Monday, May 4, 2015

May News from the Central Ohio Young Farmers

May News from the Central Ohio Young Farmers

Save the Date: 
Please join us Tuesday 5/5/15 for a special tour of the Fort Hayes FFA!  We will meet at 6:00pm for a special tour with Pam Snyder, the director of BioSciences Technology at Ft. Hayes Career Center in the Columbus School System.  We will have an opportunity to learn about this urban FFA chapter in Franklin County.  The address is 546 Jack Gibbs Boulevard 43215.  We will be meeting in Room 213 of the Health Building.  Please feel free to call 614.271.0304 for further directions.  After our tour at 6:00pm, we will then gather for dinner & libations.  This will be a fantastic opportunity to learn more about urban agriculture education, and then relax over a meal with friends!

Huge thanks to Jordan Hoewischer for joining our council in April to discuss water quality issues!  Jordan shared details of his new position with Ohio Farm Bureau, and offered ideas on how to provide tools for farmers to address water quality concerns.  Discussion was enjoyable & covered a wide range of topics -- even opera!  We met at Gresso's, a favorite of our council . . . And our council was even featured in Gresso's e-newsletter!



Congratulations to two of our council members on the birth of sons!  Neall Weber is the proud father of Vonn Jacob Weber, and Kylene Dietemyer welcomed John Prescott Dietemyer.  We are very excited to have two new babies as future young Ag professionals!  Congratulations to Neall, Kylene, and both their families!

Congratulations also go to two of our council members on their election as incoming county Farm Bureau board presidents!  Jeff Schilling was recently elected to serve as the 2015-2016 Franklin County Farm Bureau president, and Ron Burns will have the honor of leading the Union County Farm Bureau board as president for the upcoming year.  We are very excited to commend these gentlemen on their election!

Yet more exciting news: congratulations to Emma Bratton on her acceptance to The Ohio State University's School of Veterinary Medicine!  We are very excited for Emma as she begins her veterinary studies this fall!

What is Farm Bureau?  Ohio Farm Bureau is made up of county organizations that work to promote farms, connect farmers with consumers, provide education & networking opportunities, and support policy that benefits the farm community.  As part of its grassroots efforts, county Farm Bureaus encourage the development of councils: groups of individuals who socialize, debate ideas, and support each other in our farm endeavors.  The Central Ohio Young Farmers (and young at heart) council was started in 2007, and is congenially known as the Irish Pirates.  It encompasses Both Madison & Franklin county farmers, and strives to address issues relative to being a BMF farmer!

Save the Date . . .
5/5 COUNCIL MEETING: special tour of the Ft. Hayes FFA Chapter
5/18 Franklin County Board Meeting
5/26 Union County Board Meeting
5/28 Union County Farm Bureau Grow & Know event at Mitchell's Berries
6/2 Union County Policy Breakfast
6/2 COUNCIL MEETING: special guest Justice Judi French of the Ohio Supreme Court
6/3 Union County board meeting
6/6 Breakfast on the Farm hosted by Madison & Franklin Counties
6/23 Madison County board meeting
6/23 Delaware County board meeting
7/11 Ice cream with a Farmer hosted by Union County
7/12 COUNCIL MEETING: summer picnic at Neall Weber's
7/12-7/18 Madison County Fair
7/16 Madison County Annual Meeting

Have an idea for a council event?  Want to highlight an activity in the council e-newsletter?  Curious how to get involved?  Contact Katherine Harrison at harrisonfarm13@gmail.com with your ideas!

Friday, April 10, 2015

April News from the Central Ohio Young Farmers

April News from the Central Ohio Young Farmers

Save the Date: our next meeting of the Central Ohio Young Farmers council will be Tuesday 4/14.  Our special guest will be Jordan Hoewischer, Ohio Farm Bureau's new water quality specialist!  Jordan has served as a member of the Franklin County Farm Bureau Board, and is a graduate of the AgriPower program.  He will join our council to share what Ohio Farm Bureau is doing to promote water quality in Ohio, and how his new role will serve as a part of Farm Bureau's commitment to healthy waters.  Please join us at Gresso's at 961 South High Street, in German Village (same location as our Holiday party).  Cocktails start at 6:30pm, with Jordan presenting at approximately 7pm.  This will be a very fun social activity, and a great way to meet other young professionals in agriculture!

