Climatology 2011: The big freeze did quite a bit of damage down South. One of our produce partners in the Mesilla Valley area, South of Las Cruces, reported that temps did not get above freezing there for 3 days. That was followed by a big warmup and storm. We are in the third day of rain and snow mix, and wet snow here at the farm. This is GREAT for the land, but tough on cows and equipment as we struggle with the mud.
The great and sad truck drama: I have been struggling with the farm trucks all fall. Our #1 4WD truck blew up its transfer case in mid August. I bought another, high mileage used 4WD truck, and it has eaten me alive. I felt I had no choice but to borrow as little as possible because I was trying to keep my credit “clear” as I worked on refinancing the farm. But that strategy did not work out.
I finally gave it up and went to Santa Fe Mazda Volvo, a dealer recommended by our excellent Mechanic, Gabriel at Auto Angel. Ed Jenoubeh, who has managed the sales departments at several car dealers in Santa Fe over 20+ years, has developed a very good program for low mileage used vehicles which includes a lifetime power train warranty. (Power train expenses are what killed me on the Dodge and on the Chevy that I bought this summer) Even though I lost money on the other trucks, I have to say I am enormously pleased with the deal I was able to make with Ed and his terrific staff. If any of you ever need to go to a car dealer I encourage you to start with Ed at Mazda Volvo. If you like, let me know, and I will happily make the introduction for you.
This week’s Cow stories: Mesa Top cows and Jim Miller Ayrshire project: The ongoing saga of feed cost and pasture access continues. Ray has decided to sell his farm to his brother who operates a much larger dairy. My hopes are dashed and I have to begin again to find new solutions to the oppressive feed costs I am experiencing.
There is another small dairy near Ray that may be interested, owned by Dominic Batista. Dominic was the one who bought Jim Miller’s remaining cows in 2005, but due to a series of unfortunate problems, was not able to keep his operation going at that time. He has told Ray that he wants to get involved in the Ayrshire project. I will keep my fingers crossed, but cannot afford to assume that this will address my immediate needs.
I finally reached Robert Quintana in San Luis, who has been my primary hay supplier for 5 years. I found out that he had a farm that he was leasing sold out from under him. On 2 weeks notice he had to dismantle and move corals and find a new winter home for the bulk of his herd. That is why I could not reach him. As of December 10 he is re-situated. The good news is that he has a couple of loads of his excellent grass/alfalfa mix for us.
I also have opened up conversations with other farmers about raising different groups of cows under mutually equitable terms. One interesting idea that has come out is that young cows get raised and the farmer gets paid for the weight that they gain on their watch. Ray had a rancher neighbor explain that idea to him. Robert Kyzer, who operates a networked approach to raising pork based in the South Valley of Albuquerque, has also expressed interest in getting some of our younger cows to grow. He wants to support the development of the cheese making business as he sees the great value of whey, a bi-product of cheese production, when it is made available for raising piggies.
Abigail’s calf spent her first 4 nights in the house, and finally on Monday night, with the storm coming in and temperatures rising, we put her out with the other young calves overnight. She did well. She is starting to run around and kick up her heels like a happy calf. She is not out of the woods yet, but is showing some vitality. Abigail is a great mother cow and is producing a lot of milk, especially for a first calver. She is the last daughter of Dottie, whose line is a real asset to the Ayrshire project. We lost Dottie Jr, her half sister this past summer, so Abigail is an important cow, and now her first calf, a girl, is part of the recovery of her line..
This week’s cheese making update: We made our largest batch of cheese to date last weekend, using 35 gals of milk in one batch. This was encouraging, but also puts more pressure on us to improve our chilling and storage capacity.
The newly renovated cheese aging room is working well, we are learning how to manage humidity and temp with minimum extra energy.
This week’s cheese share includes: a variety of artisanal cheeses.
Mesa Top Meat (Protein) update: The piggies are growing steadily, but with the increased milk production, they are not keeping up with the whey. We need more piggies. We are planning to get some from Robert Kyzer, to grow out for his program, so we can see how much value we can create with our whey.
This week’s Veggie/Share Update: This week’s final produce share of 2011 includes a medley of specialty potatoes along with red torpedo onions from Red Mountain Farm. Also another delicious nativo hubbard squash from Gemini Farm.
From South Texas Organics, our neighbors in Texas we have oranges, and through Patagonia produce, our border connection to the small farmer coops of central and South America, we have organic avocados. We expect to continue to offer what fruits we can from adjoining regions as well as from our small farm connections to the tropics, during the course of the winter
We also have the “make up” share of aged and grated mesa top cheese
Membership news: Thank you for your investment in the CSA . We appreciate your continued support! We are offering bonuses for adding to your Farm Account through the end of the year. See Dena’s emails for details.
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah and seasons greetings to all of our members and their families, and we look forward to continuing to serve you and our network of farmers and related food businesses and partners next year. Stay tuned for exciting possibilities as the CSA investigates moving to a more formal, cooperative business approach.