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I'd be crazy not to follow. Follow where you lead. Your eyes they turn me, turn me onto phantoms. I follow to the edge of the earth and fall off.   -Radiohead


Honeydew Fed Beef



It's that time of year again. Time to defrost the freezer and make space; time to ask your friends if they might want some yummy, healthy grass-fed beef. Or, should I say honeydew-fed beef.

"The Boys," as we call them, have been staying in the pasture next to our barn for about a month. They are curious, entertaining, and a wee bit doofy. We have learned they like to eat many things besides just grass. They like to rummage through the kitchen scraps, which causes great consternation with the chickens. Favorites include potato peelings, melon rinds, lettuce scraps, sweet corn cobs, and even grapefruit rinds. And they really, really like cucumbers. They will chase you across the corral for more cucumber. Who knew? 

And if it isn't too much to ask, they would appreciate it if you could scratch their heads.  They itch something fierce.




For those of you who are new to this, here is a reprint of last years information. I did update the prices... 

Where do these steers come from? - These are Black Angus steers borne to cows in our herd. They have never had antibiotics - neither as medicine nor as a sub-therapeutic fed supplement. They have never been given growth hormone implants. They have not been branded, which is a shame because we have a really great brand. It is an old Felzien family brand: Lazy sixty nine. My cows sport it well. They have been vaccinated with the standard vaccines. They are band castrated, not knife cut, which may disappoint the traditionalists out there. 

What does grass fed mean? - It means these steers have eaten only the grasses and forbs that grow in our pastures, or alfalfa hay. They are not organic. Our pastures are not fertilized, nor sprayed with herbicides or pesticides. The hay I buy is high quality hay, usually second cutting, and it is fertilized. My steers have been free range in big spacious pastures their entire lives. Most cattle in this day and age are finished in a feedlot, where the animals are crowded together in small, filthy pens and fed a highly programmed diet high in grains, usually corn and corn by-products. These grain-based feedlot diets fatten cattle very quickly and cheaply.

Unlike last year's steers, these haven't even spent any time on corn stalks. They are as pure as the driven snow. Grass-fed beef has a lower fat content than grain fed. There is less marbling in the muscle. Grass fed beef can be slightly less tender due to the lower fat content. Also, the fat in grass fed beef is much better for you, with a proper ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids. I won't go into more detail here. I'll let you google it and see for yourself.

The beef will be dry aged for fifteen days to tenderize it, and to develop flavor. 

How big is a quarter? - A quarter will weigh roughly between 85-105 pounds. It will fill three cubic feet of freezer space. A side, or half, is twice as much. If it's too much, find someone to split it with. It is called 'cowpooling', and that is just fun to say. 

What does it cost? - The price will be a little more than last year, and will come to approximately $5.40/lb, and the payment process will be slightly different also. This year I'll have you pay the traditional way all processors use; this means you will pay the processor the fee for processing when you pick up your share, and then you will pay me my share separately. 

Processors base their price off of the hanging weight. This gets complicated, so bear with me, and if you have any questions, call me or Your Choice Meats and we can explain it. When a live animal is slaughtered and the sides of beef are hung, the weight is reduced by 60%. This is called the hanging weight. It is measured by a certified scale at the plant. You will pay about .70/lb hanging weight to the processor. This price varies based on the exact weight of the animal, and on how you have the beef packaged. Certain things incur extra charges, like having ground beef formed into patties, or running round steak through the tenderizing machine. 

After the beef hangs (dry aging for fifteen days) it is cut up however you want, reducing the weight again by approximately another 55% thru evaporation and trimming of waste and bones.

Long story short: You will pay Your Choice Meats for processing, approximately $125. And you'll pay me $2.30/lb hanging weight for roughly $380.  This should work out to close to $5.40/lb. 

How does this work? - Please let me know if you are buying some by Oct 12. Then call Your Choice Meats at 970-483-7885 and tell them you want to buy a quarter, or a half of Ned Norman's beef. These steers will be ready for cutting on November 1. Your Choice Meats will guide you through the beef cutting list to customize the meat however you want. When the meat has finished hanging, they will cut and wrap it and call you for pick up. They can hold it for a while depending on how busy they are. When you pick it up, it is frozen solid. Just wrap in a few blankets or tarps and drive home and put it in the freezer. You don't even need to bring coolers. Easy peasy. 

This sounds complicated and intimidating if you haven't done it before, but it is really simple. And tasty. And healthy. Please call, or email, or post a comment with any questions, and I can explain the process in more detail. Maybe others who have done it will chime in with answers.



Rough Summer



It's been a rough summer.

A shotgun blast of dry and hot. The days bunched together like a tight cluster of hot lead pellets tearing holes in everyones hopes.

I lifted a stiff Phoebe out of its nest where it lay dead on top of six eggs. Wind so hot and strong and unrelenting it can kill you while you sleep. The surviving Phoebe cried all summer for a new mate.

Wheat harvest started and finished earlier than anyone ever remembered. Everyone watching the horizon for fire. 

The barn so hot that the nests inside boil over, littering the floor with dead baby swallows. 

Days bathed in a thick golden haze from faraway wildfires. The setting sun whirls pink as it wades into someones life gone up in smoke.

Maret and I drag the rain around the homestead. With long green hoses we darn the yard together tenuously, trying to keep it alive. 

A Meadowlark drowns trying to get a drink in the stock tank. Its dissolving body a life raft for Carrion beetles. The only water for miles turned out to be deadly. Too much of a good thing.

The gravel road, dry and washboarded, pulverized by every pickup that goes by. Each one raises a bone dust fog that snakes off over the fields and settles quietly.

It rained two days ago, finally. Not much; only four tenths. But you could almost hear everyone exhale just a little bit, which is good because I think we were getting accustomed to the suffering.


Click here for more photos.




Inside the Old


Inside the buildings on these old farmsteads is where things get left behind. Light crashes through dusty, moth-speckled windows and explodes across the past. Abandoned buildings fill with tumbleweeds after the doors blow off. The floor a sprawl of motors, jacks, and skunk scat compel a careful waltz walk. Strong smelling salves, bought in the sixties, still hope for sore udders. Mouse chewed catalogs shelter small nests that look like piles of confetti. Jumper cables and chargers, extension cords, shovels and brooms; a tableau of everything you need to start up all the old vehicles, and then clean up the mess you will undoubtedly make with them.  Shopping lists and harvests tallied on the walls; the mathematic notations of a hard scrabbled life. Listen to the mice scampering across the floor in the haymow. Listen the the glass crack under your foot. Old secrets hang on nails, quietly waiting for their keeper to appear. Stepping back outside I am blind. I wait for my eyes to adjust to the brilliant now.


Click here to view these, and the rest of this photo gallery at your leisure. 


Dead or Dying: Drowned

The photo above was taken by Ella.


The stock tank on the tornado site sat full all winter long, and red algae grew under the ice until the water was the color of blood. Thawed, the tank gapes like an open wound cut in the greening grass. Floating lifeless in the lurid water is a meadowlark with milky eyes. I grab it to throw it aside, but it slips from my hand, back into the water, briefly shocking me with a glimpse of its bright yellow chest. Then it slowly rolls over, bobbing drab side up, prairie camouflage so out of place in the water. Even in death the meadowlark is furtive; protective of its beauty.