Sunday, February 13, 2011

TAL Presents: "A Farewell to Horns: Not Without My Sweet Feed"

Today the reign of terror ended. After months of bribery, violence, manipulation and attempts at disembowelment, Queen Patience has been ousted. Many thought of her as a bad goat - bossy...a bully, even. She pushed the others around (literally). It was her way or the highway. But she was simply misunderstood. It was and the cruel, cruel world that made her what she was.

Just a plucky, curious youngster.

Things started off so well. She was a sweet kid - brave, outgoing, friendly. She hung out with her mother, carefree and happy. Soon however, her world was shattered. Her mother was taken away. Other goats came and she was forced to share her Eden. She wasn't much for sharing. She was forced to labor, day in and day out. Her life was one of endless toil and injustice. The degradation was simply unspeakable. She took control wherever she could find it. She ruled the barnyard with an iron hoof. Any man, woman, goat or dog who dared look askance at her paid for it with wails of pain. Soon everyone feared her. She was IN CHARGE. Her newly elevated status caused her to view her incarceration in a new light. Perhaps it wasn't so bad. "I have them all cowering in terror! I can do what I want" she thought. Her subjects tried to avoid her, but she sought them out to torment them. They tried to flatter her, but to no avail. They answered her every beck and call, but she was never satisfied.

"I am my own goat."

After a time her subjects, once fearful, became angry and rebellious. "The Queen has gone too far!" they cried. "She must be overthrown!" Tensions in the barnyard reached a tipping point...there was conspiracy...secret meetings...whispers. As a distraction, her subjects treated her to a fine morning at the spa. She had a nice breakfast and a mani-pedi. "What a lovely morning" she though to herself. She suspected nothing, until strangers tied her up and put her in a truck! She was taken away - banished to the outlands to live with an indigenous herd of meat goats ("MEAT GOATS?!") for the rest of her days.

What will be her fate in this new unknown territory? Will they break her? Will she find her place among them and fade into the obscurity of a normal life? Or will she rise again, claiming the power that she knows is rightfully hers?

Yeah, probably.

Friday, January 21, 2011

just do it.

While I always intended for this farm to provide for us, the question of whether or not it would ever provide an income was always a gray area. I thought it would be nice if our labors earned us a bit of pocket change, and to that end I started selling extra eggs just as soon as I had them to sell. But I didn't have any sort of grand vision beyond that. Nor was I certain what direction I might want to go. Honey? Cheese? Broilers and eggs? So many choices. I had to see what stuck, what felt natural to me, before I could hope to turn it into a business. Any business I wasn't 100% invested in emotionally would never fly. So I spent a solid year selling eggs to coworkers, trying out soap formulas, trying to grow nice vegetables, sharing homemade cheese with friends, doing research, raising broilers. Testing the waters.

It happened slowly and organically, as all good and proper things do. Every Saturday last summer I visited the farmers market in a neighboring town to pick up my CSA basket. I had become friends with Marilyn, my veggie grower (I always do this somehow) and had also gotten to know some of the other market vendors. The atmosphere at this particular market was better than most I'd seen - welcoming, laid back, cooperative - very much a farmer's farmers market. One day around mid-season, I decided I wanted in. This was the place for me. I became determined to get my affairs in order, get some product, and be there on opening day the following season in my very own booth. I spread the word. I let everyone know that I was interested, partly to keep me on track, but also for the foothold. When you put your intentions out there, somehow people rally to your cause. If you have a dream and a plan, tell everyone - friends, relatives, others in your field, anyone you can - they'll be ahead of you clearing the track so that you can forge ahead unhindered. I have no idea why this works, I just know that it does, and it never fails to humble me.

And six months later, here I am - an entrepreneur. I have a tax permit. In the next couple of weeks, I'll have an assumed name certificate and a bank account. Equipment is being procured, a website is in the works, and product development continues. I'm not getting in over my head. I'm keeping my day job (for now). All I want to start with is for the farm to support itself. I'd like my farm sales to cover things like hay, feed and seed. Would I like it to pay some of the bills? Of course. But that can be saved for another day. I figure I'm doing all these things anyway - why not let them pay for themselves? If I can reach a point where not a single dime of my paycheck goes to farm expenses, I'll consider it a success.

