Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Look in the Mirror

In this case, the peak I took was into the rearview mirror.  I was looking for a particular picture and I got an idea to look through our files for electronic August farm pictures and see what kinds of things spoke to me.  These are the pictures that caught my attention and I thought I'd share them.

2010 - Kids and Young Turkeys
Mutual Fascination
This is one of those pictures where I wish I had a higher definition picture to share.  But, this is before the arrival of a decent digital camera on the farm.  You need to look carefully, but there IS a fence between the two girls next to the cart and the turkeys.

For those who do not know, we do feed our turkeys vegetables that are not deemed fit for our farm shares or other sales.  When we have festivals, it is not uncommon for us to give our young (and young at heart) attendees a chance to feed the turkeys (and chickens and ducks) some of the produce that is set aside for them.  Also, turkeys know the difference between their farmers (the BIG turkeys) and other people.  So, the picture above illustrates the cautious interest the birds have in the smaller humans.  We also don't think the placement of the cart is a mistake for the two girls!

This is also interesting to us because this was the first season the turkeys were in the pasture North of the Poultry Pavilion.  In fact, it would be the first season the Poultry Pavilion was used for turkeys.  Prior years saw the turkeys residing in the old barn.

2011 - Ye Olde Barn

The last time the barn looked this good
It has been quite some time now since the barn had siding and a roof that almost kept the elements off of whatever was inside.  In fact, there isn't so much an inside to our barn anymore.  Or, at least that is true for the West portion of the structure.

Looking at the picture, I am reminded how much we agonized over the decision to give up on the barn.  The barn is and was a symbol in many ways to us and our farm.  But rather than getting into that, I would rather remember a moment in that barn where I got a real sense why many good rural memories have something to do with a barn.

A neighbor of ours had some bales he needed to store and asked if he could use some of the area in the north half of the barn that still had some decent cover.  We agreed and helped a bit with loading and even more with the removal as he needed bales.  It was a calm day - not too hot, not too cold.  We worked to help Kent unload some bales.  It was good, honest work that didn't require a great deal of thought.  Just a little exercise and the proper amount of caution.  The hay had a fresh scent and the three of us finished the job quickly. 

We took a moment to rest and watched as dust motes floated through beams of sunlight that were coming through holes in the roof or sides of the barn.  We were at peace.  The barn was a place where you could feel good about yourself and the farm.

Up to that point, most of the barn had been a bit of a 'wild and untamed' place for us.  A couple of rooms were in use for hens and turkeys.  But most of the rest was not frequented by us at all.  It was just a puzzle that needed to be figured our and a problem to be solved.

It was at that moment that I realized how a barn like this fit into the life of the farm and how it could be a place of comfort and calm.  It was also at this moment that I understood that this particular barn had lived its life and it was time to begin the process of dismantling it.  Perhaps, one day, we'll have a new building that fits the needs of our farm as we run it better than this one ever did.

2012 - Graduating to Bigger Equipment

Durnik requiring a little problem solving
While we purchased Durnik, the Ford 8n, in 2010, it took some time to acquire equipment to make it useful on our farm.  And, it took even more time for us to learn how to efficiently use these larger tools.  In a way, I feel like this picture illustrates a bit of a graduation on my part to understanding better how to make the tractor and its tools work for us.   I am not trying to tell you that working with equipment like this is impossible or that it was particularly hard.  But, what I am saying is that anytime you learn something that is very new to you, there is a good bit of energy and effort involved - along with a fair bit of trepidation.

I will also gladly admit that I am still learning.  And, I hope that I always will.  But, I can also say that I have become fairly comfortable with these tools over time.

2013 - If the Weather Won't Get Better, Then I Will

Adjusting the flex tine weeder/ Williams Tool Bar
Starting in 2010, the weather for growers such as ourselves has been difficult.  In fact, 2010 was absolutely miserable.  But, by the time we got to 2013, we had made a number of significant adjustments.  Even though we had some conditions that were similar to 2010 - we were better prepared to handle them.  We can't say we had perfect success, but we had many fewer failures.  We were more able to meet obligations and kept our sanity (if you all agree we ever had it).

Every year we have climbed a number of learning curves.  Each season, we try new techniques, tools and resources.  We have not stood still and we continue to get better.  If you could take this picture back in time to the first couple of years on the farm, I might have argued that someone Photoshopped this picture.  There was no way I'd ever work comfortably with that sort of equipment.  But, then again, we thought our CSA farm share program would never have any more than 40 members (if we even got that far).

2014 - A Living Farm Changes

The yellow cart that cost all of $10 to buy and some trials to get to the farm for use.
The picture above shows more changes to me than it might to anyone else because I can see the past configurations of the farm superimposed over this image.  When we first moved to the farm, there was a hog farrowing building at the right.  There was no fence for the poultry pasture in the background.  Instead, that was all giant ragweed and thistle.  We had an old blue truck named Grover (rather than Chumley the red truck).  Our biggest pieces of equipment were a lawn tractor and a walk behind tiller.  Even the green cart at the left was added in our 2nd year - and I suspect there are a couple of people who might remember trying to put one of those together.

There is much more in the picture that shows how things have changed.  But, what is most obvious to me is how well we use what we have.  There are very few tools and resources that do not get used on our farm.  And, if there are some things that fail to have use, we usually give them a chance to live elsewhere once we determine they are no longer useful. 

2015 - Taking Leaps of Faith
The new high tunnel
Of course, the final picture would be of the new high tunnel.  This picture represents our willingness to take significant steps when we feel it is the right thing to do.  Sometimes we wonder why we work so hard to give ourselves more work to do.  We realize demands for our products have changed and that there are uncertainties from season to season.  So, investing the time, money and effort into this project was no small thing for us.

Even so, we are beginning to adjust and integrate the building and new field configurations into the way we do things on the farm.  We don't do a double take every time we go by these fields like we did for the first four weeks after it went up.  The trench that was dug for the water lines isn't the obstacle that it was.  It's now just a normal task for us to go open up the tunnel in the morning and close it at night.  And, in the next couple of days, we'll get our first harvest of green beans from the planting in that building.

We'll be sure to take a pot full of those beans and cook them up for ourselves.  And, when we enjoy eating them at the end of the day, we'll remember why the hard work that brought us to this point was worth it.

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