Scarcity and abundance. This is what is on my mind these days. In a little over two months, I will go from a job that pays to one that doesn’t. I will move from having healthcare coverage to hoping for the best. No longer will I be making more money than I spend–I will be spending more than I make. Terrifying? What do you think?
In my heart I believe in abundance. But my brain–that part of me that has provided a good living for thirty years–begs to differ. So, here I stand on the precipice with the bungee cord tied to my ankle preparing myself for the jump and repeating again and again, I believe in abundance.
We finished the greenhouse today. And, we have a plan for the citrus that lives in the topless hothouse. Last winter the rain and wind demolished one end of the hothouse and our poor greenhouse has been topless since we put it here. But, forced into action by the forecast of a week of weather in the low twenties, we got plastic on the greenhouse and found our plan B for keeping the citrus alive one more year. We are feeling pretty happy with what passes for progress to us.
Can you feel it? Can you smell it? Fall is in the air. FINALLY, even though the air is still hot, there is something in the breeze…
I’m back at school and in air conditioning. I struggle to make mathematics relevant. I wrestle with everything else that wants a student’s attention. And then I come home to the farm, to the chickens and the cattle and living in the moment and John. Aaah, I can breathe again.
Dennis gave us a huge pumpkin that he had grown on his place. Ironic that it did for me what it did for Cinderella–transported me to a bright and shining place. Here’s the story.
If you live nearby, you may have noticed it has been HOT. Not only that, it has also been HUMID. Even sitting on the porch drinking ice tea and rocking in a chair is hot and sweaty work.
This past week in this heat and humidity we have been prepping the land for the coming growth spurt. Now is the time when the citrus, blueberries, and blackberries put on their greenery–the greenery that will hold blossoms in the spring. Therefore, it is important to decrease their competition for nutrients and water. So, we have been busy cutting and pulling weeds. While it feels good to see the plants smile, in this heat the work is taxing. Since we are not using chemicals, all of this work must be done one plant at a time by hand so we have been at it for a while.
Then, like magic, Dennis gave me the pumpkin. Suddenly, I had an excuse to stay in the house. I had a reason to take a break and let me body rest. Best of all, I got this rest guilt-free because I had to work on that pumpkin. It took four hours to cook, strain, and process that pumpkin. I ended up with 40 cups of pumpkin, seeds saved for next year, slop for the chickens, and pumpkin soup for dinner. (Did I mention that it was HUGE?!) Today, the bounty (and the break) continues. After morning chores, my mom made pumpkin pie and I made pumpkin bread.
Because of the welcome break from working in the hot fields, I can see again the beauty that surrounds us, the joy of living close to the earth, the immediacy of the rewards for the work we do. I am Cinderella at the ball.
It’s July already! Where has the summer gone. It’s been a busy, productive season. This summer we added a rear porch/mud room, turned a shed into an office, made an “eggmobile”, painted the roofs of several sheds, put in a garden, raised 26 chicks, reinforced fences, planted a row of blackberries, and maintained our blackberries, blueberries, and fruit trees. We’ve been much luckier this year with rain but of course that means we have also spent more time mowing and weeding.
It’s interesting to me that part of me looks at amazement at what we have accomplished in this heat and humidity but there is also a part that looks at all the things we have yet to accomplish. Daily we remind ourselves to stop and smell the roses along with the manure. We sometimes struggle to remember that we have chosen this way of life.
The other struggle I personally have had is the daily reminder of how little we in this country value the work of farmers. In this country, we have long been blessed with cheap food. The cost of eggs is virtually unchanged in the last 50 years while minimum wage is over 8 times what it was then. (http://www2.census.gov/prod2/statcomp/documents/CT1970p1-06.pdf Go to page 31.)
This really hit me the last time I went to yoga class where it took two dozen eggs, 4 cups of blueberries, two watermelons, and two dollars to pay for my one yoga class. Since I know how many hours of work all that food represents, to say nothing of the cost of supplies, feed, etc, it is tough not to resent the difference in how we value things. Don’t get me wrong–I’m well aware that teaching yoga involves the cost of training, continuing development, travel, and facilities costs. It is simply that this is one the many examples of how we undervalue farmers.
Sad news. Buffalo girl had a beautiful little boy calf. Unfortunately, in the process of saving if from ole thunderfoot (Sukie) who came running across the field to see what she had, Buffalo girl stepped on her calf and killed it. So quickly, life seeped out and was gone.
