The Pairodox Philosophy

The Pair o’ dox of Pairodox Farm is a pair of Ph.Ds, in zoology and in plant ecology. The paradox is that two people with so much education could still have so much to learn about one of the most ancient and fundamental human activities, farming. We never made a conscious decision to become farmers. Our lifestyle has evolved in a way that is consistent with the biological principles we have studied and taught for so many years. It began when we bought our first home on 25 acres of woods, fields, and a small barn. A property with a few acres and a barn is preadapted for farm animals. Once an empty farmyard is colonized by a few species, conditions become favorable for more and different ones in a process not unlike secondary succession. A few pens and fences fill, more are built, more space is created, and more animals arrive. If you already have sheep, it is not much trouble to add a few goats and a flock guardian such as a llama or donkey. If you are set up to milk goats, how much harder can it be to milk a cow? If you have fencing and pasture and haymaking equipment for cows, you can feed a horse. A few chickens can lead easily to ducks, turkeys, geese and other fowl. All the extra milk and eggs must not be wasted, a pig is needed to consume the surplus. And so on. Animals happen. Pairodox Farm began with two teachers, two children, two cats, and two dogs. Over the intervening years it has included chickens, sheep, goats, llamas, rabbits, turkeys, horses, pigs, ducks, cattle, and geese, and a relocation to a larger premises.

An undergraduate research project to identify and locate plants for the proposed reconstruction of Celia Thaxer’s legendary flower garden as described in her 1894 book, An Island Garden, led to the realization that many of the varieties grown then simply no longer exist. As fashions change, the traits breeders select for change. Many of the intervening stages are lost. The same is true for livestock. Modern breeds have been developed for maximum productivity in modern ‘factory’ farming operations. Older breeds, selected from ancestral stock for hardiness, efficiency, versatility, and other traits once important to subsistence farmers, are disappearing and taking these valuable traits with them. However there is new hope for some of these breeds. A growing awareness of the drawbacks of factory farms and concerns about the antibiotics, hormones, pesticides and other measures necessary to their success is resulting in increased interest in grass-fed, free-range, and organically raised livestock. Older, hardier, and more efficient breeds are better adapted to these conditions, and some are enjoying a resurgence of interest. At Pairodox Farm, we appreciate the value of the genetic reservoirs contained in these old breeds, and are attempting to find and specialize in raising those most likely to be successful in our situation.

32 thoughts on “The Pairodox Philosophy

  1. Hi David

    Have you got any advice for getting rid of blackberry?

    We are cutting it back. My husband wants to poison the regrowth, but I am concerned about the effects on the waterways and all of the life that depends on it.

    There is a product here called Roundup Advance, which the manufacturer claims becomes inert when it touches the ground. And they say it doesn’t affect water.

    What do you think?

    Kind regards

    • Hi Tree Girl,

      Here are my thoughts. I believe the residence time of glyphosate in the soil is around 50 days. Soil microbes degrade glyphosates readily and this is probably how the claim can be made that it becomes ‘inert’ when it touches the ground. As with the chemical control of Phragmites, the best thing to do is to cut back the offending plants and apply the glyphosate with a brush to only the exposed (cut) stems. This limits environmental exposure and puts the product only where you want it. Be sure to protect your hands with gloves. Toxicity to aquatic organisms is variable and depends on a number of parameters. In general, I think it is safe to say that it is OK in low concentrations. I really do think that glyphosate is OK if used sparingly and applied thoughtfully. It is an excellent herbicide if used responsibly. I hope this helps.

      • Many thanks for your reply David.

        We are looking at getting a US manufactured Ventrac tractor to help us keep the place tidy.

  2. I have a small flock of shetland ewes that I was hoping to breed this year and I’ve been searching for someone who might help me out with that. I’m in need of the services of a ram of course, but I’m also new to the breeding process in Shetlands and I suppose I’m hoping for a little mentoring. I’m located about an hour south of you and was wondering if you might be able or willing to help me out in either way with my venture? Wasn’t sure how to contact you via email so I’m hoping this does the job.

