|some photos of nick's adorable nephews that have little to do with this post but were taken on the farm this week-end.|
there are still restaurants to supply and a small group of devoted CSA members who signed up for the month-long 'holiday' share. we're opening a farm store in boston in december, so we will have that to stock. if i cannot say the harvest crew is finished for the year, i can say, with all correctness that they are damn well near done. they're in the coveted home stretch. they're cruising. so much so that they were able to take a real thanksgiving break. gone. off the farm for five days. all of them.
of course...they do deserve it. i have never seen a group of my peers work as hard and as long-day-ed as they do. 7am to 7pm. monday through sunday. pouring rain. beating wind. even under the threat of hail and snow. in conditions too chilly for rudy to even think about going outdoors these farmers are out there kneeling in the mud, bare hands digging into the soil searching out the last of the potatoes. every single time i have worked with them i have given up before they've finished their day. they are badass farmers and deserve every hour of every day they have rest.
so i have been happy for them while they are on their break. but i would be a dishonest woman if i didn't admit to you my misgivings about animal farming in times such as these. for, with livestock, you cannot simply leave for the week because you need a break. or because its your nation's favorite holiday. or because a friend is in town. the animals aren't going anywhere. they --every morning and every evening-- need the same attention you've always given them. there are always substitutes you can find to help you on days you need off. but for those of you who have ever had a friend take care of your dog or cat or pig or horse or cow, you know...despite the friend's best intentions...that your four legged free loader is only 100% his peak happiness when you are there. and so it goes.
nick and i barely get to travel with one another anymore. when the outside world calls one of us, the other generally stays behind on the farm. it's just easier that way. you know everyone is safe. everyone is happy. there is nobody i implicitly trust with the animals more than nick. and i gather he feels similarly about me.
i do hope that someday we can be rich farm barons that can afford the luxury of 10....or maybe just even 1 person to look after our flock when we need the rest. but betting on that sort of future is not suggested in this sort of life. so for now, we need to find someone who can help us on the odd day or two or five so that nick and i can enjoy a small slice of what the veggie crew is enjoying. the prospect of winter. the prospect of rest.
there was an article this past sunday morning in the Times about the price of turkey this year : In the Labyrinth of Turkey Pricing, a Reason Under Every Giblet. the article is in the business section of the paper and investigates why some turkeys are sold for 49 cents a pound and others can go for $6.50 a pound and What You Are Paying For.
i highly recommend you read it. the interesting point the author seems to make is that nobody is making money off turkeys. not those selling confinement, non organic birds at dollar candy prices. not those selling free range, happy healthy organically raised, humanely raised birds. the cost of feed is too expensive. corn and soy prices have shot through the roof in the past years and the consumer won't take on that burden. in fact it is the consumer that expects, Every Year, that the Price of anything will go down. especially the Price of a 16lb butterball turkey. and so the Price does.
seeing signs at supermarkets for 49 cents-a-pound birds makes me literally laugh aloud. having raised turkeys before i can only imagine what sort of cost-cutting measures these farmers are taking to at least break even if not lose money on turkeys this year. even the organic turkeys for sale at whole foods are advertised at a whopping $1.49 at our local store can't possibly reflect the actual cost of raising the bird.
but forget the farmer that is loosing money. forget the supermarket that will most likely make no money on these thanksgiving birds. forget how much breast meat you are hoping to have afterwards for the prodigal leftover. forget how much food you intend to heap on to your plate that afternoon. forget feelings of guilt about how much you need versus how much you take.
and try to remember the life of the bird this thanksgiving. try to remember where he was raised. try to remember if that bird ever got to see the light of day. or smell fresh air. or keep its beak. or keep its toes. or keep its wings.
try to remember whether or not this bird was grown and fed so quickly that its breast grew faster than his legs could keep up so that at the end of his life he couldn't even stand up.
i don't advocate on this blog To Not Eat Animals. humans are carnivores. have been for what seems like Forever. will be for as long as animals continue to taste so good. but i do advocate researching the animals that you eat and what better time, what more black-and-white a time to do this than with the thanksgiving turkey.
i've never been the best at the Cold Hard Facts so i urge you to give you some attention to a daily green article from last year's thanksgiving. i urge you to look, this year, as you buy your turkey, for local farm's turkeys. to search for birds that are not broad-breasted whites (these are those that are designed to grow too quickly). i urge you to at the very least consider an organic bird. so that you know those birds aren't living in conditions where antibiotics are a base-line. i urge you to at the very least consider a free range bird (a free range bird means only that the bird is not kept in a cage but can still be kept in a warehouse with just one, small, open door).
