From the beginning of farming here in Sequatchie Cove we have wanted our work to stay focused on, and in sync with the seasons. In Tennessee the seasonal change of weather moves at a subtle yet steady pace on its solar journey. The wet, barren cold of winter gives way to an early ephemeral epigenetic spring. A spring whose numerous glorious days awaken into the dreamy warm mist, andhumid sweltering abundance and abandon of a Tennessee summer. Then the transitory light of August - a light gleaming in from some ancient cultural past of clearer skies strikes through about the 12th of August every year, bringing news of the coming autumn. The hardwoods of the Cumberland Plateaustarts to change it’s leaf colors from green to yellow, red, gold and brown. Winter arrives. Axial rotations and a cosmic solar sojourning of our earth bring about the season changes.
The activity of light in the world of growing plants is to create the ferment needed to move plant life along - chlorophyll is the substance that allows plants to organize themselves to utilize all this sunlight. It is the substance through which a plant receives light in order to do its photosynthetic activity. Lots of light = lots of activity. Low light = low activity; to none when cold. We farm by choice and by necessity with these seasonal shifts guiding us. We transform our work, and the pace at which we engage in work, along with the weather, with the light, with the seasons.When the days shorten, the weather cools, the chlorophyll cycle slows, the grass stops growing, we are now stopping milking. A lactating cow needs the highest quality grass creating the most photosynthetic energy with its chlorophyll to stay in good condition and to give the highest quality milk.
The ebb and flow of working with the cycle of the year, the seasons feeds our emotional and physical life. In spring and summer we are racing around working as if in a dream, never ‘getting it all done’. In the fall we slowly wake up day by day and often wonder where we have been. We start to slow down a bit and once again are able to see the sky, the clouds above us the trees and plants around us, the animals and humans next to us. In the winter there are the cold wet days, where we might step outdoors to simply go on a walk, or to get the most basic needed chores done. Content to read, write, talk by the wood stove.
Many of our agricultural, business, even life decisions of what we do, how we work, are based on these four distinct seasons we have here in Tennessee.
So this year we are diving a little deeper. In the low light, low photosynthetic part of the year (starting November 21st) and during the months of December, January and the early part of February we will not milk cows. We will give the cows, the pasture, ourselves and the creamery a ‘break’. No cheese will be made and the pets that imbibe our milk will patiently wait until mid-February when the grass starts to green up and the cows start calving and giving milk.
We are excited at the thought of drying off the whole herd.(To dry off means to stop milking the cow, she then stops lactating. This is how cows have always been managed for health. A cow lactates for about 9 to 10 months and then is dry , not lactating for 2 or 3 months. During this time she rebuilds her vital energy reserves ready to have another calf and start the milking process again. And we are just as excited at the thought of lots of calves being born in February and March and the increasing workload we will have then and throughout the rest of next year. Next year we hope to have 40 to 50 milk cows grazing our pastures. This way of dairy farming is called seasonal calving, seasonal milking. All cows going dry at one time and all the cows calving at one time. This is contrary to the modern, more industrial model of keeping the factory going year round, night and day.
The dairy and the creamery will take these 2 months to make improvements on the facility that they could otherwise not make during the hurlyburly days of milking 2x a time and making cheese every day.
I hope youhave a wonderful autumn and winter and if you have questions or ideas for the farm, or would like something to eat from the farm please write, call or stop by.
Seasonally yours Bill