Category Archives: Books

The Book of Life

The past is nothing more than pages written in our book of life. The future is still unwritten (I think those are lyrics to a song). As the pages develop, chapters start and end. Each new page contains another memory.

Barrows Farm has a big, thick book already. To tell the tale will take some time but, eventually I hope to put it all together. There are stories like the family history within the deed. A deed that contains pages dated all the way back to 1850. A deed that contains information on parcels that go all the way back to the Boston Ten Townships purchase. 165 years of heritage contained within those papers, written and documented history of Barrows Farm.

In more recent years, there are stories about farm owners and livestock that bring a smile and shared laughter among the family, tales of buggy rides to Syracuse and how a young man worked with his Grandfather and eventually took over on the farm.

Not all the memories are happy ones. There are tales of government buyouts and the end of a dairy here. There are tales of barn and house fires. Many things have changed over the years, mainly with the last owners occupation. It’s hard to express the hardships that have been endured. Granted, I haven’t been here for the majority of them.

I’ve lived here for ten years and I love this place as much as this family does. Someday, I really hope to be able to have the time to sit with Rich’s parents to document some of the history. Even if it’s only ever to just put together to share with the family for future generations. I think it’s something important to be passed down throughout the years, from generation to the next.

As I sit here with this thought rolling in my head, I’m also saddened that it won’t be passed down to the next owner within the family. After so much that has gone on here since 2008, I’m devastated. I can’t even imagine the thoughts rolling in Rich’s head. Having been on or around the farm his entire life, it has to yank a piece of his heart out to make decisions like selling. Eventually though, when push comes to shove, self preservation takes over.

I’ve talked with others about concerns over farmers committing suicide because of these types of decisions, lack of funds and severe depression. In my way, I’m trying to explain how hard it is to lose a piece of yourself at times like this. Farmers who have worked the land, watched it grow and change have an affinity for the property that is unparalleled. They put their heart and soul into every piece of hay, every head of livestock, every grain of soil and every drop of water. Farmers love their farms like parents love their children.

To farmers, our farm is our legacy. It’s our book of life that we have written the pages for. Failures or success, risks and rewards, it’s all in there. Our pages might not be written over the years on paper, but they are written on our hearts, our souls and within each detail we find on the farm. It doesn’t make a difference what kind of farm it is, how big or how small. It’s just the way it is for farmers.

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Winter Blues

They say the life of a farmer slows down in winter. I beg to differ. Winter time is usually the time we catch up on reading, sit through forage classes and plan out for the coming year. This year isn’t much different for me other than I am reading more on Holistic Land Management and taking some additional business and financial planning classes online. The extra course work, which takes a couple hours per week per class, really isn’t that much but it still takes time.

I have some other classes that I am taking too. Ones on the food system in the US and another on human nutrition. Why am I taking these classes you ask? Looking at from my perspective, I feel as a farmer who works extensively with consumers about food production, it’s my job to be as informed as possible about how food impacts choices when it comes to how you eat. It’s also important for me to know and be able to express how food moves and travels because you never know someday we might be selling our goods all across the US. As for the business and financial planning classes, no matter how you want to look at farming or agriculture in general…it’s still a business where we need to make sure that we are planning and spending funds appropriately but also ensuring that we are making enough money to stay afloat too.

Farming doesn’t have the profitability of many other jobs but it is rewarding in other ways. That’s one reason why it’s important to look at management from a Holistic standpoint since those methods also take a look at lifestyle too.

On top of classes, I am still doing all of the same stuff…dealing with frozen water, cold stress in cattle, feeding hay bales, changing bedding, filling water jugs several times a day, gathering eggs, feeding chickens, caring for calves, keeping the fires going, cooking the old style home cooked meals and still trying to keep up with laundry, dishes and housework.

Life doesn’t slow down for much on the farm. Sometimes we are forced to take breaks from the daily routine due to illness (and believe me, I have to be SUPER ill to keep me away from the barn) but it isn’t often. Even if we aren’t doing the manual labor involved for the farm, there are still other things we do. Research, reading and formulating crop charts, rotational grazing map or looking through seed catalogs…there is always something that can be done.

I have been down and out for a couple of days with one of those illnesses that prevents me from standing too much…but I still didn’t miss the birth of the first calf of 2013. I even managed to capture a video!

I didn’t get to stay out there too long and I am thankful for a cow that is awesome about birthing. I missed the first steps and the first suckle, which happen to be some of my favorite moments on the farm. It’s rather depressing to miss such moments too but, sometimes we have to take care of our own health first or we won’t be any good for anything at all for a very long time, if ever again. So for now, I will deal with my winter blues the best way I know how…learning, researching and communicating via books and the internet. I have to say, I have had some awesome conversations over the phone too about our grazing plans, the success we have had and why I think it’s important for others to consider rotational grazing. Being down isn’t all bad…it just takes some adapting.

