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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

No one here got a very good sleep last night due to the incessant bellowing of a cow somewhere along the north fenceline. There's a skeleton next to the creek on our place that speaks to the possibility of cows getting caught in fences, or foundering in mud and water, or getting sick and being brought down by predators. It was so loud, and sounded so unhappy, that I seriously considered getting dressed and going out with a flashlight to see what I could find. Don't the owners account for their animals at night? Would one deliberately leave a single member of a herd at the back of a remote wooded pasture?

It's a mystery.

How does one become a farmer? Either you pick up the skills from your forebears, or you partner with an experienced farmer, or you just figure it out on your own. We're half a generation removed – our father farmed with his father until his early twenties, then became an academic and international consulting engineer. I, too, have degrees in agricultural engineering, but they're not degrees in farming. I've gardened intensively, but that's not farming, and it doesn't scale up. Permaculture offers a path from the one to the other, and that's where we're at.

(Oh! There goes a firefly.)

So then, we read our books and manuals, talk to the agency folk and anyone else with experience, and make a practice of trial and error.

Today saw the completion of the rabbit fencing around the vegetable gardens, with 5-foot wide gates that will admit the little tractor if necessary. If we've done it right, we'll stop cursing and once again celebrate the crepuscular bunny parties.

Research continues into biochar and synfuel production through pyrolysis of wood chips. I need to take a welding class.


  1. I love reading these! Wow... sorry it's Debbie Larkins (Clark) not Scud the Cat..

    1. Hee hee but I love the name Scud for a cat. Come visit anytime!!!

    2. It's our new kitten's name... That's what happens when you ask a bunch of storm chasers for name ideas but it does fit her. : )

      I would LOVE to come up there and see all you guys have done!

    3. Having never used the word, "crepuscular" in context, I had to look it up. That fence shows looks obviously like it was a lot of work and something to be proud of. I have had 2 experiences in my life with sick cows, the latest being 10 yrs ago when the loud bellowing woke me on thanksgiving morning. Going out to the field behind my house (where we had the bonfire party) I found she had died during childbirth and I helped the farmer load the carcasses onto a truck. Farming offers a broad experience. DH


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