Wednesday, May 23, 2012

That's the plan

Have you figured it out yet? How things always work around here? A friend said today "I am so much better at keeping plans when I don't make any."  That's the truth.

Plan A:
Keep all the animals here for the winter, just like last winter.

What actually happened:
All the animals went to Yarmouth for the winter.

Plan B:
Trade boh the heifer calves (Yum and Yesterday) for two bull calves. Mom would keep Yesterday for breeding stock.

What actually happened:
Traded one heifer for a bull. We still own Yesterday. Yesterday isn't good enough to keep for breeding stock so we'll ship her this fall. Also, Yum, who Mom know owns, she doesn't want as she's not certified organic, so we have her to ship as well.

Plan C:
Bring Royalty, Smokey, Yesterday and new bull back here in the spring.

What actually happened:
Mom sold the farm and the opportunity came up to trade Royalty for a better cow, both genetically and physically. So we traded for Chocolate.

Plan D:
Herd will be delivered on Monday.

What actually happened:
Mom got held up and couldn't deliver until Tuesday because of a hoof trimmer who didn't show up, even though, as we learned on Tuesday, wasn't suppose to show up until the following Monday.

Plan E:
Bring Smokey, Chocolate, Yesterday and new bull back here in the spring.

What actually happenend:
Chocolate was too close to calving so she had to stay behind. Royalty came back instead. (I heard from Mom, that Chocolate just calved and had a black bull. His name will start with Z.)

So we thought we were going to have Chocolate, Smokey and two bulls. Instead we have Chocolate, Smokey, Yesterday, Yum and a bull. With Smokey, Royalty (who we don't own), Yesterday and a bull here and Chocolate and Yum still in Yarmouth.  Confused? You should be.

One thing that you have to be open to in farming is that nothing ever goes exactly as planned. Ever. The only thing that actually went as planned is if you look at the big picture. The Big Picture Plan was to have cattle here this summer. That, we actually accomplished.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

loose change

Things didn't work out this fall like I had planned. Seems when talking about the farm they never do.

The turkeys didn't grow as well as planned. Growth was stunted by illness that went undetected.

The barn where the cattle stayed last year, may be sold, but he isnt' sure, and isn't sure if I'd be evicted if it was. Plus the power bill was more money than he thought and I'd have to spend double to triple what I did last winter to keep them there. So they can't stay.  I have to send them to my mom's farm. Which means the horse has to go too. Which means my heart will break and I'll cry when the trailer rattles out of my driveway and I hear his thumping hooves and feel his nervous panicked energy (he doesn't travel well). I know where he's going, I'll know he's coming back, but he doesn't. I'll miss him. I'll miss all of them.

The pastures will be empty...

It panics me a bit, you know. To not have everything work out just right. I plan and plan and plan some more. Then something completely different happens anyway. My rational mind knows it's not a big deal. That any way that it works out is the right way, but another part of me disagrees. It stresses and hurries to right it, when there is nothing to right. When it can't be. When all that is required is patience and trying again next year. I worry that the animals aren't happy, that their feet are too wet, that they're too much of a burden on my husband, that I should be able to take care of things all by myself. What if I can't? That I'm doing this farming thing wrong.

Then a 35 year old lady dies suddenly after finally conceiving a child, and a seven year old girl sees through the door to the next life and teases us with the answer to all our questions. The answers we realize we forgot we had when we were seven. But it's too late, so we sit grieving and mesmerized by our kids and all that we forgot we knew.

I sit at the office working and pretending to be working and trying to make a difference of some kind. Although I have no idea in what way that could be. I'm busy but I don't know with what. I'm on the road and away working. Running. Convincing myself that what I do is important. Others are at home baking cookies and making jelly and harvesting the gardens and raising their children. Because you only get one chance to raise your kids. I panic again and worry that I'm doing this family thing all wrong.

Some days feel like I'm picked up by my ankles and all the change is shook loose from my pockets. Before I can collect it, I look at it lying on the ground and wonder if any of it matters. The small things that I give such weight. When there are so many bigger things.

