Swoope Almanac – Summer 2014: Tomatoes, Bobwhites and Middle River Flowing Like Chocolate Milk
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.