I don’t feel good today and I am battling through some sinus infection, sore ears and just a general overall feeling of blah. Being sick gets me thinking though about 40-hour per week jobs, calling in sick and being able to lay in bed all day. Something that farmers don’t have the luxury of doing. Who should I call when I don’t feel like braving the elements with a pounding head, ringing ears and snot running out of my nose? I don’t think the calves, cows or chickens are going to care. They want their food!
Living the farm life isn’t for everyone. We farm through broken ribs, flu season, broken toes, dislocated bones and everything in between. I’ve cared for animals in casts and splints. I’ve cared for animals through pounding heads and aching backs. Farmers who deal with livestock are care givers. When you get sick, you still have kids who need caring for or a dog that needs to go for a walk…it’s really not that much different for us. It would be much more convenient if the cattle were in the house so I wouldn’t have so far to go…but it doesn’t work that way.
Being a farmer takes grit. I’m sure you’ve heard that before but it’s true. We have to push ourselves to work through an illness or injury to get the job done. We don’t get sick days, we don’t get days off. It doesn’t matter, 365 days a year you will find me in the barn caring for calves and feeding the animals.
I’ve learned a lot about pushing myself to get the job done since I have been diagnosed with MS. You need to push but not overdue things. Even if a chore takes you ten times long than it normally would, do it anyway. When it gets done, you can sit down with satisfaction knowing that you accomplished the job. Besides, if your dealing with livestock they will find a way to make you smile.
Now, since it’s raining outside and more extreme cold weather is coming…I think I’ll tackle some paperwork and housework! Wish me luck in finalizing my plans for 2014 and getting my entire life better organized!
So much has been going on that I’m not really sure even where to begin. A year or so again, everything that has been happening was just a dream. A pipe dream of wishes written out on a scrap piece of paper and internet page links stored in favorites full of useful information. Twitter conversations about plants, seasons, materials and lots of questions were happening then too.
I have made so many great friends in the past two to three years of my life. Some of which I haven’t met YET but share the same kindred spirits. This is a group of people who have inspired, encouraged and guided. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there that can attest to the power of the internet, in good ways and bad. What I’m discussing today is the power of knowledge, prayer and positive thinking.
As many of you that read this blog know, I’ve had some big transitions in mind for the farm I live on. Earlier this year, I thought those dreams were shattered. I’m not going into gory details but I will tell you that the whole ordeal took it’s emotional, financial and health tolls on me. It wasn’t the worst situation I had ever been through but I will admit that it ranks right up there in the top 5 fearful months of my life.
I opened up to a few of my friends about concerns I had. I talked to advisors about what to do about myself in the role I was holding to in a death grasp. It’s when I truly learned who to REALLY listen too and whose opinions to dismiss. I do have this word of advice….NEVER LET ANYONE DISCOURAGE YOU FROM LIVING THROUGH WITH A DREAM THAT YOU ARE SO PASSIONATE ABOUT THAT YOU WOULD NOT BE YOURSELF WITHOUT IT!
I had an advisor that told me that I wasn’t the one to make difficult decisions about the farm I have managed and that the animals are a business only. He proceeded to inform me that what I did do with the animals here didn’t have much worth in the “big” picture of things either. He never asked me about what type of protocols or plans I had set into place. All he seemed concerned about what my overall dollar value. It was rather insulting to tell you the truth. Okay, I admit that I am a pauper working toward a bigger dream. I struggle to pay my bills. I work hard and go without to work toward a bigger goal. But seriously, is that all I am viewed for? Nothing more than my “worth” on paper or my bank account? Well, to make a long story short, it was determined that my “real worth” was $675 a month. How about them apples?
I struggled for weeks with this new information. I doubted myself and what my long-term goals were. Then it suddenly hit me. I may only be worth $675 a month now but what about next month or even next year or better yet three years down the road? I started thinking about that kid going through college, building up debt, and working part-time at McDonald’s. I am at a stepping stone. The first step into a new life with a new future. Everything for the past three years has led me to here, worth zero when I started and look, I’ve increased my “worth” by what percentage rate? Just imagine how much I can change that worth in the next three years with proper planning, some of my awesome marketing skills, my photography and my networking!
I decided to take a risk and file an application to a Holistic Beginning Women’s Farm Management Program. I GOT ACCEPTED! Classes start in TWO WEEKS! Whoa, I’m doing what? Oh yeah, I’m not letting some or anyone for that matter tell me my SELF WORTH and I’m sure not letting anyone tell me to let go of what really makes me WHO I AM. You know that passion for nature, animals and the environment? You know that dedication and love I have for the cattle? Well, those are all something that God has given me that don’t have a dollar value! Just ask that rescued cow who lived another 5 years under my watchful eye and who know how it felt to be well cared for! Go ahead, look up into the sky and just ask yourself…is that something you could have done with tenderness and compassion when she first came here? Would you have taken the chance to get to know a scrawny cow who looked like she stood on the edge of starvation? In the end, that same cow you would have made into hamburger provided me with beautiful calves, LOTS of milk, butter and cheese but most of all, she provided a vision of what MY future may hold.