I want to go home and hug my kids and pat my horse and smell the earth and give my soul to my husband and show him I still cherish his. Leaving all the rest on the ground. Never picking it up again.

But I can't. None of us can.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Project 52

I've started on a new photographic project. Instead of doing the project 365 again, I've decided to try a project 52. So instead of a picture per day, I'll be picking my best shot of the week.

I am very glad I did the project 365 first because that forced me to learn how to see with my camera and create something even when it required effort. Which it did some days. The result was pictures that are some of my favorite pictures I've ever taken, that I wouldn't have if it were for the project, and pictures that are just awful. The project 52 is my way of trying to improve quality. I will have the entire week to get my best shot.  Already, I left my photo taking until the last 3 days of the week, which will have to change if I hope to meet my goal of reducing crap shots, but the learning curve in these projects is more of a habit forming curve than anything, I think.

The project 365 had prompts which I did not (or rarely) followed. This was part laziness, part not paying attention to what the prompt was and part shooting what I felt comfortable. It was hard enough to get a good picture per day let alone trying to find something specific. This time however, I am going to follow the prompts. I have all week to find something I like. Unless of course I keep leaving it until the weekend.

I am not in this alone. It's more fun with friends after all.  If you'd like to follow along and see all of the entries from the group visit here. I'll be adding mine to the group as well, but if you'd like to see my collection visit my Project 52 group.

Each week will be either a camera prompt or a subject prompt. This week (Sept 5 -11) was depth of field: deep.  Next week is dining out.  I guess that means I get to dine out. I like this project already!

Week 1:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Some things never change

You all know this guy, Hobbes.
We were hanging out on the deck this evening enjoying the cool air and sunset. Spending quality time together. He's getting up there you know. He's 12. He'll be 13 in May. He's starting to change in his old age. He's becoming more loving. 

Ah, who am I kidding? He may be getting old but he hasn't changed a bit. The only reason he was hanging out with me was because he was waiting for me to go inside and feed him. 

Then he noticed I was taking forever because I was taking his picture. So he did this.  Yes, this is the very next picture.

I have to hand it to him. He knows how to get what he wants.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bulls and cows.

Owen is in the field with me helping me or at least hanging out with me while I feed and water the cows and chickens.

He walks over to the cows to offer a pat. Smokey comes looking for a crab apple treat, but getting nothing, turns her attention back to the grass. The bull comes wandering his way so I ask him to step back on the other side of the electric fence. (The bull has never been or shown any signs of being mean, but he's still a bull, and you never trust a bull 100%. Plus I think the heifer was in heat.)

Me: Owen, why don't you come back to this side of the fence. The bull is coming over.

Owen, looking at our cow Royalty: Is that the bull?

Me: No, she's a cow. That's Royalty. (Pointing to the bull) That's the bull.

Owen: I thought they were both cows.

Me: Nope. Royalty is a cow and you can tell because she has an udder. See, where the milk comes from?

Owen: Yeah, but that one has one too. (Pointing to the bull again)

Me: No, that's not an udder, those are his testicles. They're different. Only boys have those. Even you.

I leave Owen to run this information over in his head.  I wonder if he's wondering if his "fellas" will grow as large as the bull's. I wonder if I'm going to have to answer more difficult questions. I wonder where his dad is. But Owen moves on to wonder about something else. What would I do without livestock to explain these things?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Swallowing ego and playing our part. Or not.

When people ask I tell them I grew up on a traditional family farm. There were roles for the women and roles for the men. I knew the roles existed. I knew the traditional expectation too. So did my mom.

My mom taught me two lessons though. The first, how to fulfill the role of the wife and mother. The second, that we don't always have to.

