Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Seasonal Farmer

Farming is tiring work. I get tired doing what I do. Some mornings I wake up so tired that I don't even want to look at the cows; much less milk and feed them. Yes, it is all worth it in the end, and I love what I do, but lately I have come to really appreciate being a seasonal farmer. 

It's hard farming seasonally. No, it's actually easy to FARM seasonally; it's just hard to explain to people that you are not Super Man or Wonder Woman, and cannot magically produce homegrown tomatoes in December without the aid of an expensive, heated greenhouse. Or fresh, pastured chickens in January. Or kale in an August heat wave. Or raw milk when the animals need to be dry. Or delicata squash in May. See where I'm going with this? 

I get bored relatively easily. Always on the hunt for some new challenge or goal, I've found that the seasonality of farming is perfect for me. Right after kidding/calving season ends, you have the start of broiler season, and then you have the garden coming to life, then the turkeys follow a few months later, then breeding season sneaks up on you, and then you start winding down in late fall with butchering the last meat animals, and finally drying up the milking animals. The constant change of animals and chores through the seasons keeps me energized and excited for the next thing. But by the time November rolls around, I am dead beat. Tired and ready for a couple months of nothing more strenuous than throwing hay into the manger for lazy animals, and filling water buckets (you have to remember that we have really mild winters here). And this is where my love for seasonality comes in. 

I really do need that winter break from farming every year. Most of my goats are dry now, and I'm only milking one doe (Trigun) which is a daily yield of about a quart of milk (I know, so grand). The cow is also starting to sputter out and has dropped to giving 1 gallon a day. We're all tired and ready for a break. And it's always this time of year that I am in awe of people who continue on with their farm work in winter. Lots of folks milk their animals through winter. Many of them have greenhouses and keep their growing season going non-stop. Others manage to keep on producing chickens no matter the weather. And I wonder to myself how on earth they can keep doing it... Day after day. There's no change. No reprieve. No rest. Am I just a wimp and a slacker for wanting this break? Is it selfish of me? With the dairy animals drying up, I am faced with mixed feelings. Part of me is celebrating that my rest season is approaching and I will have time to recharge my batteries and lazily pore over seed catalogs in front of the wood stove during cold winter afternoons. The other part of me is guilty that I'm leaving my herdshare members without milk for the next three months. 

I think the seasonality of farming is needed for everyone and everything; not just the farmer. My grass needs a rest after having the hoofstock grazing it since March. The dairy animals need a rest; the goats each just pumped out over 2,000 lbs. of milk  (Trigun did 3,600 lbs.!), and the cow has done around 5,000 lbs. They need time to rejuvenate and get ready for another year of that (except next year the cow will produce around 19,500 lbs.). The laying hens need a rest, and egg production slows down incredibly. The farm takes on a slow, steady pulse. There is still lifeblood here, but it has slowed like the sap in the dormant trees. Everything wants to go into hibernation mode, and my gut instinct is to follow nature's pattern here. I'm not perfect at this though, which is why I have two weaner pigs coming tomorrow, but for the most part I am willing to just take a deep breath and relax... The last eight months have been spent in long hours and hard work. Now it's time to play hooky take my turn to rest.

There will still be projects going on in the winter; there will still be stories and adventures. But this farm girl is ready for a change of seasons... 


Brenda said...

Excellent post! Everything works better when you flow with the nature of things. Yes, it is the season to rest.

gz said...

We MUST get back to seasonality of supply and use, for Mother Earth's sake and our own.

Look after yourself too.

Beth said...

I just posted on my blog about a workshop offered on how to extend the growing season with high and low tunnels. As a consumer, I greatly appreciate the effect made year-round by the farmers that provide food to our local market, and I love that there is fresh produce in the winter as well. But I hear you...and I also know I could not do even one month of what you do. Thank you for our food.

Hannah said...

I think God gives us seasons of rest not only on a yearly scale but also on smaller scales. I am learning that sometimes God puts things in my life to force me to slow down when I need to. Things like sickness -however much I may hate it- do force me to slow down a bit.

I am glad you are letting yourself have some rest and relaxation when you really need it. :)