Why our beef is “for the birds,” and that’s a good thing.

posted on

February 13, 2024

One-Straw-Bird.jpg

Have you ever read the children’s book Too Much Noise, by Ann McGovern?

In the story, a man name Peter is exhausted because of all the noises keeping him awake at night.

“The bed creaked. The floor squeaked…The leaves fell on the roof. Swish. Swish. The tea kettle whistled. Hiss. Hiss. “Too noisy, said Peter.””

It’s a cute story, and in the end Peter comes to appreciate and be comforted by all the sounds that used to keep him awake.

When I was little, I just thought Peter’s trials were funny.

This morning, this book which I haven’t read in decades, was called to my mind and I realized the real lesson.

Without the Too Much Noise of the natural world, the silence would be deafening.

I was reminded of the story this morning walking back home after taking Farmhand Eli to his bus stop.

Because there was Too Much Noise for me to hear what Farmhand Grace was trying to tell me.

And the noise wasn’t from trucks on the road, or construction, or sirens.

I couldn’t even blame the always inquisitive cows, or the talkative chickens and pigs.

It was the wild songbirds.

And sooooo many of them.

Swooping around our heads, hopping through the pasture between the cows, and perched adorably along the fence – just like in bucolic paintings.

And I realized there is a true beauty of our small livestock farm that needs sharing.

Pastures - managed carefully the way we manage them - are absolutely teaming with life.

And the abundance of birds is one of the most visible testaments to the health of the environment we are stewarding.

Of course, it’s really about the health of the soil.

Under the thriving green grass and pasture plants, pruned by our cattle and other livestock, carbon is sequestered from the air, organic matter increases, and the trillions of little lives in the soil do their work.

Like the earthworms that the robins were enthusiastically pulling up all throughout the pastures as we walked through them this morning.

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Dozens and dozens and dozens of happy robins, so many I couldn’t count if I tried.

But while it may be the soil wigglers and microscopic crawlers under our feet that are doing the real work, and I’m sure we could do some really great science projects with a handful of soil and a microscope…

…it’s the birds we see flitting all around that give us, every day, such a beautiful and entertaining proof of the health of the land we are creating.

Farmhands Vera and Grace, plus their Farmer Momma, have become bird enthusiasts over the last few years.

Purely for the joy, we started identifying and cataloging all the different birds we see on the farm throughout the year.

We’re up to 28 different species – and those are just ones we see in passing when we’re out and about.

And I have realized that the wide variety of types we see has a lot to do with the beautiful habitat that is created by a regenerative farm like ours.

There’s the birds that feed on the caterpillars, spiders, worms and other “bugs” that thrive in our fertile and abundant pasture meadows.

There’s the raptors that soar and hunt for the field mice, voles, and other small fuzzies that also thrive in the pastures because of the bountiful insects.

And there’s the songbirds that love the seeds of grasses and other pasture plants, like the gorgeous Goldfinches that we see in the hundreds in the summer.

And the red winged blackbirds, whose song is one of my absolute favorites.

All these find a home because our pastures are a thriving ecosystem, whose abundance is driven by our livestock.

  • the carefully timed mowing of grass by the cattle, which keeps the grass in a constant state of growth, which improves the soil
  • the fertility added directly back to the soil by the cows (and pigs and chickens)
  • the plants that are left to go to seed throughout the pastures and in the fence lines
  • even the heavy hooves of the cattle are a benefit to the soil as they grind up plants that compost right into the soil and further increase organic matter
Bird-Singing-In-Cow-Pasture.jpg

This is not something you’re going to see in the media where the equation always is: All Cows = Bad.

Which makes me sad, because it doesn’t have to be that way.

As a conscientious consumer, you deserve to know that when you purchase from our farm, you’re supporting an agricultural system that is entirely different.

In our case, the equation is: Cows = Good.

At least that’s what the birds tell us.

All it takes to see that is a walk to the school bus, on the driveway between pastures, with a small Farmhand in tow for whom speed is not a virtue.

Every few feet as we pause to peer deeply into cracks in the driveway, or observe the deer browsing along, we are surrounded by a myriad of birds.

Constantly swooping, eating, singing and thriving.

And creating a glorious racket that the poor old man in the story book would say is Too Much Noise.

But it is music to our ears.

This morning, during a particularly long pause as Farmhand Grace splashed in a puddle, I pulled out my phone and opened my Merlin app.

Merlin is the free phone app the Farmhands and I use to identify and catalogue our birds. Of course we also have beautiful bird books, but the app sure identifies birds at a speed that more matches the patience levels of my Farmhands.

I don’t get any kickbacks for talking about Merlin, they have absolutely no idea who I am. Haha. But if you love bird watching you should definitely try it.

It has this amazing feature where it can identify birds by sound, which I absolutely love.

Here’s this morning’s results from about a minute of standing between pastures, just listening.

Song-Birds-on-Pasture.jpg

Within moments of recording those birds, I also saw quick Dark-eyed Juncos, skittering Killdeer, and a soaring hawk.

Absolutely awe inspiring.

And not something you’re going to hear or see on mega mono-culture farms, or industrial feedlots, or denuded “pastures” used in the big ag industry. Where the soils are dead or full of chemicals. No bugs, no birds…

So I wanted to share this beauty with you today because it is such a testament to the ecological commitment you make each time you support our farm.

Our food choices really do make a difference.

And I can hear that difference through my office window as I type. The Redwings seem to be competing with the happy clucking of the chickens – and at the moment they’re winning.

Thank you for being part of this beautiful, thriving, abundant world with us.

P.S. I recently had a similar conversation with a customer about how much the birds love our cattle pastures. And it was so timely because she was picking up a box of raw beef suet to put out for her birds over the winter. Pork back fat, too.

What a lovely way to continue the cycle of abundance.  Birds thriving in the pasture because of the cattle, then the cattle providing nutrition for the birds in another way through the winter.

Click here to shop bird-friendly beef now.



For a little inspiration, check out this response from a long-time customer:


*****
Dear Charlotte!
This is so lovely. We bought 20 acres of mostly clearcut out here over 30 years ago and have had the privilege of being witness to the regeneration of the native forest and wetland habitats. And it all started with the songbirds! 
Thank you for having the courage, wisdom, and strength to commit to the land in the ways that you do. Being a farmer means signing up for the long haul and making choices and sacrifices that go way beyond personal gain. What your family has accomplished at One Straw makes all of us stronger and safer, even those of us who are vegetarians!
With deep respect and gratitude!
Lela

*****

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