Saturday, May 26, 2012

The hardest things

The hardest things about living and working on a farm that raises animals is treating one that falls ill. The feeling of immense responsibility and helplessness. There is fear and hope mixed all up in it and it feel very uncomfortable. Some times there is success and the animal in question is healed and thrives. Some times its more serious and a trip to the vet is in order and/or death.  Then there is saying goodbye to an old friend. I've only lost one member of my milking herd a few years back and I still morn for her. The other hard thing is saying goodbye to my kids, the goat kids I watch being born, cleaned up and bottle fed. You cant keep em all, especially the boys so each year I sell my beautiful sweet babies. Some years its harder than others. This year I've decided not to keep any kids not even does, I have all the replacements I will need and there was no logic in keeping any kids this year. So Linda and I have said goodbye to eight and are about to say goodbye to four more in a couple of hours.

This group has grown on us. We both admitted last night that we had become more attached that we intended or expected. It just happens sometimes. We shed some tears this morning. After eight years of this you would think I would have my emotions under control. But that's what gets me to the best part of working on a farm that raises animals. If you allow yourself to feel you truly live. In the sadness and the happiness there is life. To really allow myself to truthfully feel my emotions without judgement I grant myself permission to live. To thrive in my ability to experience my humanness or humanity rather. To experience the feelings of compassion, sadness, pity, joy, confusion etc all in truth is truly liberating.  Tears always come easy, from joy from sadness they come with no effort whatsoever.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Farm Wife

How glorious, to be a farmer's wife. Nothing to do but bake pies and love on baby chicks. Okay I think we're all evolved enough to know a farmer's wife is a dirty life. Full of stink, sweat and dirt and very grouchy, very tired farmers at times, probably most times. Ask Linda she'll tell you. Just for the record I've never seen Linda strike a pose like the woman above. But this is a different time we're living in isn't it? very different indeed and its possible (I'll call it) my "situation" might be a little different than the woman pictured on the cover of this magazine. I'll let your imagination fill in the blanks. But the point is times have changed. The farmers wife has a full time job in the city and the farm wife runs the farm. I loved writing that.

But committing your life to a farm is being a farm wife or husband whatever you identify your self as... ..You are in it for the long hall.

My friends, we are gathered here today to celebrate one of life's greatest moments, to give recognition to the worth and beauty of committed marital love, and to add our best wishes to the words which shall unite (Farms First Name)_earth, weeds, food__ and (Farmers First Name)__arms, legs and back__ in marriage.

The commitment that the two of you are about to make is the most important commitment that two can make, you are about to create something new, the marriage relationship, an entity that never ends. As you stand here today, are you now prepared to begin this commitment to one another? (I am) Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage? (not exactly, its a long story...go on)
I would ask that you both remember to treat yourself and each other with dignity and respect; to remind yourself often of what brought you together today. Give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness and kindness that your marriage deserves. When frustration and difficulty assail your marriage - as these do to every relationship at one time or another(tell me about it) - focus on what still seems right between you, not only the part that seems wrong, (like the weeds). This way, when clouds of trouble hide the sun in your lives and you lose sight of it for a moment, you can remember that the sun is still there.(and the weeds) And if each of you will take responsibility for the quality of your life together, it will be marked by abundance and delight. (and lots of tomatoes)
Farm will you have this farmer to be your wedded wife?  Will you love and comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto her as long as you both shall live? (Yes)
Farmer will you have this farm to be your wedded land? (well....alright I guess) Will you love
and comfort it, honor and keep it, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto it as long as you both shall live? (I will)
Since it is your intention to enter into marriage, join your bodies, and declare your consent by laying in the soil and eating a little dirt and peeing (before these witnesses) Sally, ling ling, Dotty, Teeny Tiny, and the rest of the  milk goats plus the slew of chickens
repeating after me: bla bla get the point.

May I present to you  farm and farmer!

Now get your asses to work!

