Monday, February 1, 2016

Keeping all the Balls in the Air: January 2016

With a new year upon us I decided to try a few things to stay more organized, waste less (time and food and energy), and keep better records. It almost sounds like I made a Resolution to get organized, waste less, and keep better records, but really I'm not making any resolutions this year. Really, I swear; resolutions never stick. 

Instead, I did the whole "choose a word" thing for this year....one for me (Authentic) and one for the farm (Simplify). Last year's farm motto was "Work Smarter, Not Harder" so I feel like I'm just continuing 2016 on the foundation I laid last year with my attempts to simplify (and organize) things further. 

If you have more than one job and wear many hats like I do, then you know that keeping all the balls in the air is crazy-hard sometimes. Seriously, it is NOT easy. I only work two days away from the farm, but even on those days I have to do the farm chores too. Some days I juggle like a Master Level Ninja Clown....some days I am just a clown. I have to have routines to get it all done.

The barn command center.

Some time last year I added the chalkboard to the barn. Occasionally someone else does the chores without me there to boss them around, but all the feeding info was in my head. It occurred to me that if I ever got knocked on the head and couldn't do the chores or boss someone around we might find ourselves in trouble. The board immediately came in handy, until we realized that I never updated it when I changed rations. Oops! I rectified that problem and the board is now current and correct and anyone could come in and feed my girls. So a couple of weeks ago I went one step further and I added the dry erase board. This assigns chores to specific days to remind me, or point someone else in the right direction if I'm not there to give orders. So far, things are going pretty smoothly using this system.

One page of the bullet journal.
 Someone (hrmm, hrmm) pointed out that I had not done a very good job of keeping my farm records this year and I almost always screw up the monthly budget by forgetting to add something, so I needed a better way to manage all the papers, receipts, info, and numbers that bombard me all day long.

I googled around and happened upon the idea of a bullet journal and I started immediately. OH MY, you are going to laugh at me when I say this, but this freakin' thing has changed my life! I actually think this Bullet Journal thing might be a cult, but I DO. NOT. CARE. This is awesome. Since today is February 1st I can go on record as saying that this works for me. I've made a few adjustments, but WOW...I kept records for a full 31 days. Accurate, complete records. That's never happened before. NEVER.

So, true to form I'm not doing it exactly like the traditional bullet journal, but this way is working for me. Pictured to the left is the daily column system I'm using. I decided up front what I wanted to keep track of....some is business and some is just fun.

Each day I fill in my "template" which includes: What I'm reading; what I'm watching; what's going on on the farm; how many eggs, how much milk; who milked; what's happening in the garden/greenhouse; the weather; what I'm doing that day; What we are eating that day; money spent; blog post ideas. That might seems like a cumbersome list; however, it is so NOT.

The column prompts are all abbreviated and look like this: R. W. F. Eggs. Milk. Garden. WX. Do. Food, $$, Blog. Same thing every day and so much easier keeping everything in one place.

Each day (or couple of days) I stick in a post-it list of things to do on those days. I mark them off, then record them under the Do category. Instant record keeping and my counters and desk are no longer littered with To Do Lists that we lost or abandoned. One list. I used to feel like nothing was ever getting done because I had 3 or 4 or 5 lists running at once. Now, I feel like I've gotten better at juggling all the things that have to happen in a week. Of course, I've employed a few other sneaky tricks to keep myself on track that didn't come from the bullet journal. Each week I label each of the seven days as either: Work (2), Farm/Garden (2), Sew (2), or Housekeeping/Laundry (1). I use a post-it note to make these days mobile and flexible....so, if the weather is nice I might switch a farm/garden day for the sewing day. Or if something pops up that needs priority I just swap the post-its. I haven't felt like I was giving all my time to one thing...ahhhh, balance.

 Under the $$ category, I put all the receipts, rounded up, but I also added a page for recording farm receipts and mileage. Again, ALL IN ONE PLACE. I've been a little bit of a Spendy Sue lately and I've been tracking the days that I don't spend anything. Alas, I could do better, but I coded each expenditure as household, personal, crafts, books, or farm. So, sometimes when I'm spending money I'm not actually being naughty and I can tell at a glance what my habits are; which brings me to the Habit Tracker.

