I am a FarmHer

I am a FarmHer.

I am not bothered by extremes : heat that sends a current  of sweat stinging your eyes and makes your clothes and hair stick to you while you work: icy cold that numbs your face and cuts through the best coveralls while you milk your cows at 5 a.m. : mud that is halfway to your knees and sucks your boots off, never to be seen again.

I am a FarmHer.

I deal with angry bulls, spitting llamas, aggressive hogs , defensive geese and all manner of attitude from animals that could maim or maul me without much effort..and I am kind to them and giving and loving and receptive–the balance between ‘safe’ & ‘detached ‘ a spiritual struggle.

I am a FarmHer.

I have awaken at 3 a.m. to milk 7 cows before taking my toddler grandson for 24 hours, three times per week; homeschooled my own son, done the chores & fed the livestock on two separate pieces of land, kept house and cooked dinner and tended the children–alone, my husband traveling a lot.

I am a FarmHer.

I  walk into the darkness of the woods alone when the dogs tell me there is trouble.  I do not fear shadows or sounds I do not recognize–I fear what those unknowns may bring to my farm.

I am a FarmHer.

I do what is best for my livestock even when it hurts.  I make sacrifices of my time and myself even when I am broken and my aches are bone deep.  I ignore illness and pain and weariness.  I press on for them and push my own feelings aside for their sake.

I am a FarmHer.

I live a cycle of balancing farm & family, livestock chores and home chores.

I am a FarmHer.

I live in gratitude for what I have and curse what I cannot control; a constant contradiction.

I am a FarmHer.

I am not bothered by manure, blood, urine  or bodily discharges of any kind.  The sights and smells of death and illness do not sink me;  I do what needs to be done and break down when it’s over.

I am a FarmHer.

I suffer losses and grief and frustrations with my chin up, my shoulders square and a list of tasks that need tending running through my head, but when it is quiet and still,  I cry.

I am a FarmHer.     If you are a FarmHer, my sister, I salute you.

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Intertwined

I saw a photo of a calf.

I had put a simple post on my personal and farm pages on FB stating that I was seeking a Jersey cow or heifer of breeding age and was messaged by a FB friend in Eastern Virginia whom I have never met in person, casually mentioning that she had a cow available which had come from a farm I am familiar with.   I explained the uncertainty of our interest,  asked for 24 hours  to speak with my husband about his travel schedule and  a Jersey cow on a local farm he does business with that I have been interested in for some time that may also be available and expressed my sincere appreciation for her offer.

She agreed and as it was late in the evening, provided me with a photo of her  cow’s most recent heifer calf , which she just happened to have on her phone at the time and which   was not available, having just sold.

I saw a photo of a calf.  A Jersey calf.  A Jersey heifer calf.  A percentage miniature Jersey heifer calf, her dam being a standard–her sire, a miniature.

I was struck instantly by the resemblance of this calf to my Bibs at that age.  Dumbfounded is a better word.   I could have been looking at a photo of Bibs two years earlier.  I know that seems odd, because it was a calf and it was a random photo of a calf, but I just couldn’t escape that perception.

The owner went on to answer my queries about the available dam of this calf .  How old she is, her health , her temperament, etc…all the while I was staring at the photo of the calf. Mesmerized by the calf that was already sold, not able to shake the feeling she looked just like Bibs.  I mentioned this feeling to the party I was chatting with.  She remarked that Bibs and this calf have similar genes coming from the same Virginia farm lines and it was not unlikely they be similar in appearance.  I replied something to the effect of, ” No,  they could be clones. I’ve seen a lot of calves from those lines and none of them have looked like Bibs.  ”

I verbally mourned missing the opportunity to buy the calf and continued on talking about her available mother.

After discussing her particulars, I asked for the available dam’s name  so I could look up photos of her.  I was unfamiliar with that particular cow even though I was familiar with the originating farm; her name did not ring a bell.   When I saw the registered name of that available cow’s dam  I  choked on a sob and pushed my chair back from my desk so hard and fast I almost fell over…

She is Sweetie’s first heifer calf born to these lines.  Bib’s sister.  Tia’s aunt.

