Not Just Us Small Farmers

It’s good to see that it’s not just us small farmers who are up in arms about the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). The NY Times has an excellent story today about large western ranchers who are resisting participation in it.

Mr. Platt said he already did all he could to fight epidemics. He does not bring any outside animals into his herds, and he happily staples on metal tags that identify animals to help with brucellosis control. But as he drove his pickup from grasslands into dense thickets of piñon pine on this highland desert that requires 100 acres per cow, he explained why he thought the federal plan was wrongheaded.

Mr. Platt called the extra $2 cost of the electronic tags an onerous burden for a teetering industry and said he often moved horses and some of his 1,000 head of cattle among three ranches here and in Arizona. Small groups of cattle are often rounded up in distant spots and herded into a truck by a single person, who could not simultaneously wield the hand-held scanner needed to record individual animal identities, Mr. Platt said. And there is no Internet connection on the ranch for filing to a regional database.

Looking over the 22,000 acres that his cattle share with elk, pronghorns and mountain lions and where animals can easily disappear, Mr. Platt scoffed at the idea of reporting every death, as animal health officials prefer.

“They can’t comprehend the vastness of a ranch like this,” he said of federal officials. “They don’t appreciate what is involved logistically.”

Beyond the individual ranchers profiled, the story nicely summarizes many of the program’s aspects that we find so troubling.

Underlying the opposition is the fragile economics of ranches and small farms, which are already disappearing. The extra cost of radio tags, scanners and filing reports when animals change premises would be crushing, some smaller producers say.

“My main beef is that these proposed rules were developed by people sitting in their offices with no real knowledge of animal husbandry and small farms,” said Genell Pridgen, an owner of Rainbow Meadow Farms in Snow Hill, N.C., which rotates sheep, cattle, pigs, turkeys and chickens among three properties and sells directly to consumers and co-ops.

“I feel these regulations are draconian,” Ms. Pridgen said, “and that lobbyists from corporate mega-agribusiness designed this program to destroy traditional small sustainable agriculture.” Paul Hamby, owner of Hamby Dairy Supply in Maysville, Mo., and a vocal opponent of the plan, said, “It is very much an economic and class warfare issue.”

“Fifty years ago,” Mr. Hamby said, “hundreds of thousands of farms raised hogs, and now very few players have control of the market. I believe one of the reasons for this plan is to consolidate the cattle industry.”

Go read the whole thing. It is excellent.

When Coons Attack

A nasty surprise greeted me this morning when I went out to the barn to do chores: we’d clearly had a raccoon attack overnight.

I noticed something amiss as soon as I let the sheep out into their paddock (and from there out to the pasture). There were white feathers all over the paddock, but especially strong concentrations of them in a direct line from the barn to a certain part of the fence. A moment later, my worst fears were confirmed: our flock of geese came honking out of the barn to be let out to pasture with the sheep, and a quick head count revealed only seven White Embdens — one short. They, and the two mature gray geese which have adopted them, all looked fine.

Once they were in the pasture with the sheep, I took a closer look at the carnage and tried to figure out what had happened overnight. There was a heavy concentration of white feathers in a small gap where one of the barn doors doesn’t fit tightly to the old stone wall. None of the birds have escaped through that gap, so I haven’t worried about plugging it. However, the geese often do sleep next to that door, on the inside of the barn of course, at night. One of them may very well have been sound asleep just inside that gap when the coon came prowling. He seemed to have reached in, grabbed hold of a leg or neck, and forced the struggling goose out through the gap.

The feathers led in a trail diagonally from that gap to a corner of the paddock fence. As Scooter and I followed that trail, we got confirmation of the culprit: we found a severed goose head (not pictured). Decapitation is a signature killing style for raccoons.

The coon then seems to have forced the dead goose through the fence — no small feat, as the fence has such small holes that live geese never have been able to push their way through.
I continued tracking the feathers through the hay field, and found the place where the goose had been disemboweled and consumed. (Again, not pictured.) Then the feather trail petered out.

Geese are usually pretty ferocious animals, and a flock of them can easily repel predators even as large as foxes. This is the first goose we’ve lost to a predator in many years; the only other victims have been broody geese who were sitting alone on nests outside of an enclosure.

It’s amazing how sneaky that coon was, pulling the goose right out of the barn the way he did. I had no idea that something could fit through that little gap…but I suppose that if you’re a coon, and you’re hungry enough, you’ll try anything.
Guess what The Yeoman Farmer’s first repair task will be this morning?