i urge you this season to think with your dollars when you are remembering the bird's life. we all have so much to be thankful for this thanksgiving. let you count in your blessings at the table this year the bird whose life was given for your meal. and let it have been a good life.
happy friday indeed.
i'm not sure who left this carrot in the barn or if the carrot herself decided to take a sunbath on the stall's ledge. but either way she was there. and i was there passing with the iPhone.
today's afternoon is calling for heavy rains so nick and i are trying to help with the csa harvest before lunch. sending thumbelina's poop to a state lab for testing today. the glamorous life. less than 6 days left until the season's harvest officially comes to a close. some down-time will be in order.
for a weekend full of weddings and parties.
for the hot tea in my thermos at market to keeping me alive.
for watermelon radish snacks.
for making a new friend and for her visits to market.
for the two beautiful brides and the two glowing grooms we saw commit to each other on saturday.
for a room full of friends from san francisco.
for dancing like a grown up with men in tuxes.
for finding boba tea in boston.
for brent and melissa's voices on the telephone.
for always having a warm and welcoming place to stay in boston.
for the roof deck hot-tub.
for jelly beans from the drugstore.
for buying a book and actually reading it.
for playing in town from friday morning til sunday evening.
for rudy, who stayed with a friend this weekend, and whom i missed dearly.
for the farmhand who found sweet bella waltzing solo down the street sunday morning.
for this yellow evening jacket from marie years ago....that i wear when i'm feeling fancy.
for only 10 days left of harvest and markets before the vegetables go into hibernation for the winter.
for the solitude of winter that is coming.
for the cats and this last photo i have of them together. on my lap on a long car ride, just loving their quietude and warmth.
for nick. without whom i could hardly get through the day. for his love. his compassion. his order and motivation and ambition and direction. for his cooking. for his friendship.
i haven't done these gratitude posts in over a year. going to try to get back into the habit of them as i find myself complaining about the most menial of things. life is so good. we have so much to be thankful for. we may as well celebrate that.
***post-posted addition*** i was just looking through my wheel of favorite blogs when i came to soulemama. maybe there is something in this crisp fall air that makes one thankful for it all.
its humbling how easily these little feathered creatures can make palpable feelings of Failure as a Farmer. two eggs. dos. deux. zwei. due. two eggs in nearly three weeks. our chickens are on strike. which i didn't think was likely, but it would appear that we have pushed too many of their nasty buttons with all of the relocating. so we don't have our usual protein intake here west of boston. we don't have a milking cow. we don't have any beef or pork or venison or goat or lamb. i know i'm getting a fair amount of my daily caloric needs fulfilled by my boss's wife's bakery. but i'm missing the simpleness of meat and eggs and milk. the meat i can sustain without but i Cannot Do without the eggs nor the milk.
and so we are still looking at cows. a milking cow for me and/or...or/and... a heifer for nick. we are talking with friends about all going in on a cow together. sharing milkings. sharing chores. sharing the milk. making cheese and yogurt and butter together. it all feels very old to me. in a good way. going-back-in-time-where-community-reigns old.
in the meantime i may have to buy our neighbor's eggs. shame.
1. a prospective heifer's mama with some nicely shaped horns.
2. one of the two eggs.
3. a decidedly empty nest.
4. a clean barn as we had guests today.
5. biking home for a lunch of soup and cheese with rudy.
6. a portrait of a prolific laying-hen. an obedient and loving laying-hen. not a witholding hen.
7. i miss when we had friends who used to come by and give us gifts like this. thinking a lot about north carolina on this spring-induced day.
this afternoon we're off to connecticut to see about a milking cow or two. and to have a picnic with the goodies packed in to my grandmere's basket. very highbrow.
feeling so very greatful this morning for these things in this house that remind me of all of the women in my life.
fingers crossed for fortunate cow-window shopping.
its always been one of the more disappointing human traits of mine, loving animals more than my compatriots. i have always cared so terribly fully for each and every animal we had in my childhood and little changed as i grew older. .
until we turned from being pet owners to farmers. during my first several weeks on the farm in north carolina i was frantically covering the 500 acres and as many animals straining for any signs of need, of sickness, of distress.
