Wyebrook Dispatch

Category Archives: General Farm

Tagging and Hoof rot

Stuck, Tagging and Hoof rot
Post by our Farm Girl Becca; Girl Gone Farming
It was bound to happen. Only a matter of time, really. Honestly, with my track record I’m amazed I made it this long. I got something stuck. But that is a story for another time.

It wasn’t all me. It was a joint effort really between Arden and myself. She was driving the Polaris, but I was navigating. The grass was so tall. Above my waist in places. We didn’t see the gully until it was too late. It was so muddy. We tried everything. Low gear. Four-wheel drive. But we just kept spinning tires.

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After our best efforts to get unstuck failed, I called Rob to come pull us out. He first tried to rescue us with the four wheeler, but that didn’t work. We were really stuck. So he returned with the tractor. The big tractor. The one that pulls the hay wagon, a.k.a The Hulk. That did the trick. We were saved and I’ll be baking Rob some oatmeal butterscotch cookies. Those are his favorite.


Rob to the rescue!


Saved by the Deere

We spent the better part of the afternoon trying to catch and tag calves. Cow 116 had a female baby yesterday and Ryan asked me if I felt comfortable tagging it by myself. I said I did and set off with the two Robs to build a fence and tag what would be calf 344. Turns out calf 344 is a wild child. Young calves sleep a lot so you can usually just sneak up on them and get them tagged before they know what is happening. Not 344. She was up and alert and wanted nothing to do with us. We chased her around for a good bit before deciding to try again later.

That was yesterday morning. This morning we went up with the same plan. Find her sleeping and sneak up on her. Well, we found her sleeping, but when I was about 10 feet away she jumped up and bucked and ran. So much for that plan. The first time Ryan tasked me with tagging a calf on my own I failed miserably. He ended up having to chase her down on the four wheeler and lasso her to get her tagged. That made me feel better. It wasn’t all incompetence on my part. She really was wild!

This afternoon we headed over to the heifers to treat two calves for hoof rot. Hoof rot is almost exactly what it sounds like: a bacterial infection that rots the foot, though it actually attacks the area between the “toes,” not the hoof itself. It is very contagious and can lead to lameness if left untreated. The telltale sign is limping. We treated the calves yesterday so today they were pretty skittish. We finally caught and treated one, but the other wouldn’t let us get close enough to rope her so we will try again tomorrow. Hoof rot spreads through the soil so I am hoping that a few warm days will dry out the ground and prevent the infection from spreading to others.

For those who have been wondering about Sir Fluffkin, he is doing well, though is minions are almost as big as him these days. He’s still with his friends up in the broiler house. I am hoping to move him down with the layers when we get the 500 new ones. Chicken-dog will have so many distractions that she shouldn’t single him out. Sadly, he is becoming increasingly less domesticated. He won’t let me pick him up and hold him like he used to. It’s my fault for not spending more time with him every day, but that’s just the way it goes.


Rainy Days and Mondays

Rainy Days and Mondays

Post by our Farm Girl Becca, GIRL GONE FARMING

Another cold, rainy day here on the farm.

The crazy weather is really starting to affect us, even the animals. The cows don’t seem to mind it too much, probably because they are still shedding their winter coats and the cooler air is more tolerable, but the layers spend their days huddled under the house and the pigs in their huts. We are keeping a close eye on the piglets because they aren’t growing as fast as we’d like and several have been coughing. It’s likely just a cold from the cool, damp air, but we want t stay on top of it. When I first got here back in March, we lost a few piglets to pneumonia and we don’t want that again. It’s frustrating because this should be the perfect time of year for piglets!


