I love the smell of hay…and putting it away for the winter. It’s a good feeling; knowing all the winter feed for the cows is ready. Jeanne is now in the throws of bush hogging the pastures with her new fifteen foot wide “bat-wing” mower. We mow the pastures to cut the seed heads off the plants to stimulate new growth. Cows don’t get much nourishment from seed heads or stalks.
Corn is tasseling and we are eating tomatoes every meal. Tomato sandwiches for breakfast, gazpacho for lunch and sliced tomatoes for dinner. My favorite varieties this year are Black Krim and Mr. Stripey. They are the silkiest and juiciest and not mealy at all. Each day for breakfast Jeanne and I eat one and half tomato sandwiches. She toasts “Wonder Bread” and I toast Arnold’s “Healthy Multi-Grain”. When the bread is just turning brown we pop the warm slices out of the toaster, put a layer of mayo on the bread then a slice of tomato that’s at least as thick as the bread, add salt and devour. “Oh my God, this is good” is our tomato prayer repeated every morning after the first bite.
Gazpacho, zucchini soup, grilled squash, corn on the cob, okra and peppers are regulars for dinner. When we harvest more tomatoes than we can eat or give away we make sauce.
A few of the Northern Bobwhites we released in October are still alive. I hear them calling everyday and search for them, hoping to see babies. I’ve got this hope thing going. If we release enough birds and keep doing it every year, maybe, just maybe a pair will reproduce and beat all the bureaucrats and scientists that say it can’t be done.
I look for Bobwhites at our river field where most of their habitat is. We fenced the cows out of the river and two tributaries ten years ago. As I walk along the river I can hear a male Bobwhite calling at the fringe of the old woods. I make my way to the river’s edge through the tall weeds. The river looks like milk chocolate flowing. Its brown because of all the cows standing in the river upstream. When they enter or exit the river their hooves decimate the banks dislodging soil which enters the water. The soil they dislodge clogs the gills of the insects in the water and clouds the water.
When cows hang out in the river they also excrete urine and manure. This puts nutrients, fecal coliform and pathogens that can cause lepto, crypto and other diseases in the water. Not only can our cows get whatever disease the herd upstream has but we humans can get these diseases as well.
A veterinarian asked me one time, “Bobby, have you ever had flue like symptoms?”.
“Well, sure”, I replied
He said, “You probably had Lepto”.
The sediment dislodged by their hooves and the nutrients, pathogens and hormones excreted by them has a profound negative impact on the health of the water and livestock and people downstream. We have a plan and the money to fix this. It’s called the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
Fencing livestock from streams is the most effective and by far the least expensive way to improve the streams in our backyard and all of them downstream.
Bobby, I have quail on my place now primarily due to my experiments with multispecies cover crops…..been there since 1986 and never had quail until last year….don’t know where they came from…it helps that the woodland next to me has been cutover and just replanted this past early spring….but the quail are flushed regularly from the cover crops….and my had a brood last year….now I have them singing daily all around the house…even had two in my front yard a month or so ago as I was mowing the lawn….if it were not for the snakes, I would just plant cover crops in the lawn as well….we have too many copperheads to do that though….
my tomatoes got a virus or something and have pretty much wilted away but they were wonderful while they lasted…fortunately here in Hanover there is no shortage of tomatoes…
Jim, thanks for stopping in and posting. You have as much enthusiasm for cover crops as I have for riparian buffers. Thanks for the info on your Quail…keep up the good work.
I’m sure you’ve had plenty of conversations with your upstream neighbors. Keeping cattle out of streams seems like such a common sense approach to a healthier farm, watershed, and bay. Keep up the great work!
As a city girl, love to hear what is happening in the county and farms.
I think the fastest way to get people to think about the health of streams and rivers would be to have them drink from same. As we are seeing right now in Ohio, what happens upstream matters to human health. We are long past the time when we can ignore how precious clean water is and I hope that everyone takes this issue personally – we all have a responsibility to be very careful about how we use water.
Nice description of the value of riparian buffers and the effect of cows in the water. Cows fenced out are also healthier cows. Stay tuned for the Goose Creek Association’s report card on water quality monitoring!
How about you and your downstream neighbors each collect a pint jar of water flowing past your place, and deposit them at your upstream neighbor’s driveway, with a “howdy, neighbor” sign?
As long as there is so much noise published in DNR every time EPA takes another look at cleaning up flowing water, those farmers feel supported in their thoughtless ways. There must be some way of getting through to reasonable people, and IF THERE IS, Bobby, you’re the one who’ll find it!
Bobby–Another impactful update; Thanks!
Consider–(after recent drinking water crisis, like in WVa. & Toledo)- how important & fundamental (yes– Essential! ) that healthy drinking water is for all your family & dependents- including all your pets, livestock, poultry, etc.–plus area wildlife. Anyone living upstream should follow the Golden Rule (so often, my dear mother said:) “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Amen. JBR Rockingham Co.
It has been predicted that the next great global conflict will be caused by the scarcity of clean water. You would think the most advanced agricultural country in the world could keep cows from peeing in the streams.
Bobby, I’ve been reading and enjoying your blog for a couple of years. My father was a CCC man and my uncle was one of the first SCS agents.
Some people are just aginners; they are against any change because that’s not the way their pappy did it or to change is an implicit recognition that what they did in the past was not right. But some farmers would change but for the cost even with the availability of cost share. Have you considered working through the FOMR to reimburse a farmer’s share of the fencing cost through a nonprofit crowdfunding site?
Kevin thanks for posting and for letting me know about your father. That is indeed awesome. FOMR have been working with the Headwaters SWCD for years…since day one of their existence. We have a “flex fence” program that pays for the farmers materials. There are at least 20 different programs out there to help them do it. One program can pay 140% of their cost plus rent. I agree with you, there are many out there that are just “aginners”.
This is perhaps the first article I have read and posted a comment on that talks about a farmer who actually listens to and practices simple methods, such as fencing out their cows from river to prevent contaminating the water supply. Props to you, Professor Whitescarver for being able to preserve and protect your stretch of the river from cattle contamination. I’m also impressed with you being cognizant towards the fact that the weight of cattle causes stream bank soil dislodging, which also greatly affects aquatic organisms. I also appreciate the many different ways you have incorporated the freshly grown tomatoes into each meal of the day. Im also impressed with how the leftover tomatoes are repurposed and used to make sauce. Keep being an awesome farmer!!!!!!
Grant, your words are too kind! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.