So again, I ask you to not let anyone judge you by what they see in paper or in bank accounts! Only you know what passions are held in your heart and soul. For me, it’s farming and photography combined. For you, it may not be. Look to people who are going to POSITIVELY encourage your own personal growth, NOT what society says it should be. Find what you love to do and NEVER let go of that internal drive that ultimately makes YOU happy!
After months of fighting my “worth” internally, I want to report that my “hobby farm” as this kind man put it, is now up to 21 cows, around 75 chickens and a handful of turkeys. I have 110 acres surrounded by beautiful high-tensile five strand fence. I have a full fledge water system for the fields going into the ground in the spring of 2014. I have increased our sales of meat products by 100%. We supplied chicken and beef for our first catering event this year. We have more and more people coming for visits. I am preordered on beef for next year. Demand is blooming for the rose veal. Contracts are in the works for some direct marketing for poultry. Eggs aren’t building up in the refrigerator. AND contracts are in the works to rotational graze additional animals for around $2200 per month until I can build my own herd. To say the least, my next worth has increased double since those fateful words back in June of this year! Just imagine what that worth will do next year as I am raising more chickens, selling more eggs, beef, rose veal, rabbits and pork.
Sometimes we all just need to take a step back and evaluate what our future is really “worth” to ourselves! I can’t even begin to tell you the changes that have happened since I told myself I’m worth more than just a bunch of numbers on a piece of paper. My passion has proven enough that maybe just maybe I can inspire another generation with the help and encouragement of someone like me. In the meantime, I’m going to keep on trudging….and getting better at this blogging thing. After all, I want to share all this new and exciting information I am going to learn!
For now, take a look at this picture.
I look forward to comments on speculation of what’s going on around the farm! This image holds a bunch of clues…can you figure it out?
Every year, during the time when the local kids have spring break…we start getting visitors. Friends and family members bring their youngsters out to play with the cattle, chickens and turkeys. This is always the time of year that reminds me of the biggest reasons why I raise, care and tend for animals the way I do.
Two days, two families. Smiles and laughter shared that no amount of money can buy.
Our first visitor that came this week was Sue and Ava. If you follow this blog on and off, you will know that Ava came out last year and the year before. Ava is a favorite, loyal visitor.
Last year, one of the calves kept trying to eat her hair. So this year…she was worried about her hair and kept telling them all “Please don’t eat my hair.” It is really amazing to watch kids with the animals though. This is what makes my job working with the cattle so important.
Not only with the kids…but with the adults it’s important too. You have no idea how many adults want to get “cow kisses”! It’s strange…but I get it. It’s that moment when you feel special with an animal. It’s that much greater because it’s a cow!
The following day after Ava came, we had new visitor for this year. A father (Pat) and his two sons (Logan and Connor). I didn’t know who was more excited when they pulled in…Dad or boys.
I haven’t seen smiles so big and so full of joy as when the calves started licking fingers and trying to get rubs on the head.
To those that don’t know me…this is the most important thing about what I do. Yes, I love raising our own beef, dairy and poultry. But, I LOVE sharing my passion for farm animals with KIDS! It’s an experience that I feel every kid should have.
There are really moments sometimes that almost bring a tear to my eye when I watch animals that are fearful of everything, nose up to a child. It’s one of those things for me.
To anyone in our area reading this…you are more than welcome to come visit, anytime. We love to have people stop by, young or old.
In the meantime, I will be out working (more like playing) with the cows…gotta get that next generation trained for cow kisses!
I thought life was crazy before! I have changed my mind. Currently, we have added in the woes of fence construction, new seeding, grazing management, frost seeding, and relocating temporary fences.
Let’s start with the temporary fence. A great deal of our fence areas are set in with step in posts and braided wire. I hasn’t been a problem until now. The issues that have come up now are long-haired animals (see photo below) just walking through the fence. Hair seems to NOT conduct the electricity within the energized wire. Needless to say, about two to six times a day…I am putting cattle back inside the fence or getting a phone call while I run errands because the cows are out.
It really doesn’t make much sense. As you can see, the grass is very low to the ground in that area. Inside the area fenced in, some of the grass under the laid over hay is several inches long. In this case, the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence!
Now let’s talk about this photo a little more. This is part of our pre-spring grazing management. We have an area fenced in that needed some “work”. The area gets very steep and doesn’t allow for any type of tractor work. So we are using the cattle to do the work for us. As you can see in the photo, the old forage growth within the paddock has provided a sort of blanket for the new grasses underneath to sprout and grow quicker than the worked up field areas that we grazed last fall.
The standing stalks of weeds will get eaten, trampled and the ground develops as the cattle hooves dig into the ground. We have already seen improvements…in 2 days! Take a look!
