Archive for November, 2010

I have a dream.

Hmm, that line may not be original….

It is, however, true.  My dream is about eliminating hunger.  I can see it as clearly as I see the laptop screen in front of me.  The dream does not require vast fields of grains or reeking ‘cities’ of livestock crammed together, milling about in their own waste.  I also does not require train loads of chemicals or genetically modified seed.  My dream even minimizes the use of fossil fuels and improves, rather than degrades, the environment.

Here in the burb, we are demonstrating that my dream is a possibility.  We could be totally self sufficient on our little half acre lot.  Our farm is only required because of ridiculous HOA rules.  We’ll have that discussion another day.

Every day, I drive by seized housing estates that were never built.  I pass derelict gas stations, abandoned strip malls, empty Church lots, and acres upon acres of verges and green medians that could be converted to edible landscapes.  I see countless wasted green space that could be used for grazing goats, sheep, cattle, fish and poultry on a small scale.

If done correctly, rather than being stinking eyesores, these spaces would be oases in the asphalt jungles we have created, providing employment as well as food for multiple millions.  Yes, a boarded up gas station could become a mini permaculture, a visual and practical attraction on the morning commute.

Virtually every school has space for educational and community gardens, as do the overwhelming majority of Churches.  And let’s not forget about prisons.  Opportunity for abundance is all around us.  Even our inner cities have spaces on the ground and on those gosh awful ugly flat roofs for creating life changing and sustaining food.

Country based farmers would be able to focus on raising and growing the things they love and creating larger permacultures that would look vastly different from the deserts many of our farms have become.

I can see food pantries better stocked than grocery stores, with healthy, fresh produce, meats and dairy.  Even better, I can see them closed down because they are no longer necessary.  I can see the health of our elders and our children improving, thereby decreasing pressure on our healthcare system.  Food costs would come down, not by Government intervention, but because of abundance, allowing a surplus of cash to flow into the economy.

It could really be done.  It would take work, there would be opposition, but it could be done.  For now, I’m only a small voice crying in the wilderness, but as I understand it, some pretty impressive fires have been ignited by a single spark.

One last thing:  In my dream, I see God smile.

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Does Nature Grieve?

It was a sad day in the burb.  We went out to the farm a bit earlier than normal because a neighbor called to let us know that a few hens had escaped.  They weren’t going anywhere, but we headed out to round them up and decided to go ahead with the chores since we were already there.

In our usual order of business, B went to feed the large livestock and I started on the rabbits.  It was at the second Rabbit Ranger that I discovered the disaster.  Scarlett had delivered seven perfect little baby bunnies in the night.  Unfortunately, she did not give birth in her nest.  Instead they were scattered all over the ground.  All of the little things were dead.  It was quite a difficult sight.  There was nothing we could do except gather up the carcasses and dispose of them.  Then I moved Scar’s Ranger, fed her and moved on.

So, the question, does nature grieve?  Scarlett did not seem to.  She ate and drank as normal and hopped around her pen.  There was a moment I thought she looked forlorn as she lay in the afternoon sun, but that may have been nothing more than me transferring my emotions to her.

I know it sounds odd, that we would feel sad over animals that we would have eaten in a few weeks, but we care for our livestock.  They are our partners.  We want them to enjoy every day they are on this planet.  And yet, even we had no time to linger and grieve.  There were too many other animals needing food, water and fresh pasture.  So we just move on.  The circle of life is sometimes more pragmatic than sentimental.

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Yesterday began peacefully enough.  For that matter, it ended peacefully, but the part in between was quite an adventure.  Some highlights include a lighter wallet, a deep tissue bruise on my right quadriceps, making new acquaintances and a near heart attack for my poor wife.

So…let’s fill in a few of the blanks.

We decided to go to to the small livestock auction up in Cartersville, GA to see what goes on there and to keep our eyes open for a couple rabbits to add to our herd.

The last auction I attended was in 1975.  Brittan had never been to one.  It was an eye opener.  First, the people were awesome.  There weren’t many folk there, but by wearing neither overalls nor camos, B and I really stood in the crowd.  I may be wrong, but I’m thinking that every pair of overalls in Bartow County, GA comes with a complementary can of Skoal.

The auction ring was smaller than I expected (the photo is not from this auction) and the gallery was a surprise, too.  The majority of chairs were ancient, re-purposed airplane seats.  The room next door to the auction ring was the office, occupied by a collection of very polite and helpful ladies, mostly wives of the men who handled the auction and the animals.  At the street end of the building was the auction cafe, where hungry and sociable attendees could load up on caffeine and cholesterol and catch up on the latest gossip.

First up in the auction were the goats.  There were some very cute nannies and their kids run through.  B and I just about had to sit on our hands to avoid impulse bidding.  The prices were especially interesting and budget friendly.  But we resisted.

Next up was poultry.  In Georgia, rabbits are considered poultry, so the three cages of bunnies (two with three New Zealands and one cage with 2) sat among the sundry collection of roosters, pullets, quail and ducks.  We had decided to bid on the two young rabbits that occupied the middle cage.  We noticed several other people eyeing the cages and taking notes, so I didn’t hold out much hope of winning the bid, because we had a limit.

The bidding began quite low and people weren’t jumping in.  I placed a comfortable bid and won.  The auctioneer said, “Do you want all 8 rabbits?”  Brittan and I looked at each other and said, “Sure.  Why not”.  We didn’t come for 8 rabbits, I assure you, but the price was too good to pass up.

We paid for the bunnies and met the two teenage girls who had raised the rabbits and who seemed just a little apprehensive about letting their babies go away with the fat, bald man.  They did, however like the newly found cash that I’m sure would would soon be burning holes in their pockets.