    • Hey there Beth. Sure, Joanna and I are always willing to help out where and when we can. If email is more convenient why don’t you drop me a line at and we can go from there. Pretty soon here, as the weather begins to get a bit colder, your ewes should begin cycling. We like to breed for early spring and typically put our rams out as close to the middle of the month of October as possible; that gives us lambs on the ground in the middle of March or early April. Anyway, drop me a line at the gmail account and we’ll take it from there. Thanks for getting in touch. Dave

  3. Hi. I’m looking for a few light grey shetland fleeces. If you have any for sale, or will by September 2014, can you please let me know? Thanks.

    • Hey there Samir … so very glad you approve. I saw a post of yours this evening which had been reblogged by Elke at Theory and Practice of Trying to Combine Just Anything. I clicked over to your blog space and was intrigued by the fact that you blog about Cricket. I think that’s great. I’m not sure why it is so, but I’ve never been able to find a description of the game that I’ve understood. So, there’s your assignment … a blog post explaining, in terms I can understand, the game of Cricket. Also …please do send our friend a link to Pairodox Farm … if she looks around a bit I am sure she will find material of interest to her. D

    • Shimon. Thank you so much for these words of approbation and for signing on to follow the Farm. Truth-be-told I have known, for some time, that you follow Elke (Theory and Practice of Trying to Combine Just Anything) and have secretly hoped that you might, sometime, migrate here and see what we’re about. I like the idea of having a reader from Israel and hope to drop by The Human Picture sometime soon. Thanks again for your attentions. D

  4. Hi Dave! I enjoy keeping up with your beautiful farm whilst reading your wonderful posts. I hope all is well in the homeland; I miss it so very much.

    • OMG (as the young folks would say) … it’s Allyson! Thanks for checking in and for taking the time to comment! How did you find me? I thought this Pairodox Farm blog was the best kept secret in the whole-entire-universe! Now that you’ve found me I hope you’ll sign on as a follower to receive email notifications of future posts. Hey, have Kyle check out the recent post about AFM images of hydrogen bonds, it’s right up his alley. You should know that Joanna and I have driven by you a couple of times over the last few weeks as we’ve made trips to Bean Town … we waved as we passed Providence – did you see us? D

      • I believe either Celia or Molly mentioned your blog awhile ago; I’ve just gotten the chance to look into it! I will have Kyle read that post; I’m sure he will love it! I thought I felt the Smith presence a couple of times in the past months. You should stop by in Providence, if you ever get the time! I will only be here until May, though, then we will be moving up to the Boston area (hopefully) for the long haul!

    • Many, many thanks Bill. I know that blogging is supposed to be about blogging and that it’s its own reward … but, between us, it is very nice every once in a while to receive a bit of recognition from the folks who are actually reading your stuff. And, coming from a photographer this nomination means that much more. Thanks again. I will try and get around to publically thanking you (and linking and fulfilling my obligations shortly. Thanks again. With appreciation. Dave

        • Thank you for saying so Elke. My poor Mother … when we first came up with the name she couldn’t figure out why would would name the farm after waterfowl (pair of ducks)! Somehow we thought that a ‘pair-o-docs’ might be mistaken for two physicians (which we are NOT). Even though most folks don’t get the spelling Pairodox made lots of sense to us – we have always liked it quite well. A long time ago now we ran a little bit of a business with a colleague … selling bits of raw wool to anglers who tied their own flies. Apparently raw wool is used quite a bit for that purpose – they call the stuff ‘dubbing.’ We called the business ‘Tridox dubbing.’ D

  5. Thanks for visiting my blog! I am going to follow yours – I can relate. I am an engineer in renewable energy and run a small company with my husband, located in a small village (after we spent quite a while in the steel and glass corporate world).

