So there I was…right in the middle of reading Henderson’s book “The Farming Manual”…and then…nothing.
Nothing for weeks.
What happens next? Henderson tells us all about humane animal handling and teaches me a few things I was able to put to immediate use. But that’s for another time.
And it’s not that I haven’t written anything. Oh, I have written. I have posts about why it is not economical for me to fill the hog floor, posts about cows that came up open and what it means to our herd, posts about books, posts about my daughter. I have written. But I have not finished a single one of them.
And why? We were (maybe are) in a season of rest.
Our days are largely the same. We make four trips daily to the chickens out in the pasture. We see the sun rise at the chicken house, we see the sun set at the chicken house. In between we feed, water and collect eggs.
Chickens follow the cows on the pasture, scratching through the manure, “spreading repugnancy zones” to quote Salatin. Look, I don’t know about repugnancy zones. Looks to me like the chickens spread out the piles to eat worms and maybe that’s good but maybe I need more worms. Maybe I don’t need chickens. Maybe I need longer recovery windows. I don’t know. I can clearly see that cows don’t eat near cow poop unless you starve them but…well, what is the relative value of living worms compared to decaying chicken manure? I don’t know.
So I write about what I don’t know. This should give me plenty to write about but…well, it is a little embarrassing. Worse when some major web site reposts something I wrote, making my ignorance available to a wider audience. But I want to know. I want to understand. I don’t want to just do what grandpa did.
But what else is there to say about cows? They move every day. When the grass grows quickly, the cows move quickly. Right now (3/12/16) the pastures are greening up. Half of my farm is still stockpiled from last fall. We are accelerating our grazing pattern and it won’t be long before we begin to cover the whole farm every two weeks. But right now we are holding back, protecting our tender, emerging grass as the season changes.
Is there a blog post in that? Sure. But…I feel like I have already written it.
So what would I write about instead of another post on the consistency of cow poop? I could write about all of the things we are not doing this season and why we are not doing them.
We do not have broilers this spring. Our daughter’s treatment schedule would not allow us the opportunity. But in a normal year we would have broilers on pasture already. I would be waking up on a frosty morning like this, preparing to move chicken tractors, hoping they didn’t all pile up and kill each other overnight in the cold shelter. Praying that a skunk didn’t help himself to a buffet overnight. Usually we are pleasantly surprised that the birds are warm, safe and dry in the chicken tractor. But this year without the birds, everything seems kind of empty. No drive to Iowa in a blizzard. No brooder maintenance in freezing weather. We are not marketing birds to be processed on April 23rd. Nothing.
I raised 5 pigs over the winter on the hog floor, mostly as an experiment. Could I raise them in a way that satisfied their needs to dig and forage on a concrete slab? Could I raise them there in a way that satisfied my needs to pay taxes and buy shoes? I may answer that question in a detailed blog post later but the short answer is this: The pigs are all leaving the farm on Tuesday. I doubt I will have pigs again until August at the earliest.
Where is the encouragement telling those starting out that they, too, can succeed? Has it run out? Not really. I mean, you can do it. It is possible. But I am no shining example of success. We sell all of our eggs but $5 eggs are no way to make a farm payment. It’s just something to do. An excuse to walk out to see the sun rise in the morning. Something to do while holding hands with my bride, watching the sunset in the evening.
Our daughter’s illness has been a major distraction from everything else in my life. I feel that my job performance has suffered. I am not blogging. The farm has been pared back to very, very little. Even my reading has slowed down considerably.
So that’s where I am. Away for a season. Away to evaluate what is important to our family. Writing blog posts, like raising pigs, does not pay taxes or buy shoes. But I feel that it is important that I leave this as some sort of legacy for my children’s children. A way for them to pick my brain. I really don’t know anything about my great grandpa Jordan. His name was Arthur. That’s about it. So what about my great grand-children?
“Who was great grandpa Jordan?” they may ask. “Did he have insecurities? Did he struggle or was everything easy for him?” Yes, I have insecurities. Yes, I struggle. I drive away from farm and family every day to pay taxes and buy shoes. I come home to clean and pack eggs, plan out grazing, work on the well pump, carry hay, scoop manure, fold laundry and wash dishes. Each day is largely the same as the one before. But that doesn’t mean we are bored…or that we are boring. But we are busy. But busy and productive are not the same.
I would want my children to know that I am not always productive. I am not always successful. I sometimes struggle. Some mornings I have a hard time getting out of bed. Some evenings I am asleep at 8:30. Sometimes I drag a book out over a few weeks. Some seasons are for rest. But then the season changes.
Seasons change. And our season is changing.