Monday, May 21, 2012


It's mid may and I'm slipping into the season like my favorite pajama bottoms. Its familiar and comfortable. Flea beetles have backed off a bit and the garden is looking mighty fine. The tomato plants especially. Because its just me (no interns this year) I'm growing on just a hair over an acre. The garden plot is about 31/2 acres total so the rest will get planted in cover crops and such, building nutrients. The spring started off a little rough. As always its a competition between nature and my human need to cultivate the soil, plant specific seeds and eat things. So me and nature are at odds sometimes and I try desperately to find that sweet spot of compromise.

I am reminded every spring that nature has its own agenda. Which I wont argue with or even attempt to stop, but a garden in itself is a feet against nature. Nature is wild, you never know what to expect. Its strong and delicate. Gardens are controlled environments and just plain delicate, left alone they will generally fail. Nature left alone will thrive but our way of eating becomes vastly unique and ambiguous. So I find myself trying to honor both worlds and both schools of thought. Its a hair pulling attempt but I think over the years I have been worn down to gratitude and humility.

So my days generally go like this now; I wake at five, drink coffee, read and meditate, I'm out feeding critters and milking by 6:30 and by 8:30 I'm fed got some kind of cheese working and am checking my list for the tasks of the day. It might be a garden day, it might be a barn day, or a kitchen day, either focused on cheese or prepping for a farm table dinner. Noon, I sit again, and have lunch, then I'm back at whatever the day called for.  4:00 PM animal chores again, feed and water chickens, gather and wash eggs, water cows, feed baby goats, and finally milk. I finish around six, evening chores take about two hours by myself. Today is what I refer to as my administrative day. Its when I figure out if I have any money left in the bank and if there are bills due that I need to pay. I'm terrible at this job, just terrible.the whole time I'm doing it I'm looking out the window and mentally fidgeting  and pacing. Its a little hard for me to sit still especially doing something I really don't care to. But, it is necessary so today is technically an administrative day.

So life is feeling pretty good. I've slipped comfortable into the farm routine and spend plenty of time taking notice of all the beautiful things around me. The beautiful mornings, the stars in the skies at night. The mocking bird's songs and the barn swallow's swooshing through the air. Its all really quite lovely. even the achy muscles and the sunburned ears.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

life and death

Well things on the farm are pretty good. The garden is shaping up after spending several and still days to come of real hard work. Things are growing fine but I’ve been overrun by flea beetles and Colorado potato beetles. The light winter we had helped make conditions perfect for these little devils. So I’m struggling to stay ahead of their eating. I’ve lost two rows of greens so far, which is painful. The first couple of years I had trouble making things grow now things are growing but being eaten before I can address the issues, Go figure!

We’re up to milking six soon to be seven milk goats, so milk and cheese production has been great. That’s the one thing that always stays steady without many surprises. The occasional bitter weed but really the milk business is the most stable out of everything we do. I get caught up sometimes in the sadness I feel when I know I can’t be a fulltime dairy and cheese maker. But that’s my lot. I don’t like it but I have accepted it. So in the meantime there are other things that keep me and the farm going.

I think my biggest challenge right now, well a couple of my biggest challenges are overworking and becoming overwhelmed. 12-13 hours a day of hard physical labor can get me down. I start feeling despair. Mostly because the monetary rewards aren’t that great, all the work and I still have a struggling garden, milk that can’t be made into cheese because I get to busy and bills that can’t get paid and I wonder why I’ve chosen such a life? And I know it’s because the rewards, like the past three days are earth moving and profound. There are many moments of utter joy. There are moments and many of them of absolute profound happiness. Happiness I’ve never known before. There are days and weeks I feel I’m engaged in the holy. And that’s why I do this.