Habit tracker.
The Habit Tracker includes quite a bit of legit info, but it also serves as an accountability partner. For example, I would really like to get back to a daily yoga practice...sadly, I only marked three days this month....but next month I can do better. Visually motivating, huh?

I'm tracking a lot of very different things here, and it is cool to see the whole month at a glance. Besides yoga, I am trying to get a walk in each day...this month: 13. I milked 22 days (but was in the barn all 31 days of the month for morning chores). I worked 32 hours at my teaching job. The chickens laid 67 eggs. I did 23 loads of laundry, but only hung 4 on the line. See? Cool, huh?

Besides the daily bullet list and the habit tracker. I included a page at the beginning with goals for that month with little check off boxes to tick off when I accomplish something. I divided my monthly goals into several categories: Garden; Farm; Creative Business; Personal; and Blog. I didn't accomplish every item on the list, but I'm happy with what I did accomplish. I got every thing done that had a specific date, i.e. all the seed starting for this year's garden was done on time (probably for the first time ever).

The beautiful thing about the bullet journal (at least for me) is the idea of "migration". This means that things that don't get checked off this month, just migrate to the next month. I love that....no pressure. I have also been applying the migration technique to the daily To Do list...it sure does make the list less daunting.

Since my bullet journal has a Food category, I'll tell you too that labeling the outside of the freezer is the BEST thing I ever did to help us avoid food waste and stay organized.
Freezer Inventory.
Mom and I have discussed more than once the shared perception we have of our preserved food. 
There is this window of time when you don't allow your to dip into the reserves because it is "for winter," but then winter comes and you're still running to the store each week.

So, after we talked about this a couple of times I challenged myself to cook from the pantry, freezer, and garden. Without this nerdy organizing method I would have NO idea what was in the freezer and it is working really well. Part of the information I included in my bullet journal is the recipes I'm using during this time and perhaps I'll share that in another post.

Well, that's the January recap though it appears to be a major plug for bullet journaling and maybe it is. I'm gushing over this technique. I feel calm and balanced and in control. I know what has to get done: I have time to do it, but if I don't it can just "migrate" to the next page. There is freedom in that and sanity and less call for juggling and more time for Me and Us.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

January Garden Report 2016

 Well now, it is that time of year again...time for retrospection and resolutions. I'm good at the retrospection, but the resolutions? Not so much. Yeah, Yeah I resolved to write more on this blog LAST YEAR and you can see how that turned out. I resolved to write a garden post every month last year and I managed January, but I'm nothing if I'm not hard headed so I'm going to try this again.

So, it's January and here is my Garden Report. So far it has been pretty mild (probably just threw out a major jinxy by saying that), but we are still swampy from a 10 inch rain we got just at the end of the year. The garden is almost 100% prepped for the new season except for a few minors things. I'm still waiting for my compost pile to dry out!!


Last year's garden was a really abundant one (of course, you would know that if I ever blogged about it!). My hopes this year are to produce as much as or more than last year. I still feel like I'm on the steep part of the learning curve even though I'm organized and on time. I keep doubting myself and my decisions....do I turn the heater on? do I plug in the heat mats? do I need to water? Soak from the bottom or sprinkle from the top? and on and on and on....I wake up thinking about (okay, obsessing about) these things.

Despite it being only 25 degrees when I went out to milk this morning, I went out the greenhouse and puttered about. It was about 40 degrees in there with the heater on and the skies overcast. I had to execute a "do-over" on the cabbage planting because I had dropped the whole flat and blasted the soil (and sadly, 4 tiny babies) out in the stones. UGH! I also started eggplants and tomatillos. Last week I had (with the cabbage seed) also planted 5 types of peppers and parsley. I was sad to see that nothing was germinating....I felt bad; I beat myself up; I got angry and frustrated and then....well, then I read the seed packets...Oops, nothing to worry about. Parsley needs three weeks and peppers need consistent soil temps of around 80 degrees.

