Thistle Hill Farm – Blog

…doing what comes naturally

The Radical Homemaker…

…is the pen name for Shannon Hayes. She was born and raised on a grass fed Milking Devon farm in upstate New York. Back in the day Shannon’s father was an inspiration to many of us getting started in this grass fed business.

Shannon and her husband and children have long since joined her parents on the farm and expanded their operation into a store and cafe and market other farm products.

Meanwhile Shannon has become an author with several books to her credit including “The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook”.

All this is by way of recommending one of her recent blogs on the “mis-steaks” of cooking grass fed beef.

Top 5 Grassfed Steak Misteaks
Photo – The Radical Homemaker – Top 5 Grassfed Steak Misteaks


This isn’t all that bad…

Thistle Hill Farm T2

….one of the mainstays of our herd, T2, interrupts her grazing after the first snowstorm of the season. As you can tell by her nose, she had no difficulty burrowing though the snow to get at grass. (There’s hay nearby, if she wants it.)

Officially we had six inches of snow overnight though not quite that in this pasture. T2 is a Rotokawa 93 sired cow out of our R2.

She is our template for a perfect Devon cow and we feel she holds her own even against our imported traditional English Devon.


Meat alert…

Thistlehill Farm Roasr

Here’s just a sample of what you’ve been missing if you’ve been waiting to try Thistle Hill beef.

This roast was slow cooked in Baltimore and our customer said he didn’t even have to use a knife.  Note the interior, tasty fat in the meat.

More than half our regulars order a quarter….that’s close to 100 pounds and is priced at $7.50 actual package weight! Others order a half at $7.25.

With preference given to the largest orders we seldom have individual cuts for sale; but we urge you to ask. If we get enough requests we can set aside a portion of the next animals.

Needless to say (but we always do) our beef is absolutely grass finished (not just fed but grass finished), absolutely without hormones, absolutely without drugs or chemicals of any kind!

To place an order email:


An early morning stroll…

…with her new baby boy.

THF 18

THF 18 is 13 years old now and still performing beautifully. She is out of the Guardsman line that the Enghs brought into the breed to improve milking. Technically he was a Milking Devon and so also brought long legs into the breed. Guardsman later went on to Leonor Creek.

Weighing Calf

This bull calf weighed 75 pounds and Church uses a hook on our pickup to hold up the newborns. (Why back in my day we lifted the scale head high to see the dial without any new-fangled gimmicks!) 😀

The sire was TDA Cutcombe…one of our traditional English Devon bulls. Again note the deep ruby red color.


The perfect steak…

..ok, begins at Thistle Hill. But Church found a way to gild the lily.


Apparently these cookers have been around quite awhile but pricey. (Now, Amazon has them for $160-180). Basically you put the steak in a plastic bag…remove the air…and slow cook in water at a temp of 135 degrees.

He deployed one of his Christmas presents: a Sous vide cooker. He selected a Delmonico steak for his first try just in case it didn’t turn out. In fact he reports it was as tender and flavorful as a filet mignon.

Sous Vide Cooker

Apparently it’s a no-brainer; a gourmet steak every time! Church finished his steak off in a skillet with a dollop of butter just for aesthetic reasons. I would miss the fellowship of standing around the grill with an aluminum can in my hand, but in mid-winter….


Let’s call this before….

Thistle Hill Farm fence at sunrise

Christmas weekend opened splendidly with sunrise reflected off the Blue Ridge..captured by our designated early riser, daughter Carolyn.

But if there’s a before there must be an after.  At the moment Carolyn took the before picture a passing motorist was also admiring the sunrise over Thistle Hill.  At least that’s what he told the investigating state trooper.

Thistlehill Farm fence being repaired.

In any event the motorist lost control and we lost four sections of four-board fence.

Fortunately a neighbor saw the accident and moved our cows to a nearby pasture with intact fencing.  Thank you Kathy Hartz!

Rebuilding fencing wasn’t the way we planned to spend Christmas but the job is done!  Thanks to Church, Lucio and Curt…and Carolyn, who took this picture, too!


Suspicions confirmed…

…for some time I’ve felt we as an industry have been harvesting our beef at too young an age.

First let me say I am skeptical of the results of the Mad Cow scare of some years back. Even more skeptical of the cure…permitting bone-in cuts only for animals under 30 months. Whatever triggers Mad Cow may simply not be apparent in younger animals.

No matter…30-months has been the trigger for slaughter dictated by the USDA and the industrial beef people love it because that supports their rush to harvest.

Finally along comes a cattleman to speak out…and let us know what we’ve been missing. He’s been taste-testing some of his older steaks…15-year old steaks…and posted the results on a YouTube video.

It was a few years ago…on one of our Devon visits that I had a steak that was about 10 years old. The farmer wasn’t sure. What was certain was that it was the most delicious, and yes tender, steak I’ve ever had!

It is past time that we revisit the whole Mad Cow Syndrome. And I have to note that no more than there’s ever been any recall of grass fed meat, there’s never been a case of E.coli or Mad Cow in a grass fed and finished beef!

Know your farmer.  And yes we do follow the USDA guidelines…begrudgingly.


Let the real test begin…

…in the final analysis it’s not the bull…nor the pedigree…but the calves.

TDA 16, Cutcomb - Sired by Ashott Barton Millennium Falcon. Dam is TDA 4

Cutcombe represents one of the first second generation all English animals born in America. Sired by Ashott Barton Millennium falcon and out of TDA 4. We hope to see his deep ruby red coat show up in his upcoming calves. And Cutcombe’s first calves are due any day now.

This just in…

…all natural grass fed, grass finished beef!  Now there’s a delicious mouthful…and nutritious, too!

Thistle Hill Farm Beef Steaks

Thistle Hill Farm is back in full operation now under the direction of grandson Church Humphreys.  Our focus remains the marketing of the very best Devon seedstock but that doesn’t mean we can’t set aside a limited number of animals for personal consumption.

Again we’re offering whole carcasses, halves and quarters.  Bulk Prices range from $7 to $7.50 a pound…and that’s packaged weight in individual cuts.

We’ll also endeavor to provide special packages of our mouth-watering hamburgers.  You’ve  never tasted anything this good..and a bulk buy at just $6 a pound is a family bargain.

To order or to be placed on our mailing list get in touch with Church at info@thistlehill. net or phone 540-364-2090


More about Buttercup…

…see below “All we could have hoped for…”. The dam of our Buttercup was Essington Park 136, photographed the day we first saw her at Essington Park in 2010.

Essington Park 136

She was standing a bit apart from her herd. And she was always that way particularly with a calf at her side. Did she know her pedigree stretched back more than 100 years?

She was Brian Drake’s favorite too. He liked her trouble free performance..a calf every year right on schedule. Mobile; she was always first to the best new grass.

And a solid mother. Her babies did not wander…where she put them is where they stayed, even if a stranger came up.

She was an absolute reflection of the solid couple who bred her…Maureen and Brian Drake. They dedicated their lives to the Devon breed. It’s an honor to feature Essington Park at Thistle Hill.