Sunday, December 30, 2012

This Hit Home Today

"Remember that the way to big acreages is through small acreages. You can trade up and invest up out of the profits generated on the small acreage. If you're frustrated on a small acreage, you'll be more frustrated on a large acreage. Refine and fully develop what you have before looking for something else. And then repeat the same procedure there. By the time you let a larger acreage, you'll have the experience and the know-how to be a good steward. If you get too large an acreage too soon, you'll be a poor steward and that doesn't do anybody and good."

~Joel Salatin, excerpt from 'You Can Farm'

Start small. Small is good. Why can I never remember that? 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

You Just Never Know.

Having a falcon/hawk to hunt with is still on my bucket list.

Birds of prey have always fascinated me. I love their fierceness, and the fact that you can never truly domesticate them. Yet you can still hunt with them. I've had the paperwork for getting a falconry license in my closet for years now... Maybe someday I'll get to fill it out and send it in. For the first 2-3 years, a beginning falconer can only have a Kestrel (hardest falcon to have), or a Red Tailed hawk. After that though, the sky is the limit. This girl wants a Harris hawk. 

My love for hawks and falcons somewhat explains my parallel love of the fighting breeds of chickens. The Hulseys, Shamos, Asils, and Ganois... They have that same fierce look about them. The same wildness and inability to be domesticated. If I can't start out with a hawk, then I'll work my way up, beginning with a chicken. You gotta' start somewhere. 

But perhaps someday I'll have my own leather jesses and a mews with a hawk in it. You just never know.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Under the Weather

The day after Christmas, I woke up feeling terrible. My dear, lovely sister-in-law decided to share her cold with me while she and my brother were here for their visit. Thanks Sis. So since Wednesday I've been talking with only half a voice (I sound like a frog; don't ask to hear me sing), and have been forcing myself to take a spoonful of honey 2--3 times a day. I'm not even sure that this is even a cold, but I don't know what else to call it. I'm just rather lightheaded right now, tired feeling, and wishing I could talk normal. Don't know what you have? Call it a cold. Don't feel good? Say you have a cold. Seems like logic to me anyway. 

Today however, I had two fun things come in the mail that managed to distract me for a couple hours.

One was a most coveted item:

Photo courtesy of

Every December I look forward to my newest seed catalog from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Sometimes I think I might be more excited about this catalog than I am about Christmas. All of my fellow gardening enthusiasts had gotten their copy, meanwhile I had to listen in agony as folks were saying, "I got mine today! It's so beautiful!". Torture, I tell you. Pure torture. I checked the mail every day, waiting for my copy. Days past, weeks past. And then right when I stopped thinking about it, it came!! Now it's MY turn to exclaim over how pretty this year's book is. 

The second piece of mail was a book I impulsively decided to buy myself. I say "impulsively" because I very rarely buy books for myself. I adore books, and the best gift you could possibly get me is a book, but I always feel strangely selfish when I buy a book that is not a gift for someone else. There's always that nagging thought of how the animals need more hay, or I need to buy more milk filters, or the money should be saved for something important (like a nitrogen tank! Someday I'm going to get one of those for the goats!), so I rarely buy anything for myself...

But then I saw a book I wanted. A book I wanted really bad. It was eleven dollars... I argued with myself for three days about buying it, and then during a streak of hotheadedness, I bought it. Yes, I am pathetic. Maybe someday I'll grow out of it. 

The book in question?

I've been reading online about aquaponics for a little over a year now. I'm intrigued by it to say in the least. I'm planning on getting a small hoophouse built as soon as funds allow it (hay prices are astronomical this winter!), and I thought it might be fun to try this whole aquaponic thing out when said hoophouse is finally something more than words and wishes. 

The book itself has been fabulous, and definitely worth the $11 I spent on it. :) Some of the chapters are a bit hard for me to fully grasp right now, in my fuzzy-headed state, so hopefully I'll get over this virus-y bug soon!   I'm so, so ready to be back to my normal self. To be able to sing out in the barn without sounding like a toad on steroids, and to be able to get back to writing on here. There are so many posts I'm dying to write! I have three that are halfway done, but still in draft form. I just feel that I can't focus enough right now to do them justice. Sorry guys. :-/ Maybe I should start taking more honey...

