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The headlines read … “New Farmer Takes Blows”

446So, we have been here at the farm now just over two months.  It has been quite a wild ride (of course it has!  could it have been any other way?).  Thinking back to the day we unpacked the Uhaul, it seem like we’ve been here something more like 6 months, rather than just two.  We had a calf born basically the day we arrived, her mama had suspected mastitis which turned out not to be, however unfortunately the calf had not been nourished well and thus the first calf that my children touched and hugged and named, was the first calf that we lost.

Blow #1.

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The Chicken Saga

Our poor chickens spent several days in a cardboard box, first while they waited for their coop to be assembled, and then second, because they could not get along with their new, smaller and very annoying (to them) roomates, given to us by a friend.  Cardboard does not do well soaked in ammonia, I have learned.  The chickens are solidly in a state of shock, and so am I.  They now have forgotten all training they ever had and are laying eggs in the garage and begging to roost in the trees.  Blow #2.

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Chickens were going to go HERE for a while, right?

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Surely we can finish this coop in one week, right?

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Looks like this coop will have to do for a while, girls, sorry!

Frederick

Have you ever smelled a skunk?  No….really, really ever smelled one?  Like, it is under your house, burning your nostril hairs, dead, falling apart and decomposing smelt one?  Whoooo!  I was in Florida when this chapter began.  A skunk had been sighted manging around the yard.  The kids were delighted with the sight of yet another wonderful farm creature and named it Frederick (Mira probably holding out hope that the skunk might have babies nearby!).  While we were gone visiting family, Bret was left to hold down the farm and the skunk sprayed in the yard, under a window, such the smell permeated the whole house.  A week later, when we returned, it still smelled (poor Bret).  We set traps and planned out how we might borrow a gun to shoot it.  Note: we could tell the animal was in pain and lunging instead of walking, it would have been the kind thing to do.  A few weeks go by – no skunk in the trap, no skunk anywhere!  Well, the next part of the story is where things really get gross, if you are queasy, skip ahead.  Bret had to open up the crawl space to investigate a water issue.  While he is army crawling, he sees a small white furry lump bump on the ground.   Ah, this is why we had not seen Frederick.  So, Bret grabs a garden hoe and tries to pull it out from under the house…but, only half of the animal comes, and it is wet and gooey.  The smell came in parts: first, a mental bracing, then a subtle hint, then a gigantic wave of hot, chocking nastiness that made you feel like you could faint if you weren’t so busy gagging.  Let me tell you, I was out of the door, in the car, driving down to the general store to buy candles, spray disinfectant, glade plug ins, baking soda and whatever else I could find so fast!  The smell of skunk is a long lasting, lingering kind.  It hides in your bathroom cabinets and pillows and comes out, just when you think it is gone.  This was about a month ago and we still uncover pockets of air that remind us of Frederick.  Blow #3.

Cute aren’t they? No. They are not cute.

Nothing about a skunk is cute.

The Well

I wrote a post about this on Facebook a while back when it happened, but I now realize how much I have been taking for granted the amazing thing that is plumbing.  Water in my sink, from a faucet whenever I turn it on!  It took merely one day without water for this point to be driven home to me.  A splutter in your well water is NEVER a good thing…and then, you turn the faucet, and – nothing.  On the farm, living without water not only means doing dishes by hand out of a bucket and creative flushing, it also means – “how are you going to provide the 40+ animals that are depending on you with fresh water?”  Neighbors brought by gigantic containers of water (as big as a truck bed) and hooked up PVC pipe to pour water into the troughs.  We got hooked up with a friend of a friend who knows something about wells, and two hours later, Lester and his sidekick show up in a beater truck loaded up with myriad strange tools and pipes in the truck – with all due respect, the duo looked a bit like Jerry Garcia and Kid Rock (and they did totally rock their styles!).  They were helpful, masterful, fast, cool, funny and talked with an awesome drawl.  Our worst fear was a well gone dry, but no, thank goodness!  We needed a new pump and $700 later we had one and Bret had a beer with the men.    Blow #4.

Farm Wheels

The latest bummer is that we just bought an ATV on Craigslist because we do not have the money to buy a truck.  And the very night the guy who sold it to us drove away, Bret is down in the field and the thing just up and dies.  $1500 cash gone?  We shall see….he says he will undo the deal if we want (which we do want) but we don’t know him and he has $1500 cash in his pocket!  Let’s hope that honor will win out and he will do the right thing.

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Whoo doggy!

Plenty of nice things have happened too.  I’ll have to spend some time writing about those as well.  But I know some of you have said how you are picturing me frolicking through fields singing with cows and sheep like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music.  I feel like part of my duty as I’m living the dream, is to tell it like it really is including the good, the bad and the ugly.  I do think of doing that by the way (and Julie Andrews is what I want to be when I grow up!).  We have faced an interesting streak of tough challenges so far, and the hurdles keep coming.

Being a beginning farmer takes as much grit as it does anything else.  Get knocked down?  Take notice of the dirt down there…study it, sample it, send it in to be analyzed.  Likely it will happen again tomorrow or next week and then you’ll get to compare the soil quality in your fields.  With any luck, you’ll have a better idea of what to plant where and what you can bring to the earth!

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