All posts tagged farming

A New Kind of Soup

“So Brian, what does your grandfather do again?”

Brian is a young man who helps around the farm who actually knows something about farming. “He takes the chicken poop, puts it in a feed bag in a 55-gallon drum, and adds water. Then, he takes a stick and stirs it around. He’s been doing that for years and it really makes the plants grow!” (Imagine this conversation with absolutely no expression on his 20-year-old face and a real southern drawl.)

“Okay, I want some chicken poop soup. Will you help me make it?”

I thought I’d stepped out of my comfort zone when I processed one of our hens who’d been played with to death by our livestock guardian dogs and made chicken pie. (It was NOT good, by the way–never eat a chicken after it’s been played with by big white dogs for an hour. Lesson learned.) But chicken poop soup…who knew?

I am famous for taking almost anything from my refrigerator and making something palatable for dinner. My kids often said I should host a TV show called, “Clean Out the Refrigerator Cooking.” (I am willing dear television producer.) But chicken poop soup is way off their radar, too.

We decided on a gray garbage can. “Where do you want me to put it?” Brian asked.

“Good question.” Where does one keep such a concoction. “Put it near the driveway but not too near the house.”

Brian mixed it up. I gawked as he filled the white feed sack with North Carolina Gold. Then he added water. Next he swished it up and down in the can and poked a stick in the bag several times. Brown liquid seeped out of the sack.

What can I say, but I was impressed. Impressed Brian knew about the soup. Amazed at his resourcefulness. Touched by the knowledge handed down from one generation to the next.

I’ve learned a lot from the people around me. I’ve learned that a bush hog is not a pig in the woods, I’ve learned not to lift your hand at a poultry auction to scratch your face, and that it’s okay to hold up the line in the store a bit to find out how a person really is doing.

I’d like to think I could teach them a few things. Like ordering at Starbucks. Or wearing your sandals all the way to the sand at the beach in August if you want to avoid 3rd degree burns, or cutting across 8 lanes of traffic to pull into your favorite restaurant.

Those things are good to know, too.

But for now, my soup is stewing. I just don’t know how to get it out of the can.

 

 

A Tail of Two Puppies

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

The asparagus popped and so did the bugs. We built a pond for irrigation and it leaked. Farmers markets began and we were behind the eight ball–again.

Tom and I drove home separately from our first market of the season. We’d made a little money and practiced setting up our booth so we considered the day a success. Tom texted me this message:

I’m on the way to the vet. Found a puppy. You’ll be impressed.

I met him at the vet. Cuddled in his lap lay a tiny brown and black bundle with a pushed in nose. “He ran across the road in front of me. I got out of my car and he came right to me. You see his back paw, it’s mangled. Looks like it was wrapped in barbed wire.”

My sweet husband held the puppy securely as we waited for the vet.

After we’d spent over half the money we’d made at the market, we took him home to the farm and our Cracker-Barrel-Sized front porch. It’d been a few years since adopting a puppy and we hadn’t made any preparations, so through the first few days of howling, crying, and general mayhem among our other animals we got almost no sleep.

“What shall we name him?”

We decided on Barnabas. He’s a character in the Bible whose name means Son of Encouragement.

That was a step of faith.

Within a few days we heard another howling in our yard. A second puppy moved onto our porch. We named him Cooper.

Puppies are almost the best thing on God’s green earth. Tails wagged each time we came to the house or visited the porch. The terrible two terrorized our three rescued cats and annoyed our standard poodle, Sam.

After a hard days work, Tom and I would lie on our backs in the front yard and let the puppies lick our heads and jump on our chests. it was by far the favorite part of our day.

Since we’d made no money in a very long time, we tried not to spend much money on them. But puppies needs collars and medicines and shots. We kept them in a pen on the front porch, but as time went on, we’d let them run in the yard as we worked. One day the dogs disappeared. After frantically calling and searching for hours, all three of them ran up from the pasture in front of our house.

It looked like a scene from Homeward Bound–Sam leading the way with Cooper nipping at his heels. Barnabas limped behind, barely keeping up, all three wagging their tails with smiles on their muzzles.

There were several of those days where one minute all dogs were accounted for and the next minute they were gone. We spent half of our time farming and half of our time running after dogs and half our time caring for my mom. (I know there are too many halves–you get my gist.)

I’d planned a weekend trip at the end of May with my daughter. Sure, I’d miss my family, but most of all I knew I’d miss those puppies. A few days into my trip Tom called.

“Cooper is sick. He can’t hold anything down. I don’t know what to do.” Tom tried feeding him rice and water from a dropper.

A holiday weekend, we didn’t even know if we could get our vet and we knew we couldn’t afford one. I tried to call, but another vet in a different city was on call and we didn’t know him.

Cooper died. Tom buried him in our yard wearing his bright red collar. The deed was done before I arrived home.

Sadness fell on our farm. But somehow Barnabas still made us smile. Often, he’d hide under the porch–refusing to come when called. Eventually, he’d obey. And as he loped onto the porch and into our lives, we developed a warm spot in our hearts just for him.

Barnabas continued to grow and fill out. He got to almost 30 pounds and began to look like a shepherd. He chased Sam and chewed on our cat, Brie.  (Who by the way likes it…) Often, we’d take Sam over to our other field where our chickens, pigs, and livestock guardian dogs Molly and Lacey lived. We decided to let Barnabas ride along, too. Letting them loose with our “girls” Molly and Lacey was the highlight of their little doggy lives.