Special thanks go to Kylene Dietemyer, Cassie Williams, and Amy Zwayer for their efforts to plan the 2015 Women in Agriculture celebration at Jorgensen Farms!  The delicious brunch was catered by PBJ Catering of Ashville, and this local business did a fantastic job.  The honor of 2014 Woman of the Year was presented to Wilma Roberts.  Known affectionately as "Grandma", this dynamic lady volunteers her time to teach children at the Highland Youth Gardens.  Franklin County Farm Bureau supports this urban garden financially to assist with its mission of introducing children to raising produce.  The Franklin County Farm Bureau Board was delighted to honor Grandma Roberts for her dedication to teaching children, improving her community, and inspiring appreciation for gardening in an urban setting!



Several members of our council travelled to Clark County for the regional young agricultural professionals event on 3/21/15.  Two educational tracks were offered for attendees during the afternoon portion: one focused on small farms and the other addressed larger farms.  Thanks to Kylene Dietemyer of Franklin County Farm Bureau for helping to organize this event!  Kylene led a session which highlighted farm equipment, and did an outstanding job.  Neall Weber & Katherine Harrison had the opportunity to have dinner with keynote speaker Drew Hastings.  Mayor Hastings of Hillsboro was a fantastic speaker, and even gave a memorable shout out to Neall during his presentation!  Be sure to ask Neall about this!



Huge props go to the amazing Jody Carney for organizing Farm to City Day at Norwood Elementary School in West Jefferson!  This is an annual program that Madison County Farm Bureau puts on to teach young people about farming.  Each year, volunteers visit a different elementary school in Madison County.  Jody did a fantastic job of planning this event, and even recruited Katherine Harrison & Rebekah Headings to teach students about sheep & goats!  This program is a great example of how Farm Bureau members work to connect with their local community on farming.



DON'T FORGET: Applications for AgriPower are due on 4/17 to Ohio Farm Bureau.  Our council member Rebekah Headings graduated last month from this leadership program for individuals involved in agriculture!  It is an amazing opportunity to learn more about agriculture, gain an understanding of policy issues, and network with leaders from across the state of Ohio.  In addition, you are guaranteed to meet amazing  individuals who will be your AgriPower classmates!  For more information, visit www.ofbf.org or ask Rebekah about her experiences!



What is Farm Bureau?  Ohio Farm Bureau is made up of county organizations that work to promote farms, connect farmers with consumers, provide education & networking opportunities, and support policy that benefits the farm community.  As part of its grassroots efforts, county Farm Bureaus encourage the development of councils: groups of individuals who socialize, debate ideas, and support each other in our farm endeavors.  The Central Ohio Young Farmers (and young at heart) council was started in 2007, and is congenially known as the Irish Pirates.  It encompasses Both Madison & Franklin county farmers, and strives to address issues relative to being a BMF farmer!

Save the Date . . .
4/16 Madison County Policy Lunch
4/20 Franklin County board meeting
4/28 Delaware County Board Meeting
5/5 COUNCIL MEETING: special tour of the Ft. Hayes FFA Chapter
5/18 Franklin County Board Meeting
5/28 Union County Farm Bureau Grow & Know event at Mitchell's Berries
6/2 Union County Policy Breakfast
6/2 COUNCIL MEETING: special guest Justice Judi French of the Ohio Supreme Court
6/3 Union County board meeting
6/6 Breakfast on the Farm hosted by Madison & Franklin Counties
6/23 Madison County board meeting
7/11 Ice cream with a Farmer hosted by Union County
7/12 COUNCIL MEETING: tentative date for summer picnic

Have an idea for a council event?  Want to highlight an activity in the council e-newsletter?  Curious how to get involved?  Contact Katherine Harrison at harrisonfarm13@gmail.com with your ideas!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Appomattox Day

150 years ago today, General Lee met General Grant at the McLean House at Appomattox VA to sign the instrument of surrender.  This was the beginning of the end for Civil War fighting.  Within a few months, the remaining Confederate generals would also surrender.  General Lee's troops were allowed to return home, permitted to keep their horses, given rations, and able to retain their side-arms if they were an officer.  The generosity shown by General Grant toward the defeated was unique for the victor of a civil war.  Winston Churchill later wrote that this magnanimity "stands high in the story of the United States."  

