Sunday, March 24, 2013

because I farm

I guess I am an extremist when it comes to multitasking..there have been times in my life that whenever I was asked to do anything - I did it. From anyone...complete strangers even. I've been amazed at the things that have been asked of me. But even more that I have said yes. If I didn't know how to do what I was being asked - I'd learn..if I didn't particularly enjoy the idea or task - I did it anyway. Maybe not a 2nd time but always did it the first time. No matter what else I had going on at the time, it made no difference..I was a yes kind of person. Funny how the times of the simple life has changed so many things. Who knew that living simply would actually be so complicated!

Now I'm not necessarily the opposite but my response is more like...well...see...we have a farm. I'm still an extreme multitasker...but it's centered around our farming lifestyle. It's complicated to explain. Sure everyone gets tired of hearing it and sure we even get tired of saying it. But it's what we do and who we are...and quite frankly the animals don't really care about any one elses schedule or extra curricular activities. They demand their food and care. Farmers are sometimes looked at through glorified glasses and the simple life looks very appealing. It is without a doubt the most earnestly we've ever lived but before you run out to purchase a dozen fluffy chicks and that too cute for words, baby goat or plan that move to the back hills of the farming country. Here are just a few things you should know: We do not have evenings or weekends off....ever. We do not take vacations and rarely leave the farm. We do not shop at Malls or know what the newest trends are. We do not have a tidy house or an animal-less one. We could not tell you what shows are on TV or what the current topics are on the news. We do not read the newspaper. We do not buy or drive new vehicles. We miss many of our kids' talent shows, recitals, ball games and band concerts. We are rarely on time and usually miss family get togethers. We do not always blend in and we never have extra cash.

And for those that wonder exactly what it is that we do....We work until the sun goes down and get up before the sun rises and more times then not, it does not show. We sleep hard and still lack sleep. We eat home cooked meals around the dinner table. We often smell like farmers and look like it too. We read fencing, farming and animal husbandry books and blogs..when we read. We know our kids and they know us. We know our neighbors. We fix things that break and almost always shop for clothing and most everything else second hand. We drink lots of coffee from a percolator. We are the farm help. We fail daily. We pray. We laugh often. We cuss and yes even weep.

If you're looking for a sound proof reason to say no to lots of things in life...well farming just might be for you! It definitely has its perks and it sure simplifies a lot of things but in no way is it simple.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Reina's spirit & going home

Nearly all of the good things in my life seem to have started with animals. And some of my dearest friendships have begun because of dogs. Dogs are a large portion of my life, so it's no wonder those closest to me appreciate these soulful creatures as much as I do and that I continue to meet the most wonderful people through them. 
Because I can appreciate all that life has to offer, there are the occasional friendships that aren't based and blossoming around dogs..but still I can't help but wonder if canines are in their family or if they're loved by them. I do not own dogs but it is a fact that I am owned by many. Currently the number is at 8 with a soon to be added 9. Some I have found..and some have found me. To me it makes little difference how they got here. They're here and that's what makes the difference.

Every once in awhile, there is a dog that stands out and with no effort on the dog's part...I'm smitten. It's that soul connection. Reina has been a soul connection for me. Her wisdom, discretion, courage, devotion, her tough girl stance when she needs to be and her incredibly tender, soft spirit touches me deep in my heart. She is the best dog I have ever known and it is an honor to be her friend.
at work on a snowy day

Reina's little spirits at 5 wks old
 She has raised many cubs that are scattered throughout the state and beyond. Some have went on to be guardians of farms and livestock and others are guardians of the home. Reina has shared her spirit with each of them and on lives her legacy.
ready to go home
Her recent brew have found their families and went home yesterday. The privilege to be a part of families finding dogs and dogs finding indescribable. It was a beautiful and emotional day. Reina is back to work and her little cubs are following their journey into the hearts of these extraordinary people. 
Hera & family

Ella & family

Penelope & family

Klaus & family

 “Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring--it was peace.”  Milan Kundera

