Author: Ryan Dennis

Man Versus “Beefst” – Our Family’s Transition from Dairy to Beef

My father started transitioning the same time as Bruce Jenner. It aroused the curiosity of the other farmers. Was the process difficult? How long would it take? What should they call him afterward? They tried to hold their jokes in his presence, but it’s easy to imagine what they said behind his back. Some were supportive of his decision, while others didn’t know how to take it. It was obvious they didn’t look at him the same way. “It was time for a change,” my father would say, trying to explain himself. “It was time to go from dairy...

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Artifacts are Reminders People Toiled on the Same Ground Long Before We Did

Dragging our moldboard plow through the fields in the spring always tended to turn up more than just the soil.  Sometimes there would be the lost neck chain of a cow that got scraped into the spreader or parts of a deer carcass turkey buzzards might have pulled off the road. Every once in a while I find a wrench that I left on top of the plow last season when I stopped to put new bolts in a share. Sometimes I would unearth a coulter from an old plow my grandfather must have used, or dig up a...

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Culture: Across the Sea, Some Farmers Are Cut From a ‘Different’ Cloth

(pictured) THE ÁSAHEIMUR TEMPLE: Capturing some of the atmosphere of a Viking age.   First he showed me the sheep, because that barn was the closest. There were about twenty of them and they stared at me with wide, intrigued eyes. When Árni reached his hand over the gate they all feinted towards it. He rubbed the face of the ram, who had no horns but was the biggest of the group.  “He’s a friendly guy,” Árni said.  “But in spring he has other things on his mind.” We hopped into his jeep and he hit the gas as we burst...

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That, Which Was Marked by Squirrel Tails.

It was the usual rite of a rural upbringing, and time had come for my father and I to take part in it ourselves. When I was eleven he took me to the end of the corn field, set up a hubcap, and had me shoot at it. The shock of a twenty gauge is dazing the first time, and it takes a boy the next handful of shots to unlearn flinching when he pulls the trigger. Nonetheless, much like how I was shown everything else on the farm, my father had me do it once before we went...

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The Last Crofter

Several years ago BBC News ran a story on Ian MacDonald, a quiet man with pink cheeks that is the last known Scottish crofter to swim his cattle across the sea from the Isle of Sky.  Scottish crofting is a farming tradition in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland that dates back to the 19th century.  Crofters are mostly tenants that raise sheep and beef cattle before typically selling them to a farmer who can finish them out on the richer grass in the south. The Highlands and Islands consist of crofting “townships,” in which the poorest ground is...

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