Thistle Hill Farm – Blog

…doing what comes naturally

Sometimes you gotta wonder….

….if that old joke isn’t true….that among the three greatest lies is “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you”.   It seems the feds devote their greatest effort to what isn’t a problem…..finding ways to nitpick small farms and processors when all the  bad food is coming out of the industrial food chain.

Just today our CSA farmer told me he can’t eat hamburger because his stomach can’t handle it.  I told him that’s because he wasn’t really eating ground beef….but a conglomeration of junk from around the world.  (Yes, “Certified Angus Beef” isn’t all Angus).  Several of our customers who couldn’t eat beef happily down Thistle Hill steaks and burger.

But having successfully blurred the issue on grass fed and finished beef, the USDA is doing everything it can to shove GMO foods down our throats.  Here’s the latest:

Thanks to Lois Aylestock of BlueRidge Meats for the link.

You also to have to wonder what Vladimir Putin knows that we don’t!




Well, this is depressing….

….and it’s only a partial list.  Doesn’t anyone every wonder why we’re spending more and more on health care….and our population is increasingly less well?  Let’s start with obesity, autism, ADD in our kids.  You think maybe??

I also have to shake my head when people say they don’t eat red meat….but choose chicken and fish instead.

Traditional Devon update….

..the principals of Traditional Devon™ got together this past week IMG_1716to review progress…and here’s an example:  TDA 23.  She’s an Essington Park Buttercup embryo daughter by Ashott Barton Millennium Falcon.  She’s just five months old but this is what we’ve been working for.

English breeders Brian Drake (who provided the dam) and Shiamala Comer (who provided the bull) deserve the the credit.  But we think the picture demonstates another thing:  the importance of the recip.  Awhile back we decided that we were going to select our very best cows to serve as recipients.  In our opinion that is just about as important as the genetics.

Incidentally, veteran cattlemen Jerry and Jeremy Engh of Lakota Ranch visited this week as well and were equally impressed.

Incidentally number 2:  Jeremy reports tentative plans are underway for a “mini-world tour” in two years and Thistle Hill has been asked to demonstrates the results of our “pure, traditional English Devon”.

At the end of the day….


….the sun sets over the Blue Ridge mountains.  Photo by our daughter, Carolyn Matthews.



….in fact, raising beef is better for the planet than growing vegetables.  The real threat is cultivating crops the conventional way.


Thistle Hill Alumni Club….

IMG_0230….has opened a new branch at Franchesca’s Dawn Farm near Halifax, VA.  Not long ago Amie Herrara purchased one of herd bulls—U2—and here are the first results.  Amie was worried that one of her heifers was too small to successfully calve, but U2 handled the assignment.

Amie writes:  “we’ve been pleased with them all!  The calves are growing so much better than our pastIMG_0263 calves.  I just wanted to let you know how much we appreciate having the big guy in our herd.”

For some reason, Wooz named U2 “Double Trouble” and it’s her one mistake.  He played a big role in the development of our herd and we’re pleased he’s living up to his reputation in Halifax.

The proof is in….

….the progeny!

FullSizeRenderTraditional Devon™ Churchill continues to turn out splendid calves both here at Thistle Hill and at Bill and Nancy Walker’s Century Farms at Anderson, South Carolina….where this young lady is pictured.

Churchill was the very first embryo calf we imported six years ago and he’s had trial runs now at both farms.  Today he is pastured at Thistle Hill, making friends with the girls in our main herd.

Texas floods….

….it’s not only the human tragedy.  Lois Ayelstock of Blue Ridge Meats has a link to some dramatic footage of cattle fighting for their lives.


Thistle Hill alumni club….

….THF Red Lad X3, though his current owners Brooke Henley and Tom Garnett call him “Reddy” for short.  He’s been at the heart of the grass fed beef  business that Brook and Tom’s Spring Pastures Farm near Middletown, Maryland has been developing.  You can see why they love him and why he’s one of our favorite bulls.

THF Red Lad U3



Brooke and Tom have also done some innovative things on their farm and right now they’re experimenting with over-seeding summer annuals.  You can keep up with their various experiments by going to their Facebook page:


We knew her “when”….

….Thistle Hill is fortunate in the company it gets.  I guess it’s because we try so many things and have become a real world laboratory.  We’ve hosted visitors from around the world and learned from them all.

One who stopped by last year was Sarah Flack, a young forage expert.  She was writing a book (see the link below describing her visit) and now a mutual friend, Jim Gerrish, reports that Sarah’s book is coming out.   We consider Jim at the top of the list of forage experts and that he would give a boost to someone new to the field is, as they say, “the mark of the man”.  (You have to scroll down a little to read about the book.

We’re certainly looking forward to the book and we wanted to mention that, like Jim Gerrish, Sarah combines book-learning with real world experience.  Her father, Doug has been a major force in the Milking Devon world….a man always noted for sharing his knowledge.  It runs in the family apparently.

Now here is a link to our original post about Sarah’s visit to Thistle Hill.

Not in your wildest dreams…