Even so, I am thankful for the rain. When you are out moving cows, soaked to the skin and ankle deep in mud, it is easy to forget all the benefits of the rain, but it is a blessing. As a future reminder to myself, here are 10 things I am thankful for when it comes to rain:

  1. It suppresses pollen
  2. It cools things down
  3. It keeps the grass growing
  4. Setting up fencing is so much easier when the ground is soft after a shower
  5. The smell after the rain
  6. The sound of rain against my window as I fall asleep
  7. Running in the rain keeps me cool and hides how sweaty I am
  8. Free car wash
  9. Rainy evenings provide the perfect excuse to curl up with a good book (or Arrested Development…)
  10. Because no matter how old you are (or what you are), jumping in a puddle can put a smile on anyone’s face

Grassfed Memorial Day

Grassfed Memorial Day

Post by our farm girl Becca. GIRL GONE FARMING

One thing about life on a farm is that animals don’t celebrate holidays. That means farmers don’t get holidays either. Be it Christmas or the Fourth of July, the animals need to be fed and watered every single day.

Steve is off on his honeymoon so I volunteered to hang around and help Ryan. Given that it is Memorial Day, we treated it like a weekend which means we pretty much just did chores. Arden, the girl from VA Tech, came in, too. We fed chickens, moved cattle, caught 2 pigs and 2 heifers or slaughter, and gathered eggs. We also tried to tag a new calf but after 20 minutes of searching for him in waist-high grass, we gave up and will try again tomorrow once the cows have eaten the grass down a bit.

We sell raw grassfed milk in the market now which is wonderful on many levels. We had a few half gallons left over from this past weekend and we don’t hold it over so I used some to make ricotta to take to garden night tomorrow. Unfortunately, it didn’t work as well as it normally does. I’m sure it was either the ultrapasturized cream or the bottled lemon juice. Normally I use lightly pasteurized cream and fresh lemon juice or vinegar, neither of which I had on hand. The curds and whey didn’t separate well which left me with a somewhat watery final product. Oh well!

Wyebrook Farm Grassfed Beef Wyebrook Farm Chicken Dog Maremma Anatolian mix Wyebrook Farm Sheep Chicken Dog and Sheep Wyebrook Farm Chicken Dog Wyebrook Farm chicken Dog and Sheep

An Interview with Jeffery Smith and Dr. Stephanie Seneff, Glyphosate.

An Interview with Jeffery Smith and Dr. Stephanie Seneff

Post by our Farm Girl Becca, GIRL GONE FARMING

The following video is an interview between Jeffery Smith of the Institute for Responsible Technology and Dr. Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D. and senior research scientist at MIT. They carry on an extensive discussion about the potential dangers of glyphosate which is better known by its commercial name, Roundup. The interview is long (an hour) and pretty technical, but still worth watching. I’ll do my best to summarize it in layman’s terms for those who don’t have the time to watch.


Glyphosate is an herbicide. It kills plants. It’s marketed as a weed killer, but it actually kills all plants. That’s why GMO plants have been so popular because they have been genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate. A farmer can plant a field of genetically engineered corn or soy and spray it with Roundup, killing off all the weeds that would suck soil nutrients away from the corn without harming the corn. Before Roundup, tilling was the most effective way to control weeds, but tilling isn’t great for topsoil. It destroys nutrients, is time consuming, and contributes to erosion. It’s easy to see why Roundup became so popular.

The way glyphosate works is that it interrupts the shikimate pathway, a metabolic function in plants that allows them to create essential amino acids. When this path is interrupted, the plants die. Human cells don’t have a shikimate pathway so scientists and researchers believed that exposure to glyphosate would be harmless.

The problem is that bacteria DO have a shikimate pathway and we have millions of good bacteria in our guts – our “gut flora.” These bacteria are essential to our health. Our gut isn’t just responsible for digestion, but also for our immune system. When glyphosate gets in our systems, it wrecks our gut and as a result our immune system.

The interview then goes on to cover an assortment of diseases that can potentially be linked to glyphosate exposure and gut problems. Autism. Alzheimer’s. Obesity. Low serotonin & tryptophan (depression, mental illnesses, and increased violence). Parkinson’s. Birth defects. Crohn’s & colitis. Cancer. Diabetes. Etc. Pick a disease and Dr. Seneff will like it to glyphosate. I won’t go into the specific details regarding each disease. If you are interested, watch the video.

