Friday, May 30, 2008

Yak Calf Number 2: Meet "Natasha"!

Here's Paula with our newest yak calf, "Natasha."

Ain't they cute?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Prince Yak Spian: Yak Hair for Trumpkin!

For those of you who saw the brilliant dwarf actor Peter Dinklage play the dour Trumpkin in the new Prince Caspian movie, I am sure you recognized that his red beard was comprised of yak hair.

Or are we the only ones who notice these things?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Con Yak u lations: Baby #2 Born Yesterday!

We brought the whole herd down from the "upper west side" yesterday to the corral. When we did a head count (or is a "herd count"?), we discovered one missing mama - sweet Pema.

We found her up in the upper west pasture - standing watch over her new baby.

All of the little one's afterbirth had been licked off - leading us to think our calf had been in this world for at least several hours, if not a day or so.

Here's a glimpse of the two of them.

Question: Where do you keep a baby yak?

Answer: out in the yack yard!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Yak 'Napping: Bringing Our First Calf Home

Meet Tashi, the first yak born on Vermont soil! Here he is at three days old.

How to describe our first yak 'napping? (And what verb to use? Removing? Shanghai'ing? Extracting?)

Some context - we want many of our yaks born in Vermont to be comfortable around people, so we can bring our four-legged hairy friends to farmer's markets, use them as pack and plow animals, and yes, ride them, like that crazy CEO in Seattle we talked about last week.

The only way to do this is to bring our yaks into the human family from a very early age - removing them from their mothers and their herd at the tender age of five days or so, bottle feeding them (yes, we are serious) using raw cow's milk, and setting them up in comfortable "digs" (in our case, an 8 x 10 foot corral in the yard).

Laugh if you will. But this process is called "domestication" (right?), and people have been doing practicing it for 10,000 years or so, give or take.

So here we are, with a five day old yak calf and only the experience of others to go on.

Thank goodness (again) we've got a business partner who know no fear. Dave Hartshorn got up in the "upper west side" on Friday afternoon (that's our westernmost pasture paddock) and single-handedly wrested Tashi away from the herd, while almost being gored by several yaks in the process. He is fearless, our neighbor, and we are the better for him (again).

Once he got Stormy and Tashi down to the corral, it was relatively simple to separate mother and calf, nothing a lasso, a corral gate, and some distraction couldn't take care of.

Mother Stormy was not pleased, and who can blame her? She grunted vociferously after we removed Tashi from her care, and returned to the corral several times over the next few days, sometimes in the company of other yaks in the herd, to methodically search the enclosure for signs of her young one, grunting in each of the corral's four corners to satisfy her own sense of loss. The three mothers of the six of us understand this sentiment deep in their bones, and we consoled ourselves by reminding each other than Tashi and the herd would be much better off in the long run, being able to safely and successfully interact with humans (and eventually, the herd once again) after finishing their training.

We brought Tashi home in a dog crate and set him up in the "yak pad" in the yard. All the comforts of home.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Yak Package: Wait, It's a BOY!

Wait. Let's see that again.

That's the look of an irate Mama (Stormy) after charging me from across the corral.

And here's the little one, under one day old.

There's just no telling what you might find under a newborn yak's belly when you look.

Like a "yak package," for example. Testes. Cojones. 

Yep. "Baby May" is, in fact, a boy. A bull calf-in-training.

We're leaning towards the name "Tashi," which is a Tibetan word meaning "prosperity." (Thanks, Kate, for doing some research here.)

Mama Stormy and Baby Tashi spent the morning in the corral yesterday, sleeping and nursing.
Stormy wandered off into the pasture late in the afternoon, leaving Tashi behind. Dave kindly reunited the two up in the pasture later that evening.

Looks like Tashi will come home for bottle-feeding and training on Friday.

Needless to say, the kids are excited.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Yak Tacular! Our first calf arrives at Steadfast Farm...

We've been waiting for the calves to drop.

And tonight around 5:45 p.m., the first one - we're calling her "May" for now - arrived.

Her Mama (a wonderful yak named Stormy - #53) was back up and on her feet by the time we arrived at 6:15, and "May" followed soon after, being licked and nuzzled by her mama, and occasionally having horns rubbed up against her, as well.