Sweetie was the first dairy cow I ever owned.  She was the first cow I ever milked on my own farm.  She was the gentlest soul–my first bovine love.

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Those of you who know me understand what finding this cow means to me and how I will never be able to find adequate words to explain it to those  who do not.   I never got over losing Sweetie and I never forgave myself for my part in her inability to recover from the worst case scenario milk fever that took her from me despite heroic efforts from our vet and a team of people working around the clock for days.  It is the one time I didn’t ask questions before making a change regarding my Jerseys and I will regret it for the rest of my life.  Sweetie was my favorite cow.  She was a pet.  She was a friend.

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I mourned Sweetie’s loss so deeply and felt such profound guilt it ate at my spirit.    Her absence on this farm is a fixture and often painful entity; hiding around certain corners and pouncing, apparent beneath her favorite shade tree, hovering in the corners of the parlor–a glimpse, a memory, a sound and there she is.  I still miss her with all my heart.

I saw a photo of a calf and  I knew.       Somehow, I knew.

When I first saw the photo of Sweetie’s daughter sent to me after we agreed to purchase her,  I cried hot tears, covering my face with hands and telling my husband between shuddering sobs, ” I just didn’t expect her to look so much like Sweetie.”  I was , again,  floored by the resemblance.   Knocked back.  He asked if it would upset me having her here and I assured him it would not, that I was profoundly blessed and happy to have found her, I just wasn’t prepared to have her look so much like her mama.

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So many factors came together to make her good steward the person who would now sell her to me.  This person was not her original owner, nor her second owner…imagine that.

Imagine the complexity of movements it took for me to find the  first daughter of a cow I still mourn and regret and whose female offspring I cannot bear to part with.   Imagine that I would be FB friends with the person who ultimately ended up buying her and then needed to part with her–someone I have never met–who  offered her to me based on a casual post.  Imagine that this cow made her way to me through three owners in another state.  Coincidence?  I don’t believe in coincidence.  I believe as surely as I believe in God that all things happen for a reason; even the smallest of things.

Sweetie’s  daughter is coming home to be with Bibs and Tia and me–here–on this farm–where she will be cherished like her mama is in memory.  Here, where she is meant to be.

It amazes and comforts me how intertwined we are with all we love and hold dear.  More so than we humble humans can fathom.   I am blessed.  I am grateful.

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Sweetie & Bibs

 

 

 

 

 

Like a Bulldog

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I bought Reeses knowing she had recently had a full term stillbirth. Full disclosure about her circumstances was afforded me.   As she had borne a live calf before that, I wasn’t concerned.

Since then, she has had another late term stillbirth, a possible early term miscarriage–she cycled, was seen bred by our bull, then didn’t cycle, but when checked was not pregnant–and has not cycled regularly or been successfully bred in over a year since that.

As I write this, without looking at my calendar and her paperwork, I would guess that in all, Reeses has gone nearly three years of her not yet six year life without a successful breeding.

Let me be frank, if Reeses was not a pet; if she was not as smart and sweet and funny and wonderful as she is, there were options other than struggling with her infertility issues that I would have seized on without hesitation.  But she is all of those things.  She is all of those things and I love her.

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When the endless rains and flooding hit SC and we were forced to throw in the towel and part with our herds, I had the opportunity to sell Ree.  I withheld her; she had just had her second stillbirth, back to back and I was afraid that she would end up on someone’s plate. Please do understand that I know this is common protocol;most people won’t house or feed an unproductive cow–it just isn’t practical, and I have no issues with it under most circumstances and would normally do it myself, but this is Ree and again, I love her.