    • Renewable energy … sounds interesting. My new son-in-law is a bio-fuels type. You and your husband are lucky to be doing what I’d very much like to be able to do. I’ve been teaching in academia for a bit more than 25 years (Biology) and I’d like to switch gears and do something else. Unlike a highly trained engineer I do only one thing … I teach … and I am therefore finding it impossible to extricate myself from my current professional situation. I enjoy writing however and have found the blog experience to be quiet enjoyable. I wonder how you stumbled across Pairodox? I will have to migrate back to elkement to see what other sorts of interesting things you’ve posted. What I saw this morning was very different – much to my liking. D

      • I found your blog via a link Maurice A. Barry posted on Twitter! It is true – my blog is totally all over the place, but I also blog about my journey in extricating myself from my previous professional situation, e.g. here:
        We have another German blog which is more focused on engineering. I do enjoy blogging and social media a lot, too – and I can never resist to add some weird/experimental/geeky content even to the so-called business sites. I also need to dig deeper into your blog content! Have you “played” with renewable energy at your farm? Some of today’s largest operators of wind farms in Austria were originally founded by farmers who tried to make their farm more autonomous in the mid 1990s.


    There are some other stunning properties available on our road, I noticed, but never realized they were listed. They are quite impressive! And my neighbors’ home that is indicated in the above link is less than I thought it would be. Still, I realized their property has been cultivated over the past few years to become a homestead for them, but doesn’t necessarily have the acreage you’re used to. There is plenty of acreage to be had, of course, just had in mind to promote the neighbor’s recently listed place because it is so lovely.

    • Marsha, thanks for the invitation to participate in the Circle … I will get to all of its requirements shortly. Also … you suggest (at the link you provided) that Pairodox Farm had been Freshly Pressed … I looked upfront at WordPress and could not find evidence that that was so … what lead you to believe that Pairodox had been given that honor? Thanks again … I’ll be in touch … Dave

  7. An informative post indeed. I never thought about the characteristics that are lost through selective breeding. Regretfully, I have seen the loss in dogs. Thanks for this post.

      • I didn’t see your reply until now. I was looking for a link to your blog for Lemony Shots (blog by the same name). She would love your work, your photos, the farm, and you. My first experience with an indoor dog of my own was a Keeshond that I bought for my daughter when she was ten. My brother-in-law named her “Smutty” because of her color. She was an absolutely beautiful example of the breed, and was the most intelligent and sensitive dog we ever had. She lived to be thirteen, and we were devastated when she died. Since then, I’ve had a wonderful little Pomeranian, a beautiful American Cocker Spaniel, A Yorkie, King Charles Cavalier Spaniels, and Shih Tzus. I wrote a post about the loss of Dollie, my husband’s Shih Tzu. Now, I have an elderly Shih Tzu named Anabelle, who is brilliant and discriminating, as well as a scatterbrained, sweet girl from France named Demi. Demi is a shy Cavalier King Charles Spaniel whom I bought sight unseen when I read her story on the breeder’s website. She was supposed to start a new line for the breeder who bought her from a breeder in France when she was three months old. She survived the trip and the quarantine period, but was forever fearful afterwards. She is beautiful, but she froze in the show ring and would never breed. She’s a sweetheart.

        • Good afternoon George – no problem on the delayed reply – better late than never, I always say. Thanks for the rundown on the dogs. Joanna loves her Keeshond, Mr. Darcy. He’s named after the Mr. Darcy from Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice … you know that they say, “Every woman needs her Mr. Darcy.” He’s been a nicely low maintenance dog … except he’s due to the office of the veterinarian on Monday to have a tooth extracted. The silly little guy broke a point off of the top of one of his teeth and he’s now got the end of a root exposed. Ouch. Thanks for passing along Pairodox information to Lemony … I checked her site out just a few minutes ago and will have to swing by again to look at her photos. Thanks for passing around the good word. I hope things in your part of the world are warmer than they are here … temperatures are still down near 30 and the winds make it seem ever colder. Both Joanna and I are looking forward to spring! D

    • Hey Tom … thanks … I plan to accept you kind invitation. We’ve got guests so I’ll have to postpone the official acceptance post for a couple of days. How, or where, did you pick up the Award image to dump into your widget? I don’t seem to be able to ‘right click’ it to copy or to migrate anywhere useful. Let me know and I’ll proceed. Thanks again. D

      • Great! Strange about the image … I just tried a Google image search for “thought provoking blog award” and it turned up and allowed me to right click on it. This has been a fun way to send out some thanks to people whose work I admire and support I so greatly appreciate. So thanks, and congratulations, again ….

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