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Fall to Winter "Wrap Up" & Holiday Gestures of Gratitude and Awe

Fall moved through the Farm nicely this year. The weather was mild and the precipitation seemed perfect with just enough to make it seem like we needed no more or no less. Once the temperatures started transitioning from hot days and warm nights to mild days and cold nights, like it does from summer to fall, our moisture requirements are not near as demanding. Then as the farm moves closer to the winter season we ask mother nature for as little rain as possible as winter, wetness, ground, and cows create a smudge of a painting. As quickly though as I look to the forecast for low accumulation of rain now, I remember just two months ago looking to the forecast with the same eagerness to see inches of rain. What a wishful juxtaposition, asking for one thing one season and a complete opposite the next. Nonetheless, all has been well for the painted masterpiece until this last .4" of rain we received over the weekend which caused me to cringe yesterday when I heard the distinctive noise of tractor tires and cows hoofs making "mare in the muck", if even that is a phrase. Up until this point though, and ever since we started feeding hay back in mid November the weather has permitted Dad and I to feed our main group of 60 large animals throughout the high back hill. Our goal is to move the herd within this paddock around to different spots with strategic placement of hay plops every time we go out to feed, which is twice a day for all the different grouped herds. This allows for a great distribution of manure over a paddock just like the use of a filled manure spreader. Part of this rhythm also includes taking a pitch fork to any spent hay and distributing it around on the ground in a nice thin layer. See, we have to not only see the cattle as a chore and a source of meat, but as a vital contributor to the farm's soil vitality if managed correctly. This high back hill paddock was the herds stopping point of the 2021 season rotations. We moved them in there on November the 4th and I think it was the best this hill area had looked on November the 4th in a long time. If the cattle were taken back to their old habit of constant permanent grazing then by Novemeber 4th the herd would have had it all grazed down. Our large herd can graze their way through about 15 acres in 1 to 2 weeks, depending on the thickness and quality. Often I am in awe of how perfect and manicured and field can look after our herd moves through. They know how to clean up and area well and spread their manure all back over it and I am forever in awe of their abilities. Now, the correct way to winter manage is a great topic of discussion and I find this season's management to be the most difficult. Everything in nature has heeded towards a natural winter dormancy...the grasses, the soil microbiology, the warmth and this creates a more fragile soil than that of the spring, summer, and fall seasons. The ground just wants to rest like a hibernating bear. There is not much that can be improved on winter grounds. Ideally we would accommodate the cattle's same inward energies to a covered feeding facility barn that would allow for all the farm's soils to be protected over the harshest and wettest winter months of mid December till about mid March. For now though, as the later mentioned is a huge investment, we are trying to move the cattle around the best we can in the paddocks we have chosen to bare the winter load. Despite the inability of improvement during the winter months, the distributed manure that we have accumulated over the last months when the soils have not gone completely dormant will improve our soils nutrient, mineral, and organic matter base that will pose an advantage when over-sowing with grass and clover seed in the late winter, possibly creating a lusher paddock than what was there before.

As we finished feeding on a beautiful farm day morning last week, and the cows were all lined up in a row looking ever so nice in their winter best, I took my first video of them. I had never tried this before and it was obvious by their head gestures of curiosity. When I went back and watched the caption they were not looking at me, but the unusual black rectangle that I was pointing towards them. If I had been walking down the line without the black rectangle their captured gestures would have been all together different. They have been loving our second cutting of hay this year from the 30 acre Lacy Field. Overall volume was down, but there was great quality. The smell, the texture, the slight green hue all were there and the cattle agreed with their palate, as not much of a leaf of hay was left uneaten.

Here is the Fall to Winter "Wrap Up" that poses itself within the photograph slider above....

  • Two "baldies", Dot Spot and Birthday Snowfall, both enjoying hay with 5 other of our favorite saved heifer calves from our 2021 calving season. They are being kept separate, along with younger weening calves, from the main cow herd and because of their light load we are letting them eat hay free choice from a round bale hay feeder in an area that has been a permanent feeder area for years. When they are not eating hay, they have roam over the Lacy paddock frolicing around of course.

  • What show the Maples put on this year. Eastenn Dutch swinging and enjoying their golden hue. We collected loads of these leaves for bedding in the lower hallway of the Mills Barn, which came in handy for the weaning of one of our 2021 calf groups of 12.

  • A look from the tractor of hill top hay feeding. The cattle lined up and eating well.

  • Our bright pinkish red Scarlet Ohno Fall Turnip roots all covered in their beneficial mycorrhizal fungi network. This is what happens when soil is left most undisturbed, mulched, and in optimum balance. This is one of those magical soil life contributors that helps our farmstand produce be of highest nutrition and quality.

