Gee, Julie! What do you want to do in 2015?
Bruce King beat me to the punch on this post and good for him. I don’t always make time for Bruce but I suspect I should. Bruce is a pragmatic farmer. He’s not afraid of the numbers. And he’s not afraid of work.
But I feel like his 2015 post is missing something. Can I say that without criticizing Bruce? Because I don’t mean to criticize Bruce in any way. I just like a little more heart sprinkled into my writing. I need more than just “What”. I need to know why. Why does Bruce want to go from 20 cows to 30? Is it really just a numbers issue? A cashflow problem? Does it satisfy some yearning within him…some intangible desire to own 30 cows…the innate need to farm? Does it answer some insecurity he is wrestling with? Does it solve a portion of his farm’s fertility issues or utilize a resource that is otherwise wasted? Has he increased his farm’s cow capacity by 50%? I don’t know. He just wants to go from 20 to 30. Well, good, but how can I personally apply this? What does it mean to me that Bruce wants more cows? I ask because I’m reading to learn.
I have a small herd of cows and maintain a maximum of 200 layers. We run batches of up to 6 feeder pigs through at any given time. Those numbers are dictated by a number of factors including our ability, our marketing reach, our farm fertility and our time. It would be AWESOME to have a flock of 3,000 layers (our legal limit) but what would I do with all the eggs? How could I handle the feed? Where would I put them? The money would be great but…I just can’t. I can’t. Not yet anyway.
I think it’s cool that Bruce can outline his goals in such a clear and concise manner. I’m afraid I fail at that task. Julie and I take our annual goals seriously…if we don’t know where we are going we won’t know when we get there. I’m not willing to share our personal goals on the blog but we do have farm and business goals. Now how to articulate them?
Let’s start with what I want. I’ll write this with more Bones and less Spock…more feeling and less math.
I want to make a bunch of money while also making as many people as possible happy and healthy. I want to live in a beautiful place, surrounded by abundance. I want to share that with others. If that means cows, then cows it is. Pigs? Chickens? Go get ’em. In fact, I feel my days are better when I have a variety of livestock around…less so right now without pigs. But on another scale entirely are my kids. I’m so happy to have children. I hope they are happy to have me. I hope I can provide them with a safe place surrounded by health and learning…the kind of place they will want to share with their own children.
So that’s what I want.
What can I do in 2015 to help me get there? I’ll try to keep this focused on farm-related goals.
Let’s skip the farm for a second. I know. I said I wouldn’t but just play along. I need to be a better farmer. That’s more than just muck and muscle. It’s a lot of muck and muscle but it’s more than just muck and muscle. I need to spend some time expanding my education. This will help me be a better husband and father, not just a better farmer. So in 2015 I intend to read a book each week. I suspect I currently read more than a book per week but I don’t journal it anywhere. So I’m going to read at least a book each week. Maybe I’ll add that as a blog feature. Dunno. If you want to play along, the youngest two got me Bob Kleberg and the King Ranch: A Worldwide Sea of Grass for Christmas. I’ll try to finish that up before the new year. After that? Could be anything. I’ll try to come up with some sort of plan and I’m open to suggestions.
Beyond that I could list a large number of specific things Julie and I want to accomplish this year but I find that by doing so I’m not setting goals for 2015. I’m writing a year-long chore list and that’s not what we want. Today I want the big picture. Once I see that clearly I’ll know what to do next.
From a big-picture level…what is it I want in 2015? Health. Family. Friends. Money. Liberty.
What am I going to do to accomplish that on the farm in 2015?
- I am going to increase my farm’s stocking rate. Until my farm is stocked my business suffers at every level. So does my family, my wallet and, in some way, my health. How many cows? What about sheep? Should we start to farrow? Dunno. We’ll do our best. Stay tuned.
- I am going to read like it’s going out of style because I’m afraid it is going out of style. There is just too much I don’t know. Too much I haven’t seen. Too many ideas I haven’t weighed. What one non-surgical thing can a person do to make themselves more attractive? Read. Not only books, I want to find 5 more farm blogs to patronize starting with Bruce.