But I have things to share, and that's the truth. I want to show y'all how big the Pumpkin Hulseys have gotten (It looks like I ended up with a stag and a hen!), my new fodder growing system that I got during Thanksgiving week (I know; you're all wondering WHY I haven't shown you sooner... Long story.), and then there's all the other fun stuff like how to winter out your livestock in Salatin-style, a review on a Baker Creek seed collection, the end results on the Freedom Rangers, an update on the pigs, the next chicken breed I want to take on (the blackest bird you've EVER seen)... Sometimes I sit down at the computer and feel so incredibly overwhelmed at what all I need to blog about. And then when you're not feeling good, like this week's state that I've found myself in, it about makes a body want to cry. Okay, full confession: I did cry today. That's how not-good I'm feeling right now. I was so tired this afternoon after reading through my catalog and book, and my brain was saying "you need to blog!!", that I broke down in a most ridiculous manner. So I crawled into bed, not caring that it was 3pm and I should have been doing something constructive. I woke up at 4:50pm, and felt slightly better. I'm at least not crying anymore. I ate some chocolate (makes everything better), and felt perky enough to sit here and ramble about everything that came to mind. Which brings us to the present moment. I think I've run out of things to say.

So that's where I'm at right now. I sound like a frog, I feel like I'm in a fog, and I'm itching to be back to my normal self. Rain, rain go away, come again another day... I should end this post here before I think of something else to say. You never know what might be next...

Monday, December 24, 2012


Traditions are an interesting thing to me. Everyone has some sort of tradition for something. It's different from family to family, culture to culture, and heritage to heritage. Come Christmas time, I always look forward to our family traditions, even though they are a little silly/different in comparison to most everyone else's.

Our first tradition starts on Christmas Eve; we will have made oodles of sugary treats during the day time, and then when dusk settles, we all gather in the living room and watch the Muppet's Christmas Carol and then commence to eating the afore mentioned edible goodies. I adore the Muppets Christmas Carol. Always a Dickens fan, I find it hysterical to see the Muppets doing this Classic tale. If you have yet to see this hilarious Christmas flick, you really should look it up. Take my word for it.

Our next traditions often cause some raised eyebrows from outsiders. On Christmas morning, we have a very special breakfast of - um - canned cinnamon rolls. Yep, you read that right. Those pre-made food items that come in a slender tube found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, and have so many ingredients that you can't pronounce, that it fairly gives you a headache when you try. Those ones. Christmas morning is the only day that we have these, and frankly I like this tradition. It's not Christmas without those canned cinnamon rolls.

Our second, slightly horrifying, tradition is that we always have pizza for Christmas dinner. And that has to be store bought too. It can't be homemade, it has to be from the store. No turkey for us; no ham, no stuffing, no cranberry sauce, no nothing. You'll find us throwing a pizza in the oven as the day wanes. Our logic is simple: None of us want to be in the kitchen on Christmas day. We don't want to be fussing with the oven, or washing dishes. We do that every day. On Christmas, we want a break. So that's why we go for the canned cinnamon rolls and store bought pizza. Fast, easy, yummy. Perhaps we're barbaric, perhaps we just don't know how to appreciate the "real" Christmas experience as we throw the turkey out the window for a box of pizza, or perhaps we're slightly nuts. Whatever it is, so be it. It's not Christmas to me without my canned cinnamon rolls, pizza, and my Muppet's Christmas Carol movie.

I'm curious though, what are your Christmas traditions? Am I the only one who likes prepackaged foods and corny movies on Christmas?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ready, Set, Go.

It's good to want things. But how far should we go in our pursuit of something before we have to back off and realize that there's also the need to be content? It's good to have goals, it's good to reach and strive, but how hard should we try? How much should we give? Does it depend on each individual, and each scenario? This question often haunts the back of my mind as I go through daily life. I'm always trying something new; always on the lookout for a new challenge, and always working towards something. It drives some people crazy that I am this way. That I never seem to be "finished". There's always something I'm working on, always something I'm working towards. What is the end goal here? In my mind, the answer is simply that I'm working towards my own farm and I'll do what it takes to get there. Straightforward and clear, right? So I thought... What seems so simple to me, often looks like a haphazard mess to others.

 I have two dairy cows, ten dairy goats, two sheep, two pigs (yes, yes... Two of everything except the humans; I know. LOL), too many chickens to count, I raise turkeys and broilers, I run a herdshare program, I teach lessons, I grow micro greens, I want try aquaponics (oops, y'all aren't supposed to know about that yet...), I will train a team of oxen in the spring, I have rabbits, I adore butchery, I want to take my writing to the next level, I am a hunter with a long bow, I work on a 100 acre organic farm, I want to have a goat-drawn cart... Are you getting tired yet? I read through this list and it all seems so simple to me. To others, it's a nightmare of projects, work, and sleepless nights. 

Am I wanting too much? How far can I push my farming desires before something screams, "Enough!" ? Is it even possible to gauge how much a single person can (or should) do? I write these questions mostly out of curiosity. Personally, I'm happy with my level of activity and all my plans and dreams. But there is still that nagging little question that is forever hovering... Just how far can I go with this? What happens if I get hurt? There's only one of me, after all. How much should I risk to see this dream happen? 

