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!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

hard at work

This is pretty much the sort of day we had to day, and I must say, it was delightful. We did morning chores as usual, had a fairly leisurely morning and then had friends over in the afternoon. We sat in front of the warm wood stove, drank cold beers, and enjoyed the good company. See? Farm life isn't all drudgery.

Friday, December 3, 2010

the importance of goals, and an apology

If anyone is still here reading this, I'd like to apologize for being gone for so long. Late summer and early fall are always busy times around here, and I've also spent much time considering the purpose of this blog. I regret to say that for now, the proposed new website is off the table. After a great deal of soul searching, I had to admit that I'm actually a farmer by nature, and that what I need is less screen time, not more. This blog will continue on as it has. I'll keep sharing stories of our crazy, dirty, difficult and utterly satisfying life if you, dear readers, wish to keep reading them.

Now, since you're not here for my blathering, let's get to the meat and potatoes...

Early December here means the final stages of winter wrap-up. This is the time when we put the farm to bed and actually put our feet up for a short while (a very short while - we start the spring garden in early February). The goats are bred and we're done milking until they kid in the spring. The freezer is full of broiler chickens, milk and cheese. The larder is full of preserves, soups, spaghetti sauce, fruit, veggies, and dried herbs. We're stocked up on hay and firewood and there's nothing left to do in the garden. We are now in bare-bones maintenance mode. Until the first seed catalog arrives, we'll kick back, visit with friends, enjoy the holidays, and work on projects we can't seem to find time for during the rest of the year.

Each New Year's Day, we set goals for ourselves - we decide what we want to accomplish in the coming year, where we want to see ourselves. It is around this time that I like to revisit them to see how we've done. I'm bursting with pride to say that out of fifteen goals - some small, but many rather ambitious - we can check off eleven of them! This is tremendous, yet doesn't take into account all the everyday work we do, plus some things we undertook that weren't even on the list. I couldn't be more proud of our efforts. We've all heard that if you want to get somewhere, you must first know where you're going, and that couldn't be more true. Now we'd best enjoy our bit of respite, because it's almost time to make a new list.