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Full Moon and Gallop Away

On March 28th, verdant green, bright yellow, and bluish gray were the colors that nature presented me as I walked through the garden to the back pasture to see the new calf that was born. A perfect mix of warm temperatures, copious rain, and spring sun position brought forth noticeable green growth and bright yellow dandelion flowers. Nature's colors present themselves in such outstanding combinations. Ever since the first day of spring, I have been watching the grasses and clovers like a pot of water coming to a boil. I keep checking, looking, and waiting for the fields to show some hopeful growth. Just like with a pot of water, I do not want to hover, as to prolong the growing. Nonetheless, it is hard to help my self when it is the spring field growth that indicates when to start the cattle rotations. Here lately on my runs, I traverse all of the fields to be able to note if there has been any faintness of growth. I mentally capture what areas of the fields gained a notable mark, even if just a quarter of inch. The green growth of the garden field has been lushly unbelievable. When we can get all our fields growing early and thick like the garden field then we will have some real accomplishment. The garden field got the best applications of mulch, well rotted manure, and compost last year. Also, there has been no cattle traffic, over winter, in this area. All of this has resulted in increased organic matter, accepted nonsynthetic nutrients/minerals, and earthworms, which has created grass and clover strips that were ready for grazing on the first day of spring. This is the only small area on the whole farm that could support first of spring grazing, currently. When my steps transitioned from the garden area to what we call the airport field, I hopefully look towards the future knowing that with proper rotational grazing, which will increase the organic matter and nutrients by way of the cows manure and urine, other fields will take on the look of the garden field. In fact, even though other field areas are not up to snuff with the garden field, there should be hints of encouraging notice with the rotational grazed fields from last year, as the grasses and clovers continue to show growth progress. All that remained of the heavy rains was a faint mist that blew in with a coolness. I got to the new Hereford marked heifer mamma to see her new Hereford marked heifer calf. A tongue twister in short, Hereford heifer mamma and Hereford Heifer Calf. This was her first calf and she was the first of all the Hereford marked cows in the back Gammon Mills Herd to have a Hereford marked calf. I am glad there is still some Hereford genetics in the herds here. For some reason, it seems extra special when the Hereford cattle actually have a Hereford marked calf. We have one pair in the Lacy Mills herd, Watauga Redskin mamma and Sahara Wind heifer calf, that came to be last summer. I had speculated that there would be a calf born on the day of the full moon. This new calf and mamma, were open for a good head and back rub and seemed to be doing well. Of course, the new name shall be Full Moon, the third of the Moon names for the back herd. There is Silver Moon, Quarter Moon, Full Moon, all that seems to be lacking now is Half Moon. By the end of the day, not only did we have one Full Moon calf, but two. When Dad came in from late afternoon feeding he announced that an all Brown heifer had an all brown heifer calf. Thus far for this calving season, we had not had any all brown mammas have an all brown calf. Last year we had one exceptional Brown pair in the Lacy Herd, Brown Beauty Mamma and Holiday. In fact, Holiday was one of the exceptional heifers from the Lacy Mills Herd in 2020, so she was kept as a replacement heifer. Two special full moon calves for the day. It seemed only appropriate to add on a 1 to the first Full Moon and name the second Full Moon 2.

This account was almost a full month ago, as the Full Moon is about to be present again here in a couple of days. There has been so much happening from March 28th till now, April 24th. For one, the plethora of rains that existed then came to a dull halt. "April showers bring May Flowers" is the general theme for the month of April that somehow passed our topographic area by this year. We received our last good rain of 1.4" overnight on March 31st. One would think with the overabundance of rain we had overwinter that three weeks of rain would not be that missed. This is true through week two, but from week two till week three, there was a very noticeable decrease in grass growth, especially in shallow soil areas, higher elevated slops, and ridge tops. I would have not noticed it as much if we had not of started our cattle on their spring rotations, planted the spring carrot seeds in two hills, or transplanted kale, cabbage, and lettuce. It takes seeds so much longer to germinate when there is not at least one good rain a week. For transplants it seems like they do not really take off until a good rain showers them from above. Despite the sugar snap and snow peas being planted in a very rich, mulched, trellised row, they had come to a standstill it seemed. This trellis row is located higher up on the South facing slope and it shows signs of drying and decline faster than lower areas in the Garden Field because the natural gravity flow of water and its shallower topsoil. There is something vital to April rain and when it is not received nature is at a disadvantage. We also encountered 4 nights of freeze in this time period, two at the start and then on April 21st and the 22nd. The last two had more of a damaging effect than the freeze nights at the beginning of April and I think it was because the lack of rain. The Beets were coming along so well and even though they were covered, their green tops got a little nipped. The cabbages looked even a little damaged, which was a surprise. The green tops of the potatoes got blackened from the first freezes. They regrew in a good full force, just to get knocked down again. Hopefully the potato seeds underground have enough retained energy to put out yet one more good surge of above ground green leafy growth!

