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Posts Tagged ‘farming’

Given the title of Jake Meader’s article on the Christianity Today website, “Did we love ‘God Made a Farmer’ Too Much?” my expectations were pretty much below ground level when I read it.  Even with the bar set so low I still feel he fouled off the pitch at best.

I realize his target was the modern ‘factory farm’ movement, consumerism and a potential misunderstanding of scripture rather than those of us who are small, diversified farmers, and that’s why I give him credit for making contact even if he didn’t quite put the ball in play.  I would encourage him, though, to watch the ‘game film’ and reconsider his conclusions.

Most Americans have no idea where their food comes from.  For them, it’s all neatly packaged at Kroger, IGA or one of a thousand other chains.  So for one fleeting moment, America’s attention was drawn to the men and women who make Kroger possible.

Yes, too much of our farming is industrial and destructive of God’s creation.  Yes, monocultures of flora and fauna are a detriment rather than a blessing to the earth we’ve been commanded to steward.  The American Industrial Farming industry needs to be outed and corrected.

The commercial, though, highlights those of us who are trying to bring balance back to an industry and a world that desperately needs balance.  America, and many other parts of the world, has multiple thousands of farmers exactly like the ones in Paul Harvey’s poem.

My wife and I are among that army of farmers, who rise early and rest late.  I remember staying on the phone with my bride as she helped pull a lamb when the mother couldn’t do it alone.  The late winter wind howled and the actual temperature hovered around freezing. By the time I raced across town from my day job, she had pulled the lamb and stripped off her own jacket and sweatshirt to dry and warm it, giving no thought to her own comfort.

I have searched pastures in the darkest nights during driving rain to find goats born in the storm.  I have buried them deep inside my shirt and wrapped my coat around us all to warm them and give them a chance at the life they were born to live.

We have labored day and night to save a hen with a gangrene leg and I have wept man sized tears over creatures I’ve had to put down to end their misery.

While our friends and neighbors slept late on their Sunday mornings, we have been up at zero dark thirty, so the goats could be milked, the animals fed and watered as well as the garden tended to so we could be ready for me to teach an 8:30 a.m. Bible class.

We have fought droughts and battled floods.  We’ve seen bumper harvests and withered fields.  We have savored the birth of countless animals and have awakened to find flocks slaughtered by predators the previous night.

My wife can decorate a table as fine as the fanciest establishment in New York City and she can build a stall in a barn as well as any carpenter.  Her dairy goats follow her like she fell from Heaven and they may just be right.

We know no greater joy than when our friends and customers (those are synonyms by the way) tell us that our eggs, milk, yogurt, chickens, beef, pork, vegetables or fruit are the best they’ve ever had.

We go to bed at night knowing that our farming methods are helping feed the world while we heal the land.  We are stewards of God’s creation and we take our responsibility seriously.  We are not alone.  We know many more like us, most of whom are far more skilled than we.

Last week I had serious neck surgery.  The nurses stuck me in 5 different places before they found a vein into which they could place my IV port.  The head nurse said, “I’m so sorry to do this to you.  I don’t mean to hurt you.  Your skin is very thick. You use your hands.”  I beamed.

During the Super Bowl, in an attempt to sell trucks, Dodge drew the world’s attention to a subculture often overlooked and under-appreciated.  My email inbox was full the next day from people saying, “I thought of you.”

Our lives are not romantic, they are real. Did we like “God Made a Farmer” too much? Maybe Mr. Meader surmises we did, but I’m thinking, that thousands of others thought a Super Bowl ad finally hit the right note. Y’all decide.  I’ve got chores to do.  I’m a farmer. And I thank God every day for the privilege.

 

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sausagesOne of the words in every farmer’s vocabulary is, ‘flexible’.  We don’t always like the word, we sometimes wish we didn’t have to embrace it, but if we are anything, it is, flexible.

Even this blog post was originally going to be about my surgery and how Brittan has become even more of a superwoman than ever, but that post now has to wait.  I need to be flexible.

We made all these plans about butchering beef and pork in November.  Keep them on grass and hay all summer, then butcher in the autumn. Everything about the plan was solid.  We had a processor.  We had customers, including deposits. We had the animals. What could possibly go wrong?  Let’s go with….everything.

First, my neck went out.  Five bulging discs and pinched nerves put a real hamper in my ability to wrangle animals.  Heck, it messed with my ability to do pretty much anything except hurt.

As the weeks passed and my insurance company delayed approval for surgery, the processing time slipped to December, then January then February.  Besides frustrated customers and empty freezers, the delay meant extra feed bills.  Oh, well, we’re flexible.