Perhaps it’s selfish to want to feel bliss, to crave the connection with the earth and the elements. Maybe I’m crazy for wanting to feel every muscle in my body alive and engaged even if its pain. What brings me to this craving? I ponder this and I do in all honesty at times worry about my sanity. But I’ve tasted something. And I want more of it. It’s not unhealthy I don’t think, I mean there is probably more benefit  than not, but I have that inner struggle, that identity issue. Who am I? I still go back in the past and feel a great sense of loss. The easy life I had and didn’t even know it!  Now I’ve made my own life, so far and separate from the life I’ve known years ago I feel sometimes disconnected from everything I thought I knew. I suppose this is liberating and mostly I think it is but it’s also scary. And the fear lingers sometimes.

I love Krista Tippitt’s On Being the NPR show. It’s a pod cast I listen to frequently when I’m in the field. Yesterday I listened to interview with Ira Byock on mortality. Two things he said really stuck in my mind the first was in a conversation about dying well. “We’re going to be dead for a really long time”.  And the second he quoted Lilly Tomlin in saying “forgiveness is giving up all hope for a better past”. You know I thought “I’m going to die. I don’t know when, I don’t know how” So today matters. My life matters, the people I love matter. The feelings of happiness and bliss and joy I feel matters the pain and fear I feel matters. I need to learn how to embrace them and love them, each and every human thing I get to experience. The sore back, the exhilarating feeling of cold water on my face, and the past, good and bad is, just is.  (See! I have the potential for being a good Buddhist sometimes). Ira is right when we do die, we’re going to be dead for a really long time.

Well I’m headed out to the field, going to finish planting squash, melon, okra, flowers and basil. I have a real sense of hope and excitement about the season. In spite of the bugs so many other things look like they have a fighting chance, including me.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

full tilt boogie!

Well the shits just hit the fan. What I mean to say is the farm is back to a full run. All but three does have kidded. Right  now we have nine bottle babies, sold four last week. The garden is also a major part of my life now and I'm struggling with flea beetles who are taking out tender broccoli rabe, the boc choi and basically anything with a leaf. So that's been a bit of a set back. We are going to have a great crop of potatoes and on Saturday five of us put out 450 tomato plants.  I'm reminded what a struggle spring is. I love fall and winter growing in Oklahoma. Temperatures fluctuate less, there is just less weather if that makes any sense.

Yesterday afternoon after all the rain we had, the field was so hot and humid. I was struggling with my seeder, one of the does who kidded last was screaming non stop (we had separated the kids the night before) the dogs were barking at any and every little thing and I was also going on very little sleep. One of the down falls of yurt living is you hear everything. I mean there is one inch of fabric and vinyl separating us from the great out doors. Which is fine most of the time, but a screaming goat and pouring rain was a recipe for sleeplessness. But about three O'clock in the afternoon as I bent down for the umpteenth time to adjust the seeder i just came down on my knees. If I was the praying kind I would have prayed  for God to please remove me from this mess. Instead I felt sorry for myself leaned my head against the seeder and remembered back when my life was easy. A 55- 60 hour work week at the restaurant, a steady paycheck, vacations, TV, cable, dinners out, yup that's what I left behind so I could make food come out of the dirt. I didn't cry at least, I just remembered. and thought, I wish I would have realized how easy I had it.

Well I couldn't stay in that place for long, to many things needed my attention. Corn and beans must get planted today and babies will need to be fed soon. So I walked back to the house grabbed my I pod and turned on Tibetan Singing bowls and started mindfully breathing while I planted. It took a good 20 minutes of this to get to a place where I didn't want to pull my hair out or put anyone in "the pot". Evening animal chores went smoothly and I was significantly calmer. Then I looked at the radar, Linda was concerned about storms, so we moved our trucks to safe places and decided to sleep in the cabin so we could at least get some sleep. Well that didn't happen ,so I'm on another day of tired. No major storms or tornado, just rain and the dogs who did not appreciate the little slumber party were having. A nap is in my near future.

Today I continue in earnest mindful breathing, trying not to get overwhelmed with all the work that needs to be done, mostly just keeping things in perspective. A calf was born unexpectedly several days ago.  It would appear that our cows were bred when we bought them. So that's pretty cool. So now we have baby cows.
Life is so good it hurts.