Her special needs and my worry for her and quest to find a resolve have now simply become part of my every day life.  Over the course of her challenges I have spent a great deal of time and money on every test and effort  my vet and I can come up with.  I have researched and asked questions of respected professionals in every field of agricultural science from Jersey breeder to animal nutritionist.   I have altered her diet, her minerals, adding this and changing that–ordering specialty mixtures of minerals and supplements from organic suppliers, testing, testing, testing…charting, charting, charting…Hoping, hoping, hoping…

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My grandmother once told me ” You’re like a junkyard bulldog; when you sink your teeth into something, there’s no letting go for you.”  She was right.  For me, failure is not an option and when it forces it’s way into my life, it crushes my spirit.  My tenacity is actually one of my greatest weaknesses.  There is no surrender in me when I care about my cause and sometimes, walking away is the best option.

The last of the tests have come in.  Reeses is, thankfully, free of ANY disease that would inhibit her ability to carry a calf.  By all accounts, her issue appears to be singularly hormonal.  Our course of action is to begin hormone therapy in the fall through our vet, who has also been running himself ragged for her; making calls to universities and colleagues and spending an awful lot of his free time pursuing an answer for us, because as he told me when he drew the last of her tests, ” I know she’s your baby. ”

Hormone therapy and AI is our last resort.  At first, I had mixed feelings about it.  The idea of injecting one of my animals with hormones was not appealing to me.  Then, I remembered my own struggles, 7 years of infertility, two miscarriages and treatments and tests of all kinds that ultimately resulted in my son and I found peace with it.  We need some help now and then.  If this is what it takes to get her back on track and make her happy, then so be it.

Cows have emotions.  Anyone who disbelieves that should stand in a field of cows with their calves for an hour and just observe without prejudice.  Ree longs for a calf.  You can see it in her eyes when she licks the calves of her herd mates.  You can hear it in her call on the rare occasion she does cycle; a mournful, pitiful call to the bull, unlike the others.   If there is a calf in her proximity, she is caring for it.  It is not purely a selfish pursuit for me to try here.  I want to see Ree nurse her own calf–for her.

I know how it feels to long for your own baby.  I know what it’s like to see every woman under the sun give birth and congratulate them while mourning your own losses.  I know the feeling of holding another’s infant and having your heart bleed.  I know what it’s like to mourn the babies that might have been.

What will I do if our last ditch plan fails ? I surely have no clue.  I’ll sink my teeth in that one as it comes.

 

 

 

It had to be you : An Ode to My Honey

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It had to be you.

Only you would find me charming while I am milking cows in my pajamas and muck boots.

Only you would hug me when I smell like pigs and cow manure.

Only you would pull me close and kiss me when my hair is plastered to my skull with sweat , woven through with hay and straw and my clothes are covered in stains and clumps you don’t want to guess at.

Only you would rub my feet at the end of a long day with hands you’ve worked to bone.

 

It had to be you.

Only you would buy me a cow just because I think she’s pretty when you know she’s overpriced.

Only you would let me buy animals that will cost more in vet care and time to heal them than they will ever bring, just because my heart cannot stand to leave them and wonder what became of them.  You and you alone understand that knowing obligates me in spirit.

Only you would tolerate me bringing calves into the kitchen by the wood stove and keeping them in dog kennels so they don’t chill.

Only you would go out in the middle of the night with your gun and flashlight because I ‘feel ‘ like something’s not right.

 

It had to be you.

Only you would give up the comfortable life you had in the city to move out to the middle of nowhere with me so I could have the peace I yearned for.

Only you would surrender what you termed ‘success’ for me to have my dreams.

Only you would put up with sinking all of our funds into things you never desired.

 

It had to be you.

Only you would understand what it means to me to be here; to have this little piece of earth and these cows and these llamas and these pigs…to walk with them and chatter with them and watch them bring babies into the world and care for them and occupy my time and my mind with their needs and their antics.

Only you would have watched me on brink of losing it all and decided that no matter what it took, that wasn’t going to happen.

Only you would have invested the time and months and money and sweat and aggravation and efforts of all kinds it took to reclaim this farm after the flooding and the mud and the losses and rebuilt it better than before.  Most men would have breathed relief at having been done with the stress, let me grieve and moved on.  But not you.