I vacillate between being a total nerd (see garden plan diagram from 2015 above and at right) or being totally willy-nilly about the garden and I'm trying to find the middle ground this year.

If you are starting a garden in North Texas yourself here's the run-down (from the nerdy part of me).

In January you can start these seeds indoors:
Broccoli. Cabbage. Cauliflower. Eggplant. Kale. Parsley. Peppers. Tomatoes, and Tomatillos. 

The Bullet List:


  • I use a 50-50 mix of peat moss and perlite (or vermiculite) for starting seeds.
  • I use any container that will hold soil (just remember to punch holes in the bottoms.
  • I use plastic wrap (you know the kind people use to cover food) stretched over the tops of the containers (until they germinate.)
  • I have heat mats, but I'm not sure they are necessary/effective.
  • I am using a greenhouse and a space heater on really cold nights, but no extra lights.
  • I try to keep the pots damp, like a rung-out sponge.
If anyone is following along (and why would you be, since this poor old blog is pretty hit or miss) I hope this helps you get going....and PLEASE please please use ORGANIC seeds for the bees and your health!

EDITED: I thought it might be helpful to add the two major references I use this time of year beside just reading the seed packets (from which you can glean much info).
I use THIS Seed Starting Plan Sheet from Growin' Crazy Acres
I use Maximizing Your Mini-Farm by Brett L. Markham (right now I use it for my notes that I've added the last couple of years, but when it comes to planting time I use this for spacing and such).

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What do you do all day?

“What do you do all day?”

“Do you mean to tell me you can’t find one free hour this week to ______?”

“You only/just work two days a week.”

“I bet you have tons of time for sewing.”

...and so on and so on.

I get these kinds of things said to me frequently. Frequently enough that I have been ruminating on the subject of work, women and work, unpaid work, and women who farm/homestead for awhile. More often than not, I feel a certain vibe from folks like they assume that I’m running around having lunch with my girlfriends and getting pedicures every day, because I “only work two days a week.” 

Several attitudes come into play here....first we have the perception that only working two days a week is somehow cheating. We also think that if you aren’t working for money then you aren’t working. I think my generation (that’s Gen X) assumes women have to have a family and a career. I also think that because I don’t have children people think that I should be working (outside the home). And of course, we can’t forget the age-old issue centered on “women’s work.”

Historically women’s work has been undervalued and under appreciated. We, as a society, don’t consider unpaid work actual work. Running a household and running it well is hard WORK, but I didn’t always get this either. I’ll admit when I quit teaching full time I had more than a little meltdown...say, a continuous meltdown for months and months because I felt like I wasn’t contributing to our family, but more importantly because I felt like I had no purpose, no direction. Sounds like a stupid cliche’ but it was true. I was adrift. 

In the days before the farm, I had a very hard time mentally and emotionally because I felt like I had no value and I didn’t recognize that the work I did kept us going. The house was clean, the groceries bought, the laundry done, the lawn mowed (not traditionally women’s work?!). And it was never my husband who had an issue. He always recognized the work I did and valued the contribution. It was the deeply held, ingrained at the core of me, belief that I had to bring money into the household in order to be a productive member of the household. My struggles when I was (by choice) unemployed after 13 years taught me so much. I understand the attitude because I used to have it, but I also worked through it and now longer believe that I am not contributing simply because the work I do is unpaid in the traditional sense. 

I work hard every day and my contributions to our household involve  some of the most important and basic things we need: food and shelter. I take my “job” seriously now. I have value and purpose...make that, Purpose. I put food on our table, dairy, eggs, vegetables...meat if I chose to. I do this EVERY day. I tend the gardens and the chickens and goats EVERY day. I take care of our HOME. My “job” is a 365/24/7 job, but it is the most important job because it nourishes us and sustains us. 


I do work outside the farm teaching college courses two days a week; it requires me to be clean and presentable and prepared and on time just twice each week. Folks latch onto that work “just” and I hear it a lot. Yep, just two days a week, I clean up and leave the farm and work from 10am to 4pm. Pretty cushy, right? Yep, I get that a lot too.