Friday, March 8, 2013

the lamb house

the field lambs
 Without a doubt, every lambing season there will be a couple of bottle babies. This year we had several new moms who needed a little extra encouragement to be good mothers. Sometimes motherhood does not come as naturally for the ewes, as we'd like. Perhaps it's that I'm nearly always present at every birth and not just watching...but readily participating. And so the ewes have decided to take advantage of the midwifery and have me do most of the feedings too. Or they just simply need some lamb rearing 101 and as their Shepherdess, I willingly do both. Many triplets were also born this season and the majority of the ewes are very much capable of raising 3 lambs but the occasional few will ask me to help out. And without hesitation I swoop up these little sweetpeas, tuck them under my arm and head for the warmth of home...and so begins the journey of the lamb house.
there's some cuddling
a bit of teething
a little exploring
a bit more napping

A LOT of milk
and a WHOLE LOT of cleaning

Since I work from home most of the time, the lambs get quite a few visitors and making friends is something they do best. It's true that more times than not, I'm told I'm crazy and obviously silly. I've been asked if I have patience or if our house smells like a barn. And then there are the ones with the blank stare that have no reply. But to all who have stepped onto the front porch have almost immediately asked, what exactly is that galloping noise we're hearing...I just smile and say, those are my house lambs - which is then quickly followed by, would you like to meet them? Silly...maybe. Sometimes stinky..probably. But priceless...definitely.

the games they play

Saturday, March 2, 2013

nurturing our food

I think it's this time every year that it feels to me, as though Spring will never come. The days are long and dark, temps are still freezing, the ground is barren appetite is off the charts! It seems I creep into Winter with some restraint but by Spring I am craving all things fried, piping hot and crusty.
fried rabbit
 Every Winter I make my fair share of soups and stews..but there is no denying that crispy craving! We eat only what meat that is in the freezer from what we've processed or from friends who have...and nearly everything else we eat is made from absolute scratch. 
Our friends from Link Family Farm raise beautiful meat rabbits. Since we raise our own beef, lamb, poultry and soon to be added pork..rabbit meat has been a new and delicious find for us. 

There is much debate today about farms, especially those that raise animals for processing. For many reasons, I do not care to join that debate but since I am an avid animal nurturer, preserver, rescuer, healer and lover..I will weigh in on it with just a few of my thoughts on raising animals for food.
a young rabbit snug in its nest at the Link's farm

a Link Family Farm meat rabbit
I strongly feel that processing an animal should be hard. It should not be something taken for granted and convenienced. It is a process that is entitled to respect and tender loving care. A process that starts from the very beginning..from conception, to birth, to bottles and buckets, to land grazing all while being honored and nurtured. Processing is a part of our lifestyle and it has not been an easy one for me. I hear so often from other animal lovers that there would be no possible way that they could do that to a creature they have loved and cared for. I offer no answers, no argument and no judgement but I will say that if you can not do it, this is your choice but do tread softly about making claims that it's because you love animals more than those that make the choice to raise and nurture the food they eat. Long before supermarkets and trendy ways of eating...humans hunted for their food. It was a treat to bring home a kill and was treated as such. Nothing was wasted or taken for granted. There were no feed lots and no mass slaughtering. We may not have to hunt for food like our ancestors but there is great value in treating the process with the same amount of respect. When I eat meat at any other place besides home, I can not help but wonder if that animal was cared is serving its purpose and I am thankful but was it loved, was it cold, hungry or hurting..did it have a name? With the animals on our farm or the farm of our friends..there is no wondering. Being aware is not easy and I do not think it should be. When things are fast and easy, they're quickly taken for granted. Farmers that choose the small scale processing way of life are a large part of the respect process to me. I have been there..I am there. It is our way of life, it is not easy and it should not be. 

“The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food? Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.”
― Joel Salatin, Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World

My Rabbit Pot Pie

Pie Crust
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup lard
1 egg
1 tsp vinegar
3 tablespoons of water

Mix first 3 ingredients then the next 3. Mix together and form into a ball - chill if needed to roll out.
Soup: 1 rabbit boiled and meat pulled off the bone. Stock is strained. Meat & stock are then returned to the pot. Add diced carrots, potatoes, celery, corn, limas or other vegetables of your choice and cook until tender. Add the seasonings of your choice - I like to add salt, parsley and chives. Thicken soup with flour and milk. Add pie crust to the top and bake for approx 30 min at 350 degrees or until the crust is golden brown.

RABBIT BURGERS contributed by Michelle Carr
2 cups rabbit meat
2/3 cup pork sausage
2/3 cup boiled potato
1 beaten egg
Cut meat from bones, then run through food chopper. Add the sausage, and mashed potatoes. Form into patties, season and fry.