This life I lead is so worth it. It's worth all the sleepless nights worrying about hay, worth dealing with newborn goat kids, with sick animals, with broken fencing, with bad weather, with flooded milk parlors, with mud, with pain, with fear. In the end, it's all worth it. And that's why I continue this. It's why even though people think I'm crazy with my dreams and goals, I still do it. I am a stubborn person, and once I get my teeth into an idea, I hang on with the tenacity of a pit bull. 

How far should you go in following a dream? Dear Heart, only you can decide that. But follow it past the cutting remarks of others, past the pain of following it, past the fear of wondering if you were right to do it in the first place, follow it so far that you can't see the start anymore. And then, once you're past all that, then you can decide how far you should continue on. If you're anything like me, then by the time you've gotten that far, you'll probably feel that you might as well keep going; you've come this far after all. But also know that sometimes while following a dream, we can get lost on the way and find a better one. It's okay to bury one dream for another, better one. 

How much should we risk for something that we truly desire? I wish I could say. My 20-year old logic says to risk what it takes. But I think some wiser heads could answer better than I could. I'm too well-versed in reaching towards the unreachable to be giving advice on when to hold back. 

But I do know one thing for certain: You've got one life to live here. What will you do with it? When I am old, and nearing the end of life's chapters, I want to be able to smile and say, "What a ride this life has been... I have no regrets." 

You have a dream? Follow it. Reaching towards a goal? Do it. Let's all be a little bit crazy and go for the impossible. 

Ready, set, go.

Friday, December 21, 2012

How'd Your Day Go?

Sorry everyone, I got quiet again didn't I? Shame on me... But once Christmas is over I promise I will start behaving again by getting back into the writing groove. But I thought I would at least poke my nose in over here to let y'all know that I must have missed the rapture. Or at least the world hasn't ended (not that I was expecting it to; it's been something of  a standing joke in the household). I'm still here, along with all the animals, and we're still puttering along through the wet winter weather. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Go For Carhartt Coats

While I probably rank as one of the most unromantic people in the world, there is still something of a "girly-girl" in me yet. But it's a farmy kind of girly-girl, if we can stretch things that far... Some girls go for looks when it comes to attractiveness in guys. Some girls swoon over deep voices. I go for Carhartt coats.

So yes, I have to admit that I have a weakness for guys wearing Carhartts. I really can't help myself. It just looks "right" to me. But mind you, it can't just be any Carhartt; no, it has to be faded in color, with the cuffs ragged and rimmed with mud. The collar (because it can't be the kind of coat that has a hood) has to be flimsy from wear and tear, and the buttons will have lost their shine. Perhaps I'm just a tad ridiculous, but a coat like that, on a good looking guy, gets me every time. Just a little inner swoon. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Just A Little Bit

I have a confession to make: I miss Heidi, just a little bit.

I shouldn't miss that goat at all, really. Always getting into trouble, bullying the goats, wrecking fencing and chicken tractors, knocking over goat kids, terrorizing the chickens, escaping, holding her milk back, and just plain being a pest, I really shouldn't miss that goat.

But I think I do. Just a little bit.

With winter here, I've begun settling back into working on my story, 'Led By A Goat'. I had to put it away during the spring and summer due to time limitations, but now that the cold weather has settled, and barn chores only take 30 minutes a day, I'm back to typing away. Watching words become a story. I had posted some excerpts of the story last winter, and some of y'all may remember those, but the story has changed considerably since then. I revamped my writing, re-did the chapters, and it's even better now. I kind of cringe as I reread the little blurbs that I posted on here all those months ago. 

But as I've begun writing the story again, I find myself thinking of Heidi more and more often. Not surprisingly though, seeing as 'Led By A Goat' revolves around Heidi. I've never had such a strong love/hate relationship with any living creature before. Part of me misses her presence, and then part of me doesn't regret selling her. I am a fickle person; one who is trying to balance life between wanting to keep every stray that comes by, and realizing that in order to have a profitable farm, you really can't keep them all. Heidi had to go, and GSF is better for it. But every now and again I kind of miss her. Just a little bit.

Excerpt from 'Led By A Goat':

"Why did her looks of fear and mistrust seem so vaguely familiar? Why did I feel like I had seen it all before? It was so obvious that I somehow missed it until now:

I was seeing a mirror of myself.

Resentment, bitterness, pride, fear, pain… When I looked upon Heidi for the first time, and saw those emotions fleetingly pass through her, I was unconsciously harking back to my own memories of the same feelings. I bought her, wondering why she seemed so familiar to me, and now, in a dumbstruck manner, realized that I was seeing my own reflection in a four-legged animal.

As I sat on the ground that day, watching Heidi pace the pasture’s edge, I saw my own past flash before me. Old memories that I thought I had put behind me began bubbling up without consent. The pain of rejection burned. The remembrance of wanting friendship and acceptance seared me. The fear of being hurt again was crippling. Like a hammer striking an anvil, so the memories pounded my mind. I groaned as I sat there, and put my face in my hands... Had Heidi gone through the same thing? Was she too far gone to change? Moreover, was I too far gone to change?"