Since this got me so very irked I decided to log my day today.

7am hit the ground running...get dressed
dogs out, kettle on, go outside:

Open Buck Barn #2, check Rhett and Ben for cracked skulls, check water troughs  **trough needs to be filled.
Open Buck Barn #2...check trough: full
Down to the Big Barn, open chicken hatch, check for evidence of predator **note scratching along wall....gotta go something about that.
Open Big Barn doors, throw hay to girls, visual inspection of each girl...everyone looks happy.

Back inside: dogs in, feed dogs, dogs back out, make tea while prepping for milking
Out to milk. Feed, milk, change water, fill chicken water, feed chickens.
Back inside: filter milk, set it to chill
While it chills (50 minutes): wash milking gear and (sadly) an icky casserole dish from last night, eat breakfast, check weather (ugh, forecast low of 34 coming up...re-prioritize super long TO-DO list), wash breakfast dishes, surf internet for news and facebook. Check email.

Back to Buck Barn #2: fill trough, clean and fill inside water, walk fence line, pick up litter from road.
to Big Barn: clean milkers and nursery stall, haul muck out, scrub kennel used for chicken transport, re-erect dead electric fence to channel goats to browse.
Walk up pasture and collect goats for a field trip.

It is now 10am.

From 10am until 12:30 I work on clearing the fenceline (the girls spook at some point and take themselves back to the barn....weiners!).

12:30-1:00 Lunch...also bandaging my thumb where I stabbed through my nail, because well, my gloves didn’t have a thumb?! Find better gloves, go back out.

1:00-1:49. Mowing along electric fences (of course, I had to air up my tires first. Then, because I failed to run the pre-mowing checklist...I ran out of gas...back to the garage for the gas can, poop!) 

1:49-2:00: loaded some hay for my Mom and helped her pick fabric for some quilt squares (took advantage of being inside to pee!)

2:00-3:55 finished all the mowing, re-erected the orchard and pasture-splitting electric fence, and flipped the switch to power the fence charger...

4:00 Woo Hoo, I’m finished. But wait. I’m not. 

(I used this hour to write the rough draft of this post and have a well-deserved cup of tea).

At 5:00 (winter time) I have to put the farm to bed. Three barns, 13 goats, some odd chickens. It takes about an hour. Then dogs need to be fed, then the dishwasher needs to be unloaded (but I can do that while dinner is in the oven), then I get to reload the dishwasher, take a shower, go to bed, so I can do it all again tomorrow. 

In the summer the days are just like this, except they are 14 hours long...instead of 12.


But I JUST work two days a week.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Integrity Farming

