i had to take a week off from this space. things were spiraling and i couldn’t make heads or tails out of anything. without my own clarity, i just couldn’t imagine sharing. alas, a fine week has passed and now, here i am, a sunny sunday morning and i think i ‘ve got it. before i go any further i have to thank wholeheartedly my beloved fellow farmwives. it seems we were all in a similar cycle and they both did wonderfully putting words to the reality we were all experiencing. transitions are challenging. as a farmer the one from spring to summer is often the most unsettling: going from fast to faster.
i have a lot to care for. heck, we all have a lot to care for. such is life if we engage fully, correct? for me, at the center is my immediate and constantly hungry family. in the human world, one step outwards and we find the team of apprentices living here with us. another step outwards and you have the community of 75 families that thrive weekly with the food grown on this farm and delivered via our CSA. that is a lot of people involved in my daily rhythm.
then there are the animals. we have pigs, sheep, horses and a milk cow each requiring daily care. in the past weeks there have been so many voices begging and screaming (and snorting and mooing and baaaaing) for my attention, it became difficult for me to hear, for me to decipher, for me to act and prioritize. sheesh. this early morning as i walked the farm i realized things have settled. with a deep breath i now can tell the tales of all that unfolded here.
let us start down at the pig pen where we have two bred gilts. one morning not long ago i awoke to the delightful squeel that 6 piglets had been born sometime during the night. alas, without a sense of when the birthing began, the fact that our new mama hadn’t yet passed her afterbirth alerted me. with close attention that long morning, we soon discovered she was fine, the afterbirth passed and all was well. a quick scurry and the pig pen was changed to house the new family group and settle our second pregnant gilt into her own safe nest to birth (likely this week, she is now showing signs of imminent labor).
the pasture is where much of the drama played out. we had a lethargic lamb for a few days. with no outward signs of illness, we helped her to water and were done. time passed with no improvement, the questioning from the crew of farm apprentices began. “what are you going to do?” you see, there are so many factors we take into account with livestock issues. there is the financial reality, the overall herd health, and the obvious constraints of 24 hours in each day. we derive 100% of our income from this farm. if an intervention is not financially feasible, or would require more of our time than we can reasonably allocate, we have learned not to take it on. lambs can fall into this category. we assume a certain loss with each lambing season. there are just times when we can not afford to intervene. these are lessons learned hard from years of living this life. these are moments when a young farmer or farm apprentice might not understand the bigger picture. our crew had just swelled to 4. i quickly decided to turn their questioning into a wonderful learning opportunity. i called the vet, i did my research and we went for a low key but time intensive series of interventions. i offered one of our long term apprentices the opportunity to do this chore in her free time. she gladly accepted and i hoped in conclusion, she might more fully understand how we make livestock decisions. there is no doubt in my mind she learned the implications of these hard choices. i am proud and happy to say the lamb is doing well and our mentor apprentice relationship has been seriously enhanced from these conversations and the extra time our apprentice put in to nurse the animal back to health. things are calm in the pastures.
of course around this time one of our horses appeared to be limping. before i go any further, you should be informed i know nothing about the horses. i don’t ride, i don’t manage their pastures, i am not the horse whisperer. i brush them and enjoy their beauty, but equine problem solving, for that i am not equipped. alas, all problems find their way to mama regardless of my expertise, so with observation and research we discovered he had a snake bite. the site along with the entire leg had swelled. we quickly stabled him and assessed the situation. phone calls, research and a bit of time luckily settled this matter. phew.
it is time for our milk cow to be bred to our neighbor’s bull. with only one dairy animal on the farm, breeding is a bit of a harangue. we have to trailer her up the road, when she is up there we need to drive each morning to milk her. dairy cows come into heat once every 21 days and with no other cows or bulls on the farm, catching her cycle can be a lesson in observation. each morning at milking time, my son and i contemplate the signs, watch for shifts in her behavior and milk supply and ready ourselves to get her on a borrowed trailer up the hill in the most timely fashion. accuracy can make this smooth or not so smooth with all of these factors. needless to say, this is putting a slight added pressure on the otherwise peaceful daily ritual of milking.
as the days have passed, time and attention have put everything back in it’s place, i have the gift of perspective that i hope to share. the chaos settles. the season shifts, we find our pace and settle in no matter the disturbance. i feel great now. one full month of CSA deliveries have passed and the friday harvest saturday delivery routine is smooth. the grass grows and the livestock are healthy. the gardens shine with the promise of summer’s bounty. it is my most sincere wish that you all weather the storms you face as life’s pace quickens or slows, as the seasons shift, as you and your loved ones move from may to june. sensitivity to life isn’t always easy. the pain of knowing and engaging can be real, but i know i would never want to live another way. friends, cut yourself some slack if you need to. clarity isn’t always available, we can not do it all. some days, we can’t do anything! i hope you can all start this week and this month with the knowledge that the dust does always settle. now to find the time to clean that dust…..