Friday, December 14, 2012

I Like These Birds

I went out to do my afternoon barn chores today and found to my surprise that a Freedom Ranger had gotten in the chick brooder and was molesting the little Pumpkin Hulseys.

Or, at least I thought it was molesting the Hulseys...

I watched in surprise as the bigger of the two chicks (which isn't all that big; he's about 3" tall) was pitting himself against the Freedom Ranger and seemed to be winning the battle. The five lb. meat bird had no idea what to think of this pint sized attacker, but did his best to defend himself. Though he had no spurs, the cream colored Hulsey would leap up and slash his legs at his opponents chest and face, before dropping down and attacking the Freedom Ranger's legs. 

I pulled the two birds apart and fished the Freedom Ranger out. You don't belong in there you feather mattress... 

The little Hulsey chick strutted proudly around his brooder; chest puffed out and with the smaller chick close beside him. 

I like these birds. The little guy has no idea how small he is, but his heart and spirit are the size of a lion's. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Here's To The Crazy Ones

"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."

~Apple Inc.

Way To Go, Daniel!

Daniel Salatin (Joel's son) is a really fun guy, and I am so grateful that I had the chance to meet him last winter. :) 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Inquiring Minds Want To Know

I have a question for y'all that I'm wondering if you could help me with.

Would you be at all interested in a book that told how you could have a successful farm with only ONE acre of land? A book that told how you could have two cows (well, let's say one cow + a calf), goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, 300 - 500 broilers (meat chickens), 100 - 200 turkeys, bees, and a garden? Again, all that on one acre of land. Perhaps this book would even have some detailed how-to's on sprouting and fermenting grain, building a pallet fence, a $60 chicken tractor (that will hold up to pretty much anything except goats), a $100 greenhouse, and would explain intensive, rotational grazing for livestock, winter animal care, and who knows... There might even be a chapter on training and using draft goats. 

Would such a book interest you? And moreover, would you buy a book like that? This inquiring mind would like to know. 

The Bowed Psaltery

 It turned out that I had more free time on my hands today than I had thought I would, so I decided to be brave and record some songs of my bowed psaltery for y'all.
But first, a disclaimer. I am no professional at this. I've only been playing this instrument for a few months now, and my "beginner-ness" shows. There are mistakes in each video, but there's also something akin to a tune, so that's good, right? ;)

This first video has a bit of humor for me... The whole time I was playing, I was looking out the window instead of focusing on my playing. Our dog, and three of our hens were on the road outside and I was fervently hoping that they would all get back onto the property so that I wouldn't have to stop the recording and yell out the window at them. Thankfully all four animals got back where they belonged, but I was left with a not-so-great recording of Just As I Am. But I didn't want to re-do the whole thing, so you get to hear it with all its dog-caused mistakes.

This Didn't Help Matters

I have to confess that I've been fighting a VERY strong urge lately to get back into horses. Namely, back into horse training. It's been about four years since I've ridden or trained, and oh the itch is back to start again. While I was on craigslist this morning I found the prettiest cremello colored, yearling gelding for sale (Honest to goodness, I was not looking at horses on there; he was in the goat section!), and all I could think about was how fun it would be to train the little guy. 

And then I saw this video of Stacey Westfall. And that didn't help matters. My riding instructor from many, many years ago taught me how to ride using Stacey's techniques, and watching this video made me remember just how much fun it is to ride bareback and bridleless. 

I highly doubt I'll be getting an equine any time soon, but I can't deny that the temptation is certainly there...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

So Very Important To Me

I walk in the house and as I look at the others, I am suddenly acutely aware of my filthy state. 

I've just come home from work. Eight hours of activity outside in the rain and mud leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to cleanliness afterwards. There is mud spattered on my face, on the collar of my shirt, in my hair even. My pants are wet from the knees down. I look like a mud monster. 

I clean up, have dinner, do chores... Now what? I'm tired, but not exhausted. My mind has words it wants to say, but I know not how to say them. I can write, yes, but when it comes to verbally saying something, I am all too often at a loss. It frustrates me more than I can say... Why am I such a dunce when it comes to communicating and expressing myself? I consider writing, think about sitting at the computer and writing a blog post, but I'm too restless for that right now. I need to do something. Need to say something. Need to silently express myself, which sounds rather impossible. 

At times like this, I turn to music. There is something about music that always fills the void and creates the words I wish I knew how to say. It describes what I'm feeling, what I'm wishing, what I wish I was brave enough to say, to write, to be. Whether I'm listening to music by someone else, or making it myself, there is a sudden feeling of completion. I don't have to speak; the notes will do it for me. This is what I wanted to say... Can you hear it in the notes? Listen closely, for my meaning is often hidden deep in the undertones of the song.