I love history, and I especially adore being able to see the history of the United States in my own family. Harrisons were on both sides of the Civil War.  Taps was actually written while General McClellan's Army of the Potomac was encamped at Berkeley Plantation, the home of the Harrisons in Virginia.  President Lincoln visited the troops there, and used this location as his base to visit Richmond after it was taken by Union forces.  Following the war, the Harrisons did not return to Berkeley.  My own branch of the family had migrated to Ohio after the Revolution, and they were raising sheep in Knox County by the time of the Civil War.  I find it interesting that the pioneer spirit led my ancestor David Harrison to travel to the new state of Ohio to build a life, while his cousins remained in Virginia and eventually lost their home when they fled before the Union troops.

David's son John Lum Harrison was a little too old to go off to battle when the Civil War began, and John Lum's son James Virgil was just a child during the war.  James Virgil was the paternal grandfather of my own grandfather Virgil Grube Harrison.  My grandfather's maternal grandfather, however, saw significant military action during the Civil War.



John Kurtz Grube was my great-great-grandfather.  At age 21, he enlisted in the 17th Regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry.  According to family legend, I had always heard that John Kurtz Grube marched with General Sherman from Atlanta to the sea.  This morning, I got out the picture I have of him, and decided to see if I could verify this family legend.  I was absolutely delighted -- thanks to Wikipedia -- to be able to trace the movements of his regiment and confirm that it did see action throughout the South in the time he served, including marching from Atlanta to the sea.

From genealogical research done by my grandfather, Private Grube was mustered out on 5 June 1865.  In 1868, he married Rebecca Ann Wagner.  They settled first in Carroll, in Fairfield County. They farmed there, and their first two children (Dora & Clarence) were born there.  Later, they moved to a small farm on Maize Road in Columbus.  According to my grandfather's records, John worked for the railroad and then for Columbus Door & Sash to supplement his farm income.  The latter job required John to walk from Maize Road to downtown Columbus to then take the horse drawn public transport car to West Columbus for a job that paid $1.25 per day.  John & Rebecca had two more daughters, Portia Katherine and Monnie Hazel (my amazing great-grandmother).  My grandfather was close to his aunt Portia, and was an advocate for the name Katherine when my father suggested it for me.  Portia Katherine was herself named after John's mother Katherine Kurtz Grube -- who was born in 1801 before Ohio was a state, had her son John at age 42, and passed away in 1889.  My mother Rebecca was named after John's wife Rebecca.  The Civil War feels much more recent when I think about these men & women who are my family.

I share this with you not simply because I am enamored of my own family history, but because I hope it serves as an example to remind us that the men & women who lived through the Civil War are not that distant.  They lived lives with many of the same struggles that we have, just at a different time.  John Kurtz Grube was only 21 when he went off to engage in fighting to protect the Union in a bloody Civil War.  He was just one young man, yet his efforts helped to contribute to preserving our nation and protecting equal rights for all.  I hope that in the present day, we are all willing to pledge our lives & fortunes to the same efforts: protecting our great nation and supporting equality of opportunity for all.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

March News from the Central Ohio Young Farmers

Winter may be dragging on, but there are multiple social events this month to connect with other young farmers in the area!

On Saturday 3/7 at 11:00am, Franklin County Farm Bureau will host its annual Women in Agriculture event to celebrate the achievements of local women in farming.  Please note: everyone is welcome at this event . . . Not just ladies!  The brunch will be held at Jorgensen Farms at 5851 East Walnut Street, Westerville OH.  Val Jorgensen, farm owner, was recognized in 2012 by Franklin County Farm Bureau for her achievements.  She will be the guest speaker this year!  Please visit www.jorgensen-farms.com to learn more about the host location.  The co-chairs of the celebration are Kylene Dietemyer, Cassie Williams, and Amy Zwayer -- so it will definitely be a fun party!  Please join us for a fun meal & social time celebrating successful individuals in farming!  It is only $10 to attend.  You can RSVP (or get more information) by responding to this email by Monday 3/9