I eventually gave up on surgery ever happening and booked a date in February to get the cows and pigs to the processor.  Then, out of the blue, my insurance company relented and my much needed surgery was scheduled.  You guessed it, 5 days before the animals were to go in.

Fortunately for us, the processor was able to move the date one more month into March.  It’s inconvenient because we had to feed animals all winter which is expensive. Life happens.

Wait, we’re not through yet. Speaking of life happening; three days ago, as I’m resting under the influence of my post op medications, with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head,  my text message alert goes off, waking me reluctantly from my slumber.  The text is from Brittan saying, “We have baby pigs.”

As fate would have it, our runaway potbelly boar, managed to impregnate at least one of our Large Black Hogs before his demise.  For all we know, we may have more in a few days.  At any rate, we have 4 little half breed girl piggies and one little boy.  The bad news is, mamma won’t be going to become ham anytime soon.  It also means a pig pen needs to be built at our new farm.  And since I’m laid up for several more weeks, guess who all the work falls on?

The good news is, we know where our 2013 feeder pigs are coming from.  That will save us a few bucks.  If the other sow is drops young uns in the next month, we will have other issues to consider.  But….we’re flexible.

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I watched from the other side of the room as Brittan tried hauling herself from the comfort of the bed to face another early milking call.  Sunday mornings are particularly rough, because we have to get the chores done and get cleaned up in time for Church at 8:30.  We can’t really be late, because I’m the Bible teacher for the 8:30 class and apparently everything runs more smoothly if the teacher is on time.

Apart from the early hour, there is really no difference between Sunday and any other morning for chores.  The grunts, groans, creaks, pops, spasms, grimaces, aches and pains are the same 24/7, 365.

On this particular morning, B’s heel, hip and back are especially disgruntled at being forced to participate in the morning’s adventures.  Still, after muttering something incoherent, and possibly irreverent, she puts on a brave face and forges ahead.

I couldn’t help but chuckle just a little.  Not so much at her pain, but at the situation.  You see, Brittan is not alone in her war with the human body.  We’re in this together.  Between us, we are living examples of the first two laws of thermodynamics.  Summary: The universe tends to age and deteriorate.

Not a day goes by that one or both of us doesn’t come home without a new cut, scrape, gouge, pierce, poke, bruise, twist, strain or sprain.  Our cuts and scrapes bleed freely and mingle with the mud, muck and manure.  Our immune systems have undoubtedly been tested to the limit.  We’ve endured and fought off more infections that we can count.  Brittan quipped yesterday that she might just be walking antitoxin for every known infection short of snakebite.  In case you’re wondering, I concur.

In my case, it’s easier to identify joints and muscle groups that DON’T need attention, than ones that do.  Both my elbows have tendonitis. To be fair, that originally developed back in my dog mushing days and only recently reappeared with the frequency of hauling buckets of water to animals or plants that need hydrating.

Both of my rotator cuffs pretty much hurt all the time.  Raising my arms up over my head is fast becoming something I USED to do.

I’m pretty sure I will need my left hip replaced sometime in the future.  The pain in it is frequently almost too much to endure.

Both of my knees have been twisted and hyper extended so many times that on certain days it’s difficult to find a position that doesn’t hurt.  And I think I damaged the ACL in my right knee last week when I slipped in the mud.

Moving downward, both ankles really need to be taped daily because they’ve had so many sprains and get ‘turned over’ almost daily.  They have virtually no strength at all.

We won’t say much about the gout in my right big toe or the carpal tunnel in my wrists, because neither of those is related to farming.

Talk about a walking disaster.  Most of the  Zombies on TV are in better shape than I am.

Brittan sports a new bruise almost every day.  She’s been head butted by so many goats,  sheep and bulls over the last three years that I’m sometimes surprised she can walk at all.

The other day, I queried her regarding the blood running down her arms and she said, “I have no idea.  I was at the farm, what more is there to say?”

The woman is gorgeous, but I’ll bet you that under an x-ray, she has the knees, hips and heels of a woman three times her age.  She sure walks like one some mornings.

Yes, sports fans, we are the walking dead.  And we love it. I would not trade a single ache or scar, because the same activities that gave us pain also brought so much joy and pleasure.

When customers tell us how much they love the milk, eggs or hot peppers, the aches start to disappear. When they refer friends and family, it has more healing power than any antibiotic or analgesic.

We’ve participated in the births of animal and fowl of all kinds.  We’ve played with them, bathed them, nursed them and cursed them.  Our fridge is full of milk, our freezer full of meat and our larder full vegetables.

