Friday, June 1, 2012

A Fond Farewell to the Midland Agrarian

Dear Friends, 
I know about 50-100 of you stop by here each time after I post. This is the final post on the Midland Agrarian blog. After 4 and a half years of sporadic posting (including putting her up on blocks twice), on any and all topics, I have decided to restrict my modest writing efforts to one subject: Kerry and Dexter Cattle.I hope you will consider following me at my new weblog 

I am about the age where I am both looking backward and forward, and giving serious thought to the matter of vocation. When a small herd of the rarest dairy cattle in the world fall into your lap,  it causes one to think. I hope I have about two decades of useful farming life left in me. I am going to use that time to try to build, improve and stabilize the Kerry cattle, and help my friends at Pasture Maid Creamery in telling the world about western Pennsylvania's finest cheese. I am committed to something new with my blogging hobby:  I am going to try six day a week blogging at the new site. I hope you will follow me. There will be posts on all things Kerry and Dexter related, and  my progress in the aforementioned twin goals.

Midland Agrarian will remain as an archive as long as Google allows, the stillborn Agrarian Urbanist will be removed tomorrow. 

In closing, I want to thank Linda J, Backyard Farmyard, Herrick Kimball, Scott Terry, Back to Basics Living, Rick Saenz, (and others I am sure I have forgotten) for reading, writing, and their long support of the agrarian cause.


Richard Grossman
Craighill Herd of Kerry and Dexter Cattle

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Kerry Heifer Birth Announcement

We were pleased to gain a new Kerry heifer this morning. When the total number of a breed numbers only in the hundreds in the US, each new heifer means a lot.

She is a little too closely related to her daddy, but that is one of the challenges with rare breeds.While I am already thinking about the best way to maximize heterosis while still keeping the stock pure; maybe we need to let her grow up first!

Monday, April 23, 2012

St George's Day and Agrarian Injustice

I wrote a post about St. George's day in 2009 that can be found here.  Unlike St. Patrick's day, Americans of English descent will not be parading in the streets or gathering for bangers and mash or fish and chips washed down with  brown ale. In fact, English Americans have virtually no ethnic identity. Most historians attribute this to the ability of English immigrants to quickly blend in among earlier arriving cousins. I think there is more to it.

For the Irish, the oppressor that drove people from their homes was a foreigner. Most English immigrants were  oppressed by their own government. I think that once the mourning over their displacement was over, they just never looked back.  In addition to starving the Irish, the rulers of England kept pretty busing destroying their own peoples subsistence agriculture through the enclosure movement. The Terrierman blog (one of my daily reads) has a pretty good summary of this.

The great estates shown in Pride and Prejudice or Downtown Abbey were created by 800 years of legal chicanery and outright force to consolidated  land in the hands of a few.  Our romantic view of these great houses covers up the incredible squalor of cottagers and laborers in old England.  When the smallholders turned to poaching to get their families a bit of protein, the great lords responded with mantraps.

If you are an American of English descent, you might wish to read some of William Cobbett, the original contrary farmer.  Cobbett was an exceptional writer and easy to read today.  Reading Cobbet also helps explain why the most recent emigrant among the founding fathers (Tom Paine) was later concerned with agrarian justice.

The enclosures created the surplus labor force that fueled the industrial revolution. The poor of England were regarded as just another industrial input. Miners were bonded in a form of pseudo slavery. The worst example of this was the use of little girls to hurry coal. We know their lives because the governing elites were finally moved to action more out of concern about Victorian  morality than human decency.

Like the Irish, the English poor rose up against their oppressors multiple times. There were Swing Riots, Topuddle Martyrs and numerous miners strikes (which is why my maternal grandfather's  family came to Pennsylvania). Like my maternal great grandfather, the worst of the troublemakers typically fled to America or Australia. For hundreds of years, these two places served as a safety valve for a very sick society.

It remains no wonder that there was little nostalgia for the old country among English immigrants. From the religious troublemakers who settled Plymouth in 1620 to the children of Northumberland miners or  Lancashire mill workers in the 1800's, America offered a new and better England where land ownership, universal suffrage and equality before the  law became realized.