There will be an exciting regional young farmer event on Saturday 3/21 in Springfield OH, starting at 3:30pm, with keynote speaker Drew Hastings!  The event will take place at the Clark County Fairgrounds.  Attendees will have the opportunity to select two information sessions on agriculture, which will be followed by a social & cash bar at 6:15pm.  Dinner will be at 7pm, then Mayor Drew Hastings will be the featured speaker.  
Check out Drew Hastings on the Jay Leno show: http://youtu.be/nqGd0d2WE2E. Please note, Jay Leno will thankfully NOT be at this event (after bombing at the American Farm Bureau convention)!  Registrations are due by 3/17.  The conference is $20 for Farm Bureau members, and $25 for non-members . . . But all are welcome!  Please respond to this email for details or information on car-pooling.



Congratulations to Madison County farmer Rebekah Headings for her success with the AgriPower program!  Rebekah will graduate from AgriPower, the leadership development program of Ohio Farm Bureau, on Saturday 3/21.  Rebekah is a dedicated board member for Madison County Farm Bureau.  She & her husband Dennis operate a small farm in Chuckery, and their greatest agricultural endeavor is raising their four dynamic daughters into future farmers.  Rebekah is a wonderful leader for her community & for Farm Bureau, and we are very impressed by her accomplishments!  Applications are currently being accepted for the 2015-2016 leadership school.  For more information, please visit the Ohio Farm Bureau website at http://ofbf.org/get-involved/agripower/ or ask former graduates Neall Weber & Katherine Harrison for details on this fantastic opportunity!

Thanks to everyone who attended our January social event at Gresso's in German Village!  The holiday gift exchange was amusing as always, and the conviviality was fantastic!



What is Farm Bureau?  Ohio Farm Bureau is made up of county organizations that work to promote farms, connect farmers with consumers, provide education & networking opportunities, and support policy that benefits the farm community.  As part of its grassroots efforts, county Farm Bureaus encourage the development of councils: groups of individuals who socialize, debate ideas, and support each other in our farm endeavors.  The Central Ohio Young Farmers (and young at heart) council was started in 2007, and is congenially known as the Irish Pirates.  It encompasses Both Madison & Franklin county farmers, and strives to address issues relative to being a BMF farmer!

Save the Date . . .
3/14 Women in Ag brunch at Jorgensen Farms
3/16 Franklin County Farm Bureau board meeting
3/17 Madison County Farm Bureau board meeting
3/21 Regional Young Ag Professional event in Springfield
3/24 Delaware County Farm Bureau board meeting
4/7 tentative date for young farmer social event . . . Details to follow!
4/8 Union County Farm Bureau board meeting
4/16 Madison County Policy Lunch
5/5 tentative date for young farmer social event . . . Details to follow!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Reality of my Small Farm

I do not know when I finally stopped crying today.  I suppose at some point, your body is just too spent to even form tears.  The funny thing about mental anguish is that it can be so all-consuming that you stop noticing physical pain.  You don't feel the muscle exhaustion from carrying buckets of water or bales of hay.  It doesn't really register when you slip on ice.  All you keep thinking about is the dead baby goats, the predator killing your chickens, the overwhelming maintenance of an old barn & farmhouse.  I love being a farmer, and I try to focus on all the wonderful aspects of that life.  Sometimes, though, I have a day where I feel the burden heavily of trying to be a good farmer.  And today's misadventures led to a profound crying jag.

Yesterday was the due date for my goats, and I had purposefully scheduled myself to be at home for a few days.  The temperature yesterday was pleasant, the goats had plenty of good grain & delicious hay, but they seemed in no hurry to kid.  When I checked on them before going to bed last night, all was well.  This morning I needed to manage some items in my home office before I headed out to do the morning chores.  Last Friday, the furnace quit yet again in the farmhouse.  Matt was able to order parts and repair it by Monday night . . . But that was a mighty cold weekend!  I was able to juggle some funds to cover the cost of the new flame sensor, transformer, and control panel, but -- since it is the off-season at Jorgensen Farms -- money is a bit tight.  Then, on Sunday afternoon, ice came off the east roof of the farmhouse, and ripped the gutter off the side of the house.  Matt's intent to nail it back up was hindered by the discovery that the fascia wood was completely rotted.  With the knowledge that the trusses could also be affected, I was analyzing options . . . And then that night more ice ripped the gutter off the WEST side of the house, landing precariously on top of a live electrical wire!  Fortunately, the electric company sent a crew to remove it, there was no water coming inside the house, and I had heat.  Thus, I was trying to be grateful for these things while I reviewed options & finances this morning!

