Saturday, January 5, 2008
The back of the cold broke this morning as the sun rose. Warm air came up from the south. They say we're heading for our annual January thaw. 40 degrees. Positively tropical. Here's our sunrise today. Still well to the south of east, of course, but that will change soon when the days begin to race. Here in Maine, "racing days" coincide with rising sap and syrup season. We don't make syrup, but other folks around here do, and the students make it at the college.
I went over to old Larry W's dairy farm to get a round bale for the sheep yesterday while it was still cold. He had a Holstein down with mastitis, old "Sag, he called her, was waiting for the vet, very sad she would have to be put down, keeping her comfortable until her time. I asked him why he didn't shoot them himself. (I shoot our fat lambs myself, with the 30-30.)
He can't stand to do it, he said, all rheumy-eyed. (He's had a stroke or something like it, there's a tremor there.) I said I could see why, I hate doing it myself, but for meat there's not much choice. You either shoot them yourself, or you must drive them this awful drive to the slaughterhouse. Aimee would rather I shot them. The drive is too stressful.
There's no keeping animals without death. The layer hens eventually fall off their perches, the old ewes pass on, dogs die or are put down. And there's no sensible farming in New England without animals to complete the fertility cycle and keep the forage from becoming rank brush. Without manures, fertilizer comes from a factory, and is made with fossil fuels, lots of natural gas goes into making nitrogen fertilizer. Farmers can, if they work at it, make enough fertility with rotation and non-animal input compost, but why, when there's so much forage land that can't really become arable land, and when animal manure is so good for fertilizer?
Larry is a nice guy, who loves farming. He asked about the sheep. He was sad about his cow. Larry composts his dead animals. There's no knackers yard around here anywhere, so no use for an dead Holstein milk cow except fertilizer.
Ashes to ashes. The sun keeps rising, though.