Sure, we could get everything right down the road at a supermarket and it would hurt a lot less. But the food we eat and serve to family and friends is not just groceries. It’s a part of us. And we are part of it.

Ok, symbiosis hurts a bit, maybe a lot, especially in the morning. But it’s a hurt that makes you smile. At least when you’re not grimacing…

 

 

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Here’s the deal. Our mules, Laverne and Shirley (don’t ask), need a new shelter. They are just too big for the ones we have built for the other animals. They can stoop way over and squeeze in, but it’s really uncomfortable for them. They tore the heck out of one shelter built out of cattle panels, tarps and t posts. One or both of the girls stood up inside it and pulled the whole thing out of the ground and twisted it like a pretzel. Did I mention that they are very large and very strong?

We want to build a couple of run in shelters for them, but we could use some extra hands, so we’re hoping to have an old fashioned barn raising (sounds better than run in shed raising) on Saturday, January 14. We’ll start about 9:30 a.m.  If we get a good enough group we’ll build two.  We have a couple of pastures we want to put sheds in.

All you need to do is show up and be willing to work. If you have tools, like hammer, saw, screw drivers, wrenches and pliers, feel free to bring them. They’ll come in handy. The event is gender and age neutral. If you can work and like to have fun, you’re welcome to join in.

We’ll have coffee and bottled water available. After the work, if it’s a nice day, we’ll all come back to the house for a cookout. We’ll have burgers made from our own grass fed beef.  If it’s not nice, as in January bone chilling cold, we’ll have some warming beef stew. In the case of rain, we’ll reschedule.

If you’d like to join us for some fun on the farm, just let us know.  And, thanks in advance for the help. Oh, don’t forget to tell a friend and bring a friend. The more the merrier.

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We have reached a point where we need some extra help.  Because I have a full time job outside of farming, we are looking for some assistance here in the burb and out on the farm.  Gender is of no consequence, but the helper/intern/apprentice, must be able to carry 50 lb feed bags and 5 gallon buckets of water.

We’d love to find someone who wants to be part of a growing venture rather than just an hourly worker.  Perhaps someone who wants to become a suburban farmer him/her self.  The opportunity will be part time at first with a couple hours a day, Tuesday through Friday and half a day on Saturday.  Sundays and Mondays will be days off.  The position is seasonal at this time and will last until about early November.

The pay won’t be great @ $10 an hour, but there will also be eggs, milk, meat and produce as part of the deal.  Besides, who can put a price on working with ME?  Ok, let’s skip that part.  Experience isn’t required, but character and willingness to work are.  If you know someone who might be interested, have them email us.  Thanks.

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I have finally begun writing the home study course and classroom curriculum for The Edible Suburb University, AKA “ESU”.  The first module (class) will be raised bed and container gardening.  The idea is to make vegetable gardening as simple and appealing as possible.  Other modules will be things like, Patio, Deck and Windowsill gardening (for apartment dwellers and others with very small spaces).  This one will even demonstrate growing things in you home aquarium.  (Side note; last night Brittan made a tomato, basil and mozzarella salad for supper.  The tomatoes were from our garden, the cheese was made from our goat’s milk and the basil was grown in our sun room in a raft floating in our aquarium.  Does that rock, or what?)

Additional courses will be:  Rabbits – Mother Nature’s Secret Weapon, Suburban Goats, City Chickens and Aquaponics 101.  We’ll have a short course in Gardening on a Tight Budget and Preserving the Harvest.

At this time, I’m planning on releasing them one class at a time, as they are completed rather than wait until the whole thing is done.  Here’s where you come in; we’d like to hear from readers, friends and customers what you’d like for us to talk about.  Simply email us your suggestion.  All submissions will be included in a drawing (no purchase necessary) for cool East of Eden  prizes like, a dozen eggs, a pastured chicken, a pint of Bhut Jolokia Ghost peppers or an East of Eden baseball cap.

Finally, how bout recommending an Edible Suburb University Boot Camp to your Church, School, Club or Civic group?  If you get us a booking, your tuition will be FREE.  That’s a $35 value.  Boot Camps are 3 hours and cover most of the topics mentioned above.  Send me an email if you’d like to discuss availability and pricing.

That’s it for this commercial.  We now return you to your regularly scheduled surfing.

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Here are a few random snaps from last week, in no particular order.  For some reason I didn’t grab any pics of the rabbits or dogs.  Oh well, maybe next time.

 

B and Romeo

 

Hay Time

 

Buff Orpingtons

 

Bonding Time

 

Dixie Rainbows

 

Sun Bathing

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