All the animals were very calm when I arrived in the barn late morning.  The chickens are adapting well to their new home, the sheep were content, and the goats in the west end seemed peaceful.  As I did my walk around checking everyone, the calm atmosphere abruptly ended when I realized that one of my goats had TWO heads protruding from her.  She seemed so quiet that it was hard to comprehend what a bad birth was occurring.  I tried to rapidly, yet calmly, move her to the front of the barn where I could work with her.  In better light and with my birthing supplies, it was even worse than I could have imagined.  Sticking out were two heads and three legs.  I have no idea how this occurred, but it was obvious that the babies had already strangled.  All I could do was try to save the mother.

I tied her up, put on gloves, and examined the situation closer.  Both heads were covered in dirt & straw.  I knew I needed to act as quickly as possible.  To pull out both babies at once would only increase what had to be excruciating pain for a mother.  To push one in -- thus making it easier to pull one at a time -- would expose the mother to germs being introduced internally from the dirt & straw.  I investigated the legs, and decided which head went with two of the legs sticking out.  I know it had to be terrible for the mother.  I tried to smoothly pull the legs which I thought went together.  I tried to hurt her as little as possible.  As she pushed and I pulled, there came to be a point that I realized we were both crying out loud.  Slowing I extracted one intact kid goat, and then the second.  As I already knew, both of these big beautiful babies were dead.  I moved from the mother goat's rear end to her front end, and put my arms around her neck.  I was crying freely while I told her what a good girl she was and how brave she was.  Yes, this was likely quite ridiculous, but she had suffered and all I could offer her was my own meager form of comfort.  

I led her to the small pen up front, and brought her fresh water, sweet feed, and some choice hay.  I sat with her and kept quietly talking to her while I waited to see if she delivered the placenta.  If it followed shortly, then there were no more babies inside of her.  If it was not to be expelled, I would have to glove up again and reach inside to search for another baby.  Thankfully, it soon passed.  She ate it (as goats typically do for the nourishment), and I turned my attention to the babies.  A boy & a girl, they were big and perfectly formed.  I have no idea what turned this birth so wrong.  And I blamed myself.  But there were other living animals to assist, so I just kept crying while I started hauling buckets of water from the house to fill tanks.  The hydrant froze up on one of those sub-zero mornings, and it has not worked since.

After I finished attending to the other animals, I carried the poor babies to the compost pile.  There they joined the four dead chickens from last week.  While I was off the farm last Wednesday, four of my hens were killed by a predator inside the little hen house.  When I returned to the farm that day and found them, it was already late afternoon.  I tried to fix the hole where I thought the predator had invaded the hen house, but it was already getting dark, and I was very, very upset.  Those four chickens made seven killed this calendar year . . . 25% of my little flock.  I was already keeping the ladies inside their house all day to protect them, and now I felt so unable to protect them.  So, one by one, trudging through the snow, I carried them to live in another building.  So far, thank God, they have been safe.  When you carry your chickens one by one through deep snow, trying to race the setting sun, you think a lot about how life brought you to that moment.

I love my little farm.  I love raising animals, and I love raising my own food.  There are, however, trade-offs to every situation.  And this is why I am so angered by those who judge farming, without understanding it.  Yes, I am happy with my little group of chickens and my old-fashioned way of raising them.  But as I carried each of my surviving ladies through snow (wearing Carhartts over the dress I had not yet changed out of when I arrived home that day), how much I wished that I had a confinement operation that could provide my hens with constant warmth and protection from predators.  I am proud to say the eggs from Harrison Farm are cage-free, but I am under no illusion that this makes them morally superior.  And I resent that individuals who are not involved in farming believe they know better than farmers do on how to raise animals.

The reality of a small farm is blood, sweat, and tears.  I love my animals, and I want to do the best I can for them.  I work at Jorgensen Farms to have the income to provide for my animals and to exist myself.  The reality is that my small farm loses money every year.  And every year I try to make adjustments to make next year better.  But my small farm does not provide enough income  to have an employee to assist me, it does not provide health care or benefits, and it certainly does not give me time off.  I do what I do because I love it and I believe in it.  I also fault myself harshly when something goes wrong, like the birth did today.  

