What a beautiful week we’ve had on farm this week. Consistent afternoon showers make the hot, intolerable mornings lull into misty rain forest evenings. Beautiful butterflies dance their delicate ballets across our zinnias and promote the beneficial pollination of all our gently growing vegetables and fruits. Tomatoes of all shapes, colors and sizes are filling our market tables and tummies. Summer is in full swing and we finally have melons!
Our animals are all surviving the heat with positive attitudes, though midday they should be pardoned for their lack of cheerfulness. We are going to be welcoming four new sheep to the farm this Sunday and we’re preparing everyone’s good manners before their arrival. Everyone seems to be maturing very well, everyone except Giles our Billy Goat. He has been living in Bachelor paradise with his Ram friend, Valiant and yet his longing for companionship seems to exceed Valiant’s desire to be his pal. Giles is constantly following us around, bothering Valiant, begging to be loved and appears to desperately want a like minded friend in his pen. Unfortunately for him Valiant is a stud and Sunday only brings more sheep, more animals that will not understand his awkward dancing or goofy, feminine voice.
But the most powerful moment on the farm this week stemmed from a creature much more wild in nature. My two dogs have become completely obsessed with going to the river to swim. Neither of them being avid swimmers before, their bodies are slowly picking up the techniques that keep them afloat. They may not be graceful, but nothing feels better on a Georgia afternoon than some skinny dipping at the river! Sometimes when the urge to swim is too great to handle, they take off when released from the house and I have to chase them down all the way by the water side and bring them back.
On one such occasion this week, I began the long walk up the hill to the trail that leads to the water, cursing and contemplating what I could cook that requires the ingredient, dog meat. I came to the trail and a cool, quiet dark took over my vision as I entered the treeline. My eyes took several seconds to adjust and as if it appeared right before my eyes, a female Coyote was standing in the path facing me. I stopped. I stared. She stared.
She raised her head up and then down, sniffing the air and ground, examining my intentions. She remained for what felt like several minutes, her incredible features in stark contrast to the leaf litter of the trail. Her eyes bored into me deep, as if there was something she had to say. She turned quickly and pattered off a few paces only to look back and continue into a jog before disappearing in sticks and leaves. Her presence almost spurred me into following her, leaving the mess of human kind behind, becoming one of the pack. But that is not what she wanted. Too often humans have followed animals into the wilderness to discover their secrets and too often they have swallowed up the resources they keep. I found my dogs and left the forest. Her eyes stayed with me as I worked in the fields.
I feel grateful that she allowed me to gaze on her for so long. Too often Coyotes get a bad rap for attacking livestock when in reality their scavenging ways scarcely make them responsible. Her presence in the forest is an indicator that there is balance between predator and prey. As long as she has enough habitat to run in, enough grassland to hunt in and enough territory to cover undisturbed, she and her relatives shouldn’t be found going through your garbage or bothering your pets. She is an important part of the puzzle, just the same as birds, bees, mosquitoes, walrus, you and me.
Oh the joys of being young, impoverished and exhausted!
It’s been a hard week on the farm; summer heat making us all look like we sat in the splash zone at Sea World (if only!) Swift thunder storms coming and going and the persistent load of ripening tomatoes keeping us on our toes. Our sheep and goats have finally made the rotationally grazed trip to the very top of the hill and our care for them has become a pilgrimage. Battling with electric fence netting, carrying buckets of water, and the oppressive heat have lead to some incredible spats of bickering, stomping, and the occasional threat of giving up. We’ve been putting in odd hours and our energy is at an all time low.
In our off time (HA!) we have been scheming the future of the Sun Dog Farmers and preparing for our leave of Douglasville in the Winter. The Sun Dog Farmers will become Sun Dog Farm in January of 2011 and my goodness is that a lot to think about. We are currently in the process of acquiring more acreage to expand our veggies, eggs, meat, and milk. This is a challenging thing to do when you have empty pockets and limited resources. We’ve been collecting things here and there, buying used and abused farm equipment and really functioning with the help of some wonderful people. We’ve been living off of what we can grow and barter for and our creativity is at a maximum. We are hoping that our transition, to wherever it may be, will be aided by the support of all you saintly people who have welcomed our produce onto your dinner tables.
