Awful days are usually not the ones you expect to be awful. Awful has a way of catching you by surprise.
What was awful: the weather this week was a real up and down roll-out of muddy ground, topped with eight-plus inches of snow, a warmup, followed by a quick freeze. Yikes.
For me, this is the stuff of nightmares, and I will admit sleep has not been great. Worries about dollars, hay bill, taxes, keeping up with the workload, injuries, tractors, trucks, supplies, equipment, and labor we can’t afford, plus not enough time for marketing and leaving the farm can sometimes be paralyzing, to be honest.
My long, winding, beautiful driveway which brings me so much joy, is also during times like this, my greatest nightmare. I have been able, with the help of my faithful but too-small tractor Blue, to deliver the hay from the front of the farm to the cows. But a good slick of ice can make that impossible, and my hay guy has dropped bales outside the farm which have to be brought in via Blue which is a worry for several reasons. But we plod along, so far, so good.
A spectacularly bad decision I made a few weeks ago is continuing to haunt me, hopefully a few more subzero nights will help me put it right – I parked my trailer in a different spot to put it out of the way. Apparently there is a broken drainage tile that has created deep, deep, tire-sucking mud, so, trailer is deeply stuck.
I spent hours shoveling, and creeping first one foot, then two feet forward, eventually freeing the tractor, but I had to leave the trailer where it was. Today, there are deep ruts filled with iced-over water where I need to back the tractor up to hitch the trailer, and I am afeared to give that another try at the moment. I will not be successful at digging the tractor out a second time.
The windchill has been mostly not too bad, and honestly, with the right layering, working outside has actually been kind of nice. Better than the swampy, sweaty, bug-infested hundred degree days of summer really.
I have never counted the days so hard for spring and the return of grass, which makes my obsession with this little gem understandable. I mean, a person can take anything for fifty-two days, right?
Why do I do this?
Honestly, I don’t really know. My life could be much more simple, free, and comfortable. At the moment, I am caught in the throes of the one-two punch of bad luck plus unfortunate decisions. And I have most definitely thrown my future financial security to the wind.
And I am far from alone; so many independent, small farmers are in the same boat, which is why I feel called to really live the experience and tell the story.
It simply is not okay with me for the history, independence, authenticity, tradition, community, knowledge, revitalization, self-worth, sufficiency, and stewardship that, yes, made America great for so long be simply discarded in favor of an alternate, venture-capital fueled reality.
There is not enough superficial venture capital in the world to replace truly engaged, hands-on stewards of tradition and soil.
Why does authenticity cost so dearly in terms of dollars and life force? One of life’s grand mysteries.
Obviously at the moment, I am not winning the efficient farmer of the year award. I will never, nor do I even wish to, “feed the world,” and even operating at her most productive, the scale of this farm will support me, but never at the level of fiscal ambition most of my friends enjoy.
A farm operates on a delicate margin, forgiving a very small degree of mistakes. Yet, the moving field of regulation, corporate overreach, invisibility to most Americans, market restrictions, government, and unfair commodity-driven earthquakes to the market require a hefty margin and ready access to capital to navigate.
But, with all those eyes looking to you for their basic needs, what are you going to do? Some days, honestly, it is a terrible responsibility. Like all Great-with-a-capital-G experiences, there is always a hefty portion of discomfort, terror, and grossness.
Some days you maybe linger with your dread for one more cup of coffee, but then you suit up and hit it. And guess what?
Every single day, we did okay.
The feed bills are mounting fast though, which is truly terrifying. I do not exaggerate when I say that this is the year that will make or break me. And your support this year is vital.
My dollars are supporting not myself, but a network of other small, independent businesses in my community. I buy hay from local farmers, my local feed mill supplies my hog feed, hardware and technical support. My local small bank lends to other small businesses and farms in my area. The contractors I hire to help with fencing, or construction, or other projects I am unable to do myself.
I will never be rich, but the dollars and joys that flow through a farm enrich the community greatly.
But, don’t let me wander off. I am really excited about a lot of things too.
I rolled out my Whole Hog Party plan this week, which will be a great burst of hog hygge in the middle of the freeze. If you have ever thought of buying a half or whole hog, but were overwhelmed with the confusing hanging weight math, the cost, or were not sure what you would ever store that much pork, this could be for you.
My beef box special will continue as supplies last; our best price ever for real-deal, home raised and processed, rare breed grass-fed & finished, dry-aged, ground steakburger.
And Beans! The new varieties of Rancho Gordo heirloom beans did not disappoint. I have plenty available, both cooked & ready to eat, and dried.
Now, if I could just reach laundry ground zero…