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Cliff's Grass-Fed Beef Spring Newsletter

From Pomegranate Blog
Cliffs Grassfed Beef Newsletter Spring 2013
          It is a sunny mild early April and I've been doing other work in the 
pasture where the cattle are, and I get a chuckle when I look up and 
see 70 cattle in a ring around me watching my every move. I know 
that they are there because they have cleaned up all the new grass 
that has emerged on the heels of the snowmelt, and they want me to 
unroll a fresh new bale of hay for them. They have eaten the better 
stuff out of the last bale, and well, they would just as soon pick 
through another as eat more of the last one. So as I cut and stack 
next winter's firewood they are like gawkers at a sporting match, 
shouldering in for a better view, smelling the wood chunks, pushing in 
from the back, scratching on the wood splitter, bawling, trying to 
convince me that they are starving. Fakers all of them. Every bit as 
good as human kids leaving the Brussels sprouts, but did someone 
mention dessert?
          Besides all the close bovine company there is an invasion from the 
south. The air is full of the sight and sound of geese. Swirling masses 
coming up off the lake to the north, and slowly sorting themselves out 
into formations, getting some leaders to decide on a direction, and 
lighting out for the next stop on the trip. Obviously, there isn't a good 
consensus on the right direction, as one big bunch heads north, one 
northwest, and others head back south. Geese politics. It takes 
something as significant as late winter storms to get everybody going 
the same direction, and it is fortunate that unlike human invasions, 
there isn't much collateral damage.
            Well, now it is mid April and winter has gotten its second and third 
wind. There is snow in spots up over the tops of my knee high winter 
boots. I cringe at the thought of ranchers calving in this. An April like 
this has to make cow calf operations think hard about calving in May 
and June where the calf will land in new lush grass, instead of a snow 
bank or mud hole.
       I might as well finish this newsletter up and send it out as it has 
become obvious that spring and grass will be late, and it will give 
those on the mailing list some time to consider getting beef in June 
and July instead of May. Waiting this year will let your beef get more 
grass before it is butchered. That means more CLA and more 
Omega-3, and a little more marbling. I will take in the current, best 
finished two-year-olds so as to have some beef ready in late May for 
those with empty freezers and those in a hurry. If you like the savings 
from buying for the freezer, you might consider an 1/8 mix or 50 lbs to 
get you by, and really stock up later. The 50 lb bundle is more per lb 
than a quarter (and that is more per lb then a half) but still a deal over 
buying individual packages.
          Linda is the premier gardener in this household, and she started 
spring planning around the first of the year when the garden seed 
catalogs showed up in the mail. After study, deliberation, sketched 
plans, rereading, eraser and redrafting, ordering, and waiting, the 
Fedco packet finally arrived. Two months of anticipation and the trays 
and plant starting soil mixture came out. Today all the south facing 
windows are full of plants ready for planting out. They will have to 
wait for the snow to clear off, but by then we will be able to just sit at 
the dinner table here by the bay window to pick, make, and eat our 
        Plants and, in particular, seeds have become a concern, especially 
since the Supreme Court decided in 1980 that life could be patented. 
The judgment seemed innocent enough, as a General Electric 
researcher had engineered a bacterium capable of breaking down 
crude oil, and it seemed reasonable that the inventor and GE should 
both profit. However, overnight the laws devised to prohibit patenting 
the life we use for food flipped. This fact did not escape the notice of 
private corporations. Was it coincidental that at the same time US 
Senators Birch Bayh and Bob Dole sponsored and got the Patent and 
Trademark Law Amendments Act of 1980 passed? This provided the 
legal means for public university and government funded inventions 
to be transferred to the commercial market. At that time Monsanto 
wasn't yet in the seed business. They had just spent decades 
building a war chest by making millions on PCB' and herbicides that 
were eventually discovered to be slowly killing us and melting down 
the environment. They were looking around for another gig and had 
lots of money and muscle. Patenting life was another money maker. 
Today, Monsanto's patented genes are currently being inserted into 
about 95 percent of all the soybeans and 80 percent of all the corn 
grown in the United States. It was also nice that they have had the 
exclusive rights to sell their Roundup chemical for years that killed all 
plant life except for the crops grown from Monsanto's patented 
engineered seed. Over many generations, many short-lived plants 
will evolve to withstand the poison, but I only wonder how much 
impact there will be on us longer-lived beings that have accumulated 
effects of many years of bits and dabs of Roundup from the air, 
water, and food. And then there is Monsanto's terminator gene 
technology. Basically they have figured out how to genetically 
engineer seed that will germinate and grow, but then produce sterile 
seed so you always have to go back to Monsanto to get new seed. 
So far, the terminator hasn't gotten the green light.
              Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta now own around a half of the 
worlds crop seeds. We keep losing access to older varieties as the 
big three keep buying up smaller seed producers and only selling the 
most profitable varieties. This along with farmers shifting to 
genetically engineered seeds and using almost exclusively hybridized 
seed that doesn't reproduce true keeps Monsanto and company with 
the perfect set up to keep farmers coming back year to year. This has 
also shriveled the diversity of the worlds crop seeds. The 
consolidation of seed sources and loss of genetic diversity is a big 
worry to many of us and as a result several organizations have 
sprung up over the years to maintain seeds that have fallen out of 
favor in the big industrial farming world.
           The biggest project is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. A 
remote arctic underground cavern where seed varieties from all over 
the world are stored. The initial $9 million (equivalent US dollars) 
came from the government of Norway, but much continued funding 
comes from contributions from Bill and Melinda Gates, Rockefeller 
Foundation, Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta.
           Much smaller than Svalbard, but having one of the largest US seed 
repositories is the non-profit Seed Savers Exchange. Putting some of 
their seeds in the Svalbard vault created a big rift in this long-lived 
organization, as one of the founders just didn't trust something 
funded so heavily by these overly powerful multinationals, no matter 
how safe a deal it sounded on the surface. If you follow this thread 
toward its doomsday direction I guarantee that the sun will never 
come out. So I need to get some sun back into this newsletter... as 
for Fedco, although they do get a few of their seeds from the big 
genetic engineering guys, they don't carry GMO's, and then label the 
source, so those of us that want to stay clear, can. For now anyway, 
there are many other good safe seed sources... High Mowing Seeds, 
         I see a few box elder bugs exploring the house on nice days, and I 
think of an old Wentworth SD farmer and weather observer, Don 
Seedorf that has passed on but one of many poems he left behind 
was this:
A salute to you, creature of orange and black,
for supporters, I know you certainly lack.
It's obvious you never "get no respect",
almost all regard you as a loathsome insect.
But you are innocuous, you never bite or sting,
you never really harm anyone or anything;
squished, swatted, maligned you walk the second mile,
box elder bug, frankly, I admire your style.
Read Jon Lundgren's Insect Spotlight in the April 12th Farm Forum, 
“But for every pest insect there are between 1,700 to 6,000 insect 
species that are either helping humans or are contributing to the 
ecosystem health.