Whenever you fall into the mindset that small farms are better than large farms, please think about the realities that I share with you.  Large farms often have the assets to be able to provide a better work environment, a more stable atmosphere for animals, and improved quality of life for employees.  This does not mean that large farms or small farms are better, it just means that there are trade-offs.  And likely, it is the farmer that knows how to manage each situation the best.  This is why I have such a profound dislike for Chipotle's marketing methods: the chain presents itself as supporting small, sustainable farms by marketing in a negative manner against other farms.  

The last time I went to Chipotle was right at the start of their "Farmed & Dangerous" campaign.  As I stood in the restaurant and looked at all the customers drinking out of their cups that said "Farmed & Dangerous", I literally became sick to my stomach.  I cannot support a business that tries to succeed by making some farmers look bad.  My grandfather was the kindest, gentlest man I ever met.  He used crates for his pigs, because it broke him emotionally to keep going around and picking up dead babies.  He made the best management decision he could -- and I keenly understand the devastation of picking up dead babies.  To support Chipotle is to send my money to a company that makes large political donations to hinder the ability of individual farmers to manage their animals prudently.  To support Chipotle is to send my money to a company that portrays large farms as ethically immoral -- even though some of my closest friends run large farms.  To support Chipotle is to say that my grandfather was not a good steward of land & animals.  To support Chipotle is to say that all farmers should be forced to face the challenges I face that are inherent to small farms.  No one from Chipotle or HSUS or PETA was there to check the goats early this morning when I was facing other issues, they were not there when I had to reduce my herds as I managed my neurological challenges last year, and they certainly were not there this morning as I held my goat and cried.  

I started this blog because I wanted to share the reality of farming.  I am a real person, with real experiences, and real feelings.  I hope when you are asked to make a decision about farming & food production, that you will think about the challenges that actual farmers face . . . Not the propaganda.  I did not stop working when I was so upset this morning, because there is always more work to do on a farm.  I hope you will keep these realities in mind as you spend money on food and as you vote on farm-related issues.  Please show support for your local farms by listening to farmers, by considering their realities, and by buying products directly from them as often as you can.  If you have a question about farming, please ask.  Farmers love what they do, even if sometimes it breaks their hearts.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Nothing Tougher than a Barn Cat!

I am very pleased to report that even with the temperature at -3 this morning, the animals of Harrison Farm are all doing fantastic!  On my many trips to the barn today, my devoted companions have been my awesome barn cats: Mask & Peppermint.  Even with the snow, these two cats are almost always running around my feet while I do chores.


Peppermint is originally from Jorgensen Farms.  He was one of the infamous litter of Jorgensen Farms kittens that are now grown up.  His siblings Basil, Lovage, Sage, and Girl Thyme are still at the farm in New Albany, but Peppermint became a problem there and needed a new home.  He was the most anti-social of the litter, and could not be caught by a human.  This was a huge problem -- as the cats have a very special Kitty Cottage at Jorgensen Farms where they go during events.  I volunteered to give him a home, and he has flourished at Harrison Farm.  Peppermint often hangs out on my back porch, and waits for me to head to the barn.  It is hard for me to believe that this cat that once hated humans now follows me around the farm like a dog!


Mask is my original barn cat, and was born at Harrison Farm.  She is incredibly loving to humans, but detests other cats.  Even though Mask & Peppermint look like they could be siblings, she absolutely cannot stand him.  This seems to encourage Peppermint to try harder to get her to play -- usually resulting in Mask slapping him across the face.  Mask is about ten years old now, and she is a fantastic mouser.  She is also tough as can be: I have nursed her back twice from injuries, and she continues to be the Grand Dame of the Barn.



In contrast to these two wonderful barn cats is my house cat, Cash Cat.  Cash does spend time both inside the house and outside.  During this cold snap, however, he seems content to stay in the house.  Cash is quite intimidated by both Mask and Peppermint, but likes to go outside despite this triangle of feline animosity.  Cash came into my life when he was a tiny kitten.  He barely had his eyes open when I found him . . . in the mouth of my beloved Pyrenees dog Sheba!  He was not hurt; Sheba was just carrying him around like a toy.  At that time, Cash was so small that he barely had his eyes open.  I fed him kibble softened in milk at first, and he rapidly grew into a little Tasmanian Devil (no joke: that is how he is known at the vet clinic).  Cash -- the Cat in Black -- is a wonderful companion, and keeps the back porch clear of mice.