It had to be you whom I walked through all of my life’s paths with: the joys, the sorrows, the regrets, the victories, the frustrations, the peaceful moments of quiet contemplation.

It was you.   It’s always been you.    It had to be you.    It will always be you.

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Communion

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I walk with Llamas.     Freely, unfettered, they walk with me.

I enjoy the company of cows, taking in their calmness, their easy going ways and adapting their peace with their environment as my own.

I laugh with pigs.   Watching them enjoy the ability to run among the trees and savor the goodness the earth provides as nature intended.

I sleep with dogs. Warm and watchful, appearing completely relaxed but never quite unguarded just as I am never completely tuned out.

I chatter with chickens, enjoying their banter as they scratch and peck around the house and I sip coffee and chime in when I have an opinion.

I welcome strangers; stray dogs, fallen fledglings, orphaned wildlife, feral kittens, misplaced beings of any and every kind make their way to me with a knowing, as though led. Some staying out their days, becoming kindred–some moving on as nature intended. Each owning a part of me formerly undiscovered.

I share with this land everything that is myself.  I walk with it.  I talk with it.  I cry with it.  I laugh with it.  I struggle with it. I rejoice with it.  I cooperate with it.  I learn from it.  I glean from it.  I give to it.

The land and I and every being on it are bound in a way that defies all that was proclaimed for me by my birth and circumstances.  Even if I must leave it, this piece of earth and every being that ever tread on it will go with me.

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Respecting Them for What & Who they are

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This is Tia.   Also known as Princess Tia.   Also known as Tia Bella.

If you follow our farm page or are familiar with me at all, you know that Tia is the daughter of Bibs, the cow who thinks she is a dog.  Bibs is the daughter of Sweetie, my first cow ever milked here on the farm, my favorite cow, the cow I unintentionally had a hand in causing the death of due to a tragic  mistake in judgement .

Needless to say, I adore Tia.  Tia is a treasure here.  Tia is special.    Tia’s grandmother lived up to her given name being one of the sweetest cows I believe I will ever meet.  Tia’s mama is an attention seeking pest who follows me around and rubs her head against anyone who will allow it looking to be scratched and rubbed.  Those facts having been laid out and knowing what is known about me and my farm practices, what I am about to state may come as a surprise and shock to some who follow Tia and our farm and see the scads of photos and posts about this little girl–Tia has not let me touch her since she was three weeks old.

I employ the word ‘ let ‘ intentionally here.  You see, despite what impression I may inadvertently give with my posts of adoration for my livestock and my swooning over my “pet” farm animals, I never  force my attentions on them.  Never.

Tia has yet to accept my touch of her own free will.

All newborn livestock will tolerate being handled and held to some degree.  Some will even walk right up to you out of curiosity and lean into your touch.  Some actually come to enjoy affection early on and that remains with them.  Tia was petted and hugged her first three weeks.   There are several factors in the foundation of her young life that one would expect would leave her totally open to my touch and completely receptive to me in general: her mother being totally comfortable with seeking my affections,   spending all of her time with her best buddy, Izzy , a bottle baby who adores me and rubs on my legs continually,  her other fast friend being Elsa , the very tame and tiny miniature Hereford heifer who loves a good back scratching and walks pressed against my outer thigh–but  Tia gently withdraws if I extend my hand to her.  She has no fear of me, she just does not wish to be handled by me.  I respect her wishes for personal space.

I walk around this farm every day and address each and every animal on it by name.  I nod my head at them as I pass as though passing a neighbor and speak to them.  If I have time, I extend my hand or offer a hug to those I know will lean in.  I truly do love all of them.  I love all of them enough  to acknowledge that some of them do not want to be pets; Some of them just want to be llamas or cows or pigs …and that’s okay with me.  I try to respect not just what they are are, but who they are and understand each as a whole.

