Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Are you waiting to do what you want to do right now?

Are you waiting to do what you want to do right now?

Do you find life just slipping away? Are you living for Fridays and Dreading Mondays?

Do you catch yourself with a bad case of the "If Onlys"?????  I used to hear my own if onlys until I shoved them out of my head. still have to fight them)..  If only I were stronger, if only I were younger when I started doing this, if only I had more money, if only I had a veterinary degree, were not afraid of driving antique tractors, could work more than 10 hours a day consistently etc.

Yes, I who adore farming and the goodness about it tried to argue myself out of farming while still yearning for it with a passion and had lots of folks to try to discourage me in a "helpful way". 

Little comments like  "at your age, you need to be enjoying life and not work so hard",   "honey you know you are frail", "no one will buy anything because they grow their own produce",   you'll go broke,   you don't even know how to can or preserve.   My favorite was "well, you know you can't teach an old dog new tricks".   I realized these were either folks who had given up on their own dreams or just really thought dreams could only belong to the strong, young, rich or famous or were just eaten up with negativity.  I quit trying to explain and just "plowed" ahead with the farm dream.

Get a grip folks.   Only God knows the number of hairs on our head or the seconds in our lives.  I really believe this.  If you have really prayed about your dream and really believe in your heart and soul and mind, that it is valid and God wants this for you, I vote yes.  I have some quick advice. Although most of what I write about refers to farm, it would apply I think to most dreams.

Do you have a dream but in your dream vision, you can only see things only one way.... Do you say, I want to have a farm, I need to borrow or have $500,000 to do it. I must have a minimum of 50 acres and  fully stocked with every imaginable animal - oh say a few hundred or more.   It must have a modern house with all the conveniences.   I will not be in a leaky, drafty, old farm house.  Okay shake that plan away, dust it off and get real.   If you have $500,000 to invest, lease a farm for a year and get it out of your system and move own.   That way you can not be stuck with a huge mortgage and not be earning dividends, interest etc.& have a 800 feed bill for animals.  Also $500,000 won't buy the 50 acres and nice huge modern house .   A $5,000 plus monthly payment frightens me.  

When I was so eaten up with the "dream of the farm", it took many forms,  First the out of control suburban farmer where the farm overran the inside and outside and front yard of our subdivision with plants, trees, flowers, a few bunnies, fishpond, etc.  I tiptoed with bare feet to be able to reach and pick 100+ tomato plants compactly planted...And then I started dreaming at night and in the day, of green grass and fields and open land and bees and more animals.Then the farm dream reshaped as we look for a real farm. So I suggest having several dreams - one that might be short range, longer range, alternate #1, Alternate #2 and then the dream that God answers for you. 

But why don't you try on your dream first for size?  If you don't really have any planting space where you are, not even a huge barrel so you can plant a tomato, cucumber and a pepper, let's get some dirt under our fingers!  Go work on a farm .... We do take volunteers and can occasionally pay in produce or real money too.   And be sure and also work when it is rainy, blowing cold, suffering hot, icy, no running water.....  Don't just do this on a sunny day. Take a really long gruesome day, a typical farm day.....  Pick really bad weather and then run for the endurance.   Can you really work outside in the rain for 6+ solid hours - not warm rain, but cooler temps that make you shiver?   Farming has its uncomfortable moments.

Are you willing to make sacrifices for your dream?   Monetary, routine, time, social, physical, emotional   Are you willing and eager to be a life long learner? To fall and fail and get up and do it again over and over?  To admit that you know a lot but that what you know is NOT enough.   You will become obsessed with learning more. You will live, eat, breath, and research and ponder much if you farm.  Your life and previous freedoms will really disappear if you are a farmer and especially if you include animals.   You cannot just up and leave for any period of time without extreme planning.   Are you willing to always be last?   If you are hungry and thirsty, are you willing to wait hours while you do emergency animal care - as in delivery assistance, or while you water your plants, or cover a crop before a storm.  You may find yourself very short of sleep and energy when your day is over and in about 5 hours you take another go at it.  Your friendship circle will shrink.  Many do not understand your new dream and why you cannot just hang out or go to this event or another.  Farmers are friendly and farmers love people.  That's part of why we farm.   But a farmer is a very different kind of person where our hands and feet are still the main instruments no matter how much technology or tools we have.  Small farmers become mechanics, make doers, recyclers, etc.

