Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Life and Death on a Farm

Dad, me, and most of my possesions packed in a pick-up.

Just over a week has passed in my time at Nature's Harmony farm in Elberton, GA, and I have already seen, tasted, smelled, and touched more than I could have imagined I would have in an entire year somewhere else. It is no surprise to me that there is life on a working farm, but I am finding myself consistently amazed by how much of it there is. Before I embarked on this journey, I must admit that I was afraid that I would be a little bit bored out on the farm. However, it is wonderful, in the word's truest sense, to be out in the fields watching the hens peck for bugs, the cows grazing in their paddock, the pigs playfully chasing each other, the dogs keeping all the hawks away, and the sheep running in a flock. Even the smallest life is amazing. Yesterday, I was cleaning out one of the water troughs for a cow and I noticed a small, glistening beetle swimming in the water, moving slowly then bursting with speed like an ice skater.
And not only is there life on the farm, but life that is beginning. Last week, one of our sows had a farrow of piglets. Apparently this particular Berkshire sow, Tweeter, is not the best mother because last time she farrowed, she trampled all of her piglets before they even grew big enough to dodge her enormous weight. Tim and Liz showed patience with her though and hoped that the mothering instincts of the Ossabaw sows she is with will wear off on her. It seems to be working this time around as she is now learning to take care of her piglets without a farrowing hut. Though one piglet has been lost already, 5 are still looking healthy and strong and Tweeter is learning how to take care of them.

Tweeter and her piglets.

We also had a calf born on the farm yesterday named Pollyanna. Her birth through a wrench in the morning plans that I had to finish painting the dairy barn, but it was a welcomed opportunity for me as I got to watch Tim and Liz take care of the young heifer and feed her the milk which her mother was refusing to give her. Apparently this particular mother hadn't weaned her other calf, who is a little bit older, and Pollyanna was a week and a half early, so she didn't have any milk for her. Tim and Liz had to head out to get a special milk supplement that has the antibodies for the calf which are only produced in the first 24 hours after birth. Today, Pollyanna and her mother, Promise, are back on schedule and we are hoping for the best. Pretty soon, we expect one of the Aleutian Pyrenees on the farm, Anna, to have her first litter of pups who will help her and her mate, Jethro, to patrol the farm.

Pollyanna just a few hours after birth.

Anna hiding under the broken dump truck, Dumpy.

Another part of the farm that has been a surprise that I can't say that I was expecting was all of the death. I am not naive and I know that it is the natural course of things for death to follow life and precede more life. But I have lived in a world that has been mostly sheltered from this knowledge of death. As violent as our T.V. and video games are, our culture does not realize that death is, in fact, natural and unavoidable. Yet knowing that death is inevitable has not made it any easier to be around it. When all of the guinea hen's chicks died or when we found a dead Bourbon Red Turkey, my knowledge of death grew, and yet I still did not feel comfortable with it. By far, my least favorite job on the farm is moving the chicken tractors. Every day we move the chickens to fresh grass and new forage, and every day we find at least 5 dead chickens which we take to the compost pile. Apparently this is due to a respiratory illness in chickens which spreads like wildfire. Because Tim and Liz don't use antibiotics and instead prefer to breed out these weaknesses, many chickens have been taken by this illness.
In addition, I also took part in my first "processing" day on the farm. To say that we "processed" chickens is a bit of a euphemism in my opinion, because what we actually did was kill them and clean them out. I don't think slaughtering is the best word for this either, because neither does justice to the reality of what is happening. We are killing a chicken as painlessly (for us and them) as possible and preparing it to offer sustenance to us and the farm's customers. I don't particularly enjoy it, but I understand that it is a necessary part of providing good food to people who care about the way that the way the chickens they eat live and die. It is as it should be, we are taking from the world which gives to us and which we in turn must give back to.

Dead animals in the compost pile.

My first farm dinner. Homemade meat sauce with bowtie pasta,
roasted tomatoes, and baked acorn squash.

Monday, September 14, 2009

These are a few of my favorite things...

The past few weeks I have been thinking about the things that I will miss about Savannah. Here is a short list, by no means complete and in no particular order.

...Friday nights - cooking and praying and conversing with friends

...6 o'clock Mass @ Sacred Heart and all the people that I have had the pleasure of getting to know

...Watching the Steelers with my pop

...Family dinners (including the Archer's) and cooking with my mommas


...The possibility of fishing with Reid and Nathan (the reality doesn't happen often enough)

...Riding my bike around the city and seeing all of it's life

...Going to the beach on a whim 

...Soccer @ Forsyth Park

...The Farmer's Markets and my farmer friends
...Coffee and reading @ "The Bean"

...Watching Liam grow up ("Fort!")

...Crab, shrimp, & oysters

...Themed parties (Sangria anyone?)

...Zunzis (especially with Enoch)

...Afternoon thunderstorms in the summer

...Watching my sister play basketball and soccer 

...Hanging out with my cousins 

...Screamin' Mimis @ my front door

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

An Introduction and A Manifesto

So before I gave away the link to my blog, I wanted to go ahead and write my first post. I am new to the "blogosphere" and I can't say that I even know what I am getting into.
As you may probably know by now, I am starting an apprenticeship at Nature's Harmony farm in Elberton, GA in September, and I will be there for a year. I figured that a blog would be a good way for me to keep anyone who is interested up to date on my life at the farm and all the interesting things that I will be learning. If you want to learn a little bit about the farm, the owners Tim and Liz have a blog here. I am going to share my life at the farm as much as possible, but there will definitely be some overlap with Tim and Liz's blog. I hope that my experiences will shed some light on what good farming looks like and why it is so important.
For the manifesto of this blog, I figured I should use a poem by one of my favorite writers (who just happens to be a farmer), Wendell Berry:

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion - put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motion of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.