It intrigues me that cats adapt so well to their surroundings.  Mask & Peppermint are very content outside even in cold weather.  I have tried previously to bring Mask onto the back porch in the winter, and she resists this heartily.  I can only compare it to the way humans also acclimate to different temperatures: I recall visiting my father in Florida during wintertime as a child, and when the temperature would fall into the 50s, I would be wearing a sweater while the Floridians would be bundled up in heavy coats . . . And visitors from parts of Canada would still be in shorts on the beach!  

My barn cats, just like my livestock, have plenty of water & extra food in the cold winter months.  They know where the comfortable spots are in the barn to bed down at night, in order to stay warm.  They are alert & healthy, and they earn their keep by being good hunters.  Animals have different needs in this manner: many dog breeds must spend as much time as possible inside a house during cold temperatures, others (like Pyrenees dogs) are very comfortable outside in colder temperatures.  Likewise, my goats & sheep grow winter coats of cashmere & wool that help them to stay comfortable in the winter.  I am an advocate for providing the best care possible for each specific type of animal, recognizing that they have unique needs!




Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Winter time at Harrison Farm

I love my little farm, with all its tedious nuances.  In the winter time, it can be more of a struggle to complete the daily chores.  There were many things that required extra attention today.  The livestock need more calories in this weather so that their bodies can keep them warm, and thus I end up carrying more hay & grain to them through the snow.  They still need fresh water (especially since they are only a few weeks from kidding & lambing), and the ancient frozen water lines of the barn often result in me carrying bucket after bucket of water from the house to fill their troughs.  The chickens do well tucked into their little henhouse, but I have to check for eggs frequently.  In these cold temperatures, the eggs will literally freeze and crack open.  This is the reality of a small farm.

With the cold weather which we have had this week, I have been extremely grateful that my little farm is in a good situation.  I am relieved that I made the decision to scale down my herds, as it is much more manageable with only 30 goats and 15 sheep.  I am pleased that the mothers which I kept are strong & hardy, and are proving themselves very capable of tolerating this weather.  I am grateful that the animals bred later in the fall, and will not be having babies until March.  And, I am delighted that the twin lambs -- who were surprise arrivals in January -- are growing well thanks to a wonderful mother sheep.  In particular, I am happy that my work schedule at Jorgensen Farms has slowed down, allowing me to be home at my farm this week.


I have never lost my amazement at the beauty of winter snow on the farm.  And the resultant challenges just make me more proud of my tough animals . . . And also make me hope that I am becoming tougher.  Farming truly builds character.  That character develops from being frozen and kicked and peed on.  It comes from making mistakes, and learning from them so that future situations are better.  It comes from falling over in the snow while carrying a bale of hay, from spilling a bucket of water that immediately freezes on your overalls, from chasing the goat that always gets out through drifted snow.  Truly, farming is a rare education.

Farmers do take great pride in being "tough".  There are times when I wonder why anybody would farm (Come be a farmer!  Work long hours in bad conditions for little pay with no time off!), but I cannot imagine my life any other way.  I admit that I can fall prey to the temptation to mock those I hear complaining on the local news on how terribly miserable it is to have to walk from their house to their car in this weather to drive to their 40-hour per week job with benefits.  The reality, though, is that every life and every job has its struggles.  I am blessed to have a life that has made me tougher, made me more resourceful, and taught me to value the good things around me.  Farming is difficult, but it builds integrity.  I wish everyone could have the opportunity to deliver a baby lamb and watch it grow.  I wish everyone could learn the reward of accomplishing something that is truly a physical struggle, like baling hay in the hot summer sun.  I wish everyone had to slaughter their own meat at some point, and come to terms with the reality of the cycle of life for both animals and humans.  I wish everyone could have the pleasure of baking cookies with eggs from their own chickens or grilling chops from an animal they raised.  Farming is tough, but there are few things better for building integrity.