Interestingly, our other three mamas - Lady Slipper, Mary Jane, and Black Magic Woman - all paid a visit, and Stormy backed off and let them each take their turn sniffing and welcoming the new one. The three new bull calves came to say Hello, as well.

On a stranger note -

Papa Ringo soon sauntered over, sniffed the new one, and promptly tucked his horn under the calf and threw her into the air a few times. A bit un-nerving - clearly, our Wooly male needs a parenting class - and Dave hopped the fence to chase him off, almost getting charged by Mama Stormy, but not before Dave picked up the little one and moved her away from the big bull.

Good thing Dave's wife Paula is a counselor. Clearly, Ringo is going need some coaching on the couch.

Here's a look at Mama Stormy and Baby May...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Take Your Yak To Work: One Seattle CEO's Yak Experience

As we embark on our yak adventure, we are encouraged by stories from around the world about yaks and the people who love them.

Case in point - one CEO in Seattle brings his "royal" yak (that's a yak with a white and black coat) to his office everyday to bring a little "levity" to his eight person web development team's work.

And the poop? Nothing a shovel can't fix.

Watch the hilarious video of our new yak hero riding his yak in his office.

Ain't yaks the coolest?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Yakking About Yak Cheese: The "New York Times" Weighs In...

Yesterday's New York Times take a close and critical look at new scientific claims surrounding yak cheese.

Bring on that "wild Himalayan milk," indeed.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Better than Cheddar? The Heart-Healthy Benefits of Yak Cheese

Thanks to our neighbor Josh Golin down in Arlington, Massachusetts for passing on this piece of good news.

It appears to be all about the conjugated linoleic acid. Who knew?

While we hadn't planned on it, maybe we should get the milk and cheese-making operation going.

Read more in this "Science Daily" article.

Thanks, Josh, for the yak fact.

Yak: What Does It Taste Like?

Greetings yak friends far and near!

Our new food critic and friend Suzanne Podhaizer just e-mailed us this blog description of the taste of yak.

She captured the unique masticatory  (is that a word?) and culinary sensations of yak quite well.

As I like to say, eating a "tender strip" of yak sirloin may change your life. 

And Kate's "divine" yak chili? Enough said.

Once you go yak, you'll never go back.

Read Seven Days food critic Suzanne Podhaizer's succulent summary here.

Friday, May 2, 2008

"On The Yak Track" - Thanks, Suzanne and Seven Days!

One week ago now, Seven Days food critic Suzanne Podhaizer and her husband Dan paid Steadfast Farm a call.

It was a beautiful Friday afternoon - sunny, still, and cooling off for the evening - and, all of us had a chance to break the ice at the farm, eating  yak sausage on top of Vermont cheddar slices, and quaffing a few Wolavers by the corral underneath the prayer flags.

Backing up, I admit to being a bit nervous - I am a huge fan of Suzanne's writing, especially appreciating her abiding  interest in all things localvore, and the prospect of meeting a real live food critic was both exciting and a bit nerve-racking. Kate and I told Anneka and Theron that a "food critic" was coming to dinner, and we had to be on our best behavior, and focus the culinary, and we promised that she'd be much nicer than Anton Ego, the irascibly terrifying character in the wonderful 2007 animated Disney film "Ratatouille." (which we've seen a number of times as a family).

Plus, we are amateur chefs at best, though we love to cook and had already experimented a bit in the kitchen  with the sweet and succulent taste of yak.

The yaks proved spirited as we brought them in from the upper pasture for the evening. After we got them settled, we headed up the hill for a dinner of yak sausages, salt-and-pepper rubbed yak sirloins, and Kate's magnificent (if I do say so myself) yak chili, supplemented with local organic greens from Dave's gardens, and local Red Hen bread, dipped in Paula's phenomenal garlic and olive oil concoction. 

A fire in the outside hearth, good conversation, and a La Brioche dessert completed a pleasant evening - and, as always, I learned that our Vermont neighbors are multi-talented, full of good stories, and always interested in looking forward.

Thanks Suzanne and Dan for visiting - and come back again soon.

Read Suzanne Podhaizer's story here.

Yakking it up with New England Cable News

NECN reporter Anya Huneke visited Steadfast Farm on Wednesday to meet the yaks.

We had fun - though Lady Slipper and Christine proved as ornery as always. 

Watch the NECN TV News story here.