      When we started this whole farming thing I spent a lot of time mulling over what to call myself and this place we are calling home. Am I a farmer and is this a farmstead?  Am I a homesteader and is this a homestead? I settled on the label farmer, but for awhile I still struggled to define myself as a farmer because I felt like a real farmer was more heartless, more exacting, more businesslike than I was. I was farming, but with a heart; maybe I had too much heart even. After much thought, I finally can own the title of farmer. I grow food; thus, I am a farmer.
Now when I say I’m a farmer, I own it, but fear that folks misunderstand what I really do. Most people are so disconnected from their food that they simply give me a blank stare when I say I farm on my homestead. For some, they assume I mean that I grow acres and acres of one thing, or have a barn full of zillions of chickens. If someone is actually interested enough in what I do to ask some questions or at least politely listen to me I eventually work my way around to one thing. 
What I grow here is “integrity food,” so I’m an “integrity farmer.” I know everyone knows what food is and I suspect we all have a pretty good understanding of the word integrity, but what does it mean when we put them together? Joel Salatin, who coined the phrase in a 2014 article for Mother Earth News, defines it this way: “I define integrity food as food that’s raised in a way that heals the environment and builds the soil, creating sustenance that’s nutrient dense and life-affirming---including for the lives of the humans who raise, process and consume it.” In a nutshell, he’s saying that the agriculture that produces integrity food must be sustainable (for the planet), nutritious, and up-lifting (for the humans). 
Though I agree whole-heartedly with Salatin’s definition there are a few things I would add that define further what I do here on my farm. I raise dairy goats, chickens, bees, and organic vegetables. I do most of the work by hand. This is important to me, to do the work by hand because I want to stay close to my food, physically and emotionally. For example, I milk my goats by hand and I feed each goat individually. When they finish I talk to them, touch them, and say their name. I do this EVERY day for EVERY goat. I am present for the birth of every kid who will one day produce our milk.  In the garden, I plant and harvest by hand. I pull the weeds and water by hand. In the kitchen, I can, freeze, preserve, prepare, and peel by hand. I am responsible for vegetables from seed to table. We raise chickens from one day old and dig the holes when they die, by hand. We touch everything on this farm and it touches us...that is integrity food.
Doing most of the work by hand means doing it slowly and that means you have time to think about what you are doing. You stay connected to the work and thus, the food.  Some folks might be disgusted by the thought of milking a goat, reaching between her legs and squeezing her teats, but I can’t drink milk anymore unless I know where it came from. Because all that time I spend with my girls, slowly and quietly milking, makes my food better. I now think about where my food comes from; I have a conscience; I have integrity of a different kind. I know my girls are treated well; I know they are fed well; I know they are loved. All that slow, quiet work lets me think about what I’m doing and it makes me question the way it is done in conventional agriculture. 





      For me, integrity farming also implies a certain kind of freedom. Wendell Berry, in his essay “The Pleasures of Eating” says it better than I can:
"There is, then, a politics of food that, like any politics, involves our freedom. We still (sometimes) remember that we cannot be free if our minds and voices are controlled by someone else. But we have neglected to understand that we cannot be free if our food and its sources are controlled by someone else....One reason to eat responsibly is to live free." The ability to provide for our nourishment frees us from shopping trips and expenditures,  and allows us to opt out of the chemical laden conventional fare most widely available.
With that said, maybe it would be easier to understand integrity food and farming by defining what it is not. For me, integrity food has no machines, no factories, no conveyor belts, no vats or trucks. Integrity food doesn’t come from the store. It doesn’t come in a box or bag. It is never wrapped in plastic or encased in tin. An integrity farm would never grow just one thing. An integrity farm would never keep animals confined. An integrity farms doesn’t use chemicals or any kind, no antibiotics or hormones either. 
As Salatin says, integrity food is “life-affirming.” For me, this farm gives me a Purpose and yes, I meant to use a capital P. The act of feeding those that I love is life-affirming. Treating my animals well is life-affirming. Rebuilding the soil is life-affirming. 



Friday, September 25, 2015

The Dearth of a Farmer

No, no...slow down. It says "Dearth" not Death...no one's dead yet here at OTF. Tired and weary, yes. And recovering from a cold that didn't kill me, but just wore me out. 

I spend a lot of time in my own head as I suspect most farmers do. I daydream and plan and scheme. Sometimes, I bitch and moan and grouse, but mostly I muddle along pushing from chore to chore to chore...almost, but not quite mindlessly. Most folks use the word chore to mean something that is onerous, but really the basic meaning is just something that is routine. No big deal the chores, but there are a lot of them and they are relentless. Imagine Groundhog Day only with mud, poop, blood, tears, milk, feed, hay, and so on. There is never a shortage of chores, but there is always a shortage of time. The dearth of a farmer.

Many days I push through the chores feeling like I'll never get it done and as such I never stop to "smell the roses" as they say...though the smells on the farms are generally less than sweet if you want to get literal. I do chicken-chores first and as I bustled back and forth from barn to chicken tractor to barn to house, I paused for maybe two seconds to admire a rainbow. Out loud, I said, “thank you for the rainbow...the bow without the rain” and then I moved on. Hustle, bustle. 