There is one thing I know for certain, though. This is what I'm meant to do, at least right now. And it will work. Because...well, because it just will.

* The title of this post has become my mantra, and my most-often-repeated piece of advice. It couldn't be more heartfelt.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

big mama

Holy goat, y'all...

What's going on in there? I think she might be starting her own kindergarten class! This girl isn't due to kid for another two and a half months. She's right at the halfway point of gestation and already as big as a house. Hmmmm. We'll just have to wait and see, won't we?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

happy holidays to you all!

The year is over, the work is done;
we dream of tasks not yet begun.
In cold and quiet we tell tales
of a year's worth of travails

We imagine days ahead
before this season's put to bed;
all the things we hope to see
life and growth, prosperity.

We settle into these dark days
and learn to live in honest ways.
To live wholly by our labors,
honor the kindness of our neighbors

We are not resigned to fate,
but what our hands can cultivate
on the land that keeps us whole,
feeds our bodies and our soul

Tonight we must enjoy the peace
when all activity has ceased,
for tomorrow we shall turn the soil
on a new year of noble toil.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

hatchet (wo)man

Anytime a group of people engages in an activity involving multiple steps and levels of complexity, it will eventually become clear that different people are better suited to different aspects of the task. Take home construction, for example: one person might be better than the rest at framing, someone else might be the best roofer, and another may be a stellar painter. It has become apparent that with regard to the chore of chicken butchering, I am best at killing. It's something I do quite well, and while it's never something I relish, I am noticeably less squeamish about it than anyone else on the job. As a result, I am now the de facto executioner whenever there is executing to be done.

This is a strange thing to know about oneself.

Hey, I'm a practical type of gal, and most of the time I chalk this up to "well, it needs to be done". But I admit that it does give me pause. What is it in my character that allows me to perform such a distasteful task with such a minimal degree of loathing? I prefer to think that I became skilled at this task because I owe it to the animals I feed and care for to dispatch them with the least possible stress and pain. But I do wonder if there's something darker in me that simply appreciates the businesslike efficiency of a task performed perfectly, regardless of how gruesome the task may be. Baser natures, and all that. It doesn't help that there seems to be some measure of gender stigma surrounding butchering, and I'm often looked upon with a hint of scorn for doing this job myself rather than pushing it off on my husband. You know, because men like to kill things and all. Right.

At the end of the day, this kind of introspection has led me to certain conclusions:

It simply is what it is. I'm just good at it.
It is not indicative of moral flexibility.
It IS indicative of a willingness to do what needs doing, period.
It reflects a desire to do things the right way, and the best way.

And above all, it reminds me to never be too certain about the kind of person I believe myself to be.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

something to chew on

Pardon the pun, but I'd like to share this video with you today. This is Sharon Astyk's excellent talk from the ASPO conference, regarding the future of food. Her points make a very strong case for why it's a good idea to consider growing some of your own food, or at least sourcing it close to home. The greater resilience we have in our local foodsheds, the greater our chances of weathering shortages, price spikes, supply disruptions and the suffering and unrest that accompanies these conditions. She also makes some interesting points about the current face of farming worldwide, points I suspect most people aren't aware of; namely that the average farmer worldwide is female, poor, not white, and operating on an extremely small land base (think five acres or less). This is also largely true here - independent female farmers are the fastest growing segment of American agriculture.*

So if you think that your three-acre parcel, your pair of laying hens, your suburban garden or the potted tomatoes on your porch aren't enough to make a difference, think again. You need not be a "farmer" in the sense that most people think of them - each bite of food you produce, no matter how small, is one more bite that will be there when other options may not.

* I know all you guys out there work really hard, but in light of this tidbit, I'd like to extend a special hat tip to the women today - keep up the GREAT work, ladies! Take the power back!