July 28, 2009

Guys and Dolls

One of our favorite things to do anytime of the year, but especially during these warm days and cool nights of summer, is to sit on our patio in the evening and talk, sip something, watch the passing deer, and linger until we're ready to drop into bed. Most times, the topic of conversation is pleasant but unremarkable: current farm happenings, what the kids (far and near) are up to, how the neighbors are faring, religion, politics, etc.

But last weekend, the talk turned to relationships.

In particular, our personal relationships: the one with each other and, even more interestingly, the ones in our respective pasts. Until this moment in time (Friday, July 24th, 2009), we had only cursorily dealt with prior loves (and we've been together for almost 16 years). So, it was pretty momentous.

Heady from our evening of verbal intimacy, the next day we were working on the gables of the barn. Hubby was on the ladder about 20 feet up and I chose that time to ask him a little more about our recent breakthrough convo.

"So, Honey, what did you think about last night?"

"NOT NOW, Honey! I'm on the ladder!"

Oh, gotcha. Sorry!

Here's hoping for another opportunity before 16 more years pass.

July 20, 2009

The Times They Are A-Changin' *

As Hubby and I were cleaning out the garden barn, our eleven-year-old joined us and mostly sat on the lawn mower and watched. At that age, children are too cool to do anything in the barn. To her credit, though, she is a very helpful girl and assists willingly in the slightly less earthy areas of life around the house.

We had transported an old desk to the farm to put in the barn as a work table for me. We put a pallet on the dirt floor, put the desk on it, and happened to place a chair nearby. Our daughter asked Dad what Mom was going to be doing in here. He turned to her and jokingly replied that Mom could sit and write at the desk. Our girl pondered this image for a moment, a bit confused as to how one would write without a computer, and, after arriving at an idea that translated into her vernacular, in all seriousness, said, "Oh, you mean old-fashioned blogging!"

Of course, that's what he meant.

*Song title courtesy of Bob Dylan, who is even older than I am.

July 10, 2009

Some More Tao of Farming

Let us gaze upon the beautiful wheat of this summer that will probably not be harvested to be used as food for people who make bread. Such are the ways of the world these days.

But wait! This is not a negative piece. I simply wanted to thank Mother Nature for producing the awesome sight seen here. Because of the current system of economics and insurance, it is more profitable for us to forsake our lovely wheat and collect the insurance for it. (For the gruesome details, see previous post.) Nevertheless, there is no cost to appreciating it for what it is -- the fruits of our labors and the bounty of Mother Earth. Also, it will not be totally forsaken as it will be baled along with the clover for hay for some very lucky cows!

If we look at this event as an instance in time along a continuum of life, the monetary rewards become stripped of their importance, to some extent. Not everything valuable is directly related to money, fortunately. So, I take a page from the fabulous writings of my daughter, Julie, and give you a list of those farming things that do put a smile on my face, time and time again:

(Here is that smile, by the way)
  • cooking over the open campfire in the firepit we made
  • watching the children run wild and grow like weeds
  • sitting on the patio watching the deer walk up the ridge across the pond, stopping at their salt lick, looking over at us, and heading on to the forest (maybe minus one during hunting season)
  • enjoying 'Denny and Alan time'* complete with matching wool pajama tops
  • hiking our land...yes...OUR land!
  • taking pride in the home and barns we built ourselves
  • checking on the beavers and their dams on the creek and wondering just how many trees to share with them
  • putzing in our respective barns
  • taking the raft out on the pond, disturbing the great blue heron so that she dropped her fish (sorry!)
  • cuddling farm kittens and enjoying their antics, watching them grow
  • tractoring around
  • napping
  • gardening
  • mowing
  • fishing
  • viewing the moon and stars without the interference of city lights
  • welcoming friends and family from near and far (Marlin can't wait for Jayne's visit)
  • basking in the friendship and protection of our beloved neighbors
  • reveling in the changing of the seasons and enjoying the charms of each one: planting new items in the spring, harvesting wonderful fruits in the summer, witnessing the colors of the fall, catching snowflakes in the winter
  • looking forward to retiring on our little slice of heaven one day.
Cheesy? Maybe.