Being a young farmer ain’t easy, but what a life to live! If you haven’t heard of it already, you need to check out GROW the Movie! Anthony-Masterson, the talented and beautiful film/photo duo, are back at it again, this time following the trials and tribulations of being a young farmer in the state of Georgia. Elliot and I are both featured in the film along with a cast of characters all making their dreams come true, working their asses off to change the daunting food system of the United States. Check out the blog and show them some love; this is a story that needs to be told.
While times are stressful and the income is low, the future is uncertain and we’re not sure where to go, we are certain that there is no life out there for us that does not involve the sun, the moon, and a decent rain shower now and again. We know life continues on without hesitating for anyone or anything and something incredible will be in the works in January 2011. Currently at our Farmers’ Market booths we will be taking names of people interested in receiving our newsletters and updates on our upcoming meat/egg/veggie CSA options. The weight of the heat, the farm, and the transition are making us haggard and tired and we need a lot of love right now. Feel free to hug us or sign up for our newsletters in support of what we do!
But it isn’t all bad! No way! Being poor is a gift… One that I have abundant experience with. We are thrifty, wifty, and coming up with forms of entertainment that are natural and free! Like creeping on unsuspecting people in the grocery store, getting slushies at the texaco, wearing fake mustaches around the farm or even making up sweet songs about our awkward billy goat, Giles. Plus there is all the canning and pickling to be done! And besides, we don’t really need that much and when it comes down to it, we have a lot. We have our crops, our livestock, our dogs, our community and each other. And when having each other all the time becomes too much, I just sleep in the chicken mansion. Just kidding??
The gentle rumble of disappearing thunder has become our lullaby this week on the farm. Summer heat reaches its breaking point and shatters across the sky in spontaneous, electric streaks. Our sheep and goats have been cowering under their tarp protection and crying out at first sight of anyone passing by. The goats and sheep are so spoiled, in fact, that I have to avoid wearing bright colored clothing on the farm. If they see me, even from hundreds of feet away, they begin a chorus of moans that rattle my maternal instincts.
Our chickens are finally moving into their newly built and luxurious chicken tractors made by Gibson Remodeling ; a father son team who consistently impress us with their beautiful carpentry and diverse knowledge base of fixing, changing, and creating. The chickens’ bodies are stretching out in all directions. Their legs are growing awkwardly longer as their necks reach for the sky. Finally, after much practice, they are moving with the tractor as it rolls onto a fresh patch of grass. Chickens gather at the front of the tractor and just as the first green spears enter the structure, a frenzy of wings and beaks flutter about trying to get the first snip. Minor confrontations break out over territories, water, grass, and grain. Occasionally the runts and underdogs add a mark on their scoreboard as they catch an insect, defend it, and manage to eat it before it is stolen by a bully. Everyday another push, everyday a new adventure.
Our gardens are weighed down with heavy, beautiful summer crops. All of the exotic fruiting bodies are filling empty spaces on stalks and limbs. Tomatoes, squash, eggplant, peppers, beans, okra, cucumbers, and melons; their incredible features of color and shape added to aromas and flavors unmatched by any other season. The summer heat has Mother Nature all wound up and the world is lush and abundant. Legions of baby frogs have taken over the isle ways and shady spots under our plants. Being so tiny makes them nearly invisible as they quickly and silently move through the greens. They’ve only recently sprouted the limbs they need to tackle land and they are certainly welcomed guests here. Amphibians respire partially through their skin. They serve as incredible environmental indicators; thriving only where a place is clean of chemicals and pollution. They represent a healthy ecosystem where there is water and enough vegetation to support diversified wildlife. They also eat their fair share of insects.
While there is so much life in the world, I can’t help but acknowledge the presence of death. Human beings have made it common practice to disassociate themselves from the rules of nature. We take what we need with no sense of equilibrium or balance with any creature, current, or tide. Many of us believe in a human god and the binding laws of capitalism, government and exponential growth. We care very much about the survival of our own species without considering the population ups and downs of a natural ecosystem. Due to this human-centric vision, we take for granted a lot of life, but also the many deaths that are directly associated with our survival. Being a vegan or vegetarian does not leave you blameless. Living within the means of a technology culture makes you responsible for habitat loss, species extinction, an industrialized food system, pollution and a host of other man made messes. We must accept that with the over abundant life of one species there are many diversified deaths. We are responsible for what BP and so many others have done to this planet. We will only be relinquished from that guilt when we finally squash our addiction to a material culture. That goes for you and me as well.