Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Rumination on “Days Off”

As I sit in an Athens coffee shot sipping on my very large glass of a very hot double-shot americano, I have to admit that I am a little bit frustrated. I can’t seem to figure out how to make my computer connect to the internet, and I can’t use any of the prompted internet setups because I am signed on as a guest. My frustrations are more with my lack of ability to figure this computer problem out and less about the problem itself. It is not that important for me to have the internet at precisely this moment – I can publish this post later when I get back to the farm – but I am annoyed because there is a specialized piece of equipment that I can’t figure out how to make work. All that is a reminder to me that at the farm I have thankfully moved away from the work of cookie-cutter answers and into a highly creative field.

Most people wouldn’t think of farm life as entirely creative. Perhaps they would agree that the “pastoral” or “rustic” life of the country has the ability to spark creativity, but most people would not see the work itself as creative. Yet the creative side of farming is one of the reasons that I find it so attractive. In “conventional” farming there are stock answers to stock questions. Cows eat this mix of feed and chickens are given that much space to produce these size eggs. At Nature’s Harmony and other farms that embrace an approach that enhances the beneficial natural properties of the animals they raise and the land that they work, the story is completely different. Just this morning, the other apprentices, Mario and Amanda, and I were discussing ways that we could improve the chicken tractors that we have to move every day. Our answers to the problems that we face will largely be informed by local conditions, what is best for the animals we are working with, available materials, and the cost of those materials. There are parameters, but within them, we have a lot of room for creativity and there are a variety of solutions we may come up with.

Another good example of how this way of farming is creative is the rotational grazing method that Tim and Liz use. In this method, the cows and sheep at the farm are given new forage every day on a fresh paddock of pasture. Nearly every day Tim walks the field and examines the grass on his farm, plotting his next course for the cows. There are a number of things that he has to think about: how big does this paddock need to be to last a day, what types of grass are growing, when will they be growing again, what part of the farm do the cows need to be moving to. These seem like simple decisions, but they are some of the most important decisions that Tim and Liz have to make because they affect every level of the farm from the business to the health of the land itself. I am sure that it can be a somewhat nerve-wracking way to farm at times, but I am seeing more and more how it allows a farmer to make the most of the land and to be a responsible steward of it at the same time.

All that to say that it is much more enjoyable for me to spend a day walking the fields trying to decide how to best provide for the animals than to sit with a computer trying to figure out how to make it connect to the internet. I would still like to have the internet right now though, because I need to find the best way to get back to Elberton. I’ll try human communication instead.

Farm Meal of the Week:
Crockpot Chili with Homemade "Balloon" Bread and
Xingu courtesy of Morganne and Aaron Weeks


  1. It's cool to be on the other side of the coin with the creativity I get to experience behind a computer all day. Praise the Lord for allowing us to have jobs that are so different but that we enjoy/appreciate so much. Too cool.

    Next time you have a day off, will you come to Greenville?

  2. I would love to. My Days off are Tuesdays right now. Perhaps I could come on Monday night next week and we could hang out that night and then the next day after you and Lauren get off of work? I could maybe go hiking or something in between. I definitely need to check out your new digs. Lemme know how that plan sounds.


  3. Were you at Espresso Royale? Their internet is so unpredictable. (Did larry ask about me?)

    miss you,

  4. Yes, Katie, that is why I called you!! And yes their internet sucked. And no Larry wasn't there, but his vibes were all over the place. If he was, I am positive that he would have asked about you.

    miss you too,

  5. we miss you!! we'll have new pics of liam on our blog soon.