It is my habit to count the chickens when I close the coop, to touch each goat, to say their name, to check in with them each and every one. Some nights I feel guilty because I know that I didn’t lay hands on one particular goat, or I forgot to check a bloody horn scur, or that I have otherwise neglected someone because I was on auto-pilot, doing the chores by rote. Neglecting them and me, routinely.

The farm is an entity and it requires constant attention and I give it that attention frequently ignoring what I need or want, but sometimes, just sometimes when the wind is just right, or the moon is in its wandering phase, or as tonight the Great Horned Owl calls me, I step away from the chores. I allow myself to shirk my duties for a few minutes.

I had barely begun the chores tonight when I heard the call of the Owl. Immediately I went back to the house and pulled on my boots and went to seek her out. Although I frequently hear her, it has been months since I've seen her and she was calling me away from the barn, into the woods to follow her voice. Usually the barn doesn't let me go so easily. I’m tethered to the mental list of things to be done before the sun is down. The light was fading and the sky was pink. I knew I would be finishing chores in the dark, but I moved on anyway. The owl, our namesake, had given me leave to wander a bit. 

Down the (finally) dry creek bed, I followed, pausing at the original owl tree, a pecan that has succumbed to age and drought. Standing still on the edge of Turtle Forest at twilight is a special kind of gift. There was a breeze high in the trees, but it was still below. The birds fell silent as I stood and waited, patience a gift also. As darkness dropped I still didn’t hurry...then I heard her again. On the other side maybe...

I skirted back around and down the path that leads to the pond and opens in the meadow. I stop and listen and hear her again. I continue. “I’m coming,” I whisper, but just as I reach the edge of the woods I see her fly, a tiny glimpse of her brown body and wide wings swooping down from a dead tree, out over the pond, away.

Her flight leads me to the water’s edge. The pond is down some, but full of algae and muck. It looks ugly and fetid in the full sun of day and I’ve avoided it for weeks, but tonight the owl led me there to stand on the edge, to watch turtles surface and eye me with suspicion, to see the snake who makes the brushpile home, to hear her distant call again...saying slow down, stand still, breath deeply, listen.


There is never enough time in the farmer’s day and I never give myself permission to just walk away from what needs to be done. But the gift the owl gave me tonight was a tiny respite, a moment of peace and as I walked up to the buck barns I had more spring in my step. I spoke to and touched every goat. I gave them what they needed, because I had been given what I needed. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Recipe: Jalapeno Jelly

Yesterday I talked about "making hay while the sun shines" and today was another day when I had to juggle the list. The most pressing big project right now is a fenced backyard, but the garden presented me with two colanders full of food and priorities changed. As I mentioned yesterday, I'm not so good at changes in my plan or routine, but I'm getting better at handling my seemingly endless list of To Be Done.

Some days the Overwhelm settles at the base of my spine and paralyzes me when the list seems too long and the day too short. Today's list was little and frankly I'm not finished with it yet, but I don't feel the weird burden on my shoulders of an unfinished list. Many days, I piddle around rootless while produce and milk and chores pile up because I simply can't get focused because there are too many things to do.

But as the garden slows down and the days get shorter that capital O-Overwhelm has quieted. The edges are dull and it threatens less and less. There are a few things that have to be done today yet...wash the eggs for sale, grate some mozzarella for the freezer,  and of course there is still dinner and the dishes and the evening chores, but the day passed quickly, the work got done, and the Overwhelm stayed away.

This summer the garden has been abundant and to waste even the tiniest bit seems to me the worst kind of disrespect. I say this frequently about our milk, that to waste it means that I am disrespecting my girls and all the work I ask them to do. To be bred, kid, and then produce milk for a full year is the hardest kind of work...to waste that milk that took so much to produce...well, I just can't do it.

Sometime in mid-summer when I was watering, harvesting, and canning most days...hours and hours in the kitchen...it occurred to me that to waste the produce was to disrespect myself, my soil, the plants themselves. I started those seeds in January, nursed them through the brutal cold of February, planted them in March and April, cheered them on when the rain tried to drown them in May, harvested in the late May mud,  harvested in June, July, today....to waste anything meant I was wasting my time all the way back to January. 

