Thistle Hill Farm – Blog

…doing what comes naturally

Making it hard on us…

…this veteran cow went to the farthest point of the farthest pasture to have her calf.

Dam X2a
Photo by Church Humphries

Riparian areas are great—and we have them all over Thistle Hill—but it makes it tough to find new calves.  The mothers are often no help…looking in a direction away from their baby, I’m sure to mislead us!

This dam, X2a, has since moved all the way around the herd and some distance away in the other direction…the baby bull trotting right along.  After a few days when she’s sure she has her baby well-disciplined, X2a will rejoin her herd.

And Carolyn just brought up something I had forgotten…when it came time to have her baby X2a sought out an earlier daughter…so X2a calved right next to her daughter and granddaughter.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the “2s”


The heavy lifting…

Curt Humphries
Photo by Carolyn Matthews

…is left to son-in-law Curt Humphries who is stuck with the jobs no one else wants…in this case finding a missing calf and returning her to mama.

THF 13 is a blend of English and American genetics.  Mom is from our favorite “2” line and the sire again was our Essington Park bull.


In support of a 50-year farm bill…

…by a giant in the field of regenerative agriculture.  No one has better captured the beauty of farming in sync with nature than Wendell Berry.  The Kentucky farmer, poet, writer and environmentalist writes in the Atlantic in support of the 50-year farm bill.

While Berry may stand alone in his wordcraft, I do want to mention an even earlier writer I think qualifies as the father of the sustainable ag movement:  Louis Bromfield.  His Malabar Farms had a big impact on even my city anchored family in the 40s.  I still recall my mother and father reading aloud from Malabar Farms at our dinner table.  Still on my personal bucket list is a visit to Malabar Farms in Ohio which is now a museum and park open to the public.

Bromfield was a Hollywood screenwriter who moved to Ohio to reclaim a worn out farm.  Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were married at Malabar.


An overnight delivery…

…not sure how Church managed to find this one in the dark, but he did!  And he’s special too.

THF 12
Photo by Church Humphreys

His working number is 12 and he’s out of Church’s personal cow…a gift from his grandmother on our last trip to England.

The original dam was Ashott Barton Tulip, purchased by Wooz and then taken to Bovine Genetics where Stella Scholes bred and flushed her.

The embryos were implanted here at Thistle Hill.  And now those calves are having their calves…pure traditional English Devon here on American soil.

Sorry for the color quality but the original is so dark nothing really shows.  If it were a negative and not digital I’d say we pushed it.


Multiple blessings…

…7, 8, 9!


These three came in a bunch a week ago.  But THF 7 was camera shy and we waited until we had pictures of all three.

THF 7 and 8 are bull calves…7 out of a cow in our American herd; 8 is traditional English.  So is 9…a smallish heifer.

All three were sired by our Essington bull…a proud graduate of Brian Drake’s legendary herd.  In addition to contributing his best cow to our partnership, Brian was always generous with his wisdom and hospitality.

For those who have asked:  we do raise our English and American animals together and will use an English bull with the American cows…but not the reverse.

A traditional Devon is horned and so we want to preserve those bloodlines.  But we understand many breeders prefer not to deal with horns…and so we have our American herd which draws from many of the leading cattlemen in this country.  And for those who want to introduce a little of the “real thing” into their program, we have crosses of English and American.


Today’s blessing…

…a little heifer THF 11…weighing 70 pounds.

Thistlehill Farm - THF 11
Photo by Church Humphreys

She’s a three-quarter English calf and was an elusive little girl…still needs a tag.

The ratio is still tipped heavily in favor of bulls though…8 to 3.


Just in time…

Thistle Hill Farm Wild Turkeys
Photo by Carolyn Matthews

…for Thanksgiving.  The advance guard of a flock of wild turkeys crossing Thistle Hill farm.

We’ve seen the return of a number of birds to the farm since we eliminated all “cides” about 20 years ago.  In fact there’s been an up-swing of all wildlife including our very own resident bear.

Almost all our pastures have adjacent riparian areas including water.  But our partners are increasing bold.  These turkeys are right in front of the main house.


Lest we forget…

Thistle Hill Farm pigs

…pork is on the way.  Five pigs that look like they’ll be ready from now to Christmas.

This year we’re raising mostly Berkshires…with some Tamworth thrown in.  Most pig growers seem to eventually settle on Berkshires for the flavor…and all-around performance.

In the past we’ve favored Tamworth and Gloucester Old Spot, but we thought it was time to try the popular favorite.  All three of English heritage breeds and each has their advocates.  These Berkshire are the best-mannered we’ve had so far…and finishing faster than others.

In this picture they’re being fed a mixture of spent brewers grain and a growers ration heavy on corn.  Ours pigs are raised entirely on pasture with the benefit of some acorns from nearby trees that add special flavor.

The first bacon should be ready in several weeks.  Contact Church for more information or to order.

(214) 802-1283


One man’s legacy…

…the inspirational story of a retired businessman in Texas who is leaving quite a legacy.  It reminds me of Louis Bromfield…whose tales of Malabar Farm in Ohio got us interested in regenerative farming before it was cool.

Thanks to Shannon Kincaid, an artist friend in Dallas who suggested the link.


Proud mother…

…and son.  The bull calf is now a week old and shows promise.

Mother and Son

He certainly has the pedigree:  his grandmother was the great Tilbrook Cashtiller…who dominated English show rings for many years.  And for three years running her bull calves topped the sales!

We think the sire was from another well-known line, Champson Defender.  But we won’t be sure until we get the DNA.  This was the first success at AI-ing for grandson Church.

We’re hoping for more than 25 calves over the next month or so.  You’re always welcome to drop by and talk Devon.