- The farm has a number of infrastructure needs. However much I don’t want to write a chore list, I have to include chores in my list. Without being specific here, I need to list the work that needs my attention, prioritize it and start knocking it out.
- I plan to pursue better stewardship of our farm and family finances. I played terrific offense this year but our defense was a little weak. We need to step it up. You can read about budget and finance elsewhere. I just need to do better. Really, this includes manure and compost management, not just money.
- To be more personal for a moment, Julie and I hit some rough spots in 2014. Nothing that endangered our marriage but certainly caused us real stress. She can’t move a chicken tractor. She can’t carry feed sacks. Milking is not her favorite activity. We need to focus this year on what she enjoys about the farm and find ways leverage those interests. Similarly, the kids. A previous bullet point discussed farm infrastructure needs. My kids are the farm’s infrastructure. I need to keep them in good repair. I need to make sure they are a part of the farm, not merely involved in the farm. I need to make sure my family has been inspired to pursue a common vision.
And that vision starts here.
We work together as a team to steward God’s resources, create a welcoming home, share with others, encourage one another, learn and explore new ideas and pursue our God given purpose.
In 2015 I will be a better husband, father, scholar and steward. I don’t have numbers for most of those metrics but that’s the direction to go.
Please comment below to offer suggestions on worthwhile reading, both books and blogs.
Seems to me you always have a list going to read, and it’s more diverse and far richer than anything I might suggest.
When I’m stuck in a rut for reading, I’ll often go to a bibliography in a favourite book and see what I can find. Eliot Coleman was my biggest starting place for this idea, as he had a recommended list at the back of New Organic Grower. I also will occasionally cruise through a favourite publisher’s website to see if I’ve missed any golden oldies I can borrow from the library, or something new that is irresistible. Chelsea Green, Storey, and New Society are all happy hunting grounds. In terms of good fiction, it’s a lot harder.
I tend to hate award winning adult fiction (conversely, almost all the Newbery winners in children’s lit are worthwhile), particularly Canadian literature, to the point that I don’t even check those lists anymore. While the reviews in Goodreads need to be taken with a pound or two of salt, I do make use of the site to find similar authors to those I already like. Another site that can be quite helpful in this regard is Fantastic Fiction, out of the UK – I use this site a lot for work, as it lists any author’s series in order of the timeline in the books (with the published date beside it, in case you want to read in published date order).
Kari’s link to the online Soil and Health library is a gold mine of classics. I’m currently reading Henderson’s “Farmer’s Progress” from there: http://www.soilandhealth.org/
Blogs: I fool around on a couple of these sites occasionally, and you may find something that interests you too:
The problem with lists like these is that they get out of date fairly quickly – I don’t think the Seametrics ones have been updated in a couple of years for example, so some links are dead. That’s the price you pay for free stuff.
Random stuff I’m in the midst of exploring that you might like:
http://www.theruminant.ca/ This is blog posts, videos and podcasts, pretty mixed topics
https://www.youtube.com/user/cornellsmallfarms This is obviously all videos, but it’s of different small enterprises and some are quite interesting.
And in return, any podcasts to suggest?
We watched all the Kingbird farm videos a few years back from that Cornell Youtube link.
Podcasts you ask? The Permaculture Voices Podcast has been pretty solid. The most recent two episodes are the audio of a presentation from a man who worked with Sepp Holzer. Good stuff.
Otherwise, I’m in a bit of a podcast rut.
I eventually came round to Permaculture Voices a while ago, and I’m caught up EXCEPT for the last two episodes.
I’m about a third of the way into Farmer’s Progress, so you’ll probably see a flurry of hits on your chapter reviews of it as I go through to see what was said back then. There are so many pithy quotes in almost every paragraph, I keep stopping to just digest for a minute before ploughing on.
William Cobbett – Cottage Economy. 19th century, absolutely delightful, opinionated, practical book about how the average farm labourer could live much prosperously if he just practiced more self sufficiency and left off all the drinking of tea, which Cobbett abhored. I got it through ILLO a year or two ago, you can probably do the same, or the epub version at Gutenburg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/32863
That looks like a good suggestion. I put it on my phone.