The Straw Cottage

eco-accommodation and growing experiments on a small scale

Sunshine and swirls

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I’ve had an hour weeding the vegetable beds in glorious sunshine yesterday afternoon – what a tonic! And I picked fresh carrots, celery, parsley and rosemary to make chilli for tea. Quite amazing for January – it’s been so mild (so far). I also went into the greenhouse to get a chilli pepper. I’ve been quite behind (lazy?) and not got the greenhouse cleaned out yet but the chillies are quite happy in there and I ate two very sweet cherry tomatoes still on the vine too!!!

Monday and Tuesday last week I went to the Oxford Real Farming Conference. It’s a very inspirational gathering of agro ecological like minds. I have lots to tell in next posts but to start on a lighter note – an organic beef farmer from Cornwall was saying how, with the breed of cattle he kept (Stabilisers), he could tell if the cow was good natured or not by the position of the hair swirl on her face; if it was above the centre line of her eyes, she would be sure to clear the gate. If it was lower, she would be a more placid cow.

So I have been examining our varied cow breeds to see if the same applies. We have one just calved that would kill you as soon as look at you and her swirl is very high (hubby assured me from a safe distance!). But this one – Bronte – has a high swirl too and she is as docile as they come.

Bronte the cow

Our cow called Bronte


This one is Harriet – my favourite young heifer – her swirl is well below her eyes.
Harriet the heifer

Harriet is a young heifer in our breeding herd


Harriet is expecting her fist calf in the next month or two. I persuaded hubby to keep her in the breeding herd. She is a really bonny colour and I have a soft spot for her mother- very good commercial reasons! Her mother is 226 (before I started naming them) and she has been on the farm for 13 years now. She was destined for slaughter but was accidentally caught by the bull and no one noticed until it was too late. She had that first calf by caesarean section as she was too young really but she reared it well. The next year, her second calf was born small (we nicknamed it “Handbag”) and we battled for months to keep it alive until it eventually died. It would then be good business sense to have fattened 226 and sell her for meat but she was such a good mother and very quiet to do with that we decided to give her another year. Then she was lame and that really should have been curtains for her as that usually means constant foot trouble. But she recovered and has had 7 trouble free calves since – the 8th due soon.

Anyway, back to the swirls – there doesn’t seem to be any rigid pattern with our cows. Best to treat them all with the healthy respect a 600-800 kilo animal deserves. Even the quiet ones can be very dangerous – especially when they have just calved.

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Author: Carol Atkinson

Farmer's wife, mother, straw bale builder, running two eco holiday cottages - now delving more into food production

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