I will be posting follow-up photos with before, during and after shots. We are trying this as part of an experiment for land reclaiming. They are eating the briars and the weeds! Proof in these next two photos.
The next stage for us will be fencing in the 90 acres we will be using for rotational grazing this year and for many years to come. It’s a big job with over 14,500 linear feet of fencing, posts, wires, etc to have put up! Once it’s all completed we will have enough area to grazing 45 animals. To someone like me with an obsession with cattle…it means I can buy more cattle! (Reminder: I like to buy cattle like most women like to buy shoes!)
We also have 30 acres to get seeded for another grazing area too. Rich has been researching, reading and learning what types of grasses and legumes will be best suited for both the soil and the cattle. He thinks he has finally figured out which blend (a custom mix with lots of plant diversity) he wants to go with. In the meantime, we will be frost seeding clover on last years pastures to start building nitrogen in the ground. Did you know that clovers are nature’s way of providing nitrogen? I didn’t…but it’s very cool! No more synthetic fertilizer for nitrogen!!!
Saturday, we will be headed to a grazing seminar that will help us learn how to become more adapt at managing our grazing plan. I am super excited to go and I will make sure I take LOTS of pictures!
For now…it’s back to chasing cattle, taking more photos and reading more books! Thanks for stopping in to read about my adventures and sharing our little piece of Heaven!
Things have been kind of busy around here lately. Cheese making has become a high priority item lately. I think we have made about 10 lbs this week alone….
The animals are all doing well. Two of the Dexter’s have lost their mucus plugs this week…so within the next month or so we should have a couple of new calves floating around here! I am so excited. One of the Dexter’s has hit the extremely uncomfortable stage of her pregnancy. She is exhibiting that maternal instinct to remove herself from the herd and spends most of her time nosing the hay to create a “bed”.
My chickens are doing really well. I think the additional whey they are getting from the cheese making process is making them lay more eggs. I have been pulling on average about 35-36 eggs per day. That means I am running an overall group laying ratio of 80%. Of course if I deducted the 8 hens that are too old to lay….I would be at almost 100%!
Unbelievable, all of our eggs are being sold locally to a few neighbors but the majority are going to the Amish….Crazy huh? Who would have thought that? Not me. Not ever.
Our milk cow is producing milk like crazy. All three of the calves are still drinking milk, which is much longer than I normally would give them milk…but it’s cheap food for them. They are really growing well too. The bull calf that was born this last fall is going to stay on milk for most of his time here as we are attempting our first calf as rose veal.
It’s almost time for the turkeys to start laying their eggs too. The toms have starting battling for dominance already…just doesn’t seem possible that it’s that time of year already. Tonight I am going to tackle the ordeal of getting the saddles on the hens to prevent skin tearing when the toms breed them. They are handy little “capes” that go around the wings and protect them from the base of their neck to their tail. I hate putting them on but, it is better than allowing the tops to tear out their feathers and ripe through the hide on their backs.
We will be heading off to the NY Farm show tomorrow…so hopefully, Saturday I will be able to find some time to share the photos and highlights of the day. It also means that I have lots to do today to make up for the lost farm time tomorrow….need to get more hay in the barns, pick up feed and make sure that everyone is well stocked so that all we need to do in the morning is get up, do milking and feeding and then be able to get ready to head out the door…..
Phew….I am tired already just thinking about it! Anyways, time to make a run to the feed store so I can get my cheese started before it gets too late and I end up staying up half the night to finish it…..
I live in a farming community. On the rolling hills of what I call home, I can travel up to our back field and look across the valley. I can see hay and corn fields. I can see barns and silos in every direction.
I can’t even start listing off all of the active working farms within a 5 mile radius. Little farms like me with just one milk cow but a diversity of animals and big commercial dairies that have about 1500 milking head.
There are times, like during harvest season, that some of us will work together to get crops in but generally speaking we all keep to ourselves. That is, until someone needs help. Time and time again, I have seen this community pull together to help others. From one farm to another it may be helping get equipment pulled out of a muddy location or handling one or two milkings due to an injury.
We might have some new modern equipment but this area still reminds me of what communities were like when I was growing up. At harvest time, the families all pitch in together to get the job done. The wives cooked big meals to share with the crew. We worked from sun up til sun down. We all knew that no matter what the issue, help was just a phone call away.
I am proud to say I know that I have my neighbors support if I need it. Of course they have mine too, no matter what.
Things are just done differently out here in rural USA. We don’t expect to receive pay for the help we offer…mainly because someday you know you are going to need the assistance back. We don’t call tow trucks for break downs. We call the neighbor (usually a farmer). We plow out each others driveways when (and if) it snows. Sometimes the big dairy will come in with his big equipment when the snow is too deep.
That’s just how it seems to work around here. And I don’t think any of us would change that for the world.