My dear sister Melanie is here with her friend Yola, who is from France. These two, who met last year while WWOOFing on a farm in Indonesia, have been here for almost 2 weeks. Spring has definitely arrived, so there is much to do around here on the farm. Things are also transitioning for me personally, so the timing of these their visit could not have been better. They’ve helped me create a new space in the old house, a really NEW space full of happiness and good memories, lots of delicious food and really really fun times! Mel and Yola are both super go-getters who have tackled every single thing I have even just slightly mentioned. I am spoiled for life! They set up my entire vegetable garden from scratch, they weeded, they seeded, they transplanted, they hauled, they carried, they designed and installed a whole new front for my old house (including a kitchen herb garden!), they created, they just….did. So MUCH doing!!! Thank you so SOOOO much Yola and Mel!!! The three of us have also done an excellent job of having fun and relaxing together at the end of a hard day’s work, enjoying delicious foods made together, and this time has been very healing for me, to learn to settle down and soak up this goodness that is life. Spending as much time with my family has become much more important to me lately, following many years of being apathetic and even avoidant about it. After my Mom passed away we all kind of went off on our separate paths. I realize in retrospect that I didn’t like to be around my family very much because they all reminded me of my Mom and how much I missed her. Things were consuming my life on the farm in those early years too. Times have changed, hurts heal, and the Canada trip was the first time it felt really good to be with all these people that reminded me of my treasured Mom. Melanie has lots of Mom in her, but she is definitely her own self too. She is a lovely lady now, no longer a little girl, although she will always be my littlest sister. So while Mel, Yola and I have mostly been homebodies working on the farm, we’ve also had a few outings. The most exciting (for me!!) was when we went to go see some highland bulls for sale last Thursday. Things in the bank account department have been sparse, but we have received deposits from 10 customers for beef so I knew as soon as the egg money came “flush” again, it was time to find and secure the cattle. I’ve been anxiously watching craigslist for a promising ad that wasn’t sky-high pricewise, and was also semi-close to me. I finally found it, and after talking to the guy I definitely felt this was to be the “one.” He raises around 50 head of highlands, and had 6 three year old bulls for sale. He was open to hauling them for me for a reasonable rate. He said of the 6 there were three who were more docile and would be a good fit for me. I asked if he could castrate them before they arrived here (essential because I don’t want them fighting or breeding Lola since she is going to be coming into heat this summer and is not old enough yet), and he figured out that there was a vet center on the route that he could bring them to take care of business on the way to my place. The three of us took a 2 hour drive southwest through the hills of cheesecurd country in Ellsworth, down the bluffs by Redwing and emerging on the flat plains of Rochester and a hilarious and charming tiny town called Pine Island where I almost lost our route. But I followed my intuition and we finally arrived at the address he’d given. Nervously I saw that it was one of those “oh so we have a junkyard for a front yard” kind of places. Old cars and equipment as far as the eye can see, but this place was at least semi-orderly about it, like three old skid steers parked in a neat row. I couldn’t see cows, or any animals. The guy Kevin was standing in front of the spot where we would drive, as he’d been waiting for us. When I called him to confirm with him before we left my place, he said he had to drive a tractor 25 miles, from one farm to the other and that would take an hour and half and that he might be late for the appointment we’d made at 3pm. We’d arrived at 3:20. I got out, shook his hand apologized for being late. He slid his suglasses up onto his head and made pleasantries. As I have written before, you never know what you are going to find when you buy from craigslist. It was good to have two “witnesses” with me on this trip, you never know what a craigslist seller might be. Anyways, obviously he was fine and I came out alive. It’s just some times these places do remind me it is imperative to be very careful with meeting a stranger at their house. On the phone he’d seemed to have a good character, but you really can’t know anything from a couple of phone calls. But neither can you live in fear all the time! I had cows to buy! Kevin took us through his old dairy barn, which was dark and crowded with junk and absolutely burned your eyes out with the ammonia of cat piss. Holy god almighty was it disgusting. Out the backside of the ramshackle barn was the run-in shed for the bulls. He told us to not speak loudly, in case the bulls would get spooked. One was there watching us enter from the corner, and he then sauntered outside as we entered. They were not really used to people being around them, Kevin said. We walked out the back of the barn and into fresh air where we could view the group of bulls who were in a junky looking, but clean and very spacious, feedlot. They all were gorgeous and HUGE. 2 of them were not pure highlands, and one was absolutely way too big and, I was told, a bit too aggressive. Kevin pointed out the 3 he thought would be good for my finishing on pasture purposes, each is very unique, but trying initially to sort through the group it was hard to recognize them. These 3 were also the smaller ones, as they were more docile and submissive they had not been getting the first choice when it came to eating. But let me clarify, my “small” three are each around 1,000 lbs!! About bulls- the first beef I tasted after 16 years was a highland bull of Angelica’s; Wooly Bully. His meat was PHENOMENAL, rich, woodsy, autumnal, just delicious beyond belief. So I feel extremely confident about these 3 beefy guys being top notch for our customers, especially after a summer of fattening up on the pastures here. They have never been fed any grain, which is awesome as that’s what I wanted to find. Grain primarily serves to accelerate growth in cattle (and add fat,) but since Highands are naturally slow growing it would especially not make sense to push them to grow faster. Slow growth means more flavor and 100% grass fed means the lowest ecological impact as well as the most healthy meat. Kevin, the seller, was chatty, as rural farmers often are when you meet in person, but at the end of the visit I gave him approximately half down and got a receipt. These 3 bulls turned steers are going to run me over $4,000 for all the expenses including delivery and vet expenses. Do you now I had budgeted what feels like an unbelievable $2,400 back in January when I was putting my beef shares together? Highland bulls and steers were listed on craigslist for around $600 to $800 each back then. My god have cattle prices gone crazy high. But these 3 will provide ample meat as they are already huge, so after harvest I will be making a profit, which is essential with any farm project. Kevin and his brother will be bringing the steers in a couple days. He suggested I make a very tight and high pen to unload them into as they are not used to being handled or even touched. The hour and a half we were standing there next to their pen, they watched us but did not approach at all. Comparing this to my little Lola, who comes right up to me and licks my pants, well, it will be an interesting experience getting them settled in. I will keep you posted. Mel and Yola head out on the next leg of their adventure, Chicago and then towards the East Coast, and then south. I know they will have wonderful adventures and all their hosts are going to be blown away by this dynamic traveling duo! Thank you from the bottom of my heart, my dears, I already miss you! Keep on rocking the world!