Sunday, November 30, 2014

Still Our Favorite


If you don't practice every day gratitude. I strongly suggest you make the extra effort to exercise those muscles now.  And, if you don't want to - we'll do our best to set an example here.
Part II of this post is here.

We've both (Tammy and I) agreed for some time that Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday.  Over the past few years I have found it rewarding to compose farm blog posts that encourage me to think about things from a positive framework.  Often, it comes in the form of a list of the year's events that make us think positive thoughts.  Sometimes, we just focus on the turkey side of things, but not usually.  More often than not, it is a therapeutic way to put the season in perspective.  Every year has rough patches and they could cause you to think of the entire year in a negative light.  But, if you encourage yourself to look at it as a perfect year for the year it was, then suddenly things weren't all that bad.  Last season, we selected photos and wrote about them as our celebration of thanks.  We liked that approach (as did others), so we thought we'd go that direction again.

We're going to stick with January through May in this post!

Good People
Wonderful friends and family.  CSA Farm Share members that support us and drive us to excel on their behalf.  Farming peers who we trust and appreciate.    We hope you all realize that you are all very important to us and that we do not take you for granted.  Thank you for being who you are and for the things you do to help us each and every year.
Some of our favorite farmers.
Friendly Farm Critters
We have turkeys, we have ducks and we have chickens.  They are all interesting in their own ways.  But, we are particularly grateful for our indoor and outdoor farm supervisors (the cats).  We realize some people do not like cats, and that's ok.  We happen to like them and we are lucky enough to have two indoor supervisors (Bree and Hobnob) and three outdoor supervisors (Cubbie, Mrranda and Sandman).  They are sometimes annoying and in the way, but they are almost always friendly to their farmers.  There are days when a few seconds with a feline friend who has made it clear they want to get attention from YOU because they LIKE you is all it takes to turn that day around.

Bree will pose for a photo, Hob usually won't.

Please bring us a picnic lunch.

Tolerable Weather in 2014
Of course this wasn't the best weather season for us - are they ever?  Essentially, we would like a season that wasn't busy setting records of one kind or another.  This year, it was a cool year with a slow start - great for the workers - but not so great for the warmer season crops.  Nonetheless, it really wasn't awful and we were able to work with it and grow a very diverse crop of delicious produce for our farm share members.
Happily this went away in a reasonable period of time.
If we take a philosophical approach to the difficult weather presented to us since the Fall of 2007, we would have to admit that the wild fluctuations of extremes has given us a crash course in becoming resilient growers of good food.  A lack of adversity does not encourage innovation and change.  I think we got that point now...

Small Things
Sometimes it is the small or seemingly inconsequential things that get me to thinking about how privileged I am to have the blessings I do in my life.  For example, once things turned cold, I started wearing some long sleeved t-shirts and hoodie sweatshirts that were gifted to me.  I think about how nice this gift is every time I put one of these on.  I also love my music, so I am grateful whenever I pull out the ipod that my lovely bride gifted to me a couple/few years ago.  And, this cool thermos gets a huge workout during the season.
In short, I think kindly of those who thought enough of me to gift me with these useful things that make my life more comfortable or interesting.  That, and I work hard to remind myself that I am lucky to have the opportunity to use these items (among others).

Big Things
Of course, it is easy to talk about the big things and how happy we are to have them.  After all, they stand out a bit more. 
A big change in how we raise broilers.
For example, we decided to take a flyer on using a small horse trailer for our meat chickens this year.  We were able to start the birds inside this trailer, so they identified it as home base throughout their lives.  This made a number of tasks just a bit easier.  And, we added a new implement this year that essentially replaced an implement that was beginning to show us that we were going to upgrade.

A tandem disk was a good addition, but it led to additional change.

We agree that it was a good move to add this tool and remove the other from our tool set.  Unfortunately, our existing tractor couldn't quite handle it, so it led to additional change that we'll talk about in a future post.

Climbing the learning curve

And, we purchased this tool in 2013, but we really started using it well in 2014 - even if the weather prevented as much use as we wanted.  Having good tools available for our work is always something to be grateful for - especially when we consider how we have had to do these tasks in prior years.

Seeing Beauty in our Surroundings

A couple years in the making, it looked good in 2014

We have always been appreciative of flowers and perennial plants.  We finally pushed a project up to the top that resulted in a very nice planting that we were happy to walk by all season long.  We also broke down and offered a workshare to help us keep our flower beds looking good (thanks Nancy).  It was a good move since the flower beds that were supposed to make us happy were not just an additional stress this past year as they have been in prior seasons.

An old iris friend rewarded us with a flower this year.

Not the Same Ol' Same Ol'

There is a certain amount of variety on the farm.  Some of it is our doing, but most of it is Mother Nature's.  We're not just talking about weather either.

Who wouldn't be entertained by giant eggs?

One example would be the appearance of ridiculously large (and small) eggs from our hen flock.  Sometimes we get some very odd shaped or textured eggs as well.  It is one of our jobs to identify and appreciate all that is different - whether those differences are subtle or pronounced.

Innovations that Continue to Work
We are not trying to claim that these are entirely new ideas.  But, on our farm, circumstances led us to these things and once they were put in place, they have worked well for us.
A few raised beds are a great insurance policy
It is not necessarily an easy process to introduce a new tool or process to the farm.  I am not trying to say that we are unable or unwilling.  But, when your days are already full...  Nonetheless, we continue to make changes and try new things every year.  The things that work?  Well, let's just say we do what all humans do in that case - we ask what took us so long to do it in the first place - even if we already know the answer to that question.

Those are some healthy onion starts.
Shared Ideas and Knowledge
Which brings us back full circle to the people.  There are a number of innovations we now rely on for our farming operations that were made because we learned from others.  We may not execute these ideas exactly as they did, but it sometimes it is just the germ of the idea that was necessary.

Gaining from Gratitude
Every time I post something on the subject of gratitude, I push myself to think about the things I appreciate and why I appreciate them.  Once I complete the exercise, I find myself identifying more and more things for which I should give thanks.  It is a beautiful cycle that the cynic in me won't believe can be perpetual.  After all, it takes some effort to do this.  And, there is always an undertone that mumbles something less than positive about the imperfections of the things I am praising.  Even so, I find that I am happier and more willing to keep pushing to make more good things happen.  After all, I am also grateful for the imperfections.  It is their existence that adds to the beauty and gives me a reason to take note of the good things.

We hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and we hope you will exercise the process of giving thanks throughout the holiday season.

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