I studied both biology and psychology in college and while I did not get as far as I would have liked in my education due to unforeseen family demands, I was captivated by both sciences.  They still dance in my brain merging like beautiful puzzles when I consider my farm and the livestock on it.  The scientific classification a biologist would use, for example, I take a step further to include psychological factors.  I see little Tia in simple terms  as :

Mammal

Bovine

Dairy heifer

Jersey

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For me, the first three go to physical/biological facts: what she is; the last three to psychological and physiological facts: what makes her Tia.

The first three are self-explanatory.  The last  state that she has specific traits and qualities that make her who she is; the unique being that is Tia.

Jerseys are a particular sub-set of dairy cow with specific needs in the cow world as opposed to other breeds.  Add to that the fact she is a miniature stature Jersey and those traits are often times magnified as far as calving issue possibilities and dietary needs.

There are also social issues within the herd that may need to be assessed and closely  monitored  with Jerseys, particularly minis, that just don’t seem to exist with other breeds :  Jerseys tend to be shy , unassertive bovines and can be ‘ run off ‘ hay rings and troughs by stronger willed cows.  Social issues such as these are part of general psychology. Psychology is the study of function and behavior–not just human behavior, but behaviors of all species.

Not least important is who is Tia, the singular personality ?  Tia is wildly curious and playful.  Tia is confident and unafraid.  Tia will walk just next to me for long periods of time but gently back away if I reach down to touch her.  Tia will walk right up to me and stare right at my eyes while I speak to her while I work.  Tia likes the company of people, but not direct contact.  Tia will do exactly what you ask her to do with direction while moving her.  She will be a fabulous dairy girl !  She may choose never to be a pet.

Here, on this farm, she has the absolute right to make that choice.

 

Proverbs 12:10 (KJV) A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

The original Aramaic ( Ancient Jewish )  text from which  this verse was translated states ” The righteous one is aware of the soul of his animal, and the evil withhold their compassion.”

I regard all of my animals as individuals with certain rights.  Yes, I intend some of them for the table, but even they are offered my affection and spoken to.  They are allowed the freedom to pasture graze.  They enjoy the ability to engage in their natural behaviors.   My boars must be penned for the sow’s safety and mine , but their yard is large and planted and they have pools and toys.  I make them mud puddles when it is hot.  They get cookies with everyone else.  I never keep a single animal alone in a yard.

I do not believe in restraining an animal more than required for farm functions.

We do not halter our cows unless absolutely necessary.  Early on, a mentor explained to me why it was unnecessary with proper guidance and training and that stuck with me.  I had to halter my first two dairy girls as my parlor was not complete and I needed to tie them loosely to milk for a week or so, but the instant the parlor was done, off came the halters. I only halter the llamas for moving them or shearing.  I only haltered a cow once since and that was for vetting and she was trying to hurt the vet, being very uncomfortable with mastitis.

I do not tether my stock in any way aside from fences to keep them safe or to separate them when necessary–neither physically or spiritually.

I do not make unnecessary demands on my livestock and I leave them choices.

I respect them as the individual beings they are , each one of them a unique personality.

I firmly believe that even and perhaps especially for those meant to feed a family, an animal requires the ability to be himself to be in top condition .

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I believe it is of the utmost importance to engage the entire animal for optimal health: the mind, the spirit , the body —  Fresh air, cleanliness, exercise, natural behaviors, play, human interaction on their terms,  proper diet, sound medical care, regular assessment , room to roam, freedom to choose within limits of safety, etc.   I think the last may be one of the most important.  If someone took away all of my choices, I would be a miserable and unhealthy being.

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The common threads

We all start out in farming with the best of intentions.  We all seek to learn and provide for our stock in the best way and means possible.  In writing that statement, I considered the information and experience I have absorbed and the chasm between what I know and  knowledge  yet to be acquired.  I thought about farmers as a group and how we promote ourselves and assert ourselves; how we think we know what we know and how we think what we know and our own experiences, since successful for us or traditional in method, are the right way.  The required way.

