Sunday, March 16, 2014

2014 Kids: A Season of Learning

Wrong Way Feldman

Although I have a job outside the farm, I want to be a full-time farmer. I spend a lot of time thinking about what that means. I've lately fallen into a trap of comparison. Comparing myself to some ideal farmer image, the ones I call the "real" farmers and another group, the "good" farmers. These aren't real people. Nope, but they might as well be. In my mind, the "real" farmers don't cry and grieve when they lose a kid. They don't worry that their kids will end up on the supper table. They don't want to keep ALL the kids, because they love them. They run efficient, maybe even profitable farms. The "good" farmers are the ones who never make mistakes. They don't do dumb things. Good farmers are kind, but not so attached. They can sell their kids without too many qualms. "Bad" farmers make lots of mistakes. They're forgetful and miss medications. They lose kids. They do all the dumb things that "good" farmers avoid. They get attached and can't let go. 

I spend a lot of time worrying about who I am as a farmer. Real or good or bad. I don't think a day goes by that I don't wish to be a "real" farmer or admonish myself for being a "bad" farmer. Kidding was a stressful time and I labeled myself almost daily a "bad" farmer.  I made mistakes, lots of mistakes. When I started writing this I was hoping to write a post that might allow someone to avoid the mistakes I made, but to be honest that isn't where this post is headed. 

This year, I cleared my calendar and anxiously awaited the signs of labor. I was here when Vaca went into labor. She had twins boys, a tiny guy we named Gilly and a huge kid we named Wrong Way because he came out backward.  

At that point I began checking on Gypsy and Fanny with a flashlight every night at bedtime. I'd tiptoe in and peek under their tails, listen closely, rub their bellies, and generally just tuck them in if there were no signs of labor. But one night, I saw a mucous stream from Gypsy's backside. I was tired by then, but it is no excuse for mis-remembering what the mucous meant. I said, "She's going to have those kids tomorrow," then I went in and went to bed. 

The next morning I went out to find her with triplets; one dead, still in the sac. She probably had those kids shortly after I left her and had I been there the third kid probably would have made it, because it was cold and I would have helped her clean them, thus breaking the sac. I spent a lot of time beating myself up over that one. I labeled myself a "bad farmer." I wobble back and forth though, heart over head, then head over heart. I can almost convince myself that it is better that way, that twins will be stronger and grow faster than triplets. I tell myself that a "real farmer" would get over it and maybe even be glad that the twins would put on weight faster. We named the two: Skipper and Ginger

A week later, Fanny finally kids while I am gone. I come home to find triplets; healthy, but cold. I get them in and warm them up. They nurse and all is well. We named them Luke, Han, and Leia. A week later our weather turns bitter cold again. The forecast lows for that night were 12 degrees. Even knowing that goats can and will pile up to keep warm and with that pile comes the danger of someone getting smothered, I made the decision to leave mamas, kids, and yearlings together. 

The next morning I found our little doe, Leia smothered under a pile of yearlings. Again, a certain type of farmer, a "real"one,  would be okay with the loss of a triplet, because the twins would be stronger, grow faster. A "good" farmer wouldn't have left the yearlings in with the kids. Yep, my head knows the argument, but my heart was broken. See, that's my problem. I want to be a "good" farmer, a "real" farmer, but I keep being the "bad" farmer.

The next week, we took 10 roosters to be butchered. These were roosters hatched from eggs I turned three times a day for 21 days, fathered by Pip, who grew up in our bathtub. A few of them had names. One of them was mean. I wasn't attached to them and frankly, I was tired of the extra chores. I wanted to do it myself, but we knew it would take days to butcher 10 roosters. We stayed with our roosters through the whole process. We brought them into the world and ushered them out. It wasn't pretty and when we returned home, I had to put the whole lot in the freezer, not quite willing to cook chicken that night. I had to take a nap afterward, I am such a "bad" farmer.

By now you've likely noticed that I've not posted a bunch of cute pictures of kids, just WW and I having a chat. Not today. Today I need to paint the picture of what it means to me to be a farmer. I need to leave the adjectives behind. This is already hard work physically and mentally; relentlessly hard. But I can't keep doing it if I have to beat myself up and continuously compare myself to some fictional farmer.

For me, this is work of the heart. I've often said that a "good" farmer  or a "real" farmer wouldn't get so attached to the animals and perhaps that is so. But I can't do this work without being attached to them. I need the connection and so do they. I believe that even though I'm not exactly sure what I mean by it.  

Today I'm leaving the adjectives "good" and "bad" behind. I AM REAL. I AM a farmer. That makes me a "real farmer." 

Since this is a new blog about a relatively new farm I would like to make a vow to you, my readers. I vow to be as authentic and truthful as possible, to be "real."  I think we are doing something special here, something genuine and true.

I guess I needed to get this out of my system, because as I said before this was not the post I sat down to write. Next post, I promise cute pictures of goats that will make you go "SQUEEEEE!"

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