My subconscious knows what I want tonight as I restlessly watch the minutes tick by on the old clock in the living room. My mind has words it wants to say, but my tongue has not yet learned the trick to saying them how it's wanted. I need music; need to move, need to create something with my hands. 

So I find my bowed psaltery. Its walnut finished wood gleams beneath the fluorescent light bulbs in the sewing/music room. My fingers lightly trace over the grain of the wood, following its symmetrical pattern that creates such a lovely character for this rare instrument. I pull the matching horsehair bows out from the box in which they stay and give them a cursory application of rosin. They do not need a lot, but I wanted a sharp edge tonight. I wanted clear, strong notes that would give words to my actions. I start out with my old stand by's and favorites, 'Star of County Down', 'Just As I Am', 'Be Still My Soul'... I play these songs every time I sit down with the psaltery. They are songs I know by heart, songs that my hands can play while my mind is elsewhere, songs that allow me to shape words into their melody. I am no expert musician and that's a fact. But I get by. And it's enough to make me happy. The long, slow, haunting notes of the psaltery never cease to thrill me. As I play, I consider recording a video or two tomorrow so that y'all can hear it too. I make no promises though; I'll have to see how the day goes. 

I move on to other songs. Longer, louder, more emotional songs. This is what I wanted to say. Hear it in my notes. Hear the faults, hear the mistakes, the squeaks... Know that this is how I feel. Like a failure more often than not. Like someone who can't do anything right. But also hear the strong, proud notes. The low ones with their strength, the high ones with their grace. This is also how I feel. Like someone who is beginning to understand. Like someone who is beginning to see. I am learning, I am living, I am laughing. I mask my emotions behind a face that does not want others to see what is hidden there. But I cannot mask the emotions in my music. You may not understand what is behind the notes of my music as I play, but I understand it. As you and I get to know each other, I think you too will start to pick up on this language that I try to speak by using instruments. 

As I play the psaltery, my body moves with the melody; it can't be helped. I am in the moment, watching my bows, looking for the next notes, enjoying the sound. Oh how I love sound... I have shaken my braid out and let my long, thick hair simply drape around my shoulders. It falls halfway over my face as I lean in towards the little instrument during a particularly intense moment of a tune, but I can't do anything about it yet, or I will lose the rhythm of my song. I do not often let my hair down, but I do like it when I do. And after spending the day looking and feeling like something that crawled out of the swamp, I wanted a little reminder that *am* still a lady. Even if I am a lady who has dirt permanently under her finger nails and in the creases of her hands. 

After only ten or fifteen minutes of playing the psaltery, I am satisfied. I said what I wanted to say with the aid of wood and horsehair. I lay the bows and instrument back in the box where they always lay, and leave the room. I had not opened my mouth even once, but I felt like I had just had a heart-to-heart. 

Music is so very important to me. Music and writing. Without them I would be a cold, introverted person indeed... But with them, I am capable of speaking my mind. And that's what matters.

Using it All

I quickly learned to love the videos done by the Farmstead Meatsmith. This guy amazes me to no end with his skill and passion for his work. In today's posted episode, he goes over how to make your own blood sausage, head cheese, and pate from your own pig. Somehow I don't think that there is a huge number of readers here who will watch this, and even fewer who would enjoy the video as I enjoyed it; but to those of you who watch something like this and consider creating the food that is described by the Meatsmith, well, I could hug you for it. :)

On The Anatomy Of Thrift: Harvest Day from farmrun on Vimeo.

I have been thinking a lot lately about using the whole animal after slaughtering. At first, the very idea of blood sausage and head cheese made me grimace and want to stick to happier thoughts, such as bacon. But after awhile, my mind began to change. I have two pigs in the barn now, and they will be slaughtered in the spring. Fine Tamworths are they both, and they are a prized bacon breed. But what will I do with the other parts that aren't as highly prized as bacon? What about the blood? The offal? The head? The feet? As I care for my pair of pigs each day, feeding them, brushing them, and talking to them, I feel a weighty responsibility to do these creatures justice. If I'm going to take their lives for the sake of my stomach, shouldn't I honor that by using everything they have to offer? My conscience tells me I should.

Americans are not used to the idea of eating anything besides cuts of meat. It doesn't help matters that the word "offal" (which derived from the butcher's term of "off fall"; what "fell off" when the carcass was opened) sounds exactly like the word "awful". Oh dear. Nor does it help that we are largely disconnected from our food, and folks let's just say it like it is: the idea of eating feet, blood, or a pig head is not appealing to 99.9% of us. Hmm.

In many third world countries, the liver, heart, blood, and eyeballs were/are the most prized part of a freshly killed animal and the head of the family/tribe always got these parts. And what of the "fancy" meat cuts that we Americans know so well? Guess what; those often went to the dogs.