Imaginably so, I had been thinking about the forecasted Saturday rains all week. I like to somehow conjure up an inner thought pattern that thinks positive thoughts towards a favorable occurring. I woke up this morning believing that it was going to rain and I gave a few jumps and hand claps of excitement when that rain really started falling down around 10 am. I was really so very thankful for the green growth of spring, the cows, the grass, life, and the cyclic patterns of nature.

Now here I am on May 16th, looking back over the past 6 weeks, not really believing that only that amount of time has passed. I look back on my farm journal and realize that the beat and rhythm of our days increased from a steady canter to an all out gallop on the week of April 5th. I decided it was a good time to get all the cattle ear tagged with a number. I came up with the way I wanted the tag number ID's to go and I then had to record and execute hand writing all the numbers on ear tags. At the time we had 108 cattle, (Cows, Heifers, Steers, and Calves combined) to ear tag. The Gammon Mills herd had 62 and the Lacy Mills herd had 46. Since then, seven more Mamma's have given birth, to take our current spring calf count to 42. Days that cattle are brought into the barn to be worked are intense, no matter how calm one tries to be. Your body goes into emergency performance mode, like running a race all day long. Our herds are very docile, but this does not mean that they do not get eager to want to get back out to pasture. We try to work fast in order to move them through as quick and calmly as possible. We did the Gammon Mills Herd on one day and then the Lacy Mills Herd on another. I was in charge of figuring out the Cow Calf pairs, telling what tag needed to be put in the animals ear, and to help move the cattle into the hold area and into the chute. Matthew was in charge of the squeeze chute, and ear tagging. Dad was in charge of moving the cattle into the hold areas and moving them down the alley way towards the chute. Somehow when we are working cattle, Dad forgets that he is 77 and gets right in there as if he was about 30 years younger. Somehow over all the years he has developed a "lack of fear" trigger, or maybe he was born with this, that easily pushes him into situations that others would far avoid. Possibly comparable to a rock climber that does not use rope and harness. Eastenn Dutch likes to stand at the front side of the squeeze chute in order to assist with spraying the iodine on the cows ear where the tag piercing happens. We were overall pleased with how the tagging went and only had a few mishaps, that thankfully did not include any injuries. One Brown Cow from the Gammon Mills Herd managed to do a number on a corral panel to execute her planned escape. Out of all the cattle, there was only one steer, Hayes June, that made it through the squeeze catch without getting caught. Four young calves, Dot Spot, Full Moon 1, Winnie Wahoo, and Hang Ten, never made it into the barn corral area. Neither did Big Brown, the Mamma of Winnie Wahoo, make it in. She had just given birth the day before and she was still in that state of herd distancing and no matter how we tried she was just not going to come in.

It was this same week in which Spinach and Radish Harvest started happening. I also was working on planting the rest of the spring starts like lettuce, onions, arugula, cabbage, kale, and kohlrabi.

In order to have more density in the cattle rotations and to allow us to only have to move and work with one herd instead of two, we decided to combine the herds. On Friday April 16th, we started with our spring rotations and combined the herds. They both went into the first paddock in the Airport Field. As far as the peace went in between the two herds, we wondered what calamities might present themselves. It was an exciting gallop for the Lacy Mills Herd to travel down a long 1800 ft temporary alley way Eastenn Dutch and I had created that lead them directly to their new area where they joined the Gammon Mills Herd. I had rotated the Gammon Mills Herd in this field last year, but not the Mills Lacy Herd. When we opened the initial gap, we all thought that we would have to calmly work them down the long alley way. Obviously this was not the case, they left us in a cloud of dust. There were a couple of Mamma Cows and about 10 calves that were hesitant. With that they bolted back to their known stomping ground and we wondered if we would ever get them to successfully head down the long alley way without the moving cattle herd. Luckily, there were the two Mamma's that had stayed behind. Also, Waddler mamma came all the way back to pick up her left behind calf. With good patients and those 3 Mamma cows we were able to get the group of calves moving into that long alley way, so they could successfully join the rest of the cattle in their new rotational grazings.