Yeoman Farm Baby — Incoming!

In a recent post, I asked for your prayers regarding a big development that was underfoot. Mrs Yeoman Farmer and I are deeply grateful for all of those prayers…because they have been bearing tremendous fruit. Specifically, this kind of fruit:


No, MYF is not pregnant. We wish another pregnancy was possible, but God has made it clear that he has chosen a different way he’d like our family to grow. Some time back, we were contacted by a friend who wanted to know if we had ever considered adoption. We said that we had in fact thought and prayed about it a lot, and were open to it, but that we had not begun actively pursuing it. She then explained that she knew of a young woman who was at a loss as to what she should do about an unexpected pregnancy. Although privacy reasons prevent my elaborating on the details, the young woman and we both decided that her baby would be a perfect match for our family.

The baby is not due until late in the fall, so we have some time, but the upcoming months will still be a hectic whirlwind of agency interviews, legal proceedings, and a home study. We are discovering that even with a private arrangement such as this one, a great deal of government oversight (through an adoption agency) is still required.

But that is all fine with us. Our whole family is so excited about this new little member, all the legal and agency hurdles in the world seem like nothing. This new little baby is truly a pearl of great price, for whom we are prepared to sacrifice all we have.

The birth mother, and we, are completely committed to the adoption. However, given the number of complications that can arise in both a pregnancy and a legal process, both of our families would greatly appreciate all the prayers you are able to offer up on our behalf.

Food, Inc.

There is a new documentary out today called Food, Inc. I haven’t seen it, but from the trailer it looks like an excellent indictment of Big Food.

In a textbook example of irony, an advertisement for McDonald’s Big Mac appeared on the YouTube page while I was watching the trailer. I clicked through on the advertisement, which will hopefully cost McDonald’s some money.

Has anyone seen the full movie, and can you give us a report? According to the film’s website, there are no theaters within 40 miles of me that are showing it. If I do manage to see it, I will post a review to the blog.

H/T: Patti L.

Back from the Wilderness

We’re back from the virtual wilderness; AT&T finally got our DSL service re-established on Friday, a couple of days after originally promised. We are now a cell phone-only family for voice communications, and so far it has worked out well enough.

The week without DSL (or even dial-up, as we had no landline) was difficult, and I was going through serious withdrawal at times. Unfortunately, the closest WiFi hotspot is quite some distance from our house (at the local bakery/cafe, the staff didn’t even know what “WiFi” is); I ended up driving in just once a day to check and respond to critical emails. Unfortunately, my laptop chose this week to begin its death spiral. It’s now 7 or 8 years old, but I use it so infrequently (and for such basic tasks) that I haven’t bothered upgrading it. Just this week, when I took it into town to check critical emails, it began doing something truly bizarre: it was like the keyboard was frequently stuck on a particular key, and would type that character repeatedly no matter what application I had open. It didn’t do this all the time, and it wasn’t always the same keyboard character, but I seldom had more than about a minute between episodes. Even plugging in an auxiliary keyboard didn’t solve the problem. It seems like something is going seriously wrong with the wiring in the laptop’s built-in keyboard. Bottom line: I had to respond quickly to emails, and had no time for posting to the blog.

I hope to rectify that soon, once we catch our collective breath. My folks are in from Arizona for the next couple of days, and we’ve been enjoying spending time with them. It’s been particularly fun seeing my parents get to know Mrs Yeoman Farmer’s father better; we had a grand time at his place yesterday, and my father is out golfing with him right now. (And the three of us played in a K of C charity golf scramble on Saturday morning.)

Last weekend, we had a wonderful time hosting one of MYF’s law school friends and her family; they are Chicago-area homeschoolers with kids corresponding very closely in age to ours, and all the children had an absolute blast running around the farm playing and doing chores. The friend’s parents also came; her father grew up on a large farm in Mainland China, before the communists seized power and the village’s landholders all fled to Taiwan. He later attended college and graduate school in the USA and settled in this country, but never lost his love for the land. He was fascinated by all aspects of our property, and we thoroughly enjoyed comparing notes about “yeoman farming” practices in 1940s-era China versus 2009 Michigan.

Finally, there is a big development under foot that has been keeping us preoccupied for the last couple of weeks. I’m not sure it’s prudent to say much more about that development at present, other than to ask all of you to pray that everything surrounding it go as smoothly as possible. I should be able to supply more details before long; in the meantime, your prayers are very much appreciated.