Thistle Hill Farm – Blog

…doing what comes naturally

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.


All we could have hoped for…

…when we began our English project. Entirely new pure traditional Devon bloodlines.

And here is one: Buttercup from Brian Drake’s Essington Park herd. Bred there…born here…and now with her first calf.
TDA23 and her calfBrian has since retired and his herd, one of England’s oldest, has been dispersed. The sire of this month old well-mannered bull calf is our Churchill…out of Gavin Hunter’s great cow Tilbrook Cashtiller.

The shortage of pure, traditional Devon bloodlines has become so critical in England that one breeder we know has thrown up her hands and is using an Angus bull this year, hoping for better luck next year.

We’ll never forget spotting Buttercup’s dam on her pasture in North Tawton…and working with Brian to arrange the flush. She brings a certain touch of class to our herd in northern Virginia.


Did you know that grass-fed beef is one of the top ten sources of tryptophan?

I have to confess that I didn’t know that grass fed beef is on the top ten list for sources of tryptophan…I always think of turkey. Tryptophan is the amino acid that goes on to become serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone which is low in depression, and melatonin, which helps us sleep at night.

Other sources besides grass fed beef and turkey: lamb, chicken, tuna, pumpkin seeds, eggs, crab, cheese, and spirulina.

In addition to getting enough tryptophan in your diet, it is important to pursue lifestyle strategies to minimize inflammation, because when inflammatory pathways are turned on, the tryptophan gets hijacked down an inflammatory pathway to make kynurenine and quinolinic acid, leading to lower serotonin levels and increased anxiety and depression.

Some anti-inflammatory strategies:

  1. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep nightly
  2. Eat of variety of vegetables every day
  3. Try to get some form of exercise daily
  4. Avoid processed foods
  5. Avoid foods fried or cooked at high temperature
  6. Avoid added sugar
  7. Use herbs and spices wherever possible in your cooking
  8. Consume more omega 3 fats

Carolyn M. Matthews, MD

The next generations review…

..the next generation.

Thistlehill Farm CowsIt was front and center for this year’s crop of yearling-plus heifers. Not quite ready to breed and that’s the problem. Breed now and calve in the fall with the attendant problems plus rebreeding difficulty?

Or wait until they’re ready which could mean calving in the equally difficult winter months.

Cows in Winter at Thistlehill FarmChurch on the right voted to go ahead and he’s the one who gets up in the dark and will have to deal with the problem either way.

Grandpa on the left voted to wait but of course he’s in Assisted Living where he can do nothing but express an opinion. Curt and Carolyn in the middle were the swing votes and they said wait.
Thistlehill Farm Red Devon cattleIn the final analysis the old folks chickened out…and left the vote an “advisory opinion”…with Church to do as he thinks best. New generations have to learn.

Grandpa finally decided for himself that an older cow is better able to handle the stress—-physically and psychologically—than a younger animal. And the extra calves got added on at the end and for the life of that cow she was more trouble-free.

But it’s a funny thing about cows…they’ll try their best to do what you ask of them.


Another profit center…

…this one for the gentlemen to go along with the spa for the ladies. (See below)

While the ladies cuddle up with the cows in one pasture, the men could enjoy soccer in another pasture. Let’s go to the tape!


An update from the science desk….

Nothing really new here but it summarizes where science is and where it’s going. Will the government eventually mandate that we must follow?


It’s fescue weather….

We had a good solid freeze last night…the time of year that fescue pastures come into their own!
Thistlehill Farm PastureThe main herd has just moved into the next to last paddock.
The green line is obvious but you can click on the picture to enlarge.

Scientists say that the freezing temperature increases the sugar content considerably.  And we’ve never been able to buy hay that tests as well in winter as our fescue.

Not by coincidence this is exactly when we time our calving.  The cows are in peak condition and there’s plenty of energy in the ground for nursing and rebreeding…and no endophyte toxicity around to complicate things.

When the grass runs out we supplement the hay with alfalfa cubes.  Now if I could only still skate!


Remember, the answer lies in the soil….

When we first moved to Dallas, we had an English gardener, Patrick Butterworth, who ended every letter, birthday card, and bill with the above phrase. Over time I have come to appreciate how incredibly apt this phrase describes so many systems, from the human body and how well it heals, to the garden, to the pasture and the animals on it.

Diversity has been shown to be an important part of any ecosystem, whether one is looking at the boardroom, the gut flora, or the soil. For our gut flora, we want a diverse population of bacteria, archaea, viruses, and fungi that together shape our physiology, guide our immune system, and help with digestion. In our soil we want a diversity of microbes that will support dense foliage of a number of different plants and strong root systems.

Repeatedly growing the same crop in the same patch of ground will thwart diversity. Having a variety of grasses, plants, brassicas will help, as will having our pastured animals trodding the recycled nutrients back into the soil. 1 tsp of dung contains more microbes than stars in the universe!

Carolyn M. Matthews, MD
Director of Integrative and Functional Medicine, Baylor University Medical Center

A new profit center….

…and it certainly fits our wellness theme.

A farm in New York offers spa treatments including “cow cuddling”. For $75 an hour you can snuggle up to a cow. Seems their body temperature and heart rate are good modifiers of the human condition.

Of course that’s in New York; not sure our cows will work that cheaply. Thanks to longtime Devon friend Shauna Wobeser for sharing the link.


Cow Cuddling Is The New Wellness Trend Now And It Costs $300 For A 90-Minute Session