As I was weeding the blackberries, I was contemplating the state of our farm. First up, the bug situation. This past week, our neighbor to the south put chicken manure on his fields which unleashed a tsunami of bugs since the piles of litter retrieved from chicken houses are bug breeding grounds. Our poor little cows were already being attacked but this simply overwhelmed them.
What we had hoped was that we were getting a handle on the bug situation by letting nature reach equilibrium. The cattle were beginning to understand that the cowbirds were there to eat the bugs and were learning to let the birds land on their backs or walk along side. The chickens were beginning to dig through the cow patties for insect larva–interrupting the life cycle of the bugs. When the dragonflies visited in the evening, nearly every gnat was devoured.
And then came the neighbors chicken litter so now we wait, again, for the balance of nature. Balance; somedays it’s easy and some days not. We had to seek balance with the blackberries. Last year my mom and I went on a campaign to remove the maidencane from the blackberry patch. This involved bending down on our knees and patiently digging out each of the bamboo-like underground tendrils that had woven in among the blackberry roots. Three months later, the blackberries still hadn’t recovered but the maidencane looked happier than ever as it reinvaded the disturbed beds. This year, I pulled some and mowed the rest. The blackberries, though still having to compete, seem happier. Balance.
The thing about farming is that there is ALWAYS something that needs to be done NOW. Because of this, the house and yard are generally the last things that get attention. The growing things must come first. Today it was adding another strand of barbed wire to the fence between us and the Meltons because the fence was designed for 5 foot cattle, not 3-4 foot cattle. Today it was harrowing the earth so we could get the Tif9 seed in the ground since we FINALLY had rain. Today it was taking the chicks on a field trip so they could be exposed to grass and bugs–the diet we want them to have as adults. But I did get a batch of cookies and big pan of lasagna made. Balance.
Which leads to my second thought. We have become so conditioned by marketing campaigns that we seem to have little tolerance for houses and yards that are not the first priority. I often wish we had that beautiful little farmhouse with the lovely cottage garden that I see in my mind. I don’t envision bahia grass seed heads and a mobile home. I know I’m not alone. There is something almost suspect about food that is grown on such a farm. We know from the ad campaigns that the best farms have white clapboard farmhouses and picket fences–though of course the reality is cramped and unsanitary stockyards. Intellectually I understand that having a small footprint on the earth means living as we are now–700 square feet of recycled living and grass that is mowed only because I can’t stand it any longer. I understand but I struggle to balance that with the vision we have all been fed. I struggle to find my balance.
I can’t believe it has been MONTHS since I wrote anything!! Where does the time go?!
We have been VERY busy. We are trying to stay up with the weeds (pulled by hand), the caterpillars and other leaf-eaters (picked off by hand), the garden (started from seeds), and the new fence and building construction (done by us-with occasional help from Danny and Eric.) Farming sustainably is constant and continuous work.
But, it is also great fun! Yesterday was the birthday for this year’s first batch of chicks. We are the parents to this group but we have 3 broody hens and one Dexter cow who will (hopefully) be joining us soon. I love watching the chicks grow. Yesterday was all about sleeping. They could teach us all a thing or two about deep relaxation. Today, however, it is all about running. What fun!
Now Playing: FINALLY–the hothouse update.
Things have been hopping here at Lacefield farms.
First, I am finally ready to post pictures and video (thanks Walter!) of the hothouse raising–just in time to tell you the sad story of our hothouse experience.
Second, we will get our cows on Friday–YEAH!! But, I will wait to tell more about that after Friday when we have pics.
Third, the chickens are popping out eggs, we are on track for pastured poultry in April, we’re getting enough rain, the greens did well this year, the potatoes are in, the fields have been limed, the blackberries, apples, and pears are almost weeded, trimmed, pruned, and the corral is ready for the cows (but needs a name. OK? )
Now for the hothouse update: The day we pulled the plastic was a happy (though VERY cold) day with a real sense of accomplishment. The sad news is that the fierce rain we had in February collected in a lose spot in the plastic. The weight busted 4 supports and pulled in the end of the greenhouse. We are now working on plan B.
This entry is dedicated to Maddie who actually reads our blog.
It has been a tough winter so far. The citrus and pineapples have taken a hard hit but seem to be surviving. According to IFAS, it’s been the longest extended cold period in north Flordia for 200 years. We will upload pictures of the hot house and tell more about that in our next entry.
We have finished the corral and loading dock. We hope to have our heifers this spring. Moo. In March, we hope to begin with the pastured poultry. We need to get some seeds started soon and prepare the ground for the potatoes. There’s a lot to do and a lot more to learn but we are still having fun.