners took every single window covering except the curtains on the 3 big windows in the living room.  Which was probably a good thing because they were using creepy, frilly, gauzy curtains that would have ended up in the landfill anyway.  Another trip to Home Depot, $675 and 9 hours of installation later I finally had blinds on the windows. 

Much of the deferred maintenance still needs to be done, such as getting the oven adjusted so it's not spewing carbon monoxide and finding someone to climb on the steep metal roof to screw in all the screws that have come loose, stuff like that.  But we have a guest bedroom set up.  And the contractor finally came today to deal with the structural repairs.  Turns out he does tile as well so I may have him come back and rip out the horrible plastic shell thingy in the bathroom and put in a proper bathtub and some tile.  Or maybe not.  He also builds barns and it turns out I have a mountain lion trotting right past my house on the way to the pond so I'll probably need a barn or loafing shed of some sorts if I'm going to have livestock.  There's a loafing shed on the property but it's on the verge of collapse.  More Hillbilly Engineering and I'm not sure it's worth throwing good money after bad to repair it.  But we'll see.

In the meantime I've been doing lots of hiking and biking and running from room to room looking at all the different views.  In the end I'd say this is worth it.

Rainbow over Mesa Verde National Park from my deck.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Lambing Day at Black Cat Farm/Boulder County Open Space

Super fun afternoon with some sheep and lambs.

Because . . . baby lambs!

Boulder County leases its Open Space lands out to farmers and ranchers and every once in a while they have some activity on the lands so the public can see the importance of agriculture (done right) to the lands.  Black Cat Farm is an organic and biodynamic (better than organic) farm using regenerative agriculture methods and humane animal husbandry.  They lease several plots of land throughout the county and raise sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys and geese, mostly for the 2 restaurants they own in town.  I've never been to them, they are WAY out of our price range, but if I was in a different tax bracket and into spending money on fancy restaurants I would totally go there.  But more importantly I'm glad the county is leasing to folks like this who are improving the land and providing the community (albeit an elite segment of the community) with good quality meat raised and treated humanely.

The owner, who is also a chef at the restaurants, was there to explain his farming methods and answer questions.  I had a LOT of questions and I enjoyed listening to the answers to other people's questions.  He was super patient and spent a lot of time and energy interacting with the public.  He had no background in farming and learned a lot from books, seminars (I think) and YouTube.

Mr. Bad Ass Ram.  I don't think he cared for me pointing the camera at him.  He kept a wary eye on me and I kept my distance (this photo is zoomed).

There were about 250 sheep and lambs in all but only 3 rams.  The rams are purebred Tunis and Karakul and the females are a mix of those breeds.  He chooses female breeding stock based on parasite resistance, mothering skills, and history of producing twins with no regard to whether they are purebred or not.  Because farmers don't breed for 'nonsense' as the owner put it (cough, AKC, cough).

There were 2 livestock guardian dogs, both of which were super friendly with the public and excellent guard dogs.

This big mushpie went up to everbody, looking for snugs and tolerating the general public's mishandling (leaning over their heads, grabbing their noses, etc., I was horrified but the dogs tolerated it).  But when a runner or bikes went by past the fence line they took off running.

The dogs are Akbash and a mix of Akbash with Anatolian Shepherd, Great Pyrenees and Kangal.  Akbash are not recognized by the AKC so have not been ruined by the show ring but Great Pyrenees and Anatolian Shepherd are so I'm wondering if the mixing is an attempt to breed some working ability back in to the AKC dogs.  I had a chat with the owner about the training they do, I've long wondered how they balance socializing the dogs to people and livestock and if it matters.  According to him the dogs will not want to stay with the livestock if they spend too much of their puppyhood with people.  One of the dogs he had was a reject from Joel Salatin's farm.  His interns kept petting the dogs and the dogs would consequently hang out where the people were rather than in the fields with the livestock.  The Black Cat owner was able to rehab her enough that she was useful but it was a lot of work and hard for him and his family because they had to ignore her.  He said with a puppy it's a matter of striking a balance between human and livestock exposure and there is no solid formula. 

This guy did take some time to play with a mouse.  Even working dogs need some play time.  The mouse was pretty smart and kept hiding underneath the dog.  He did get away eventually.

In all, a fun day.  I think I'd like to have sheep, they seem docile and easy to manage.  But house first, then sheep.