March 2017 Newsletter

Spring indeed. We’re a full month ahead of schedule. The ground is thawed, nettles are emerging, and birds are returning. Normally we don’t have green grass to graze until the first week of May, but this year, we’ll be grazing by April. Although we’ve enjoyed the warmth, the crazy weather has been tough. The extended freezing and thawing of the ground prolongs “mud season.” The animals make quite a mess walking around and driving the tractor to bring hay doesn’t help. Luckily for the ruminants, we’ve been able to get them top-quality fermented alfalfa hay, which they dive into like a pile of cupcakes. It smells and tastes delicious! We feed fresh bales out in the pasture and what the cows and sheep don’t eat they trample into the ground to make little hay beds where they have a warm and dry place to lie down. Which is good because we are now in baby season!

So far we’ve had eight lambs born, including one set of triplets! We’ve had three calves, all male, and one cow in her first pregnancy lost her calf in labor. It was a sad moment for us and her, but she seems to have recovered physically and is back up and eating and hanging out with her siblings. It’s often the case that first-time mothers have difficult calving, so it’s always a risk. All of our calves this year are second-generation Mastodon Valley Farm baby! Mom and dad were both born here, too. That’s quite a proud moment for us!

We’ve welcomed a new canine to the farm family, Ada. She’s a Spanish Ranch Mastiff/Italian Maremma cross. These are European dogs bred to guard livestock. She is living in the sheep paddock and will assume the sheep flock as her pack instead of us humans.

She will live full-time protecting the sheep, and eventually have babies with our other guardian dog, Odum. She is a really sweet puppy and it’s hard to not bring her into our house to snuggle, but she’s got a job to do and we have Travis, our Australian Shepard for all the muddy dog snuggles we need.

Beef is back in our farm shares after our brief hiatus due to the closing of our primary meat processor Driftless Meats and More. This month we sent two beefs to Richland Meat Locker, a state-inspected facility about thirty minutes East of our farm. It’s an old fashioned place with good folks working there who’ve been in the business a long time. When we grazed at Mark Shepard’s farm, we used this processor. They’ve always been super nice to the animals and do a nice job cutting. You’ll notice the different packaging, but don’t worry, it’s still our beef!

One benefit of the early thaw in the ground…we are breaking ground on our new house! Apparently construction begins now. We will be pouring the basement in the next couple months and harvesting timber from an old pine stand to supply all of the wood. It’s a lot of work, but we should be moved in by the end of 2018.

Everyone loves ground beef. It embodies all of the flavor of grassfed because it’s a blend of the whole animal. We love ground beef that’s been allowed to simmer one to two hours on the stove, lending tons of flavor and texture to the dishes and really getting tender beef. Check out our Ultimate Chili Recipe – a stand-by in our house because I can prepare it earlier in the day and leave it on the stove, and with tons of garnishes it’s a fun meal. Tilia absolutely loves it.

Another great savory meal with ground beef is this Simple Meat Tomato Sauce Recipe for pasta or pizza. Sometimes we just put it on a bed of greens for a light carb-free meal.