Three calves have arrived so far this year and a few more on the way!
What an amazing experience I had last week when LC gave birth only 30 feet in front of me! I had been working the garden all day and periodically keeping an eye on her since she showed clear signs of going into labor earlier in the day. With binoculars, I watched her as she slid off from the rest of the herd while her water broke and then back again to join the herd near where I was as she continued in labor. I then had a ring-side seat as one hoof, then two, then a nose began to emerge. In moments a new calf lay on the ground and LC, like a good bison mother, cleaned it off gently and lovingly. Within 15 minutes the calf was standing and nursing, albeit tired and resting often.
Two days later Kahlua and Laura had their calves that, sorry to say, we missed seeing be born which is normally the case, though I came upon them both within moments of birth.
Our chickens are now nearly a month old and growing fast. We have moved them to a coop that Ted has made and before long they will be out free-ranging during the day on our pastures.
This has been an extraordinary spring season and we are enjoying every bit of it!
What crazy weather we have been
experiencing lately! One day it is warm enough to fool one into thinking it is
summer and the next you wake up to snow-covered ground making you feel like
Rip Van Winkle wondering if you slept way too long! Alas, it is simply spring
at Beech Hill Farm and much like all of New England, if you wait but a little
while you will discover the weather changing again.
The bison don’t really seem to
care, other than the inconvenience of pushing the snow out of the way to get
the fresh blades of grass which they much prefer over the hay. No births yet,
but there are noticeable signs that they are on the way. Last year our calves
started arriving at the beginning of May. Most likely they will come around the
same time this year. We are watching and will post it when they do. The new
calves are a marvel to see and we invite you to stop by with your camera.
It is said, “a picture is worth a
thousand words” and that could not be more true when it comes to our bison
calves and their interaction with their moms. The picture above was taken last year in early June.
Ted & Doretta
Here is Little Warrior after a spring shower. From the farm you could see the entire rainbow span the sky. It was truly amazing.
We have been enjoying the spring weather here at Beech Hill Farm & Bison Ranch. Our bison are beginning to shed their warm winter coats and are eager for the grasses to come in. They can be found carefully nibbling the grasses that are greening taking only the tops and leaving the roots. Bison are terrific at helping to preserve pastureland since they do not eat the entire blade of grass to the root. Instinctively, they only eat the upper portions and leave the rest to grow back again. One of the students I visited at the Suncook School a few weeks ago put it well when he said, “you have natural lawn mowers.” Now if I could only stake them out around the lawn, I wouldn’t have to mow anymore! But he is right in the fact that they keep the grasses trimmed as they forage and at the same time help strengthen the grasses themselves. With bison we observe a sample of natural balance at its best.
We hope you are having a wonderful spring.
Ted & Doretta
Along with this 2 year old bull, we are excited to be featured on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network entitled Incredible Maine this Saturday, April 3rd at 10:30 a.m. We were delighted to host LC VanSavage and the crew on two occasions as they filmed the show. They are terrific people and do a wonderful job of featuring folks from all over Maine and promoting this great state. Check their website at www.incrediblemaine.com.
Of course, our bison did not always cooperate when we prepared for special footage, but in the long run they did what they do best - be bison with their own agenda and the crew of Incredible Maine captured their nature so well.
We also had the honor of being interviewed by Sharon Rose, of Channel 6 News, as she wore her “columnist” hat for Food, Etc. She did a wonderful job of sharing the great taste and health benefits of bison meat, as well as their grazing instincts that help to sustain pastures and grasslands.
We are gearing up for birthing season and hope that you will come by for a visit. We never know quite when the calves will start to arrive, but you can watch this blog to learn when they do. We will keep you posted! Last year it all began on May 3rd through June 10th. We hope we do not have a repeat performance of twins, however!
Speaking of twins, Little Warrior is doing great. He is kicking up his heels in this warmer weather and growing stronger every day. He, like the rest of the herd are enjoying the bits of grass that are turning green - a welcomed break from the hay they have had all winter.
Enjoy the warming weather!
Ted & Doretta
What great weather we have been having. Perhaps spring is
truly upon us! That means the outside work has begun. Last week I spent the day
cleaning brush along the fence behind the back of the house. Little Warrior
came down and spent the day near by me, grunting occasionally and laying down
on just the other side of the fence. I should have taken a picture, but I never
seem to have the camera with me at the right time. Instead, I took a picture
yesterday of the daffodils that are emerging along the side of the house. I
transplanted them there from the edge of the pasture where they had been
growing. They date back to Ted’s grand parents gardens so it is great to have
The bison are feeling the temperature changes, as well and
are more mobile. Every day gets us closer to calving season and we are excited
to watch and see who will go first and when they will begin. We will keep you
We are not the only ones waiting for the arrival of spring! Our bison spread out more and more across the pasture munching on the old grasses where the bare earth is showing through. They seem eager for something different than the hay which has been their mainstay through the winter. We are still a few months away, but it doesn’t seem too long until the fresh green of new growth emerges and with it the anticipation of new calves. I suppose our lack of snow this year makes it seem like spring is around the corner even though it is only February!