We all have our own way of doing things, no matter our circumstances or occupation and the fact  that those ways may differ from person to person in the same field or situation doesn’t make either wrong, even when there is a generally promoted standard, providing the end result is positive.

I have learned very firmly in farming  that animals are, by and large, biological and sentient beings just like humans and not all will fit a standard.   I have learned  that farms are living , breathing, growing, changing things.  I assert with complete confidence that if you lined up fifty farms in a row, built to identical design ,with identical soil and identical animals, from identical lines of stock , set out with identical instructions for going forward and developing, no two would be alike in two years time unless they were all run by the same person: Fence lines would be moved, irrigation patterns would be changed, feed schedules and types would be altered, breeding schedules would be off line, etc… every one of those farmers would develop his own ‘ best ‘ plan for running his farm. And each and all would be right.

We all start farming / homesteading from where we are with what we have–large or small, from scratch or with a family history of agriculture.  Whether we grew up in the culture or just bought a piece of land , whether we inherited our granddaddy’s herd or stopped by an auction one day on a ride through the country and bought our first goat on impulse, we all start off new to farming the day we , ourselves, are responsible for the first time for that life, that land, that work.

It doesn’t matter how much experience we have under our belts or how much knowledge we think  we have prior to that first morning of waking up and realizing it is all on us, we are not prepared for all that will happen and all that will be expected–and unexpected.  It is ultimately the unexpected that will make or break a farmer or homesteader.  That is where you will find your salt or your quit , as a very wise old woman I knew as a child would say.

I almost found my quit a short time back, but at the last moment, I found my salt.

 

Every homesteader or farmer you meet has their ‘ magic ‘ for each situation that arises.  I have mine.  Every single one has their ‘ go to ‘ cures and remedies they try before they call a vet in common situations.  I have mine.  Every last one has their tried and true methods for each and every circumstance and encounter.  I have mine.   I can share mine with you and happily will if you ask, but here’s the thing–what works for me and my animals on my farm may not work for you and your animal on yours.  That’s the crux.  That’s why every single one of us has her own.  And guess what? None of them is any better than the other if they all work.

The best thing for a new comer to farming / homesteading to do is to glean as much reliable information from as many reliable sources as she can BEFORE she starts with any type of livestock.  Take notes.  SERIOUSLY, take notes.  Figure out what makes sense to you.  Ask questions of people who are doing things right. When you get some livestock, try some of the methods.  See what works for YOU on YOUR farm with YOUR animal, because People, Farms, Animals–all different, even if apparently the same.

How we are raised makes us different,  Our personalities make us different  , Our preferences make us different , two of the same breed of cow will have different personalities, patterns, fears, weaknesses, so on and so forth.

Never let someone tell you that something MUST be a certain way if it doesn’t work for you and your animal; neither of you will be happy.

* If an animal has a special need or is so accustomed to a certain structure that it requires a diet or structure you are not comfortable or capable of  providing, DO NOT try to alter it , the animal is not right for you–pass and look for your fit. Believe the farmer when she tells you what her animal requires.

I  believe wholeheartedly in engaging all of my livestock mentally as well as tending to their physical needs.  I believe that ” Humane Keeping ” includes the ability to engage in natural behaviors.  There are those who disagree with me.  There are those who believe in order to keep an animal humanely one must only provide adequate space and a clean environment with sufficient feed and fresh water–psychological needs and innate behaviors of the animal are not even a consideration.  Is their animal therefore abused?           I think not.

Would I do business with someone who chooses to keep animals without regard for their spiritual needs ? ( Yes, I said SPIRITUAL )    No.  I would not .

Why? Because, although they are not abused, it is my opinion that they are neglected and therefore, not wholly healthy nor a fit for my herds.

 

Some farmers will tell you a tamed production pig is a bad idea as it is prone to bite.  I have not found that to be true.