I will write more soon about extreme animal care and welfare. I want to give some details about how we cope with winter months when temperatures hover around ZERO with freezing cold wind chill factors, what we do to ensure animal safety during winter, and how grazing has also been incorporated during the winter months. I may have to write up a series of articles but, I think it’s important that people see just how much care and planning goes into animal care during extreme weather.

Hope you are all staying warm…and I will leave you with a photo to contemplate for the next blog! Have a blessed day!

Here is Abel...warm, relaxed and sound asleep. What's "off" about this photo?
Here is Abel…warm, relaxed and sound asleep. What’s “off” about this photo?

Lincoln-Part One

I have been doing a bunch of reading on a person who is a true hero and inspiration to me. Abraham Lincoln was not just a great American President. He was a man who had pulled himself up by his “boot straps” to make a better life for himself.

Abraham Lincoln was born and reared in a log cabin, like many other familiar figures in American history; but you will search in vain for one whose origin and early life equalled Abraham Lincoln’s in wretchedness. Born in Kentucky on a farm consisting of a few barren acres, his father a typical “poor southern white.” His father was shiftless and without ambition for himself or his children, constantly looking for a piece of land on which he might make a living without much work. His mother, in her youth she was beautiful and bright. She aged prematurely in features and became bitter by daily toil and care. The whole household cheerless and utterly void of elevating inspirations. Only when the family had “moved” into the backwoods of Indiana, his mother had died, and a stepmother, a woman of thrift and energy had taken charge of the children, did the shaggy, ragged, barefooted, forlorn boy of seven, “began to feel like a human being.” Hard work was his early lot. When a mere boy, he had to help in supporting the family, either on his father’s clearing or hired out to other farmers to plough, dig ditches, chop wood, or drive oxen teams. Sometimes he also “tended the baby,” when the farmer’s wife was otherwise engaged. He could regard it as an advancement to a higher sphere of activity when he obtained work in a “crossroads store,” where he amused the customers by his talk over the counter. He then soon distinguished himself among the folks as one who had something to say worth listening to. To win that distinction, he had to draw mainly upon his wits. While his thirst for knowledge was great, his opportunities to satisfying that thirst were slim.

At the age of 23, he fought in the Black Hawk War and was named captain of the volunteer crew. His most notable accomplishment during the war was not in killing an Indian, but in protecting against his own men, at the peril of his own life, the life of an old savage who had strayed into his camp. After the war, he turned to politics. He ran for a Legislative set. His popularity in New Salem, had not spread far enough over the district, was not great enough and he was defeated. Then the wretched hand-to-mouth struggle began again. He set up a store-business with a dissolute partner, who drank whiskey while Lincoln was reading books. The result was a disastrous failure and a load of debt. He then became a deputy surveyor, and was appointed postmaster of New Salem. The business of the post-office being so small that he could carry the incoming and outgoing mail in his hat. All this could not lift him from poverty, and his surveying instruments, along with his horse and saddle were sold by the sheriff for debt.

He used to walk miles to borrow books from a school master until a lawyer mailed him a copy of Blackstone, which was the only law book at the time. People would look wonderingly at the grotesque figure lying in the grass, with his feet up a tree or sitting on a fence absorbed in a book. He learned to construct correct sentences and made himself a jurist. At once he gained a little practice, paying attention to miniscual details before a justice of the peace for friends, without expecting a fee. Judicial functions were thrust upon him, but only at horse-races or wrestling matches where his acknowledged honesty and fairness gave his verdicts undisputed authority. His popularity grew quickly and soon he was a candidate for the Legislature again. Although he called himself a Whig, an ardent admirer of Henry Clay, his clever stump speeches won him the election in the strongly Democratic district. Then, for the first time perhaps, he thought seriously of his outward appearance. He had been content with a garb of “Kentucky jeans,” not usually ragged, but patched, and always shabby. Now, he borrowed money from a friend to buy a new suit of clothes–store clothes fit for a Sangamon County statesman. Dressed like this he set out for the state capital, Vandalia, to take his seat among the lawmakers. His legislative career, which stretched over several sessions–for he was re-elected three times, in 1836, 1838, and 1840–was not remarkably brilliant. He did not lack ambition. He dreamed even of making himself “the De Witt Clinton of Illinois,” and he actually distinguished himself by zealous and effective work in log-rolling operations by which the young State received a general system of internal improvements in the shape of railroads, canals, and banks,–a reckless policy that burdened the State with debt and produced the usual crop of political demoralization. One thing, however, he did in which his true nature showed itself, and which gave promise of the future pursuit, against an overwhelming numbers in the Legislature and followed by only one other member, he recorded his protest against a proslavery resolution. That protest declaring “the institution of slavery to be founded on both injustice and bad policy.” This was not only the irrepressible voice of his conscience. It was true moral valor, for at that timein many parts of the West, an abolitionist was regarded as little better than a horse-thief, and even “Abe Lincoln” would hardly have been forgiven his antislavery principles, had he not been known as such an “uncommon good fellow.” But here, in obedience to the great conviction of his life, he manifested his courage to stand alone, that courage which is the first requisite of leadership in a great cause.