One day, as we drove along our dirt road on the way to feed the livestock and visit the “girls,” we heard yelping. Barnabas decided to jump out of the truck and we ran over his legs. Gently, Tom picked him up and cradled him in his lap as we drove to the vet for an emergency visit.

“The back leg is broken, and this front paw may have permanent nerve damage. He’ll need to stay here for the night and we’ll get a good look at it in the morning.”

We drove home in silence. That night, the lack of whining and general porch mayhem kept us both awake.

The next day we picked up our puppy. One back paw mangled by barbed wire, one in a cast. His front paw wouldn’t work. He had only one working front leg. Each time we looked at him, our heart hurt.

The vet encouraged us to keep him quiet, so we confined him and administered medications and watched and waited.

An amazing thing has happened. Barnabas is adjusting. He’s running and smiling and chewing on Sam’s ear and Brie’s neck.

And he’s wagging his very big tail.

He’s gonna make it. And he’s happy about it.

So are we.

Farming is hard on the body. Caregiving for my mom is hard on the heart. And then there’s Barnabas. So many times I’ve been so discouraged I’ve not only wanted to quit, I didn’t even care if I quit. Not just farming, but life.

I think the Lord sent us those puppies. Because through loss and gain we experience both deep love and profound grief.

And joy.

Barnabas, Son of Encouragement, has lived up to his name.

And that is a tale of a tail of two puppies.

 

 

The Terrible Two’s

We’re heading into our third year of farming. I think we’re out of the terrible two’s. I’m counting on the thrilling threes. Otherwise, I might have to be a greeter at “you know where.” Visit at the Grit site and add a comment… Or better yet, email me!

http://www.grit.com/community/humor/the-terrible-twos.aspx

 

 

Wisdom from My Mother

It had been one of those terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad, days and I was contemplating a move to Australia.

The farming, marketing, processing, and livestocking was about to kill me. Not to mention the fact I’m still a wife, homemaker, daughter, and church member. Everyday I got up looked at my list, checked it off and just like Pinocchio’s nose, when I got up the next morning it grew.

So a few weeks ago, after I’d had an especially taxing morning, I pushed Mom onto our front porch. We gazed over the 10 acre field dotted with colored leaves. My heart churned with anxiety and ungratefulness.

I glanced at Mom in her wheelchair. At 94, her life consists of eating, sleeping, watching TV, and reading when her eyes allow. She is dependent on caregivers to aid her in bathing, walking, and toiletry. Sometimes she gets out once a week and sometimes she doesn’t.

I had a thought. Maybe I could do one thing right. I’d try to be a better daughter and caregiver. “Mom, if you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?” I calculated the extensive list of circumstances and people I’d change.

Without missing a beat she replied. “Not a thing.”

I couldn’t believe it. “You mean you can’t think of anything you would change about your situation.?” I observed her worn face with skin that is breaking down.

“No, not really.”

I hadn’t even asked her for advice, yet her simple words spoke volumes. My eyes watered. My heart bowed low.

I say I believe in the sovereignty of God, but I’d been living like I’m the sovereign one.

Like Moses, I’m in a desert place. A place where I have to be dependent on God. Not my friends, not my church, not my family, but on Him. It’s a hard place to be.

Years ago, I studied the book of Isaiah and claimed a verse as my own.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” Is. 30:15.

I repented. And I’m trying to rest. Not work but trust. I need to talk less and pray more.

It’s a hard place to be, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Besides, who wants to move to Australia?

 

 

If At First You Don’t Succeed, You Must Be a Farmer

Our baby soil blocks

Sometime in the next few days, Tom and I are going to cut down an 80’ tree.

We’ve never done that before, but there’s a first time for everything.

Our property borders an old garage. The owner mentioned he was afraid a rotted pine might fall and damage the roof.

“So if you could cut it down, I’d appreciate it.”

“Sure,” Tom said.

“No problem,” I added.

As the gentleman pulled away in his pick-up, Tom and I looked at each other. “How the heck do you do that?”

“Dunno,” Tom said, “but we’re gonna try.

Our life’s been like that a lot lately. Not knowing anything but trying anyway. Like when we sat down to order seeds.

“Do cucumbers grow on a vine or a bush?” I asked.

Tom took a swig of the ice-cold well water. “Dunno.”

“How about asparagus? Is that a summer crop or what?”

“Don’t know that either.”

We ordered anyway. Then we visited the local Farm Supply store and tried to figure out an organic mix.

We came up with a combination of soils to make our baby soil blocks.

After we planted our seeds in ¾ and 1½ blocks, we covered them up and checked on them like newborns.

We almost sent out birth announcements when some of our seeds sprouted.

Another thing we did and had no idea how was when Tom unpacked his super-duper-raised-bed-builder. It gathers dirt, piles it, lays irrigation hose, and covers it with black plastic. I understand the next model up does dishes.

Next year.

We’ve never seen one of those except on YouTube videos. Tom looked at it and put it together. And then he practiced. He’s learning.

I admire him. I tend to give up when the going gets tough but Tom perseveres.

And that’s what farming is all about. Working and not giving up.

Kind of like life.

Read more: http://www.grit.com/blogs/blog.aspx?blogid=4294968271&tag=Pauline Hylton#ixzz2Upd7bW1R