It’s a lot to take in and the skeptic in me wants to say “Really? All that from this one chemical?” Then I remember dioxin (Agent Orange) and DDT. I got the impression that Dr. Seneff’s research is still in the very early stages. She often used phrases like “I believe,” “I suspect,” and “we’re working on” rather than more concrete statements like “I discovered,” “I proved” or “data showed.” Also, in the interest of full disclosure, Dr. Seneff’s degrees are in electrical engineering and computer science, not biology or public health.

Even so, her findings do make a lot of sense and in time evidence may surface to better support her theories. History is riddled with examples of supposedly-safe substances that later turned out to be devastating to human health, the environment, or both.

In the meantime, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence out there from people and families who converted from a conventional diet to an organic diet/lifestyle to minimize exposure to glyphosate. Even farmers who switch their animals to an organic diet notice behavioral differences. I noticed changes in my physical and mental health when I transitioned to a largely-organic diet. I’m not ready to whole-heartedly embrace her sweeping conclusions, but I’m also unwilling to write them off simply because her degree isn’t medically oriented.

One interesting point Dr. Seneff made was that the rate at which many of these diseases are growing – especially autism, which was practically unheard of fifty years ago – suggests that the problem is environmental. In fact, in the past 5 years, autism rates have increased from 1/150 to 1/50. In just 5 years. Most medical research these days focuses on genetics. They are looking for the devil within, but what if Dr. Seneff is right and the problem is external? If autism were genetic, it would take generations for the numbers to increase significantly. We should be looking for significant environmental alterations in the past 30-50 years. Glyphosate and GMOs fit the bill.

This should give everyone plenty to think about over the weekend.

Mothers Day Weekend

Wyebrook Farm
Mother’s Day Brunch 2013

Do you have an agriculturally inclined mother? Well even if not, what better place to celebrate your mom than a delicious meal in a beautiful, pastoral setting?  We have two very special additions to the cafe menu for Mother’s Day in 2013!  All cafe items though will be served to the mothers on our finest china on this special day!

Friday Night Dinner

You’ve heard of farm to table but we are bringing the table to the farm this Friday from 4-8pm.  You do not need reservations but an email to let us know you are coming would be much appreciated. As always, feel free to bring a bottle of wine with dinner.  First Course: mixed green salad with grilled asparagus, topped with warm guanciale dressing and a Wyebrook Farm egg.  Second Course: Roasted Ossabaw pork loin and pastrami pork belly with Pennsylvania potato salad and wild greens -or- Wyebrook pastured chicken baked in hay with wood grilled asparagus and bronze fennel.  Third Course: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with mascarpone cream.

Market & Cafe

Chicken is back!  It has been a long winter for us pastured chicken lovers but the wait is finally over.  We will offer whole, spatchcocked or quartered birds in the market this year.

Jazz vocalist and guitarist Andrea Carlson (no relation unfortunately) will be performing along with the Love Police in the courtyard from 1-4pm on Saturday.  Andrea’s music is evocative of another bygone era quite like the setting at Wyebrook Farm!  Check out her music here on her website.


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Farmers Breakfast & Scrapple

The farmer’s breakfast this morning was a huge hit! We had about 40 people come for it and everyone seemed to have a good time. We only had a few egg casualties and chicken-dog was so scared of our large group that she spent the whole time hiding under the chicken house and didn’t jump on anyone.

I led the group out to the chicken house and told them about our rotational grazing system as we went. Once we got out to the house, the kids collected all the eggs. It went a bit faster than I’d expected so we took a detour up to see the broiler chickens before heading back down to the café where Mike had breakfast waiting for us. Scrambled eggs. Roasted potatoes. Maple sausage. Sourdough toast. Local apple cider, hot & iced coffee, and raw milk. So delicious! I was surprised to see that the scrapple was the biggest hit. Several people said it was the best they’d ever had.

Scrapple, for those who don’t know, is Pennsylvania Dutch pork dish. Basically, you boil the offal (heart, head, liver, etc.) with some cornmeal and seasoning until it thickens into a mush. You then shape that mush into a loaf, slice it and pan fry it. It is so famous in this area that it even has its own festival – the Apple Scrapple Festival – held in Bridgeville, DE every October. I think I just might have to go this year. Maybe I should take some Wyebrook scrapple and see how it measures up!

