“‘You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out – perhaps a little at a time.’
‘And how long will that take?’
‘I don’t know. As long as you live perhaps.’
‘That could be a long time.’
‘I’ll tell you a further mystery,’ he said. ‘It may take longer.’ – Wendell Berry ( Jayber Crow, 2000)
I stole this quote from a rancher and blogger in Northern California (Foothill Agrarian from Flying Mule Farm) who had posted it in a blog of quotes about work. It reminded me that Wendell Berry was one of the first reasons I began looking into farming. He is a farmer in Kentucky foremost, and a brilliant, eloquent and to-the-point writer and social critic to top it off. Before I read a word on farming or thought at all about it, I picked up a book of his poetry that my grandmother owns, The Country of Marriage, and was stopped in my tracks. Among all the poems, I chose “The Mad Farmer’s Manifesto” and copied it out by hand in to a notebook. Then I forgot about it for a while in all the business that ensued.
Ha! That’s what I get, I suppose, for thinking I could claim something written to myself–it comes true. Copying a poem is not like picking up a fallen leaf. Maybe, if it is a good and true poem, it is like accidentally casting a spell over yourself.
“. . .Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
It has been rainy, and in between the rain are really warm days, but not that many of them. This is great weather for graziers. The grass stops growing when there is no water, or if the temperature surpasses 90. It might be 90 today, but most days it’s not, and the grass is still growing.
We “farm sat” for the first time. Like a mischievous child bent on testing the new baby sitter, the farm provided us with an ample supply of things to do. Our first day “sitting” went like this:
- Spencer got the farm truck stuck in a ditch in a field. Tractored it back out. Yay for tractors.
- Spencer found 10 broilers who sat out in the rain all night and died from hypothermia. Not the brightest of birds, alas. At least the predators have been leaving us alone (thanks to the solar-powered radio we put out in the field with them at night. Apparently owls find crappy pop-country music disturbing just like I do. We vetoed playing classical because it might be confused with “dinner music”).
- A couple of teenagers on the farm were going to pick up 2 chicks to raise at home for fun. They put them in a box with food and water on the front porch, and then left it there for a while. There are about a million adventurous cats around, so as you can imagine that was a bad idea. We ended up fishing one chick out from under the porch, and pulling the other (now deceased) out of a cat’s mouth.
- We had an almost continuous stream of customers to the farm store from 9am to about 4:30pm, which is great. It also meant that I learned to use the register and the farmers’ pricing system lickety-split.
- During said run on the farm store, power went out to the entire farm for 2 hours. Providentially, it was only two hours. the power company had estimated 4-5 hours, which would have meant finding a generator to run the freezers and fridges in the store and otherwise massive chaos.
- The pigs, who have an uncanny sense for finding electrical failure, went for a little foray while their electric fence was off. Again, we were blessed. They returned to their enclosure without any trouble and didn’t eat any one (that we know of).
- After the power came back on and the stream of customers trickled down, we discovered that the farm wells had stopped working. Mercifully one well by the house kicked back on with a little futzing, and that enabled us to haul water to the animals for the evening. (The other well, which runs our trailer water too, was repaired the next day).
- Lastly, a 3 foot long black snake somehow got into the brooder house, and was discovered to have killed two chicks. We relocated it. Upon returning to dispose of dead chicks, we found them to be gone. Insert Twilight Zone theme here. Another snake? Rats? Investigations continue . . .
- The cat spent the day in the shade on the broken down Allis Chalmers mower. I think when we were not looking she was trying to get it to run. We also find her “sleeping” on the seat of the John Deere backhoe occasionally. . .hmm.
What did we learn from this experience? The Amish farmer is enviably set up to weather real life without drama. And, no matter what happened, God took care of us and we enjoyed working together. It was actually a great day.
And we slept like logs afterwards.