I have said before and I will say again,    Farming is the lowest paid, hardest work I have ever done.  The rewards are great but they are not monetary.   It is the love of the land, the smell of a newborn goat, the satisfied smile of the customer with that strawberry in their mouth, the person I got to teach how to make real corn muffins from real ground meal from our farm,  it is the taste of the first tomato, the eating of safe and good food, the sharing of farming knowledge with others.  It is the adventure.

But the best reward to farming, is the closeness to God because in farming we are so dependent upon His protection, benevolence, guidance and Direction.  Days are begun and ended with prayer, and when we pray over our food, it is different than prayers I had before I farmed..Songs are played that are uplifted to the plants, etc, etc,..Prayers during the day to God for direction on what to do with an animal.  And yes He has provided insight into farming situations that otherwise made no sense.  Years ago, we had poultry over drinking water and literally drowning their systems drinking the water.  They were suffering from kidney stress!! Vets called , etc, etc, healthy birds drinking 4 to 5 times regular amount of water.  Finally God literally spoke to me in a dream and said EAT THEIR FOOD.   I did and it tasted like I was licking the salt off a pretzel.  Calls were made and sure enough, there had been numerous similar complaints and it was a huge commercial mill that was apparently NOT cleaning between making minerals and chicken feed and our chicken feed was toxic with salt.   Even before we made those called, we grabbed the food away from the poultry and substituted another brand, and within 24 hours losses began to slow and finally stopped. I could tell you hundreds of examples like this.   So I literally ask God to show me to speak to me about how and why and what?  It is beyond intuition, it is things I have never read about or experienced and He literally shows the way, as clearly as the lighthouse in a storm to a boat.

Well, I hope this blog has been of interest.   In the writing of it, it has given me great joy as I have reflected over much about the farming.  May God bless you and guide you and always be with you as you examine your dreams.   And most of all I pray that you bloom where you are planted.   You may well be in the training grounds RIGHT NOW for your dream! And later in that next stage of your dream you will have an AHA! moment where you know that the office situation helped you know how to break up a hen fight.  But that's another blog ............Until Then....

Friday, March 14, 2014

Egg On Your Face!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are a bad egg eater!

Before our farm, I never knew the depth and meaning of this expression.   Oh I understood it was like guilt unquestionable,  proof a person had done something wrong,  But Egg?   What was that like a bit of egg yolk dripping on your chin or in the corner of your mouth....It made no sense to me!

On no, as a farmer I can tell you when you feed your hens sacks and sacks of feed and watch your egg production start sinking, you think,  mmmmm  I have a snake that is an egg eater, an opposum or perhaps a raccoon, a rat or there is a broody mother who snuck the eggs away, oh let's add calcium, let's bring more protein treats, it's winter, and they are resting. Or even a swooping crow can snatch an egg if a hen is a ground layer because she's trying to start a nest of babies!   And on and on and on, I made excuses for this flock for about 6 months..... Oh say about 150 to 200 dollars of food. Skip the care time, water, especially in the wind storms, the rain, the ice, etc. And I wanted their eggs.  I needed the eggs for market, to bake, to eat..... sigh.  Loss was probably over 20 eggs a week .  Yes a big loss for months!

First Offender! First hen caught in the act the afternoon of 3/13/2014 at 2:30 pm EST.  I catch her by her hind legs and then fall (me) over a stump in the big yard.  She's free and the sly one starts to clean her beak in the ground so she won't get caught. HA, I call hubby Jacque and misdial some one and scream, "Help Egg Eater !!!."..........The poor person getting that message still wonders, never returned my call.  Realized I called the wrong number and redial. Jacque brings the net and I am almost in tears and told him she had cleaned her beak.  He laughed and got the only one with a wet dirty beak and splashed yolk above her eyes. Offender #1 is removed and isolated in a holding pen.  No question, no need to call her attorney for representation, no jury needed - She has Egg on her Face and She IS Guilty.  

Possible solution #1 Electric Debeaker $379 plus shipping That's a lot of change and I have two offenders.  Roughly $200 to keep these ladies continuing to produce eggs and hopefully make a clean cut and not take my hands or part of hand with it

 Possible solution #2 Manual debeaker $14.99 plus tax plus 10.00 shipping - less expensive BUT the issue of the pain caused by this and that I could do a wrong cut and infection and continual pain could be present

Second Offender! I decide to visit the same pen. Dragnet Farmer Nancy Returns to the scene of the crime. It is 3/14/2014 at 3:45 pm EST. I see a hen with her backside hanging out of the front of the nestbox.  For you non chicken people, hens face forward, toward the light and opening.   If a hen is backwards in the nest box. she is up to something! So Farmer Nancy, Chicken Wrangler, make a clean grab and the hen was so absorbed eating the egg she didn't even sense my presence.  She had gotten the yolk and was finishing up the white. She has Egg on her face and She IS GUILTY.  Offender #2 is removed and isolated in another holding pen

Both hens were from the same yard.   It is a huge space.  I even brought them treats today.  Feeder always full. Lots of water.   High protein feed.  I think this has been going on a long time. Because it seemed like egg production was about 1/2 of what it should be for months. On the plus side, since eater number one was pulled, 2 eggs were gathered by Jacque from the pen just minutes before the second hen was doing her egg eater act.