Some farmers will tell you a pet heifer or spoiled cow is the worst to milk, I had one spoiled heifer that was a nightmare to train and two that were as easy as a walk in the park and never lifted a foot.  I also had a well-trained dairy cow who decided she hated me right off the trailer and would wait until I had my head and hand under her and nail me every time so who’s to say? hahaha.

Some farmers will tell you to bring in a heifer cold to the stanchion and others will tell you to pre-acquaint them.  I’ve done both.  Both work. I prefer the kinder introduction.

Many farmers will tell you to tame your bull from an early age, others will tell you to ring his nose and train him to respect you as boss,  I find the opposite of both  to be true–a totally untamed, but calm and unafraid , hands – off bull is safest and most predictable.                    ( NO BULL IS TRUSTWORTHY)

There are pig farmers , even small ones, who swear by the need for farrowing crates to reduce piglet crushing losses.  I farrow in open barns and runs and have only lost one piglet to crushing death and she was ill-thrift and probably too weak to move out of the way.  I also lost a lamb to crushing death by her own mother who laid on her , so the argument falls flat with me.  Like I said, we all have our own way.  I don’t bash the farmer who wants to use them, although I do not think it humane to leave the mother in there long after delivery and I would not buy her pigs simply because I prefer to do business with folks of the same mindset and values.

We live in a world of hyper- connectedness: smart phones, lap tops, tablets, etc… keep us ‘ plugged in ‘ almost all the time to a myriad of social networks and resources galore.  That has become a blessing and a curse.    I  see a lot of unnecessary , snarky  ‘ my cow / goat / lamb / horse/ llama is better than hers, because ‘  posts and those make me cringe .

Why ?   In the case of two farmers humanely raising healthy, fit animals, why does one way have to be “better” ?

If we are all honest as farmers about the individual animal we have to offer, it really doesn’t matter how many years more experience we have than our neighbor who also has a cow for sale–let the buyer decide based on the individual cow which is right for her/ him.  Take the school yard competition out of it and start promoting each other.  If you don’t have a registered cow with an outstanding pedigree and your customer is looking for one, recommend someone who does and if you have registered cows and your client is looking to spend less, recommend the reliable dairy down the road.

It sincerely makes me ill to see so-called responsible farmers bashing each other on these pages across social media just to cheat each other out of a sale or promote themselves for future business opportunities.  It is so obvious what they are up to.   Some of these sites promote the page as a ” discussion group” but if you pose an opinion that is contrary to the majority, even in the most polite terms, you will find yourself banned from the group.

I see Memes all the time on farm pages and groups about buying local and supporting your local farmer and buying fresh meat and eggs from the small farmer, but then on the same pages I see farmers, male and female, touting why their animal is better than anyone else’s or their method of raising a beef steer makes for tastier beef than Joe’s down the street or why you shouldn’t buy Susie’s free-range chickens or eggs and  how their dairy cows will make better homestead cows for you than the one raised by the other farmers because their cows are taken more seriously than the smaller farm’s cows or the newer farm’s cows or they have more experience or better stock, even when they have no stock to offer.

I can tell you that if you are looking for a registered animal with a superior pedigree it is absolutely imperative that you stick with the handful of farmers that are well established in the community with excellent reputations for providing that specific breed.  Aside from those parameters, I will attest that you can find a perfect cow for your homestead at a good value from a small farmer with nothing more than a calf from her personal milk cow to offer; in fact, sometimes that’s going to turn out to be the better cow.

I recommend my farm friends all the time; even when I have the same type of livestock available if the buyer is looking for something in an animal I cannot offer.

Let’s be frank, if you buy an animal from me, you’re likely not getting just a production animal, you’re probably getting a pet.  Some folks simply do not want an attention seeking cow on their homestead.  Honestly, some people when first starting with bovines are a little afraid of close contact with them unless necessary for milking or feeding, etc.    That is understandable.  Cows are big ! They can hurt you !  I have the incorrectly healed broken toes to prove that they can step on you without even meaning to.  They just don’t know where their ends are all the time.