We're dealing with more than just our palates here, we're dealing with an entire generation that has been removed from the idea of eating more than just muscle. We no longer have mothers and grandmothers who knew how to make a nutritious meal out of a pig heart. How many of us even know what Salumi is? (and no, I'm not talking about salami here!) Granted, I still have a hard time with all this. I still draw the line at eating pickled ram's balls. Even I have my limits. But I want to make the start this next spring to do better about using the whole animal.

Next year I will try blood sausage, and maybe even head cheese. Wish me luck.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Old Fangled

This may sound a little silly, but there is an old, old tool which I have wanted to try using for years. I admired its simple elegance, its utilitarian strength, and the fact that it had served humanity without fail for centuries. I had never tried one before though, or even held one for that matter, simply because I didn't have one of my own. 

The name of this old relic of our agricultural past is the 'scythe'; the world's first lawnmower.

Handheld, this cunning little invention was used for making hay, cutting the grain crops, tidying around the cottage, and possibly even the occasional need for fending off unwanted visitors. I don't even remember when or where I first saw/heard about this thing known as a scythe, but I was fascinated. 

I started reading up more on scythes as the seasons fell away into years... I watched Youtubes about them, found yellowed antique books with pictures of farmers with their scythes, and told myself that some day I would have to get one for myself. Even though I really wasn't sure in the end how to even work the contraption. 

And then of course something akin to reality sank in. Why on earth was I so captivated by this tool? Why, of all things, should I be interested in something that cuts grass?? I couldn't answer myself, except for the seemingly irrelevant explanation that I am an "old fangled" person. You hear of "new fangled" contraptions all the time, and that term was once applied to the Tin Lizzie automobile when it was first invented. So if there's a "new fangled" in this world, then does that mean that there can be an "old fangled"? If not, then I am hereby officially creating the term. Your welcome. I coined the term one rainy afternoon while scribbling away at one of my book proposals (that, um, still hasn't been proposed due to a busy schedule and a fear of actually doing it). In the midst of doing long handed notes being crazily jotted down on lined paper, the idea of 'old fangled' came upon me like a spring sunrise. It was just there. I think I was writing about goats, so I'm not sure how the idea for said term was suddenly thought up, but it came anyway. I turned a new sheet of paper and in big, bold letters I wrote, 'Old Fangled'. It would someday be a book title, I hoped and dreamed. And still hope and dream it yet. But for now it's a term that I use for myself. 

Some things just feel right to people (most would call them "convictions") and to this farm girl, doing things the old fashioned way just sits right with me. There's something about returning to the ways of old that feel correct. It's in my blood, I guess. It's a primal and feral thing that only a few select can understand as well. We are strange birds who are happy with wood instead of steel, clay instead of plastic, and the sound of hooves on asphalt instead of rubber tires. We're a happy lot though. 

So when I was informed at work this morning that one of our jobs required using a scythe, my old fangled self did an inner squeal of glee. Seriously?? I get to use a scythe today? For real and truly?? 

I picked up one of the two scythes available and felt a moment of hesitation as I realized that I had NO idea what I was doing with this thing. How hard can this be though? I mean, all we're doing is cutting down vegetation, right? And if you just whack at the plants hard enough then they're bound to get cut, right? My first few swings were clumsy and awkward; like trying to dance a completely new dance with someone whom you don't know very well (or not at all). My hands gripped the old, worn wood; if this was a waltz, then I was confusing the movements with a polka. Then there's always that moment when I have to tell myself to relax and just let the learning come as it pleases. I have this insane fear of not doing something right, right away. Learning curves are not something I consciously allow myself, but know that there's no way around them. The result is feeling like a failure and a dunce before my time. You would think that I would stop doing that to myself seeing as I've identified the problem. Some things can't be changed. Or at least not changed quickly.

My body began warming up, and I found myself getting to know this dance partner known as the scythe. I was having a strange deja vu moment as I caught on to the rhythm required. I think I've done this before... I hadn't though, but the feeling was there, and the feeling is there for others that I've seen as I've taught them other old fangled arts such as milking a goat, spinning yarn, or making cheese. There's something oddly familiar when we return to the heritage of our past and re-learn the secrets of our ancestors. 

My friend, and the day's working partner, went and found a whetstone so that I could sharpen the blades of our scythes. This I did know how to do. Goodness, I have dulled so many knives in the past from using a whetstone improperly that I despaired of ever learning. But this learning curve too, I passed and with flying colors. Moving briskly, my palm sized whetstone made metallic 'shlick, shlick, schlick', noises as I carefully took metal off the long, curved blade. First use the rough side and get a nice burr on the edge; yep, just like that. Now flip over to the fine side of the stone and finish it off. See the gleam? 