We struck up a conversation with one of the guys who helped load the rabbits, a large man wearing tan Dickies overalls.  We talked rabbits and goats, then sheep.  Brittan asked if they ever got Katahdin sheep at the auction.  The man said, “Shoot, yes.  And I’ve got some at home.”

A little more prodding revealed he had a young Katahdin ram, recently weaned with whom he would part for a reasonable sum of American currency.  Brittan struck the deal on the spot.  Next Saturday, I’m driving back to Cartersville to pick up a sheep.  He should be ready for breeding next summer.

Wait, I’m not finished.  After the auction, we decided to stop by the feed store to get a couple bags of chicken feed and grab some water bottles for our new, and surprisingly large, collection of rabbits.  At this point, we didn’t even know what gender they were (4 males, 4 females).  There are two checkout lanes at the store.  While we were paying for our purchases, a man about my age was buying some feed as well.  We got to talking in the parking lot.  His name is J.R., if you were wondering.  He said, “Do you want some more rabbits?  I’ve got five I don’t really need.  I raise chickens now.  These rabbits belonged to my Daddy and he’s too old to take care of them anymore.”

I was just about to say, “Thanks, but we’re at capacity”, when Brittan queried, “How much do you want for them?”

“Heck, I’ll give them to you.  I just want them to have a good home.”

“Where do you live?” Brittan continued.  “We’ll just follow you.”

So, two more bucks and three does also found there way into the truck.  It is safe to say, that our rabbitry breeding stock is complete.

If that weren’t enough excitement, we had to move animals to their winter pasture.  The goats and Gabby the Katahdin ewe, needed to be near the barn, as they should give birth before Christmas.   We decided to put the remaining animals in the pasture next to them.  Easy enough, right?  Au contraire.

The sheep and goats followed nicely.  Butter, the cow stopped to graze in the open pasture and the donkeys bolted.  I do mean bolted.  They took off down the field and around the corner.  Naturally they headed for the part of the field with no perimeter fence.  Brittan ran like the wind and caught up with them as they wandered into a neighbor’s back yard to graze among the swingset and sandboxes, much to the delight of the small girl and her astonished mother.

While Brittan was on her wild burro round up, I was struggling to coax the cow to join me on the trek to the pasture.  A bucket of oats and grass pellets did the trick…almost!  When we got to the gate, she hesitated as I opened it.  Howard the ram took it as an invitation to make a break for freedom and dashed out of the gate.  I threw out my leg to slow him down and he hit my quad with his very solid head.  I tackled him,  got hold of his collar and tossed him (dragged, more like) back into the pasture.

By this time, Butter had turned to trot back to the other field.  I made a lunge at her, grabbing the feed bucket with my other hand.  As she swung her head around, she smacked me in the very same spot where Howard had.  My leg buckled like cheap cardboard, the muscles turned to hamburger.  As I grimaced, I stuck the feed bucket under her nose, then threw it into the pasture.  When she moved that direction, I shoved her forward and swung the gate closed, just as Howard made one last attempt to run.  Gate closed.  Animals safe and grazing away like nothing was amiss.  I, however, was a cripple.

About the time I was closing the gate on my bunch, Brittan was running the donkeys into their pasture.  She was red faced and breathing like a freight train.  Her adrenalin and heart rate were probably at Space Shuttle levels.  Her lungs were exploding.  But the donkeys were safe and happy as clams.  It was all in a day’s fun for them.

Once she caught here breath (about an hour later), B’s first words were, “That wasn’t how I planned it.”

The rest of the day went without incident.  This morning, my leg hurts like the dickens.  Brittan may need a lung transplant.  But life is GOOD!  I wouldn’t trade this farming life for sanity even if I could.


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An an ancient Country Song poignantly reflects, “gee, ain’t it funny, how time slips away.”  It’s sure a fact in our lives.  We’re busier than a honey bee at a flower show these days.  It’s all go, all the time trying to get ready for winter.

We’ve been finishing the pastures, building stalls in the barn for the goats and ewes to give birth in, moving rabbits to the farm and a couple dozen other miscellaneous projects that take up most of our spare time.

It doesn’t help that darkness comes early and we’re doing most of our chores by headlamp.  Chores are not any harder, but it means that lots of things have to wait until the weekend when we can see to get them done, so Saturdays and Sundays (after Church) are packed to the max.

But we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hopefully, we can snap some pics this weekend when we move the animals to their winter quarters.  We have to separate the girls from the boys, too, which may create some stress and noise, which I’m sure the neighbors will all thoroughly enjoy.

The Orpington hens are laying nicely now.  We are getting approximately half a dozen eggs a day from them.  Sometimes as many as 8.  The Rainbows and Rangers have not yet started.  I have no idea when they will begin, especially with winter nearly upon us.

Finally, we ordered our seeds for next year’s garden.  We ordered a little early because I’m anticipating some inflation and wanted to get ahead of it.  Besides, we’ll likely plant a couple things in our sun room so we can have fresh beans, peas and greens all winter.


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“Eggs, glorious.  Eggs marvelous. Eggs wonderful, eggs.”   (If you’re old enough to remember that little ditty, then I’m sorry, but like me, you’re pushing your sell by date.)

Our Buff Orpington hens are finally, slowly, getting up to speed.  We had 5 eggs yesterday.  We had 4 the day before that.  As winter gets closer, I expect production to slow down with the shorter days, but by that time, the Rainbows and Rangers should be producing.  By next March or April I think we’ll be getting 12 dozen a week.  With the addition of some Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks,  the next year we should have more than double that amount, because both those breeds are heavier producers.

These are exciting times; chickens in the freezer, the last of the garden veggies coming in, eggs filling the fridge, baby goats about to be born, making plans for next year’s garden and livestock.  Life is good.  God is Great.  I am blessed.

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