If I have a buyer here and I do not have what they are looking for I always recommend an option for a reliable farmer I am familiar with who has an animal I know they would be more satisfied with.  I never try to talk a person into buying from me when I know it is not the correct fit just to make a sale.  The farm friends and mentors I have would not either.

Criticism is rampant and seemingly contagious in the farming community.   Then, these same negative people will post a story about the closure of another small dairy or Mom & Pop’s grocery and shake their heads and say ” Tsk-tsk. So Sad.”   Folks, the only way to increase the options for the holistic, natural food sources we yearn for is to support the people trying to offer it and stop trying to take them down out of fear they will take something off your plate.  Work together.  Stop promoting ourselves by trying to take out a perfectly lovely family farmer offering perfectly healthy livestock at a decent price because we are intimidated by the competition.  Farming is hard.  Farming is expensive.  Getting started in farming and building a reputation as being reliable and trustworthy is brutal.  Dealing with these challenges and also fending off social media attacks and rumors / gossip is not something the newcomer needs to have to contend  with in a society and economy where many well established farms are throwing in the towel.

We small farmers and homesteaders are in a struggle to create a movement away from large corporate farming and into self-reliance and community involved sourcing.  We should be reaching out to our fellow farmers and homesteaders, recommending the roadside produce stands and farm fresh eggs down the road, not criticizing how they train their dairy cows or what kind of manure they use on their tomatoes.  If their cows walk into the stanchion and don’t kick the milk bucket does it really matter how they trained them to go in ?  If their tomatoes are vine ripened and at the peak of freshness does it matter if they used chicken manure or cow manure?  If the cow you are interested in has a pleasant attitude and is healthy it doesn’t matter if she was only talked to across the fence or was sung to in the pasture every day and twice on Sunday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The old man in the straw hat

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I often see him in the early morning hours as I drink my coffee on the front porch.          An old man in a straw hat.

He walks the same course with the same stride, confident and self-aware.  He has knowledge of where he is going ,  an awareness of where he has been and the ability to handle anything along his way.

He is always neat and pressed and wearing the same gold watch.  I wonder if it was passed to him by someone he admired.

He exudes an awareness of his history and an understanding of his world.

Pride radiates from his high-held brow.   Even from a distance, I can see it is furrowed just enough to show that he has suffered his share of hardships and sorrow, but hasn’t buckled under them.  I take a moment to admire that.

As he walks along, his gaze is all over the place, but purposeful :

 

In the trees–wistful

Across the fields–smiling

 

I wave at him sometimes, not noticed.   I wonder what he sees there that I do not.  Perhaps what used to stand in that field… perhaps what should be there still…

He owns this land in a way I never will.

When the sun catches his face just right , I can see his eyes glimmering, a deep ocean of untapped wisdom and a kindness that comes from nothing to fear.

 

How I yearn to walk with him a while–step in silently next to him and share his reveries, but it seems such a sacrilege to interrupt  his divine rituals.

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Help Wanted:

Wanted for hire : Domestic Aid / Laundress.
Must be tolerant of and efficient with removal of animal hair of all types, including human from furnishings, light fixtures, window dressings, etc…
Must do windows ! And not be concerned with, or gastro-intestinally moved by the scrubbing off of noxious large animal smearings or glue-like cow/sheep/llama/dog/toddler slobber and/or unidentifiable smudges.
Must be patient with animals under foot, picking your pockets, pulling at your clothing, goosing you and blocking your path as you work.
Must not be put off by boot leavings on floors or farm smells wafting through the air and/or permeating materials  and furnishings.
Must be talented at removing stains that were heretofore unknown and not imagined.
Must abide by my routines and systems, understanding and accepting that they make sense to no one but me.

All applicants should understand that while performing your duties I will follow you around to make sure you are doing things correctly and will likely re-do things in your presence, often taking implements out of your hands to accomplish this as you are in the process if I happen  to walk by.

Persons with delicate constitutions or sensitive personalities need not apply.