So, what do you do with a colander each of okra and jalapeños? The okra was quickly sliced and frozen in quart bags....the tough ones split and thrown to the chickens. The jalapeños took a little more work...I chose to ferment the bulk of them using this recipe from Nourished Kitchen. Then I made jalapeño jelly. I've been making this jelly a long time. It's a favorite over cream cheese or with peanut butter (oh golly, with the peanut butter!!!). My recipe is well-worn, goopy, stained, and I don't actually follow all the directions anymore, but this is the one I use and I'm not even tempted to try another. Tried and true, this one.


Though I don't always like the share my favorite, "signature" recipes, I'm sharing today because I seek out recipes and advice and help through blogs and Facebook and various other venues on the internet and this is just a small way to pay it forward. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The "Making Hay" Equation

 No, we don’t literally make our own hay, but this lovely little cliche so accurately sums up the way that we work on the farm that I say it at least three times a week. The original proverb dates from 1546 (according to Phrase Finder phrases.org.uk) and it went thusly:

When the sunne shinth make hay. Whiche is to say. 
Take time whan time cometh, lest time steale away.

This farming business is exhausting, but I’ve slowly come to realize that while we are forced to “make hay” when we have the time and more importantly when the weather is optimal, we are also allowed some respite when the weather just won’t allow the work. Figuring this out has somehow made it easier to tackle hard jobs, but it has taken me awhile to figure this out.

Last winter when I was clearing brush and fence lines so we could pull new wire and create rotational paddocks for the goats I hadn’t yet figured out this “make hay” equation. Clearing brush is work reserved for winter when the snakes are sleeping and the bugs and spiders are absent too. I had big plans for those woods. Those rotational paddocks were going to solve all the goat’s problems. I had a calendar and a schedule and I was getting it done. 

I set up the first paddock using the creek bed as the fence line and the girls, though skittish enjoyed several weeks of serious browsing. Then it started to rain and the plan fell apart and I couldn’t quite handle it. I had a plan and dammit, I wanted to stick to it. I’m rigid like that sometimes.

When it started raining in May, it didn’t stop until we had logged almost 20 inches. The tank overflowed, the creek flowed all summer, and the grass and weeds grew high.  We couldn’t rotate paddocks. The electric fence went under water and I had to wade the length of the creek to retrieve it. I rolled it up and stored it. I moped around because my plan was screwed up and all was lost. Every day we had to do some other weather related triage. Our barns flooded, roofs leaked, trees died from too much water. We laid out cardboard for the milkers to walk on. We threw hay three times a day. We dug drainage ditches. We squelched and slopped around in mud for more than a month and nothing else got done. The weather dictated our actions. We did what had to be done and oddly I started to relax a little, to go with the flow.

We had other plans for the summer that were left for later because of those rains in May. The creek dried up to puddles just a week ago (this is August), but this last bit of rain has it running again. We still can’t get to the mulch pile, so we can’t finish the garden. We can’t mow and we can’t clear the brush and the goats are confined to the same old pastures, but don’t mistake this for bitching about the rain. This is about me and my rigid routines. About plans foiled.

Now, instead of focusing on the tasks we can’t do, we shuffle the list. I'm getting better at this. We got an inch and a half of rain two days ago, so the surface is soft and there are fence posts to be dug. So we dig. The compost needs to be turned, but it is too wet. So we wait. The grass could be mowed, but it is wet. So we wait. The goats would love to browse the woods but the creek is running again. So they wait. 

I’ve been “making hay” all summer and I’ve been working on the “making hay” equation too. I’m learning to be more flexible, to do what I can, when I can. I’m learning to listen when the weather says, “No. Not now, just wait awhile” and I’m grateful for that respite.

The weather is teaching me to be flexible, to be industrious, to relax, to be grateful. It is funny how a little change in perspective can smooth things over. This week I’m doing the hard work of digging post holes in the heat, with fire ants biting and sweat rolling off my body, but I’m happy to do it because it feels right and true, because the ground is soft and the time is right. It is what I am supposed to be doing… "making hay while the sun shines.”