Friday, March 5, 2010

The Inexact Science

As any third grader who has ever planted a bean seed or tried to hatch a chicken egg under a light bulb can tell you, farming is not an exact science.

But as a retired female farmer I can honestly say that farming can be very rewarding. I actually made money and managed to pay off a fifteen-year mortgage on my very own tiny thirty-four acre farm seven years ahead of time.

I managed this by working like a dog, eating like a bird, dressing like the county rag-picker and in the early years, drinking like a sailor. Actually, I have to admit that even if I hadn’t spent the better part of my adult life farming I would still have worked like a dog, ate like a bird and dressed like the county rag-picker. And I remember the days of drinking like a sailor with nostalgia. It’s got to be in the genes.

But like I say, my choice of lifestyle was not an exact science and the learning curve was more like a roller coaster. On the up-swing and in the down swoop, I met some of the most awesome and interesting people, feathered, bristly and hairy, and on that wild ride they taught me all I know about myself and the part of the world we shared.

I did not come to farming by accident but with intent, forethought and resolve. It was my intention to exert a pragmatic discipline and control of all in my domain. The grass would grow, the weeds would die, the water would run, the stock would be docile and multiply with little help from me and I would prosper.

I named the place “Faith Farm” and the gully at the bottom of the East slope, formerly used as a neighborhood dump site, was renamed “Red Hawk Canyon” for the many red-tailed hawks that swooped and sailed so gracefully across the woods and pastures. After the graceful hawks picked off enough of my ducks, guineas and best laying hens I quit calling the gully Red Hawk Canyon and just called it “The Dump”.

The day of my first livestock purchase was an exciting one. Livestock sale barns are like nothing more than large, seedy, hotels in the bad part of town temporarily populated by the agricultural world’s misfits; the unwanted, the castoffs and the disabled. The tragedy of families, tribes and life-time social groups torn asunder and disbursed at the mercy of the Gods in coveralls is enacted over and over.

From this worthy offering I chose a small heifer..entered the bidding,…paid too much…was proud to get her…and brought her home. She was gentle, ate well, loved the barn and was weaned so I spent a lot of time the next day just looking at her and trying to calculate how many years it would take me to build up a herd from this leggy creature chowing down in the corner of the barn. I named her Lillian.

Unfortunately the heifer part was right but she also had other equipment not visible unless you actually witnessed the urine stream cascading from her/his sheath beneath her/his belly. Lillian was a hermaphrodite. News travels fast in rural areas and for years, every time I called the vet the receptionist would holler, “Hey, Doc. It’s the lady that bought the morhadite!.”

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