True? Definitely.

*A reference to the good ole' boys of Boston Legal as they solved all of life's problems at the end of every show on a fancy balcony with a glass of brandy and cigars (we use wine and snacks).

July 8, 2009

The Tao of Farming

Live and learn.

You win some, you lose some.

C'est la vie.

All these axioms may help us face little failures in life but I'm seriously considering putting farming in a class by itself.

Farming's axioms could include:

No matter what you do, you will fail.

Everything is for naught.

It's a zero-sum game and you'll get zero as the sum. Every time.

You get the idea.

Here is a photo of our beautiful wheat that is just about ready to be harvested. Last year, we lost most of our wheat crop to the floods and we didn't have insurance. We did manage to recuperate some of our losses as organic wheat went for $18/bushel (as compared to regular wheat that was going for about $5/bushel) and we got about 50 bushels off our land. (We should have gotten over 700 bushels.) So, we were able to pay for the combining, had a little money from the wheat, and milled some of it into flour for our CSA members and ourselves.

We re-planted wheat for this year AND took out insurance on it. (We're pretty bright.)

Well, last weekend, we traveled around our land and were thrilled that the wheat was looking very good (full heads, ripe, drying out like it should) and the clover and grass we planted this spring was coming up just as we hoped under the wheat to make hay in the late summer and fall. Of course, not all the fields were primo, but the fact that SOME were really excited us. Our farm was really coming along. It wasn't simply comprised of weed fields anymore. Our planning was working out. And, remember, we were insured.

What could go wrong?

We did what we always do. We called our mentor, Dan, to schedule the combining of our lovely wheat. He had the sad duty of informing us that organic wheat prices had fallen to $6/bushel.


OK. OK. Let us recover ourselves. OK. We'll be OK. We had counted on the insurance to pay around $9/bushel. But that would only happen if the crop failed. What do we do now that we have good wheat that will only bring $6/bushel?

Do you see how unfair this all is?

So I proceeded to call the local grain dealer to find out the exact going price of organic wheat. Kevin was very happy to take my call but also had a sad duty to perform. Not only is organic wheat going for very little, it is not going AT ALL. He knew of NO ONE wanting wheat. Everyone he knows has wheat leftover from last year. He is recommending that we find a place to store our wheat (another expense) for at least two months and then, MAYBE, we'll be able to sell it. No guarantees.

Too bad we didn't have the floods this year.

July 1, 2009

All Grown Up

"When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years." Mark Twain

And a less benevolent, albeit true-at-times one,

Mothers of teenagers know why animals eat their young." Unknown author

But I digress.

Let's stick with the Twain quote. It's much more appropriate.

My eldest daughter called me today with a question I have been waiting 20 years to field: "Tell me about my heritage." My first reaction was to laugh with recognition that yours truly was about the same age when she had the wonderful opportunity to spend some months with her own grandparents, basking in their love and picking their brains for that all-too-dwindling oral history of our family.

My response was to refer her to my initial entries about our ancestry: I Finally Got One and Coming Full Circle Times Two. Not to brag, but these do seem well-written and succinct, two qualities appreciated by the young.

Her next question was just as much fun.

"What, exactly, is meant by 'organic'?" (See recent entry about said daughter's new job.)

I love it!

So, I proceeded to give her about an hour's worth of organic farming, from the global issues of sustainability and feeding the world's population to the big, bad evil Monsanto, Syngenta and Bill Gates and their monopoly on conventional farming and their interest in the Svalbard Seed Vault to the history of farming itself to the reason organic food is here to stay to the politics of it all and everything in between.

I could feel her almost taking notes over the phone.

"Wow, Mom, you know so much! Can you jot the main points down and send them to me in an email?" So, I guess I get to take the notes. Oh, well. That's OK.

I'm just glad I was ready and had learned so much in the past seven years.