Steve’s Weekly Update 7-25-13

Climatology 2013:  Last week’s east to west moving storm brought less rain than expected but it seems to have opened the door for a more typical monsoon pattern to emerge.  The moisture has led to storms kicking up off the mountains and then slowly drifting out across lower elevation area.  These storms are not widespread, and can hit hard and lead to serious, dangerous, and destructive flash flooding.

And so we go from Climatic extreme to Climatic extreme!

At Mesa Top we had a big downpour Saturday afternoon that filled up all of the ponds and water holes and got the arroyo running.  Then by Tuesday we had clear blue skies in the morning, a sure sign that we had dried out a bit and would not see much rain.

Now Wednesday and Thursday we are looking forward to a return of the monsoon moisture.

More grass is growing, in some places warm season grasses are already taller than I have seen in several years.  In past times, the summer rains were so reliable that the gramma grasses were often knee high and even higher by fall.  The cattle could roam and eat during the growing season and we would STILL have tall grass in the fall for them to range on all winter.  Now the challenge is to hold back on letting the cattle out to graze to be sure that the growth can be sustained, on hopes that we will also grow the forage we need for the fall and winter ahead.

This week’s Cow stories:  Mesa Top cows and Jim Miller Ayrshire project:  Another challenge to the sudden surge in moisture is that with the full ponds and tanks, and cattle not yet strengthened by eating the lush green forage, drowning and mud become risks.

We have had two water related accidents here at Mesa Top, and lost one cow and saved one.  Both were weaker animals, and vulnerable as a result.  Abigail, the cow that we saved was stuck in the mud and lying in shallow water at the edge of one of the newly filled ponds.  She could have been there as long as 12 hours before we found her, thanks to the complaints of her distressed calf.  At sunrise Tuesday we dove into the rescue mission, using all we learned a couple of years ago trying to save Dottie.  We waded into the pond, dug in the mud under her shoulders and passed a strap (used for holding loads of hay in place during transport by trailer) under her shoulder behind her front legs, and dragged her up onto the bank using the backhoe.  Then we moved the backhoe around and dragged her about 50 yards to flat and level ground.

She was looking pretty miserable lying on her side, and did not have the strength to right herself, so we rocked her into a more normal position.  She had control of her legs and nothing was broken but she could not stand.  So we passed a strap under her, just in front of her udder and set the backhoe so it was centered over her and lifted her back end.  As soon as her legs were free, she reached for the ground and got four legs out and got her balance.  When I went around her to pull the straps away, she kicked at me in annoyance.  We figured she was going to be fine!!!   She ate all day.  Now all seems well.

The pond that Abigail got stuck in is right next to a road.  We are fairly sure that a neighbor saw her predicament, as there were fresh footprints of someone who walked down to her from the road, and stood next to her for a while, leaving many tracks.  It sure would have been nice to hear from whoever saw her.  With this story we point out the importance of vigilance.  If something does not look right, it is good to ask about it.  Examples include cattle out on the road way, and calves separated from mothers by fences.  Livestock owners would rather hear about what you saw, even if it is a false alarm, than find out after the fact about an emergency.  We are not in all places at all times and appreciate the eyes of our neighbors.  It would be wise to assume that we have not “caused” a problem that you might see, and that we would welcome information that helps us to address any situation you may see.  Be open to explanation, if you are interested.

This week’s protein update:  Any questions or comments about last week’s “rose veal” posting would be welcome.  The meat from our young bulls is sure tasty and tender.  Even the ground beef has a flavor and texture that is special and unique.

In a previous post I commented that if you drink milk or eat cheese, and want to support sustainable production of dairy products, then choosing dairy herds as source of meat is a responsible and holistic decision.  We look forward to continuing to work with our members, and hopefully with larger retail or food service supply chain customers, to develop good meat from dairy herds that helps support our small scale dairying operations.

Egg production creates a similar situation, where only a small percentage of the male birds hatched are needed to assure egg fertility.  There is little or no market demand for the males of egg laying flocks.  Most are destroyed when they hatch, in pretty grotesque ways.  At Mesa Top, where we hatch our own replacement pullets, we also raise lots of roosters.  These are tasty chickens, but are not “fall-off-the-bone” tender and juicy like breeds optimized to grow quickly and never walk far.  We have just processed a few dozen roosters of varying ages and sizes, some quite large.  They cook very well in crock pots and also is they are brined (marinated in salt water) first, become quite tender.  We hope the CSA will resume offering this local, sustainably produced chicken to you our members.  As with the dairy meat, laying flock meat is important to the economics of sustainable egg production

This week’s cheese making update:  Other than tending the cheese that was made last fall and winter, through its aging process, there is nothing going on in the cheese department.  You can still special order Mesa Top cheese, as we have all varieties, aged and in stock.

This week’s Veggie/Share Update:  Eight items in the share this week including one locally processed treat:  organic apple juice from Big B’s juices in Hotchkiss, Colorado.  We are looking far and wide to find fruit and sweet produce of our region, due to the lack of any New Mexico fruit this year.

This week we again have a solution, thanks to Skarsgard Farm in Albuquerque, whose cantaloupe will be in your share.

This week’s vegetables include collards from Synergia Ranch, and summer squash from Mesa Top Farm, for cooking.  Also, carrots from Frisco Farm.

For your salads we have lettuce and parsley from Talon de Gato, and cucumbers from Espanola Valley Farm.

The extended cool period in July is helping to keep the lettuce tasty and tender!  Enjoy!

Membership news:  Please follow us online at Facebook and Twitter. This is a great way to show your friends our weekly shares, recipes and updates.

Remember when you help us spread the word and sign up more members; we add $10 to your Farm Account for every member you refer.

Thank you for your investment in and continued support of the CSA.  We appreciate your support!

Steve Warshawer

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