As a little girl I was taught that if the men are out working it is our job to make sure they have food to eat when they come in for lunch or supper. That our job is to make sure they have everything they need to do their job. Some people would likely view this as sexist, but what it truly was, was every member of the family finding a way to contribute to the end result. To getting the job done. If we aren't needed out in the barn/field/woods/workshop, then we can be of help in the house. I felt like it was unfair at times. Times when I wanted to work on the tractor instead of making sandwiches. Tractor work earns a lot more clout than making sandwiches does. I wanted to be the one who everyone pats on the back for a good work day put in. For earning my keep. Instead, I had to eat my ego and do what was needed of me. A lesson I hope my kids learn.

As much as my mother taught me lesson one, she was sure to show me that just because we are good at making sandwiches doesn't mean we can't run the tractor too. We can do both jobs. I liked this lesson best. A lesson that I'm sure my kids have learned. Not only can I keep a house, but I can also get a pat on the back for a good days work. As a kid, this pleased me to no end. I thought of us girls as the most useful can't-do-without tool in our family toolbox. My brothers noticed this too, and so they learned to cook to try to even the score. Growing up I always challenged "girl jobs" and "boy jobs". So often that my mother was called by the school. (I am sure she was most concerned and likely promised the principal that she would speak to me about my bold stand. At home she just smiled at me.)

I've never thought of myself or my mother as a feminist. I just never liked the term. I'm sure we fit the definition though. We just didn't care. I have experienced inequality. I was even flat out told I wouldn't be hired because I was a girl. But I learned to swallow my ego a long time ago.

I work in a male dominated industry. Farmers, men and even some women, still look at me and say that I can't, that I shouldn't and ask where my husband is. I just smile knowing something they don't and make the sandwiches, then go to work on the tractor. Thanks Mom, for two great lessons.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Earning luxury

When I was 7 or 8 I was helping my family build a new fence. I was too small to swing the sledge hammer or pull the barbed wire or to do any of the fun jobs like hammer the nails. My grand father, father and brother got those jobs. But I still wanted to be helpful so I got to carry the can of Green Pentox and the paint brush. My job was to paint the bottom of the fence posts that go in the ground so they wouldn't rot.

Preparing for fencing was an annual job and whether you wanted to help or not, you did or had to anyway. We all would head out to the wood lot and find the hackmatack trees (a.k.a. tamarack) and cut them down. The fun job (I use the word fun in that cruel way like piling 8 cord of split wood is fun or hauling 1000 square bales off a field in 30 degree weather is fun) was peeling them. The men (my oldest brother included) got the best jobs, again, and ran the chainsaws and hauled the branches out of the way. The rest of us, under my grand mother's instruction got to peel the logs. Except she had this nifty peeling tool to peel her logs nice and easy. There were only 2 of those tools so my mom got the other, leaving me and my other brother to use a hatchet and our fingers. If you think getting sap on your hand in one little spot sucks, don't ever, ever, ever peel hackmatack trees. My hands turned instantly black and sticky and my fingers hurt from the dirt and sap building up under my nails.  One thing I was sure of is that after all that I did not want those fence posts to rot, because I didn't want to have to get more.

The fence we were building was along side of an embankment that ended in a ditch. The bucket of Pentox was a big gallon paint can. For a little girl like I was, it was heavy. The ground wasn't exactly level. It was recently cleared and mounds and hollows were left from pulling the tree trunks. Weeds and shrubs were growing in with the new access to sunlight. I moved ahead of the men having the post painted and ready by the time they had the previous pounded into the ground. 

I was doing a great job and keeping up. I liked being helpful. I liked the feeling of pride and accomplishment that came with it. A sense of being of value to the family.  Right up until I slipped, and fell down the embankment, landing in the ditch with the entire can of green Pentox poured over my head. Pentox Green is green. It's a stain. It's designed to penetrate the wood. It penetrated me. Despite an hour in the tub with my mother scrubbing me raw, I was green. A bright orange red head with green skin. I looked like some kind of leprechaun. It lasted weeks before finally fading away.

Today, I use black spruce, untreated fence posts, that I buy, already peeled and sharpened. I can swing the sledge hammer if they rot. I gladly will.  It's a luxury I think I've earned.