Sharpening the scythe made a world of difference. Suddenly the dance steps made sense. I found a sweet rhythm and the methodical movements were made all the more enjoyable by seeing the big windrow of brush that I was creating in my wake. It required no fuel, no oil, and no noise, but here I was working merrily away with an old, old tool. It felt right.  

I put the scythe away with a bit of reluctance. The clock had struck 12 'o' clock for this Cinderella; the magic of the moment was broken and over. I had to come out of the past and back into the present. The memory remained though and I came to a conclusion this afternoon: I need one of these old fangled things for myself. 

I could use a weed eater instead. I could use the lawn mower. I could use some nasty, chemical spray on the weeds. I could use a cow to graze the grass down. I could let it grow and not even deal with it.

But I want to use a scythe because I am an old fangled person. And sometimes you just have to go with a gut instinct on these things. This I know to be true.

Friday, December 7, 2012

I Laughed, and Laughed.

'Thank You' to my good friend (you know who you are) for introducing me to Jostie Flicks. :)

Pigs vs. Farm Girl. Who'll Win?

I think I finally have the pigs contained. I think.

Yesterday afternoon, my study work (still plowing through my herbal certification course!) was interrupted by voices shouting, "Caity! The pigs are out! The pigs are out!" I slammed my work book closed and threw it on the bed. I would have to finish studying the differences between alterative herbs, analgesic herbs, and antacid herbs later. I rocketed out of the bedroom and as I looked out the window to the front of the house I saw not only Sausage (the usual troublemaker), but Mike as well. Both calmly trotting past the house to some unknown destination. Darn it. There goes my afternoon. I grabbed a bucket of food scraps from the counter (which was supposed to be their dinner!) and enlisted the closest sibling to help me capture the porkers. I've been working with the pigs as much as I can in the pen, trying to teach them that my presence, and my "pig call" means food. Now was the test. I rattled the bucket of food and called out the oh-so-original call of "Pig, pig!" "Pig, pig!" Mike and Sausage turned around, and wonder of wonders they trotted right up to the bucket. So we made the trek back to their pen with me walking backwards muttering "pig, pig", and one of my sisters following along 10 feet behind to encourage the pigs to keep moving. 

We got back to the pen, and in in karate style I kicked the wall down to their pen so they could get back in. For you see, it's a semi-permanent wall; there's no gate. No nothing. It started out as a corrugated sheet of metal roofing and ended up as a solid wall to keep pigs in a pen. I had no idea how the pigs managed to get out of the pen, but I knew they had to get in somehow. That, and plus it's just fun every now and again to get to kick something as if you are some well trained ninja. Or maybe that's just me...

With the boys back in their designated area, I had to figure out how to KEEP them in there. After some thought, my sister and I pulled out some 4' high woven wire fencing and commenced to hammering the metal weave in the pig pen. If they got out of this then they were Houdinis. Both pigs sat on their haunches like dogs, as they watched us work with our tools. I grinned at their goofiness in between my hammering. Mike eventually got tired of the noise and buried himself beneath a pile of hay. Sausage followed suit shortly after. What a rough life these pigs have.

Having pigs is teaching me how to have a better sense of humor and that's a fact. This was something like the fourth escape I've had, and I always have to tell myself while catching them to just "relax and laugh". I try my best to find the funniness of each situation; it beats getting mad. The pigs make me smile every time I go in the pen and I am loving their quirky personalities. 

But despite the fact that I'm getting better about keeping my temper with escaped bacon, I still have my moments.

Today I was playing my Strumstick and was in the middle of sweeping through 'Alas and Did My Saviour Bleed', when another sister poked her head in the room and said the dreaded words: "Umm, Caity, your pigs are out again." I looked at her, with my right hand suspended on a downward strum and said, "You CAN'T be serious." Turns out she was serious. It still amazes me that this is the second time that the pigs have come up to the house, rather than hightailing it to anywhere else. Yesterday's sequence was repeated: One sister followed 10 feet behind (and in case you're wondering just how many sisters I have, there are 4 of them), while I carried a bucket of food scraps and calling "pig, pig". When we got back to the pig pen, I found the woven wire fencing completely mangled. The pigs apparently tore it down and then jumped over the metal wall. Alright Sausage, I'm impressed with your thinking capabilities. I had no idea what to do now. I couldn't kick the wall down again because the fencing was nailed in place still. I reached down to pick Sausage up, who was dancing at my feet, waiting for food. When my hand touched his body, the chubby little guy surprised me by lunging forward and leaping/scrambling over the metal siding and back into the pen.  Eyebrows raised, I tried it with Mike. Same thing happened. Great, I've got jumping pigs. 

This time, I truly was out of ideas on what to do. And what's more, I was borderline on being down right irate with my escape artist pigs. Can't they just stay put for crying out loud!?!?!? Is this going to become a daily happening??? Maybe suckling pig in the freezer isn't such a bad idea after all?? 