Sir Fluffkin had a somewhat stressful day. As stressful as a day can be for a pampered rooster. I took him fresh water this afternoon and he tried to bite me! I want him to be handled as much as possible so he is completely comfortable around humans, but I think today might have been overwhelming for him. Too many people too soon. I brought him out at the breakfast so all the kids could pet him and he was great with them. He was also very popular with our café and market guests and I think it was just all a bit much. By the time I went to play with him, he’d just had enough. Hopefully he calms down by tomorrow morning.

Post by Wyebrook Farm Intern Becca http://girlgonefarming.wordpress.com


My great-grandmother used to say that things happen in threes. Today was one of those days.
It all started when we went to feed the pigs in the breeding runs. They normally come meet us at the gates to the pens because they are friendly and know we have food. In the six weeks I’ve been here, none of them have ever tried to escape. Until today.

The big red sow came to greet me at the gate as usual, but  instead of backing up as I entered, she continued to push forward. At 300+ lbs., it wasn’t hard for her to shove me out of the way. I tried to push her back in but to no avail. Luckily, she trotted over to the boar’s gate and froze. This is known as standing heat and means she is ready to be bred. We couldn’t just let the boar out which meant we had to get her into the boar’s pen. Easier said than done. With both of us pushing, we managed to get her in and just left them to it.

Next we moved the layers. Normally we do this on Thursday but the layers are currently sharing a pasture with the calves and the calves section was in the way yesterday so we put off moving the layers until today. Things were fine until I opened up the fence to let Steve drive the tractor out. The chicken-dog bolted. Not good, but again we got lucky. She is strangely attached to me (I promise I ignore her!) and ran right to me. I was able to grab her and drag her back into the pen.

After lunch we had to move the heifers. These heifers have been nothing but trouble since they started calving. They aren’t very good mothers. They ignore their calves. They forget which calve is theirs. They seem to like their calves, but refuse to let them nurse. Or they are excessively overprotective to the point where they charge us if we get within 20 yards of their calves. And their moods change from hour to hour.

When we went to move them, the moms all seemed more interested in fresh grass than the whereabouts of their babies. After we got everyone moved over to the new pasture, we found 4 abandoned babies in the old one. (I now know that you should walk through the herd to make sure all of the calves are awake and standing BEFORE you try to move them.) Steve and I tried to chase them over to the new pasture, but calves aren’t like cows. They aren’t predictable and two of them bolted. They went under the polywire fencing and off towards the gate we’d left open. We hadn’t closed it because we thought the polywire would be enough. We were wrong.

The poor (dumb) things ran straight out the gate into a briar patch where they got themselves stuck. Steve dragged the first one out and we toted him back up to the pasture with the rest of the herd. As soon as we put him down he bolted again. And again he ran away from the herd. This time I managed to chase him back in with the group. Let me just say that running in work boots is very different from running in my Vibrams. We went back for the other guy and this time took him all the way into the center of the pasture before letting him go.

Both of the escapees were steers. Numbers 308 and 310 (the 8th and 10th calves born in 2013). It takes 18-24 months to get a steer to slaughter weight on grass. I don’t know where I will be in 18-24 months, but wherever I am, I will come back to enjoy a burger made of 308 and 310. I am sure it will be the best burger I’ll ever have.

Post by Becca;  http://girlgonefarming.wordpress.com/

Solanum Carolinense

We were out moving cows and I smelled something mint-y. Mint is supposed to be a natural bug repellant and the flies were annoying to I thought I’d try picking some mint to stick in my pocket to keep them at bay. I looked around and found a plant that looked kind of like mint and reached down to pick a leaf.
Big mistake.

The plant I thought was mint was actually solanum carolinense, a.k.a horsenettle, tread softly or the apple of Sodom. It is poisonous and burns like crazy when you touch it. The fruit, which I’m told resembles a tomato (they aren’t in bloom yet), is deadly.

