Thistle Hill Farm – Blog

…doing what comes naturally

Category: Environment

Living in a resort…

…that’s what my 18 years at Thistle Hill have felt like. The farm has been in the family a lot longer…almost 75 years. And now a new generation…the fourth…is beginning to take hold.  Grandson Church Humphreys is managing our Devon cattle herd and showing the same appreciation for the setting in the Blue Ridge mountains […]

The system circles the wagons…

..for 20 years I’ve been railing against glysophate…a chemical herbicide that Monsanto has been selling worldwide under the trade name “Round-up”. A number of studies have identified it as a carcinogen and a few farmers have successfully sued Monsanto for damages. Now however the EPA has declared glysophate entirely safe, putting millions of dollars in […]

Starting second pass…

…after about 45 days rest. Grandson Church says too many weeds though that’s not apparent in the picture. We calculate we have about 54,000 pounds animal weight per acre…just about a quarter of what we really need to see the results off mob grazing. At this level the cows can still afford to be selective. […]

Evening sun at Thistle Hill….

Sometimes it seems Heaven is just down the road. David

Second pass…

…after a 45-day rest period, we’re bringing the main herd to where we started six weeks ago. The clover stand predominates…probably 60-70%. Church took the phrase “overseeding” too literally last winter. We may adjust paddock size this time around. We could use more trampling effect. Again trampled grass is particularly beneficial in the hot weather […]

Watching grass grow….

The definition of “boring” may be watching grass grow but whoever said that was certainly never a cattleman. We’ve finally started strip grazing and here’s an after-action picture of the first paddock. The untouched grass is behind the electric wire in the background. This was the result on a half acre with 30 cow/calf pairs […]

Here they come…

The main Devon herd stretched out across Thistle Hill at sunset. No fuss or bother as they follow grandson Church for close to a half a mile. Do they understand that luscious green grass awaits? They do certainly trust Church’s leadership and sense of purpose. Outriders, sticks and herding dogs not necessary. Once they’ve regrouped […]

That didn’t take long…

What a difference five days makes. Grass is now 8 to 10 inches. We’ll have to move fast or risk falling impossibly behind. Grandson Church is erecting the stakes for one-acre paddocks and the main herd of 30 cows and their new calves will have an acre a day. Look carefully and you’ll see a […]

Did someone mention Valentines Day….

Our young bull Cutcombe must have gotten the idea somewhere because he took off overnight looking for love. Fortunately a neighbor spotted him early in his search and helped Church herd the young lothario back into the bull pasture. Fortunate too that his eight mates didn’t follow him on his quest. So no harm done…oh […]

A hymn to farming….

….sort of. We’ve played music from the Peterson Brothers before.  They’re young men of a Minnesota farm family telling their story via rap, funk, etc.  Unintentionally, they often (as in this video) catalog pretty much all the sins of modern commercial farming. The argument is always that this rape of the land is necessary to […]