December 18, 2010
Where has the time gone?! Fall slipped past us with hardly a word, and winter has arrived for sure, at least as far as the short days and long nights are concerned! The air has chilled, and with only a few exceptions, our winter La Nina rains have begun. Thankfully, the thick coat of the Scottish Highland breed is keeping our cattle quite comfortable despite the chill. In fact, in all but the wettest, windiest weather, they actually prefer to stay out in the pasture, contentedly chewing their cuds, rather than seeking shelter under the trees.
La Nina is reminding us that our farm needs some wet-weather modifications, so we’ve put on our thinking caps and are already starting to plan for warmer weather chores. In 2011, that will include a renovation of our sacrifice paddock, which Ms. La Nina turned into a muddy, poorly draining nightmare last month during a heavy rain. We’ve never looked so forward to a good, hard freeze, as mud makes getting to the chickens quite an exercise! Having the cattle out on pasture and out of the mud is good for them, but not the best for the pasture, so we’re also starting to look into land to lease next summer to give ours a break.
Nonetheless, as we reflect on the past year and all the wonderful experiences we had, we can smile and shake our heads at the weather and know that this, too, shall pass, and the seasons will again turn. For now, we’ll enjoy the warmth of the fire, bundle up to do our chores, and continue to laugh at the goofy cold-weather antics of our Highlands!
Merry Christmas to you and yours!
Paul and Amy
October 3, 2010
Fall has officially arrived at Skookumchuck Farm, with that tell-tale moisture in the air, golden slanting light, and beginnings of brilliant fall colors. While the first hard frost of the season hasn’t visited yet, we know it’s likely only a couple of weeks away. (For reference, last year’s first hard frost occurred on September 9th, which was, in a word, weird.)
This weekend is weaning weekend for Cowboy and Clyde, the farm’s two steer calves. Both boys are growing well and take fewer feedings from their mamas, so it seemed the right time. It hasn’t been 24 hours of separation yet, but so far the bawling has been minimal, probably because we’re weaning the boys in the field section where they were born, right adjacent to the cows. Cows and calves can easily see one another and sniff through the fence, providing comfort and reassurance. The cows’ udders are starting to feel uncomfortable so they have things to “say” about that, but discomfort will leave in a few days as their milk production starts to slow to a stop. So long as no one (I’m talking to you, Clyde!) decides to go through a fence, this will be an easy weaning!
Paul and Amy
September 12, 2010
Fall and winter symbolize short days, long, dark evenings, and hurried family meals squeezed between kids’ after school sports events and activities. It’s a time of fall festivals, succulent comforting meals, and togetherness. Now is the perfect time to think about adding wholesome, tasty Skookumchuck Farm 100% Highland beef to your freezer and 2011 meal plans!
We are now accepting deposits for sides of beef (halves or quarters) or ground beef only. Harvest is expected in January 2011. Quantities will be extremely limited, so orders will be accepted on a first come, first served basis.
Paul and Amy
July 2, 2010
This just in: our first two calves, T-Bone and Annabel, both made the American Highland Cattle Association’s 2009 Roll of Excellence for the points they won after being shown in only two Highland shows!
Senior Heifer Calf
1st LiTerra Betula 911 (119)
2nd RAM Talon (59)
3rd Skookumchuck’s Annabel (39)
4th We Tired Anastasia (27)
4th Ainsworth’s Arabella (27)
5th We Tired Allison (25)
5th AF Nonsuch Valentine (25)
5th Ainsworth’s Rosalie (25)
5th Almosta Farm’s Holli (25)
Senior Bull Calf
1st Shat Acres Dancelot (89)
2nd RAM Tucker (77)
3rd RTH Vincent (50)
4th Skookumchuck’s T-Bone (46)
4th RTH VanNorman (46)
5th Race Hill Viking (25)
5th CGH Buddy (25)
5th Landelley’s Sisco (25)
For every point show an animal places in, their points are tallied and sent to AHCA. At the end of show season, AHCA tabulates all the results and the top five animals in each category are ranked and listed in the Roll of Excellence. Some shows, like Washington’s NWHCA Regional Show at the Western Washington State Fair (Puyallup) are “super points” shows, meaning animals win double the points they do at regular points shows. The numbers in red indicate the number of points earned by each animal overall.
While we are extremely proud and happy to have received this national recognition, we’re even more thrilled that FIVE of our fellow Northwest Highland Cattle Association breeders also made the list: Allen Acres (Amy and Kevin Allen, Shelton); Bitterroot Farms (Tom and Deanna Newton, McCleary); Blueberry Meadows Highlands (Bonnie McLarty, Enumclaw); Hemlock Highlands (John and Jean Bates, Sedro-Woolley); Run a Muk Ranches (Sue Weimer and Naomi Ewing, Yakima)!
To see the full national results of the 2009 Roll of Excellence for all Highland show categories, visit the AHCA ROE page.
June 24, 2010
Contrary to the popular adage, Spring 2010 in Western Washington came in like a lamb and went out like a lion! We received record amounts of rainfall in May and June, and only this week is summer-like weather beginning to appear, with partly sunny skies and temperatures forecasted in the low- to mid-70s (although yesterday was 79 in Tenino – too hot for Amy!).
While the extra moisture was good for the pasture grass in some respects (especially since our Frost Prairie rocky soil is quick to drain), the clouds and cool temperatures put grass growth behind schedule, slowing our first experiments with Management Intensive Grazing (MiG). MiG, sometimes called rotational grazing (although not quite the same), involves utilizing temporary hotwire fencing to break our pastures into small sections that can be grazed in a flexible rotation. The goal is for the cattle to graze the pasture plants at their optimal growth part – not too tall and not too short – and then move them to the next paddock so the area they just left can rest and recover. Over time, if done correctly (and “correct” is loose term), MiG improves the fertility and diversity of the pasture and can extend the amount of time per year that a pasture can be grazed, while continual grazing – allowing cattle to roam the pasture freely and eat whatever and whenever they want – results in all the tastiest grass being overgrazed and weakened and allows room for weeds and non-desirable species to move in. We’re not doing MiG “perfectly” so far, but are confident that even with our mistakes to date, what we’re doing now is better than what we’ve done the past two years, and we’re seeing some great diversity around the cow patties already.
If you’d like to learn more about MiG, check out the book Salad Bar Beef by Joel Salatin, or visit the Holistic Management International or National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA) links on the right-hand side of our website.
Enjoy your early summer!
Paul and Amy
April 27, 2010
Sheila’s 2010 calf arrived at 8:43 p.m. on Sunday, April 11th! Named Cowboy, this 80 lb, blue-eyed bull calf shows indications of gray pigment on his nose and eyelids, indicating he’ll likely mature to be brindle like his sire, Umberto of Hem-Loch. He’s showing a lot of blockiness already and looks to be a promising bull prospect.
Five days later, on April 16th at 7:40 p.m., Bridgit delivered her healthy bull calf, Clyde, the spitting image of his slightly older half brother. This little bundle of energy was up on his feet in 18 minutes and running and playing at less than 12 hours old. So far he appears to be light red or yellow in color and doesn’t show the gray skin pigmentation of a brindle animal. He’s a curious little cutie pie!
To read more about what’s happening at Skookumchuck Farm, check out our blog.
Paul and Amy