…learnin’ in the evening, learnin’ at supper time.
Julie is only so strong. Incredibly hot, hard-working, brilliant but not a weight lifter. Remember that line in Rocky, “Sports make you grunt and smell. Be a thinker, not a stinker.” She took that to heart.
The chicken tractors are fairly heavy and you have to use slow, controlled movements to keep from hurting a bird. I move the chicken tractors every morning before I go to work then she feeds and waters the birds and keeps them fed throughout the day. She used to try to move the tractors herself but she just isn’t strong enough. We had to learn that lesson.
The lead tractor pasture pen is slightly downhill from the others. Any rainwater that runs downhill and into/under a chicken tractor will be clean water, not carrying a river of chicken poop. That’s a big deal if you are a chicken, sitting on the ground. We work hard to make sure our chicken tractors run on contour with the hill…that means as we pull them along they move neither up or down hill. This paints a stripe of fertility across the top of the slope all in a line – a keyline, depositing fertility to benefit the entire slope and easing our burden pulling the tractors around. We had to learn this lesson.
In years past we have been up on the flat in places that don’t drain well. April showers bring April big puddles of water. There is nothing worse than checking the birds in the morning only to find them all standing and shivering in a shallow pond…a poopy water pond. It’s bad for the birds and the mud pie they create smothers all of the forage. The chickens are here to boost the forage, not to kill it and our job is to keep both livestock and forage healthy. As of this morning we had in excess of 4″ of rain in 48 hours. It has all soaked into the pasture or run off gently. It is not standing here. That’s why we chose this spot for this time. But we had to learn this lesson.
These are things I learned by doing. Because you have read this, you won’t have to stub your toe like I did. All the doing in the world is important but so is reading. And it all has to be in balance. I wrote a post some time ago making fun of myself for thinking I had the world on a string after reading a couple of farming books. There is more to farming than you can learn in a book. At some point you will be kneeling in a manure pile in the middle of a thunderstorm trying desperately to protect your livestock from something unknown, unplanned and unexpected that nobody has ever written about. That’s when school really starts. I have some acquaintances who consider themselves to be “intellectuals”. They read “important” books. Some of them wear fake glasses so they look smarter. But when it comes down to it many of them haven’t done anything…and aren’t doing anything. But work alone doesn’t fill the void either. I have read many of the “classics” too. There has to be a balance. You can lean on the experiences of others as you grow, but you will never be a farmer until you become a farmer. I hope that makes sense.
There are good ways of doing things and there are better ways of doing things. George Henderson wrote about better ways of doing things 80 years ago in England. Even though I live 4,000 miles away in a different climate in a different century I can still glean information from his lessons. So I write to share what I have learned. I read your blogs to see what you have learned. I hope I am doing a good job. I hope my sharing enables you to do a better job. If things go as planned, my kids will take our accumulated knowledge and launch further that we even aimed. But there has to be time in your day to learn. To read. To grow. And to experience.
Not all of my reading time bears fruit. Not all of my work bears fruit. But, by keeping it in balance, I feel I am giving myself the best advantage. By sharing it with you I feel I am repaying a small portion of the debt I owe to the many who stopped to give me a little information.
What have you done today? What have you read today? Have you written about it?