It was time. I needed a hog panel. Sixteen feet long and made of the toughest welded wire at the farm store, I figured it might keep my pigs where they belonged. I had planned on getting this panel BEFORE the pigs ever landed, but it was one of those things that just never happened. Always being put off because of its cumbersome size and the fact that we don't exactly live very close to town. But today was the day. Unless I wanted to be chasing the pigs again tomorrow, we had to do this and we had to do it TODAY. 

At the farm store I made the split second decision to buy a cattle panel instead, which is bigger, but to my dismay I found that you just can't fit a 4.5' tall cattle panel inside a 15-seater van. We tried multiple ways of squishing that fence in there, but it wasn't going. So I went back to plan A, and bought the more expensive hog panel.

When I got back home, I found that the pigs had mangled the fencing yet again, but they were still in their boundary for the moment. I stomped over with my hog panel dragging behind me and told the pigs to move out of the way. I was on a mission. No pigs allowed. 

The panel was up in less than 2 minutes and I shook my head as I wondered why on earth it took me so long to buy this thing. It's taller than the metal siding, and sturdy enough to keep even an ornery heifer at bay. Or a pig with the intelligence of a velociraptor (yes, I've been watching too much Jurassic Park lately...).

My fingers are crossed now that the panel will do the trick. I think I might finally have these pigs contained.

I think.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In Case You Didn't Already Know, My Life Isn't Perfect

 There is a common thread that I hear from people whom I meet, and that is that people assume I have this grand and perfect life out here. Folks read this blog and assume I have my battle plan business plan all written tidily out and I'm just out here enjoying this easy life singing with goats and growing food. I was flipping through my draft posts I have in my Blogger files (103 posts that have never been read by the public... Wow.) and found one in particular that made me laugh at myself. The post below was written last March, at a time when I was sorely frustrated with myself and the fact that I was spinning my wheels. I think I decided to leave this post in the draft file because it sounded too much like I was complaining, but I'm posting it now so that not only can y'all laugh at me too, but here's the proof: My life isn't perfect. Far from it in fact. But I try. We all try. And as long as we keep picking ourselves back up and trying doggedly again, we WILL accomplish what we are after. This I know for a fact. 

So in the end, I picked my oars back up and kept rowing. I think I'm getting somewhere now.

"I wanted an ocean liner, and instead I'm given a row boat. Why is life never easy? Shucks, I've put blood, sweat and tears into trying to get this little farm up and running, but why is it that I have to pull myself up by the bootstraps? Sure, I know life isn't easy, and the farming life is especially grueling, but can't I get a leg up just once in awhile? Can't something work out that might make things just a tad easier? I don't ask for much; just a bit to give me some start up. Money makes the world go 'round, and I just can't seem to get any of that stuff. This post isn't a complaint, it's a ponder. It's my thoughts being thought aloud.
 I wanted an ocean liner in life. An easy fix to my problems that would allow me to effortlessly glide through life and have a famously productive farm. Oh yes, I can see it now... The magazine articles, the radio broadcasts, the autographs... A young girl single handedly started her own farm and it all turned out just magnificently. 
 Now we plunk down to reality: I'm on a row boat. Maybe I'll paint the words "Ocean Liner" on the prow to make myself feel better.... I manually heave my little boat forward. My hands are blistered and bloody, my shoulders ache, my legs cramp up, the wind bites me, the water stretches on and on.... The folks on the cruise ship sail by, waving with their free hand; the other one is holding a glass of lemonade. They probably all won free tickets from a contest... I watch them pass and continue my rowing. Work, work, work. Blood, sweat, tears. Yet I never seem to get anywhere. I never seem to gain ground. Why must this be so hard???
 And then I find that the boat has not only not gone forward, but I went in a complete circle and am now right back where I started. Maybe I should try swimming? Para-gliding? Sending a SOS?"

From Joel

It doesn't matter what your background, your socioeconomic status, your age or your current living condition; if you have a yearning in your soul to grow things and minister healthy food to people, to live an agrarian life with your children and grandchildren playing around your feet, then an opportunity exists for you.

Write down your dreams. Write them down often. Speak of them to your relatives and friends. Seek out people who share those dreams; ignore those who do not. Don't spend time with naysayers. As your vision becomes your passion, dreams will give place to reality. My prayer is that together we can help this happen for you.

~Joel Salatin, Excerpt from 'You Can Farm'; page #6.

Monday, December 3, 2012

It Feels Good

There is something terribly satisfying about sitting still on a squishy couch at the end of a long day of work.

Today I butchered a goat, planted celery, and harvested potatoes. The butchering of the goat deserves a blog post of its own, and perhaps I will do that later on in the week. But for now I am completely content to just sit. And rest. 

It feels good.