His reputation and influence as a politician grew his law practice, especially after he associated himself with another lawyer of good standing. He became a successful lawyer, less by his learning as a jurist than by his effectiveness as an advocate and by the striking uprightness of his character and it may truly be said that his vivid sense of truth and justice had much to do with his effectiveness as an advocate. He would refuse to act as the attorney even of personal friends when he saw the right on the other side. He would abandon cases, even during trial, when the testimony convinced him that his client was in the wrong. He would dissuade those who sought his service from pursuing an obtainable advantage when their claims seemed to him unfair. Presenting his very first case in the United States Circuit Court, the only question being one of authority, he declared that, upon careful examination, he found all the authorities on the other side and none on his. Persons accused of crime, when he thought them guilty, he would not defend at all, or attempting their defence he was unable to put forth his powers. One notable exception is on record, when his personal sympathies had been strongly aroused. But when he felt himself to be the protector of innocence, the defender of justice, or the prosecutor of wrong, he frequently disclosed such unexpected resources of reasoning, such depth of feeling, and rose to such fervor of appeal as to astonish and overwhelm his hearers. Even an ordinary law argument, coming from him, seldom failed to produce the impression that he was profoundly convinced of the soundness of his position. It is not surprising that the mere appearance of so conscientious an attorney in any case should have carried, not only to juries, but even to judges almost an act of right on his side, and that the people began to call him, sincerely meaning it, “honest Abe Lincoln.”

But, even with all of his success and steadily gaining respect, Lincoln still found himself thrown into the depths of depression. During his rise to fame he had private sorrows and trials of a painfully afflicting nature. He had loved and been loved by a girl, Ann Rutledge, who died in the flower of her youth and beauty, and he mourned her loss with such intensity of grief that his friends feared for his life. Recovering from his depression, he bestowed new affection upon another lady, who refused him. And finally, having prospects of political distinction before him, he paid his addresses to Mary Todd of Kentucky, and was accepted. But tormenting doubts of the genuineness of his own affection for her, of the compatibility of their characters, and of their future happiness came upon him. His distress was so great that he felt himself in danger of suicide, and feared to carry a pocket-knife with him. He gave mortal offence to his bride by not appearing on the appointed wedding day. Now the torturing consciousness of the wrong he had done her grew unendurable. He won back her affection, ended the agony by marrying her and became a faithful and patient husband and a good father. But it was no secret to those who knew the family well that his domestic life was full of trials. His wife was known for embarrassing fits. This only added more worry to his heart as time went on and his political gains added more for him to worry about.

All of these happenings in his life were prior to his election to office. Part Two will discuss more about his future struggles, internal and out.

My words of thought on these lessons learned from Honest Abe Lincoln:
No matter what type of environment you were born into, you can make a decision to treat people with honesty and respect.
Being born poor is no excuse to not learn about things that interest you.
That, no matter what status or station you hold, you should always be truthful to yourself and follow your heart.
Respect is earn, not freely given.
Hard work and dedication are important.
Honor your own beliefs in what is right and wrong.
Failure isn’t the end, it’s just guiding you to another turn in the path to follow your dream.
Don’t let your fear override your trust.

New Reading, Old Book

I have made a decision to read some older books, like Letters of a Woman Homesteader written by Elinor Pruitt Stewart. This book was published in May of 1914 from letters that a widow woman wrote to an old employer about her move with her two year old daughter to Wyoming with a well-to-do Scotch cattleman named Mr. Stewart. I have already read about six chapters, for free through my new kindle app for my phone, by the way.

Some of the things she says remind me a bunch of farm life around here today. Like when the haying needed to be done and she waited until Mr. Stewart went to town to hire help, she took off to the field and worked herself. I have to admit, I feel a kinship to her on some levels.  She talks too about being sixty miles from the rail station and the Forest Reserve of Utah (I am going to research and see if that is still a reserve) is about a half mile away. Her first letter is dated April 18, 1909. That letter talks about her trip from Denver to Wyoming…24 hours on the train and two days on the stage!

We take so many things for granted. Here we are just over a hundred years later and trains aren’t used much, other than in subways and stages are long forgotten…our stage now is our cars and trucks. It is still amazing for me to thing of all the changes that have happened over the last hundred or so years. I love reading all about history and the way of life from back then…I will update at some point on the overall result of the entire book.

Happy Farming! God Bless.