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No matter what your profession, there are always a certain type of tools that you need in order to be successful. Farming is no different. I’m not talking about the tools that says an architect needs a pencil and a ruler to draw a blueprint, or that a construction worker needs a hammer. I’m talking about the basic skills that every one really needs – but almost cannot be taught. Here are a few that I’ve discovered that we need here on the farm, and a few have been exercised almost to the point of exhaustion.

Common Sense – I can’t tell you how many books, pamphlets and magazine articles I’ve read about raising livestock. It amazes me though that not a one of them will tell you that it is basic common sense to know that cows and chickens have reasoning power. They do. You can almost see it in Black Bart’s eyes at feed time:

“Hmm…here she comes. Okay. She has the bucket in her left hand. She’ll have to use her right one to open and close the gate. It takes three seconds for her to walk through, turn around and shut it, so if I’m standing right about here……”

“Back off, Bart! Get your nose out of the bucket!”

It takes simple Common Sense to know that, every day, Bart is going to try to hijack the bucket. It takes Common Sense to know that you don’t get involved in a rooster fight. If you do, you will very quickly become the focus of their argument, and will leave with the bloody scratches to prove it. And it takes little to no Common Sense to know that you don’t grab a chain that’s lying across an electric fence wire with your bare hand. If you weren’t wide awake before, you will be after your hand touches that chain. Just a little Common Sense goes a long way.

Patience: No matter how excited you are, you can’t expect a garden to go from seed to tomato overnight. A lush harvest requires a lot of patience and TLC. It takes a gardener who is willing to lovingly water, weed and prune the growing plants to make a garden successful. And no matter how cold and wet you are; no matter how dark it is at midnight; a baby calf will be born when the time is right. And if the mom is in a bit of distress, you will be patient and sit by her side, ready to help when she needs it. Patience is one of those tools that will invariably pay off in the long run with delicious meals on the table and a precious new life in the pasture.

A little bit OCD: We use this tool frequently – especially when we are working with fence. If we hurry through a patch job, you can bet your fence pliers and ten T posts that the cows will be back on the road in fifteen minutes or less. It usually takes us about an hour – 20 minutes to actually fix a section of fence – but the rest of the time is dragging out the tools and supplies to repair it, and the rest of the time to store the supplies back in the barn. And then we watch for another 10 minutes or so, to make sure it holds.

A perfectionist who doesn’t expect perfection: I was groomed from an early age to be a perfectionist. It took living on a farm to realize that this is a tool that had to be modified somewhat. Yes – I really wanted my coop to be painted white, with flower boxes added to the windows. Yes – I wanted to grow grains and grasses in pots in the greenhouse that I could move to the coop for them to have fresh greens at least four or five times a week. But when the coop budget was exhausted, I realized that having a secure coop and a fenced yard that could help repel predators was enough. I can always paint at a later date, and tossing in freshly mowed grass would work for now. Besides – I did get the red tin roof. The only problem is, you have to be in a low flying airplane to even see it.

Perseverance: For twelve years we have worked on eradicating pigweed and dock from our gardens. Each year, we disk, till, row and plant, and weed some more. It may be an exercise in futility, but we know there is really no other place on the farm to raise a garden, unless we want to use up precious limited pasture, or find ourselves losing our garden to deer. So we diligently work on weeding, hoeing and removing the weeds we can, and by harvest time, we throw up our hands in defeat, pick the vegetables we can and then disk it under again. But we will never give up.

Positive Attitude: Even in the darkest moments of our farm, we continue to strive to make it the best farm possible. The bottom line for us is that we love our lifestyle here on Paradise, and even if we do lose a calf, have to battle weeds and have to chase snakes out of the nest boxes, we always try to see the silver lining in even the blackest of storms. This is the one tool that is pulled out of our tool box every morning, and is in constant use until we gently place it back in the box at the end of the day.

Faith in a God who recognizes we’re a little bit crazy, but loves us anyway: He may have led us here to the farm, but God didn’t drop off an instruction manual by the gate when we first arrived. (In fact, we’ve been hoping the UPS or Fed Ex guy will pull up, drop it off and tell us it had gotten lost in some wild and crazy shuffle). We don’t always make smart decisions, and we aren’t always sure we are working according to the plan He had for us, but it’s enough for us to know that He loves us anyway, and it pleases us to think we may be a source of laughter for Him. Still, we hold our faith tightly, and keep moving forward. Or backward. Or sideways. But at least we’re moving.

Tools are a necessity no matter what job you have. But the most important tools are the ones that are intangible. Still, it is those tools that most people can actually see you using – when you refuse to lose your patience with the most unruly student; when you keep calm instead of turning red in the face and screaming; when you keep trying, even when the odds are against you. Now. If I can just develop those eyes in back of my head to keep Bart from knocking me down every day, I think I’ll have my tool box complete!

What tools do you use? Are there any you use more than others? Did anyone out there get my instruction manual delivered to you by mistake? Let me know – I can always use more tools in my tool box, and I would LOVE to get my hands on that manual!