I have started a window box of lettuces in our pantry where the sun comes in strong and where we have a grow light to encourage the seeds. They have begun to sprout and we are eager to watch them grow to harvestable size. By that time we will have started many of our seeds in the basement under lights. One of these days we will have a greenhouse, but for now, Ted has set up a great spot that has worked very well.
We have just finished reading Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and watching Food, Inc. They were both so enlightening as they brought forward things we hadn’t previously known about our food industry. They also offered us affirmation that we are on the right track with raising our bison and the natural produce that comes from our garden. They are worthy books to read, if you haven’t done so already. Good for us and for our planet.
There are chores for everyone on the farm and sometimes that
means stepping up to the plate to do whatever is needed. Fortunately, our
washing machine is more updated than the one Ted’s grandfather, Charles Hersey
was using in the photo. Ted named it “Matilda” because it waltzed across the
floor as it washed the clothes. We are still trying to figure out where in the
house that picture was taken, not that it really matters. We are just having
fun piecing it all together.
It is wonderful living on the family farm so steeped in
memories. There are so many questions we would love to ask – what varieties of
apples are growing on some of the old trees they once planted here? or how did
they make their root cellar successful? or what pasture rotations did they find
worked well for their dairy cattle? The list goes on. Occasionally, we catch
the glimpses of answers in old books we have discovered tucked away - pages
marked, columns written in – telling a story, eluding to a concept worthy of
note – and in them a window into the lives of those who farmed this land long
before we came along.
As we attempt to fill in the blanks to our questions about
the farm, our bison are equally intriguing to watch and learn from. As the
sun’s rays get stronger, there has been a noticeable shift in their behavior.
Dry old pasture grasses exposed by the melting snow draw the bison to the edges
of the fields to nibble the memories of summer and the promises of coming
spring. They no longer stay huddled around the hay laying on a bedding of the loose
stuff they tossed out of the halo, finding security in their source of food. We
have witnessed them romping through the snow, swinging their huge heads back
and forth as if to shake off winter. Even though it is still only February and
the forecast of snow is on the horizon, their posture tells us that they know
it is not that much longer until the fresh spring grasses return.
Our orphaned calf, Little Warrior, is seen here experiencing
his first winter on one of those bitter cold and snowy days. He is doing well
and always happy to see us when we stop at the gate on our regular rounds.
The snows can and no doubt will fall and the frigid cold
winds blow, but like the bison awaiting the fresh new grasses of spring, there
is a satisfying warmth that fills me as I work up the planting charts for my
vegetable garden and berry patch imagining already their tasty rewards.
It has been an entire year since we have owned the Bison
Ranch at Beech Hill Farm and what a ride it has been! I am always amazed with
what one year in our lives can bring, for that matter one day, even an hour,
but those meanderings are for another time. As long as we are alive, change is
inevitable and while we have seen change on the farm with the birth of calves
and a growing business, the alteration I am thinking of right now is of a more
A year ago the burly beasts that roam our pastures scarred
me, Doretta, to the extent that if they approached the fence, I carefully
backed off. Ted, however, has had more experience than I having helped his
grandfather with the dairy cows that once grazed on these same fields. As for
me, never having grown up on or near a farm, I’d like to say I have always had
a healthy respect for animals, especially big ones like bison. Okay, to be
honest that healthy respect is just nice lingo for - fear. It is like the time
a friend walked me out across his fields among his cows. There wasn’t even a fence
between us. I was terrified and they were cows! Now, we are talking about
bison, the American Buffalo, the largest land mammal in North America!
As I began noting at the beginning of this blog, it is
astonishing when we can step back and notice our own growth over time. When it
comes to raising and managing our bison herd that growth surprises us, our
family and friends, too. “Bison,”
they can be heard saying with an upward twist at the end of the word so that it
becomes more of a question than a statement. Eyebrows raised and heads cocked
sideways - “bison?” “Yes, bison,” we reply and today with far more confidence
than a year ago. The fact that our
bison graze naturally on our pastures and provide an excellent healthy source
of meat gives us cause to feel good about what we are doing, as well.
In addition, we just arranged for new arrivals to come in
early May. Not more bison, but chickens! As we strive continue developing a
healthy, more sustainable farm, these new arrivals will bring much needed
nitrogen back to our pastures, help control parasites and flies, not to mention
the fact that we are looking forward to the abundance of fresh eggs.
But, for now the snow is falling and the arrival of our day
old chicks seems eons away. Nature is dressing our bison in a new blanket of white
and we, having completed our chores for the day are sitting beside the fire
with a cup of steaming cocoa in hand.
Ted & Doretta