Thistle Hill Farm – Blog

…doing what comes naturally

Did someone mention Valentines Day….

Thistle Hill Farm fence

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 the fence!


Young cattleman of the year….

…if you’ll permit a proud Grandpa to brag. Grandson Church has just been named one of the 12 outstanding young cattlemen of the year by the leading grass fed organization in the country.

The Grass Fed Exchange will salute the 12 young men and women at their annual meeting in Santa Rosa, California in April.

Grandson Church and David

The Grass Fed Exchange is an organization of regenerative farmers, processors and food experts dedicated to producing the highest quality meat and dairy products on grass. Each year they give full fellowships to promising young men and women starting out in the field of sustainable grass farming.

Church manages our Thistle Hill herd of 34 purebred Devon cows plus 22 (so far) calves, 16 yearlings and 13 bulls on 400 acres of pastures and woodlands. That’s a big job and an enormous responsibility for a person at any age. So yes, his parents and I are proud of him. And appreciate the Grass Fed Exchange recognition of Church and all the winners.

I’m convinced regenerative agriculture is the wave of the future and (to mix metaphors) Church and his young colleagues are on the cutting edge! It is an exciting future!

Happy New Year!!!

Thistlehill Farm Beef Tongue

Chicken Feet

The Big Boys might call this a “line extension”. Son Curt was recently invited to a special Chinese New Year’s dinner featuring Thistle Hill Farms beef tongue, pigs feet and jelly fish.

Truth in blogging: the jelly fish is not from our pond.

Nor are the chicken feet. Curt reports the tongue was excellent. Less enthusiasm for the feet.

Warning: You may not want to try this at home.

Meantime, we’ll stick to beef. But tongue is available by special order. If you’re not on our mailing list to receive our monthly newsletter just write:


The joy of farming….

Feeding the cows at Thistlehill Farm.

Grandson Church is taking a post graduate course in biology this winter…and a course on everything else here at the farm.

It’s easy enough rolling out the hay and makes for a nice picture but…but…

The trick is to get the tractor started in zero temps and the bale positioned with the plastic wrapping off so the clamps grab it at the mid-point so the hay rolls out in an even line.

The cows clearly look forward to their breakfast-almost-in-bed and you can see a calf or two moving in for a bite. What the young ones really like is sleeping in the hay instead of the frozen ground!

The hay that’s left provides organic matter for the soil and also resends the pasture. Since we purchase our hay…and the cows convert it to let’s call it “nutrients”…this is a fairly environmentally friendly procedure.

Now next year if we can get Church to unroll it off his back….


Lord of the manor…

Thistlehill Farm's - TDA Churchill
TDA Churchill

TDA Churchill was the first bull we developed in our pure English Devon project and we now have about a dozen of his progeny in our herd.

Churchill’s dam was the best Devon cow we ever saw.  She was national grand champion three years running until her breeder, Gavin Hunter of Tilbrook  Grange, took pity on other English breeders and stopped showing her.

Just as impressive…for four straight years her sons (Churchill’s brothers) topped the national Devon show auctions. We’ll always be grateful that Gavin shared Cashtiller with Thistle Hill.

Cashtiller grandsons and granddaughters are available for inspection at our Farm.


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….