  • We all need to take some yoga lessons from barn cat...hay top yoga in the sunlight. Sign Ups next season. (Ha Ha)

  • The spreadsheet of 34 calves--names, gender, tag number, and birthdate. We sold 27 as feeder calves to Anthony Shelton on November 26th and kept 7 of my favorite heifer calves. We have kept 2 steers for a hopeful meat butcher in 2022. We still have 13 calves that are currently being weened and 4 summer calves that will be weened in February.

  • An OK Unloader relic of the past that just fell down out of the old Lacy barn this year. A tool that was used to get loose hay in the barn through the front or back bonnet.

  • Dark Brown, G2, won 1st prize for growing out the largest heifer calf, "Black Sprinter" of the 2021 season. Watauga Redskin, L18, is one of our nicest Hereford marked cows. Our cows really know how to work a photo session, look how well they place themselves. They listen very well to our cattle modeling assistant.

  • Here is the older Heifer group that we have been keeping in the "across the road field". Our best 5 from 2020, that we plan on breeding in 2022. This group also, consist of 3 older cows that we no longer want bree. One will get to die on the farm and the other 2 need to be taken to the market. This group started our rotational grazing across the road and they are helping to put minerals, nutrients, and organic matter back into this hay field area.

  • Oh, not enough can be said about Black Beauty, L1! She is absolutely the best of the best. She is lovely in looks and has the best demeanor. She comes up to one for attention and she will let us rub her, give her a hug and touch her back and belly. If I could only keep one cow she would be the one!

  • Eastenn Dutch, Matthew, and I always enjoy carving jack o lanterns.

  • Our one last big push for earlier and better grazing in the spring of 2022. Dad drill seeded almost 32 acres of annual rye and triticale, while I helped refill seed and made sure all the seed was always coming out of its chambers like it was suppose to.

  • G3, a Hereford marked cow in a nice stance. She has produced both in 2020 and 2021 top notch calves..."Flurry" a heifer calf in 2020 and "Leg Up Four" bull calf in 2021. Her personality is bold and distant, but she does her job well.

  • I couldn't help but capture the old Gammon homeplace from "Across the Road field" on this perfect Fall day.

  • I always like to say that our cows can see the TN / NC divide.

  • A framed mirror image within a photograph overlooking Boone Lake of us hauling hay from the Keith land in which we cut for hay from.

  • The loved Heirloom Dutch Crookneck Winter Squash at the self serve farmstand. It makes the best squash pies and is delicious roasted for savory meals.

  • Here the girls are enjoying a lush graze this fall.

  • This is Hidden Firecracker, a 2021 bull calf that was found on the 4th of July--hence the name.

  • Please meet Boss Cow, the baldy leader of the old Lacy Herd.

  • Fondness and devotion captured in a picture. Blazing Barista bull calf laying beside his mother, G25. A long line of crossed breed genetics can bring fun surprises like this Angus marked Mamma giving birth to an reddish brown calf.

  • Hope you made it by to snatch up these "balls of joy" they have been a two year favorite!

  • Eastenn Dutch on the first day of our 2021/2022 homeschool year exploring lines, curves, and forms in Gammon Creek with a string and a watermelon boat.

  • Good old fashion heirloom Klondike Blue Watermelon. This variety of watermelon came from seed saved at our old farm along Leiper's Creek and grows out very well here too. We planted a 70 foot row of these this year and they were a sell out at the Farmstand, as they are very sweet and delicious.

  • In the summer months we partner with the wild geese. We offer them cow manure patties, water, and fields of green and they come readily flying in each morning with their vocal bird sounds. In their height I think we counted around 80 of them here regularly and we both enjoy each other's company. They are great for natural insect management, following the herds rotation just like domesticated chickens would.

  • Looking out upon the frosty, brownish ground it is hard to ever imagine that the fields were ever lush and green like they are in this photo. Our new pure breed Angus bull, Acclaim 944, grazing down in the back bottom along with our main cow herd.

  • Our last calf born in the 2021 calving season, "Island Girl." She was born out in the airport field rotation the day that we were moving the cattle over to their next paddock. The Mamma cow, G37, hid her calf away in a tree island before the move. We had to make some special efforts to get them to both make the jaunt together, but all in all they found the new green paddock much the reward.

All the family here at Foothill Frolic Farm on Gammon Creek hope everyone's Holiday and New Year is full of genuine goodness, hope, and light!

Keep up your good works and be well.

Allison Mills Neal

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