Saturday, April 28, 2007

My Work: City Mice - Part 5

We took down a mile of electric fence and replaced it with split rails, scrounged here and there with a lucky treasure found at a golf course that had just bought the adjacent farm for expansion. A mile of fence takes a rail a foot, 5,000 rails. Three trips transporting them to the farm by logging trucks cost as much as buying them in the first place.

After checking with potential meat customers, we added Scottish Blackface sheep. Small, smart, and hardy, both sexes have horns that are very handy for catching them with a rope loop, then persuading them to stand still. Nothing cleans pastures like Blackface. They are used to grazing and browsing on next to nothing in the Scottish highlands.

We kept one pasture ahead of them the first year, cutting out thickets of wild cherry that, some say, is toxic to sheep. When they are little, they are a pain in the neck because they disregard split rail fences, wriggling under and crashing through in some places, but they require little care otherwise. I never used to like lamb until we started raising our own, and I think the wonderful taste is a combination of the Blackface genetics, clean pastures, and Susan’s skill in the kitchen.

This year, Herefords are teaching us about cattle, and we will have our own beef, lamb, poultry, and eggs with no pesticides, no antibiotics, no growth hormones. Plus enough to sell, custom cut and wrapped, to our customers. With that and our gardens, we complain about all the work but we do fine.

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