This morning as I was making the rounds I was thinking back over the last two and a half years. There is nothing like wet grass, cool air, and animal noises of all kinds to get a person thinking. When we bought this farm it was a bunch of empty buildings, nothing more. We had a sketchy dream of what "being farmers" might look like. We had fleeting thoughts of chickens pecking happily in the sunshine and lambs frolicking in the grass. We liked the idea of a farm but we really had no clue what that meant. We were kind of like kindergartners on career day when all the boys want to be police officers and all the girls want to be nurses. We were clueless.
Fast forward and being farmers looks nothing like we thought it would. Or does it? We now have 16 chickens, two roosters, two sheep, three cows, 10 turkeys, two dogs, a cat and an undisclosed number of bees. We experimented with planting alfalfa this year. We ditched the vegetable garden. Our first cut of hay is baled and in the barn. We are doing the activities of farmers. Our buildings are full. We struggle with feeling more clueless now than we did when we had all those empty buildings. There's nothing like experience to let know know what you don't know.
When we took our farm class back in early 2011 we talked about what we wanted in our farm. The dream is still there. Some of it is hazy, maybe hazier than it was originally. Other parts are coming into focus, crystal clear.
In the beginning we decided that our goal was self-sufficiency. We wanted to grow food for ourselves and our animals. We wanted to invest in the future by raising heritage breeds. We wanted to find a niche market that would enable the farm to support itself. Ultimately, we hope that the farm will become our source of income. That's a lot of dreaming.
Sometimes in the drudgery of daily feeding, catching the cow, drenching the sheep, walking the dogs, we lose sight of the dream or forget it all together. As I said in the beginning, there's nothing like a quiet morning on the farm to remind me why I am doing what I am doing.
This morning the quiet brought a few realizations. First, we are realizing our dream. We now raise heritage turkeys. Last year we purchased a dozen bourbon red poults. Four survived. We enjoyed one of the four at Thanksgiving and kept the other three with the wild hope that we'd have a breeding pair in the spring. We now have seven bourbon red poults, hatched from our own eggs. We also have one crazy broody turkey that keeps making nests but doesn't really have the concentration it takes to sit on them. We've got a lot to learn about turkeys, especially about incubation but it's a start. It's an amazing start.
We now eat our own meat. We have a freezer full of chicken and beef, raised on our own land, by our own efforts. If you'd known me pre-farm you'd have an idea of what a miracle that is. By any standards it's a pretty fabulous accomplishment.
We have plans this year to expand our chicken operation and will be selling birds for the first time. That a frightening and exciting prospect.
When everyday feels more like routine than celebration it's important to acknowledge the successes.
This is a more random thought, but another realization I had is that sometimes you don't have to know what something is. You do have to know what it's not. I think this is true of gardens, ideas and dreams.
When I walk into my garden, I don't have to know the name of every green shoot growing. I just have to know what the desirable shoots look like and what they do not look like. If I'm growing strawberries, it matters not one bit what every little thing growing in that patch of ground is called. It only matters if it's a strawberry. If it's not a strawberry, it's not where it belongs and it must be removed. It might be the most rare and wonderful plant in the world but it's not what I'm after. I'm growing strawberries and the rest matters not a bit.
There are lots of times in life where I get distracted by a desire to know everything, do everything, be everything. Perhaps the more admirable skill is being able to distinguish the necessary and valuable from all that is not and move forward from there.