that's how i came upon van gogh. a bloodied two pounds of piglet that was put by a farmhand in a 5-gallon bucket in the back of the mule the morning he was found as the sole survivor of a vulture attack.
that's how i came upon oscar. the limping, scarred three-day-old pig, whose right scapula had been shattered by his 700 pound mama-sow.
it's how we came upon bella. and squirt. and donovan. the two wild bunnies. john henry. billy-cat. peggy. and pascal & florence. i have had a fair amount of animals in the past years that i have saved from the realities of farm life. one may assume from my farm memoirs that i am regularly devoted to my job as farm-nurse. but the truth is that the ark-like smattering of animals nick and i have taken on is such a small percentage of the animals i see every day that could use the helping hand of a Human.
one of the issues nick and i have argued endlessly about is the level of intervention we partake in on the farm. there is a side of farming that implores the farmers to Take Care of the animals. to keep them alive, and with dignity. to help them get better when they are sick. but the farmer's job isn't to create a sanctuary for the sick and elderly and meek. its to make food with or of the animals.
and most often it isn't in the farmer's or the farm's best of interest to spend 4 morning hours giving a runty piglet a hot bath, a warm bottle, and motherly-love. or to carry a baby turkey that seemed depressed in the farmer's shirt pocket while gardening so that it could be fed every 30 minutes.
sometimes farmers make very sound --but arguably cold-- decisions to let nature take its way with the weak, the injured, the infirm.
i learned this quickly one early week in north carolina while i was caring for the one hundred baby turkeys in our little office brooder. one became sickly, sad, depressed, and i so i kept her in my pocket all afternoon while i continued my day's work in the garden. she died, warm, but alone, in my pocket several hours later. i cried like the ridiculous woman i am. i dug the tiniest of graves. said a simple selection of words, most of which were greatly exaggerated as i did not know the turkey chick well. i recounted the events to nick. horrified at the brief and cruel theme of this world.
...and then another turkey chick got sick and sad and droopy. and the same events repeated themselves.
...and another. until nearly forty chicks met the same fate as the first in just a handful of days. (an illness previously contracted at the breeder's farm we later discovered).
i hate to expose myself as a heartless witch here but it is a time for honestly. i buried the first three. the rest, i started a mass grave for behind the compost pile in the southern woods. the sheer scale of their tradgedy desensitized me to the horror. they stopped appearing to me as these individual needy beings and i began to see them as livestock.
i started farming then. not to say that farmers don't have the capacity for empathy or even sympathy with regards to their flock. but farmers can't have the capacity to empahize with Each and Every One.
i don't know how i quite feel about this change in perspective for me.
i haven't gone out in search of a sickly or needy animal since oscar. nick found bella, and peggy, he even brought me rose. i've spent the last year hiding from imploring eyes. trying to focus on what's best for the whole farm.
but i met this little thumbelina 2 days ago. she stuck her sad little head down in the chick brooder. one eye shut closed like a pirate. inaudibly cheeping. terrifically under weight. i hadn't been able to single out one bird from the flock yet. they are but a week old. still look one and the same. still have the intellect of an ant. but something of my former pet owner self wants thumbelina to live.
we're afraid she may have something badly contagious. so she's in quarantine. we cannot let her get every other chick sick. it could destroy our whole egg laying program. i want her to survive so badly though. i don't want us to have to kill her for the good of the flock. that would be purely horrific.
i have her set up in the warmest room in the barn. blasted with the space heater. i feed her molasses water. i clean out her bad eye twice a day. i hold her on her back and tickle her belly. i've learned she likes her right leg stretched. that she get's frightened when she is able to open both eyes. that she prefers to stand in her water. that she likes the dark better than the light. that she is completely comfortable perching in the cup of my hand.
we always need balance in every aspect of our lives. and here, in my cold blooded farmer's heart i too need the balance of little furry balls of love so i don't become ever wizened and crooked and grumpy.
i've been attending market lately with the new farm. markets in fancy pants boston. which is a terribly good time where we drink hot cocoas and schmooze with the veggie addicts. with the cold and rainy and snowy weather market has seemed more appealing than harvesting for the Obvious Reasons.
but today is a bluebird fall day. where even sweaters and jeans feel too warm out in the fields. so we are digging up all manner of things in the fields this glorious afternoon and feeling pretty good about our jobs. the weather always dictates my mood.
the last photo is a shameless copy of louisa's dancing carrots