In looking for ideas for new posts, I have spent several hours just looking back and what I have already written. In doing so, I have had a ‘movie’ of these past years on the farm. I have gone from wide-eyed wonder at the sheer number of possibilities, tripped over a few stones of impracticability, waded through the puddles of setbacks and been mired down in the quicksand of reality. What amazes me is that I haven’t tucked tail and run screaming to some tiny cabin in the woods where no one can find me.
But I haven’t. Instead, I have continued down this path, regardless of how treacherous it can get, because the better parts of the road –albeit not 100% smooth and easy going – have made this life-changing journey well worth the time and effort. Below are some excerpts of a post written in 2012 balanced by what I know today. Hopefully, this can give you an idea of that journey.
From the very beginning I’ve had to readjust my vocabulary to include things such as Johnes disease, foot rot and rumen. Coccidiosis, infundibulum and gapeworm were a few of the more difficult to pronounce, much less understand.
We have been blessed. In the time we have been here, we have had only one case of Johnes (pronounced Yho – nees) and/or foot rot – both in the same cow. These are horrible diseases that can fully incapacitate a cow, if not kill it. Even worse, they are highly contagious. It is because of things like this I have made sure to have excellent veterinarian reference books on hand, as well as two top-notch vets on call and an almost over-stocked medicine cabinet for animal husbandry use. To give you some perspective, it takes a full shelf, a tackle box and the better portion of one refrigerator to hold it all. For the humans? I think I can scrape up a bottle of Liquid Advil, some Benadryl and a box of Band-Aids – if I am lucky.
We always grew a fairly decent garden, thanks to the help of Bonnie Best and Lex Plant farm. Go to Lex, pick out an assortment of plants, go home and put them in the ground. Now I have had to figure out how to start them from seed, what organic matter each plant likes the most (there is no kid on the planet that can be as picky an eater as a plant), how to keep from killing the good bugs and eradicating the bad ones, and knowing which is which. (Here’s a hint – tomato hornworms = bad; ladybugs=good.) Once the plants begin to produce, I’ve had to learn to harvest, can (including besting that scary beast, the Pressure Canner) and then select the best of the bunch to leave on the vine and save the seeds.
If I haven’t learned anything else on this farm, the one thing that has been an almost daily lesson is that you have to roll with the punches – or in our case, with the teeth of tomato hornworms. Instead of envisioning total devastation in the garden when I spot the first hornworm, I now know that my chickens are going to get a great source of protein – which gives me a better quality egg. I may lose a tomato plant or two, but I gain in the egg department. I have also mastered the beast, and that pressure canner isn’t so scary anymore. I also have quite a few jars sitting by, just waiting for a winter feast. And as of today, I will be outside harvesting the next round of volunteer fall squash, which will be frozen. We may have had to down-size, but that doesn’t mean we can’t eat just as well.
In the past eight years, living on the farm, I’ve spread my wings so many times that they get mighty tired. Just about the time I get used to flying on a certain wingspan, something happens to force them to spread just a little bit wider. Too often, the ground below me is littered with feathers I’ve lost in the process.
You have heard it said that you can’t make a purse out of a sow’s ear. All that says to me is that somebody just isn’t creative enough. Our lessons on the farm have been hard, but we have rarely had to do without. We have always had the basic necessities of life, but when we figure out we don’t have a certain tool or piece of equipment, we start looking around at what we do have that can either compensate or can be repurposed into what we need. It’s amazing how much truer the old adage of ‘Necessity is the Mother of invention’ is compared to the pig’s ear school of thought. I have applied both principles to my personal learning curve.
Yes. Over the course of the past 12 years I have lost a lot of feathers. But I have carefully and lovingly collected every one of them and preserved them in a feather mattress. When life gets tough; when my days are flooded with tears of sadness and frustration; when my eyes see the overwhelming vista of things that need doing with no time, money or resources visible anywhere on the horizon; I just go take a quick nap on that bed of experience. In just a matter of a few moments, or even an hour, I find myself refreshed and ready to go tackle my world of farming. Somehow, someway, those lost feathers have given me a new resolve, a new perspective and a new drive to get things done.