Friday, August 24, 2012

A New Kind of Gardening

In July I was introduced by a friend to the Chesterhill Produce Auction.  This kind of gardening is right up my alley.  Someone else plants the food, weeds the food, grows the food, harvests the food and I get to bid on the food and buy it at a great price.  As an added bonus, much of the food is grown by the Amish. That means I don't have to spend time worrying about gmo seeds or questionable farming practices.

Not only is the auction beautiful and tasty, it's exciting.  I love inspecting all the vegetables being auctioned and deciding what to bid on and what to save for next time.  This decision is based more on the time available for processing my purchases than on what is actually available.  This past week I really wanted tomatoes for canning but didn't purchase them because there weren't that many available so the cost was driven up at auction and because of my other purchases were going to be pretty time intensive. 

The auction has offerings for large lots and for small lots.  There are people their buying for restaurants, cafeterias, retail and home use.  Some people go home with truck loads.  Others leave with a single egg plant.  My purchasing falls in the middle.  This week I bought a bushel of green beans for canning, 3 pecks of sweet red peppers to chop and freeze and 10 dozen ears of corn to freeze.  My total cost was $25. 

I like buying my vegetables from the auction much more than I like gardening.  I get a wide variety of produce with much less work.  I can provide my family with wholesome produce with only the additives and preservatives that I choose.  My goal is not to become a survivalist. I don't have any interest in stock piling food indefinitely. Rather, my goal is to preserve a variety of food from local, homegrown sources so my family can enjoy my efforts year round.  So far I have 27 quarts of green beans and 6 quarts of corn toward that goal.


August Down on the Farm

This month has been a busy one on the farm.  The chickens, turkeys and cows are growing. Thankfully they do that without much help.

The chicken tractor served the growing turkeys well for awhile but was only a temporary fix.  Rob started building a new turkey house when he was interrupted by open-heart surgery.  The job was finished by K15 and her boyfriend.  The turkeys love their new home.

The garden is almost totally overgrown.  All was well until we took a week (maybe a week and a half) off weeding for our trip to Idaho.  When we returned all farm work was put on hold by an unscheduled trip to the hospital.  (That pesky open-heart surgery, again.)  By the time I was home and had time to think about anything other than Rob, the garden was a hot mess.  I figured it just reflected the gardener.  We are still picking things out of it but any resemblance to a real garden is lost for this year.  Maybe next year will yield better results.

To be honest, I have no idea how my bees are.  I haven't so much as strolled in their direction in the last month.  There will probably be no honey this year. 

I keep reminding myself that priorities change and that I can't always accomplish everything I set out to do.  Changing priorities and refocusing doesn't mean failure it means success redefined.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Becoming Farmers

Today it occurred to me that we might really be turning into farmers.  This morning I went out to do the morning chores and discovered many chickens outside the chicken tractor.  About half of the chickens had found their way to freedom and were scattered around the yard.  I sent Rob back inside to wake up the children and send them outside to help me with the chickens.  I continued feeding and watering animals and then went to investigate the chicken escape.  By the time I got there three of the four kids and my mother were dealing with the chickens and had it well in hand.  S10 was keeping the chickens out of the soybeans.  Mom, K15 and M7 were lifting the edge of the chicken tractor and herding the chickens back under the edge.   I was so impressed with their ingenuity and success.

The behavior of the chickens made an impression on all of us.  They were so quick to move into freedom but once they'd escaped their cage the chickens hung close to the edges of the cage.  Even the most adventurous chickens were within 20 feet of the tractor.  Once we started to round them up only one or two resisted the pull of their fellow chickens and tried to stay free. As a mother, I'm sure I'll be able to draw lessons from this experience later.  At breakfast this morning it was just fun to hear the kids talking about the chickens and their success in rounding them up and returning them to safety.

How does this experience prove that we might be turning into farmers?  First of all, none of us panicked or felt overwhelmed by the task at hand.  Even though the kids went from sleeping to herding chickens they knew they had the skills to handle the job.  They didn't complain or whine.  They got the job done.

Second, we were able to work together.  We supported each other and got the job done.  No one blamed anyone else for the escape of the chickens.  No one argued over what needed to be done or who should do it they just worked to fix the problem.

Third, while we started the day with a crisis that event did not define our day.  We returned the chickens to their pen, fixed the break in the tractor and moved on.  Our day began with chickens but it continued on to waffles, reading, conversations and  more chores.  The chickens were just one thing that happened today, they didn't make or break it.

I suppose each experience we have on the farm builds our knowledge and skill bringing us one step closer to being farmers.