Music for your very own agrarian St George's day party:
Unthanks sisters perform the testimony of Patience Kershaw

Dance to Tom Paine's bones with Graham Moore

A couple of favorites from Show of Hands 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Checking in from 1907

I have been neglecting this blog more than normal, and thought I should check in to let some friends and correspondents know I am alive and OK. We are in the midst of lambing right now and expecting Kerry Calves soon. In between my farm and agrarian urbanist work I have been working on a family history project. I have been walking around with a lot of oral history in my head from questions I asked my grandparents decades ago. I decided to source it all (if possible) , then write it down. I also have my great grandfathers daily farm diaries from 1907 to 1917. Each day he noted what he did, who visited, and what his wife and children (my grandfather and great aunt) did. He listed every sale and expenditure, and when he bred each animal from dogs to cows.   I decided to transcribe these so that they will survive past their physical deterioration. While nothing is more boring than someone else's family history, his life has a lot of agrarian lessons, as he farmed the same land  I do. I may end up posting some of the entries after I finish, but for now I am heading back to 1907! In some ways I like it better there anyway.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Kerry Cattle

JUNE 1, 2012 UPDATE: I am now blogging full time about these wonderful cows

We are starting the new year with a new project. We recently brought home a small herd of Kerry Cattle (as well as six Dexter heifers).  We are doing this as a partnership with our friends, the Dean Family. The partnership enables them to  keep the Kerries as commercial milk cows, while providing  a source of  beef feeders and replacement heifers for us to raise and sell.

The Kerry is a frightfully rare breed, and we are honored to be apart in preserving the breeds unique genetics. However, conservation was only a part of our interest. Rare Breeds are important and there is no better explanation of why than this essay from Auburn Meadow Farm. 

Our long term interest is developing the Kerry as a minor  breed of commercial value. I would like to see increased   interest among dairy farmers looking  for a long lived,  moderate size cow who can provide both beef and dairy production with less feed costs. While we are committed to breeding with only  Kerry semen or bulls on the rare cows, our Kerry bull is enjoying his work crossbreeding on cows of other dairy breeds.

Why the Kerry?
We spent a lot of time discussing this project before taking the plunge into the Kerry.  Here are some reasons:

I like the fact Kerry Cattle are black. Whether  feeders or fat cattle, black hair is worth extra money at the sale barn: (sometimes even if their carcass is inferior to a Hereford).  For a dairy farmer, a pure black bull calf should bring a premium over a Holstein bull calf as well.  A Kerry Bull on a Holstein cow should always give us a black calf. Kerry cows are also small, and I think there will be a growing market for smaller sides of beef for the freezer trade.Many people no longer have freezer space for a 400 pound side (half) of beef. Small calf birth weight  mean less work and worry as well. 
Finally, I am impressed by the breed's intelligence. I have wrestled dumb dehorned cattle who stuck their heads in feeders. Even with impressive horns, the Kerries seem to know where their heads are in space and don't seem to  get stuck.   In spite of the regal horns they have thus far proved to be docile.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA Strike

If you are in the US and reading this, please take five minutes and contact your senators to oppose the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
I am not tech savvy enough to blackout this site for the day, but in the time you could read anything I have to say, you can call your senators and make a difference.


Richard Grossman, the midland agrarian

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Only a couple days of Christmas left!

As my friend over at Free Range Anglican reminds us, It is still Christmas for we Christmas keeping Anglicans.
Our church refrains from Carols until Dec 24, but we are still singing them,. If you can avoid the malls and radio,  its fun because the carols are  not worn out.

I was recently thinking about the loss of sociability in our culture. I have a poorer social life than my fore bearers here. Our house was once home to midwinter  country dances where the homemade cider and hard perry flowed, but everyone from kids to old folks gathered in one place. The fiddlers (Two great uncles) and caller (my grandpa) squeezed in a threshold between two rooms to allow for a set of dancers in each of two adjoining rooms. Over the years, they beat the floors down, but they had fun. I was reminded of this lost tradition by a fine recent essay from the David Walbert AKA the new agrarian.

The late agrarian writer John Seymour often lamented that loss of sociability was one of the greatest losses caused by industrialism and consumerism. We simply no longer no how to party.   Our family gatherings are limited to eating and gathering around some kind of electronic entertainment.  

Wishing all readers a happy and blessed Christmas! Only a couple days left so party on-- as best you can in our sad culture!