Sunday, February 20, 2011

Let's Get Serious

WARNING: The following blog contains pervasive sarcasm. The Office of The Surgeon General has determined that farmers that can not detect, understand, and appreciate sarcasm will likely experience the following symptoms if exposed to large amounts: violent muscle spasms surrounding the head and neck, vertigo, increased blood pressure, and the inability to speak fluidly in complete sentences. Rarer side effects could include violent outbursts that result in personal attacks on perfect strangers, foaming of the mouth, and incontinence.

I've been notified that our blog is inane. No, "stupid" is the word. The person telling us this would, of course, be unable to use the word "inane" in its proper context because of the stilted vocabulary of some farmers in the homesteading community (this blog contains parentheticals (little curved lines that look like the side of a fishbowl used to further clarify a statement that is made) with optional words for these people that may help them understand what is being said). However, upon hearing this critique (opinion) of our blog I have come to realize that it really is inane (stupid). And, moreover, I think I like it that way.  But let's move on to some serious farm stuff.

First let me start of with this graphic illustration (picture) :

This is a Highland Cow raised in what we like to call "The Right Way".

Fiona, the momma cow gave birth to Angus her baby the day before. They are standing in the area where we feed them round bales of hay every winter. When they are done eating for the winter, we clean up the waste hay and manure and compost it. We no longer raise cows because our kids are grown and gone. Realizing that cattle management was more than we needed to be doing we gave her back to the farm that sold her to us. The compost we get from our animals adds nutrients to our garden and allows us to sell produce like this:

at our farmer's market without the use of artificial (fake) fertilizer that relies on petroleum (oil and gas) for its production (to be made).

It is this type of integration (everything serving a purpose and working together) that moves us towards self-sufficiency (we take care of our selves without spending money) and reduces our impact on the earth (we don't cause pollution (dirty stuff getting into cleans stuff we eat, drink, and breathe)).

So I've decided to show you all our integrated system (see note in prior paragraph (the little clump of words that is used to convey thought.)) The following is a roll-call of some of our working animals, their functions and status on our farm. I hope you enjoy.

Species: Hen
Function: Lay Eggs, eat bugs, raise babies, composting
Emotional Status: Happy
Biological Status: Not Dead

Eggs from our chickens not only feed us but they go into the bread we sell, and the shells go into the garden to add calcium to the soil.

Name: Blue
Species: Dog
Function: notifies us of approaching storms and the presence of predators (things that eat our chickens and rabbits)
Emotional Status: A little neurotic (worries a lot) but basically happy
Biological Status: Not Dead

Name: Matilde
Species: Big Black Hog (pig)
Function: raise babies, eat leftovers, till new garden areas, composting
Emotional Status: Happy as a pig in manure ($h!t)
Biological Status: Not Dead

Names: D'Artagnan, Porthos, Constance, Milady, and Mazarin (characters in The Three Musketeers)
Species: Toulouse Geese
Function: Make terrible noises when strangers come by, lay eggs, raise babies, provide Christmas dinner, and weed the garden, keep the dogs away from the chickens
Emotional Status: Happy
Biological Status: Not Dead

Name: Lucille
Species: Chinchilla cross rabbit
Function: Raise babies, fertilize the pasture, mows the grass
Emotional Status: Happy and relieved after giving birth to the kits below
Biological Status: Not Dead

Name: unnamed
Species: Chinchilla/Lop cross rabbits
Function: food
Emotional Status: Happy and cute!
Biological Status: Not Dead

Name: Susan
Species: Nubian Goat
Function: make babies, eat brush and weeds, provide milk, provide fertilizer
Emotional Status: Happy and very pregnant
Biological Status: Not Dead

Name: Flurry
Species: Big Black Hog cross
Function: eat leftovers, till new garden areas, and eventually provide us food
Emotional Status: Happy
Biological Status: Not Dead

Name: unnamed
Species: Guinea
Function: with the rest of the flock (now 13 strong) eat fleas, ticks, cabbage worms, and potato beetles, make irritating (really bugs you) noises when predators (things that eat our chickens like hawks) come around, raises babies
Emotional Status: Happy
Biological Status: Not Dead

Name: S'more
Species: Cat
Function: kills mice in the barn, moles, and those darned pesky cardinals, tears up the screen door, warms Patt's side of the bed
Emotional Status: Happy
Biological Status: Not Dead (really)

There are many more individual animals that all fall into these categories of species I have listed here. They all help out in reducing our expenses and increasing our yield (what we get out of the farm to feed us or make money). As you can see, with the exception of the cows, which we no longer raise, none of our family of animals is malnourished (starving to death), diseased (dying of sickness), or superfluous (unnecessary or otherwise not contributing to the health and function of the farm.)

This is the key: Do nothing for which you do not have the time or money to sustain. Have nothing that does not contribute to something else you are trying to do on the farm. If your needs change, like ours, now that we do not need a freezer full of beef to feed us, change the focus of your farm. If time or money is ever our excuse for animals suffering and dying, then we have mismanaged our farm.

Other important factors: Unexpected death, illness, and disaster do NOT have to be a part of one's farm operation. With forethought, patience, humility, organization, efficiency, and compassion we do not have to live like we are in a Hallmark Television Special where Pa gets his arm caught in a combine and Ma has to saw it off and because she's doing that she burns the last pot of beans on the stove, and little sister dies of starvation.

Unpredictable weather and unpredictable animals provide enough to deal with, but if the management of our farm is so complex and dis-integrated (not working together) that we will not be able to handle those unpredictable forces of nature when they come, then something will need to change - reduce the number of animals, for instance.

Probably the most important thing though - is to have fun, don't take yourself too seriously, admit you make mistakes, and when another farmer genuinely offers help - take it! That being said...I will now return the Shamrock and Thistle Farm Blog back to its original inane (stupid) format.


  1. Patt and Mr. Patt (haven't caught your name yet but you look HOT in a kilt) I think I LOVE YOU BOTH!!

    Miss M.

  2. you have an awesome blog! Don (IMContrary)