In our farmer years, I have learned how to do a lot of things. Sadly I have never been able to rehabilitate an egg eater.   It seems to be a driving force not unlike my craving for coffee and great chocolate.   Economically when there are egg eaters in your flocks, the price of getting the few eggs you can get keeps going higher and higher.   Apparently the two egg eaters in this flock could wipe out 3 and 4 eggs a day plus feed, treats, water.   They literally are the heaviest hens in the flock.

Egg Eater Intervention Rehabilitation Techniques Tried in the past:

  1. Verbal warning that nothing is worth dying for,  That I won't literally die for my coffee
  2. Removal from pen to another pen of hens.
  3. Behavior modification effort. Put cracked egg in by the hen, sit and wait for her to start eating it, dunk her head fully in water.  Repeat as needed.  Do this on a warm day. You and hen will be very wet and all eggs will be eaten.
  4. Move her into the duck pen, worked for 2 days until she started trying to eat her eggs and the duck eggs
  5. Put a frying pan in the pen.  It's an old wive's tale, it didn't work. 
  6. Add fake marble eggs, golf balls  eggs covered with hot sauce!to all the nest boxes
  7. Bring many high protein treats, greens etc to the yard
  8. Put a two liter bottle in the yard with water and shiny penny for her to play with
  9. Hang bacon and/or cabbage for pecking needs
  10. Processed the hen.
Things I haven't tried.   Buying a professional debeaker and cutting the pointed end of the beaks off.
I have read it is NOT humane and it is painful both while doing it and for the rest of the life of the hen.   As a female, I hate to say this but my roosters DO NOT and have never eaten eggs!

Sadly, it looks like chicken and dumplings will be on the menu next week.  I tried in the past.  I really did.   I am out of tricks.  Unless I keep my offenders in little cages and their eggs all roll out in to a catch area.   Nope that's called caged eggs and we don't do that.   I'm sorry Offender #1 and Offender #2.   I did my best.  You did what you craved.   Life has consequences on this farm.   I cannot afford you to be pets and costs me hundreds of dollars a year and eat the eggs the Farm needs.  You are big girls and big eaters.   And this is one of the hard parts of farming.........

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Hi speed is sometimes too fast!

Have you ever found yourself just going too fast?   Making dinner with your cell phone on speaker phone, stirring two pots of food and checking a fragile baked item while trying to scan your e mail on the computer at the same time.   And this is the kind of pace you kept all day long. I do this far too often. 

I realized this morning I had been going too fast too often because.when I wanted to grind coffee, I didn't have a way to grind it, until I remembered I had a very old vintage coffee grinder never used by me, bought at a Thrift Store in Cobb County almost 13 years ago. (My electric one is reserved for grinding flax and my grind and brew coffeepot quit working after about 13 very hard months of a second lease on life)

Well, the grinder was layered in dirt and due to being stored in an unheated room, it was trying to corrode on the outside but IT was fully adjustable and operable.  After cleaning it and learning how to adjust the grinder for the grind I needed. I cranked the coffee and was fully into the experience of getting it done, the rich smell of coffee filled the air and it was so wonderful.  My mind drifted to remembering Granny grinding coffee on something that looked about like this....

I then realized I never smelled or experienced that coffee grinding so in a very noisy coffee grinder.   I feel like for about 5 minutes a day, that coffee making will be different the slower way.    I may even graduate over to using my blue campstove perculator, if I can find all the parts!!!

Slow down and enjoy some of the experiences of life.   Sometimes we save more than electrical energy by using our hands or simple tools.  We can save our sanity and "downgrade" our high speed to worrying about the speed and keeping some of the stress causing by multi tasking all day to a lower level as well.  So at the risk of being trite, please "Slow down and smell the coffee."   Literally and figuratively!

I'm sipping and my coffee and really smelling and tasting and enjoying it........SLOWLY.... Have a blessed day.