While in this particular field of rotation, the goal is to keep them from heading back into pasture areas where the creeks are for drinking water and where it is common place for them to lounge. In order to achieve this, we had to bring water to them and move their Kelp, Redmond Salt, and Diatomaceous Earth Mineral Feeders to each new paddock area. We got 4 x 180 gallon troughs so we could pump water into from the creeks and this worked well. One the warmer days they were going through about 1,400 gallons in a 24 hour period and at Max on a really Hot Summer day they could go through 2,200 gallons of water in a 24 hour period. Tremendous amounts really. This water need is often forgotten when one has perennial creeks running through a farm. Most do not see the need or point to keep cattle out of waterways, but for conservation, this is a growing trend and really a better option for the health of the cattle and for conservation of waterway erosion and wildlife.

Come May 31st, we will be glad to introduce to the cows two new pure breed angus bulls from Anthony Shelton's, AC Angus Farm in Greenville. Dad and I knew we needed to locate and decide on a new bull for this year's breading season, after getting rid of all bulls this past December. At the first of April, we started down this path by going to a bull sell down at Grassy Valley Farm. We ended up not getting a bull at that sell, but were inclined to visit where we did end up getting our bull's from. Their official names are ACAF Weigh Up 2014 and ACAF Weigh Up 2008.

We were also kept busy with over seeding Ladino white clover with a cone seed broadcaster in the Airport Field after the cattle moved through the first round of rotations. Then we also drill seeded with a no till sod drill some Sorghum-Sudan in about 14 acres of overly warn pasture areas. We were at the cusp edge of both seeding seasons...last chance for white clovers and first chance for summer warm season annuals. Fortunately, we received two rains in the month of May, after putting out these seeds. Only really enough to scrap by, but after the month of April we farmers will take what we can get. We got .6" by the end of May 4th and a .5" by midday on May the 10th. Then we got a little pinch more, .15" on May the 12th. These rains mixed with the nice cool spell has created a great environment for the germination of the clover seed. I can see that it has germinated. We spread about 235 lbs of white clover in that field and hopefully it will slowly but surely make itself known by early summer and then really be noticeable in the Fall. On the other hand, the Sudan-Sorghum seed has enjoyed the rain, but is waiting for the soil temps to warm up a little bit more before we start seeing any signs of it popping its bright, skinny, tall shoots up from the earth.

It is amazing to see first hand the difference that ample rain makes in pasture and hay fields in the prime month of April. This is the perfect month for those cool season grasses to really develop good thick growth. Last year, we were getting so much rain that it was hard to find windows to drop hay. There were actually erosional downpours and I can remember during cattle rotations last year being worried about standing water where the cattle were grazing. All the fields were so much thicker for grazing and haymaking than they are this year. This year, there has not been near as quick of regrowth of the rotationally grazed areas because of the lack of rain and in stark contrast I have been concerned about areas being a little dry. Which means, the cattle need longer rotations, through their paddocks before we can let them back into the start of the rotation cycle again, and because there has not been as much growth they are going through the grasses and legumes much quicker. With this notion, one can quickly see how important it is to make sure the fields have ample organic matter, a good non-synthetic mineral/nutrient base, and full thick grass coverage to help production in a dry year. This is the main key to regenerative-organically grown agriculture. As with shifting weather patterns, we as farmers have a tremendous feat to overcome extreme weather scenarios, and to achieve this, there has got to be an emphasis on creating a lasting balance in the soil that can handle itself better when faced with abnormal weather patterns. Also, when farmer's farm with this mentality it only helps shift positively the vitality of all other aspects of life...people, animals, and the living environment.

To wrap up the last 6 week gallop, we entered the start of the first quarter this past Wednesday. I knew in the next favorable moon sign I would start the first round of summer vegetable seeds. So indeed, this past Friday, the 14th, I got to planting the summer seeds of Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Sweet Peppers. As the tomatoes were a Self Serve Stand favorite last year, the good news is that we will hope to have them earlier than our Fall crop of Tomatoes last year. We will have the same great diversity of about 15 different varieties.

Until next time, Eat Well, Be Well, Hope for rain, and remember to swing by the Self Serve Farmstand!

Allison Mills Neal

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