Farming in the 21st Century
There are times when I feel as if I live in an episode of the Twilight Zone. One of my lives is that of a middle aged, college educated, minivan driving, soccer mom where I put makeup on and am clean and somewhat stylish. The other life consists of heavy equipment, dirt, farm, manure, and animal husbandry. When I pick up feed once a quarter it is actually a journey back in time.
If you google Gomer Pyle's filling station you will have a visual of the tire shop and the mechanic who repaired the trailer tire that blew out on way to pick up feed Tuesday. The man at the feed store said, "Go up, about a mile, along that curvy road and you'll see the tire store just past the Grill". Following the directions blindly since there is no cell signal that far out, I pull off the road with 3 pickup trucks and a tractor outside the shop. My twenty year old truck got compliments (I think it is because it still has the front bumper!). The fellas are sitting around inside chatting. After a few minutes one of the older gentlemen asks me if he can help and goes to get the mechanic...the only mechanic in the 2 bay roadside station.
Gomer sure enough can fix it if I can back the trailer into the second bay without knocking into the pole that holds up the bay's carport. I assure him that I can back the trailer and proceed to put it into the bay. While he is re-seating the tire onto the rim, another tractor comes for repair. The tractor driver tells the older gentleman that if "she won't start, just reach over and give the solenoid a few good whacks and she'll purr". The next customer is an older lady, driving a Prius, there to pick up her repaired tractor tire. My tire is the only thing that actually gets worked on the whole time I'm there. I pay my $15 dollars and head back to the feed store.
After the 2 tons of feed is loaded, the forklift driver and I strap the bags down. He says, "You are pretty strong, farmer lady." Then I drive back to the 21st century thankful I can live in both worlds and not take myself too seriously in either!
Important vs. Immediate
Probably one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome in thinking about the idea of "stories from the farm" is paring down the topics. There are many things I want to share about our experiment that is "farm life" but so little energy left at the end of the day.
One of the questions that is asked many times when we have tours is "What does your typical day look like?" And honestly I have a hard time answering it. As a schedule person I would like to have all the activities compartmentalized into a well honed timeline but the truth of the matter is that we are constantly juggling the Important with the Immediate.
The Important things on the farm are healthy, happy animals living in harmony with healthy, happy land tended by healthy, happy people. In order to achieve the Important we have to spend a lot of time on the Immediate. The Immediate needs of farm life are dirty, sometimes gross, and monotonous. The list of Immediate is much longer that the Important.
We spend a lot of time each day opening and closing coups, moving coups, feeding and watering all the animals, cleaning and filling nesting boxes. moving pigs from one pasture to the next, fixing fences, tending to any injuries or predator attacks, cleaning and maintaining freezers and processing areas, mowing tall grass, and collecting, washing and grading eggs.
We spend a lot of time each week preparing, packing, driving to and selling at Farmer's Markets, fixing brooder spaces for new babies, cleaning brooder spaces while they are small, and preparing newsletters, Less often we have to take pigs to the processor (an hour away), pickup meat from the processor, pickup feed from the distribution site in Hurdle Mills (an hour and a half away) and unload the 4 tons of feed,
We do not have a covered place to store 4 tons of feed so we unload immediately into 55 gallon olive barrels for storage. That means 8,000 pounds of feed--2,000 pounds per bag. Our tractor can only lift 1,000 pounds at a time so we (usually just I) scoop out the first 1,000 pounds of each bag into barrels and then the tractor can load the last 1,000 pounds.
The Important things that happen everyday? I watch all the animals to make sure everyone is healthy and happy. I pay attention to their movements and interactions to make sure I intervene if any are feeling down or getting picked on. I anticipate their needs--shade in summer, shelter in winter, extra water and showers in pregnancy, appropriate pasture vegetation and limiting erosion. Basically comfort in life. Comfort in life takes time also, but almost seems like a sacrifice of productive daylight when compared to the never ending list of Immediate needs.
That balance of Important and Immediate seems to be the difficulty in non-farm life as well as farm life. What steps do I take to make sure I am cared for adequately in the immediate demands of career, marriage, motherhood? If it weren't for the Important things in life I would have no Immediate needs but do I keep the priority correctly aligned? Hopefully you and I will give time to the Important as well as the Immediate today.
New Newsletter on the way
As we begin another market year on the farm I will be attending a new Wednesday market in Carrboro, NC. New markets always mean changes. We will change our schedules to accomodate being gone from the farm an additional day, change the weekly routine to accomodate an additional day of processing birds, and change the setup of communication with our customers for additional media visibility.
I hate change! So there is a lot of feet dragging and frustration with learning new software and challenging myself to take the time to write things down. My birds don't like change much either. They like to have their safe space and no interference. We learned early on that when we move a coup, it can go no more than 4 feet away from the original position or the birds will not go back to it at night. If it moves too far away they will just sit in the field where it was before it was moved. Hopefully I will be able to institute my media changes gradually so that I don't just go sit in the open field alone!
I am starting by learning the Mail Chimp software to have a newsletter with pictures. Right now that seems to be working okay (I haven't sent out the first mailing yet so it may be an illusion of working okay!) I am also looking into the newsletter that is associated with the website hosting software. I like to see pictures and I think it is a great way to communicate to the public about what we do. That will also be a challenge each week to stop and take pictures of what I am doing.
I hope you willl enjoy the changes we are making and learn more about the farm in the process. Now if I can just figure out how to share the newletter on the website....
Jan is the Head chick on the farm and provides the muscles for day to day activities.