Thankfully, I had barely brushed it with my finger when it started burning. It kept on burning for a good hour or so longer. Not fun. I learned my lesson. Don’t touch strange plants! I think I’d rather get shocked by the cow fence than touch horsenettle. Here’s what it looks like:

Branch and flowers of Solanum carolinense

Branch and flowers of Solanum carolinense (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tomorrow is our first farmer’s breakfast. On the first Saturday of the month we’ll be taking people on a walking tour to gather eggs. Once they are collected, guests come back to the cafe for a delicious breakfast of our eggs, sausage, etc. Prayers said and fingers crossed that chicken-dog doesn’t terrorize any small children!

Sir Fluffkin was much happier in his new home last night. Too happy. He’d been very quiet since his arrival which made me wonder why his city neighbors had been so opposed to him. We found out this morning. Well, Ryan found out. We’d built Sir Fluffkin’s pen on the north side of the house, right under Ryan’s window. He began crowing this morning even before the sun was up! It’s not really a normal crow. It kind of sounds like he’s dying. But I looked it up on YouTube and apparently that’s what he’s supposed to sound like.

We also got 15 new piglets. I am completely in love with them. They are all 25-30 pounds and as cute as can be. I’ll post pictures soon.

Until then, if you’ve ever considered getting a pet chicken or rooster, but didn’t want to deal with the mess, you are in luck. They now make chicken diapers. Seriously, who comes up with this stuff? Better yet, who buys it??

POST by; Our lovely intern Becca, http://girlgonefarming.wordpress.com/

Chicken 101

Chicken 101

We moved our third batch of broilers up to pasture today. The oldest group will be ready for slaughter next Thursday. I am more than ready for some fresh chicken.

Speaking of chickens, I figured it was about time for another farm education post. After this, you will hopefully speak fluent chicken!

Rooster: male domestic fowl

Hen: female domestic fowl

Pullet: female under a year old

Chick: young chicken

Bantam: small variety of chicken (think pinschers and mini pins)

Broiler: chicken raised for meat

Layer: chicken raise for eggs

Dual-purpose: a chicken breed used for eggs or meat

Comb: fleshy crown on top of the head

Wattles: flesh that dangles under the beak

We got a new rooster today. He was a city rooster who’s owner’s neighbors didn’t appreciate his crowing. I’m not a fan of chickens, but I do like him. According to my “Know Your Chickens” book, silkies are native to Asia (probably why I like him) and were originally sold as a rabbit-chicken hybrid. Only in Asia… Also, their meat is a grey-black color and the females do not lay any eggs during the summer months. This isn’t him, but it’s what he looks like.

SIlkie Chicken

Silkie Chicken (Photo credit: Just chaos)

I am calling him Sir Fluffkins. I know you aren’t supposed to name farm animals, but since we don’t eat the roosters, I figured it would be OK. He’ll get his own post of pictures one day soon. He’s just that cool.

Post by Becca;  http://girlgonefarming.wordpress.com/

Opening Weekend.

Post by Wyebrook Farm’s lovely intern Becca!

-“I am pleased to report that everyone survived opening weekend! And we had a lot of fun, too. What could have been a tense, high-stress weekend was really enjoyable. I work with some truly spectacular people.

Today’s tours went well. The “tourists” were engaged and interested and asked a lot of good questions. We have such a wide variety of customers and it’s fun getting to talk to people and hear why they come to Wyebrook. For some it’s all about the taste, for some it’s the environmental/ethical aspect, for some it’s convenience, for some it’s pure curiosity. Everyone’s at a different place in their relationship with their food which makes for great conversation. One guy this morning definitely knew more than I did and probably could have led the tour for me! On the other end of the spectrum we have those who look back with blank stares when I use terms like “sustainable agriculture.” That’s one of the things I love about Wyebrook. The café draws such a diverse crowd – who doesn’t love burgers and live music? – and opens up channels of communication with people who otherwise might never think about how their food was raised and prepared. The hope is that once they see and taste the difference, they’ll start to care about sustainability as much as we do!

There were quite a few questions on the tours about breeding practices, gestational periods, etc. which I didn’t have answers to so I’ve got some homework to do before next weekend. I think I’ll map out birth-to-slaughter and birth-to-reproduction timelines for each of the animals we have so I can get it all straight in my head.” / Becca