Thursday, November 28, 2013

Rare Breeds

Seen a cow lately? Or a pig? How about sheep or chickens? If you live near a major city, it's probably been awhile since you've encountered livestock. But even if you live in the country, miles from the nearest freeway or shopping mall, you're probably seeing less livestock these days.

Farm animals are in decline worldwide. Out of approximately 4,000 breeds of domesticated animals, 1,000 breeds are seriously threatened with extinction. Every week another breed of workhorse, cattle, pig or variety of sheep or poultry follows the passenger pigeon, the blue pike and the wooly mammoth into oblivion.
In hard numbers, there's no shortage of livestock. More domesticated animals are being farmed in less space and with greater returns of meat, milk, eggs and wool than at any time in history. But the number of breeds of domesticated animals is much smaller than it was a century ago. The genetic diversity of farm animals is shrinking, and with it the ability to adapt to new climates, new diseases and new markets.

Continued at... Rare Breeds

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1997. All rights reserved.
Rural Delivery
Farm Supply
Artwork: Dexter Cow

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Final Harvest

Standing in a field just a few hundred yards from the place where he was born 70 years earlier on "a cold February morning," the retiring rancher eyed the crowd gathered around his dimantled windmill.

An auctioneer cried out from the center of the throng, "Last chance! Two-twenty-five, give me two-twenty-five! Sold for two hundred dollars."

The auctioneer and the crowd moved on, away from the rancher and toward a rusty manure spreader. The man with the highest bid, a neighbor, lagged behind. He studied the metal fan blades of the windmill and then crossed over to the rancher. His round, flushed face was reflected in the older man's dark glasses.

"You're going to have to help me put this thing together," he said.

The rancher studied him a moment from behind the glasses, then announced in mock seriousness. "Nope, I can't help you. I told you not to buy the thing."

Continued at... Final Harvest

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1989. All rights reserved.
Rural Delivery
Farm Supply
Artwork: Farm Auction, 1940

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Beware the Stones from Heaven

The moon is full and rising over the plain, saturating our town's quiet streets with its milky glow. I can feel its light against my skin. It casts shadows behind me.

Against the hush of this lunar glare a red fireball arches across heaven. The gaseous atmosphere makes it burn, whirling and sparking and breaking apart on its way to earth. In the stillness I think I hear it crackle and pop. Then it's gone.

Continued at... Beware the Stones from Heaven

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved.
Out There
Out of the Past
Artwork: Gosse Bluff

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Animal Talk

People who live with animals almost invariably talk to their critters, or at least that's been my experience. And the animals, in their own way, usually talk back.

I've personally talked to several horses,  a few cows,  assorted chickens,  a pair of exceptional pigs and dozens of dogs and cats.

We don't carry on about American literature, of course. When I do, their eyes glaze over the way mine do when someone talks about computer programming. They sniff. The scratch. They look elsewhere and finally walk away.

But when the subject is birds or food or the quality of the weather, then we understand each other just fine.

Continued at... Animal Talk

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1992. All rights reserved.
Pet Supply
Second Nature
Out There
Artwork: Mr. Ed

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cold Hardening

Hard frost again last night. My footsteps leave dark impressions on the ground. The breath of the cows rises in clouds as they huddle together like football players at Soldier Field on a December Sunday.
Fewer grasshoppers now, I notice. They used to scatter through the wheat stubble on my approach. Only a few stragglers remain. The rest have died or gone off to hide from winter.

The crisp night is giving way to a warm morning glow. It will be an "Indian Summer" sort of day, the kind we missed out on last year when winter dropped in early. Some of our coldest weather came in November rather than January, where it belongs.

Continued at... Cold Hardening

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1996. All rights reserved.
Rural Delivery
The Nature Pages
Second Nature
Artwork: Winter Tree Line by Ilona Wellman