It may occur that those of us who willingly & enthusiastically choose the conscious act to forsake – zealously do so, and in the ensuing avalanche of intensity sometimes in our haste inadvertently rush headlong to the complete opposite side of the ledger, where we now sit in judgment of that from which we have exiled ourselves.
For me farming juxtaposed and succinctly illuminated the diametric pursuits of agrarian versus industrial / technological commerce. Farming was all things pastoral. All things simple. It is hard manual work steeped in solitude, resplendent of deep wells of community, filled with like-minded fellowship. We were all of the same mind, enjoying the shared pursuit of being stewards of the land, caretakers of our herds and flocks. We eschewed the trappings of the “other” life and all it’s inherent perceived shortcomings. The daily commuting to and fro on vast and congested interstates and highways. The earning of one’s daily bread toiling away within the confines of brick and steel edifices bathed in a fluorescent haze, housed in a sea of cubicles. The arduous climb up the slippery and tenuous ladder of success. The goal of “more”. We agrarian’s consciously chose “less”.
And for me–as a late to the party convert, much like a reformed smoker, I took my position at the opposing polar perch, certain in my new convictions. Certain that my new fellow stewards, my new “plain” people friends of Amish or Mennonite communities, my new fellow farmers were imbued with the gifts of kindness, compassion and fellowship far beyond the world I had left behind.
I was sorely wrong. As I take my life’s walk, it is becoming increasingly clear that in fact there is no clarity at all. That distinctions must be made singularly – never collectively as we can be throne to do. That we must take the time to get to know and better understand all those around us, those of a similar bent as well as those walking on a different path. We may find we have more in common than we might have supposed.
I have been truly humbled in recent days by the fellowship, compassion, and warmth I have had the undeserved pleasure of being on the receiving end of. I have the good fortune to find friends and fellowship where I never thought to look. I have had the good fortune to discover that life and people who pass through it are capable of extraordinary acts of kindness & generosity. I have had the good fortune to discover I have much yet to discover. That the days and years ahead offer the joys and pleasures of life’s journey – I just need to remind myself now and again to pick my head up – stop, look, and listen.
A Tale Of Hope, Prayer and Perseverance
It’s been quite a while since I’ve last blogged. The ongoing tasks of getting the myriad of vegetables and fruits planted for spring and summer growing (its an endless list), doing daily battle with the weeds (we weed by hand) and opening our downtown Nashville store have kept me in whirling dervish mode – but events of this past Saturday night compel me to sit and share the following story – a story of hope, prayer and perseverance.
I was in Chattanooga at an Intensive Grazing seminar Friday and Saturday. I left midday Saturday to get back to the farm. On my way back I got a phone call from an affable fellow telling me he had picked up 2 of our Pyrenees wandering about (Pyr’s tend to get the walkabouts – but that’s a story for another time). So the Pyr’s were safely ensconced and I was on my way to rescue them from their well intentioned, albeit misguided rescue. I picked them up and got back to the farm around 8:30 pm… As usual the official greeting crew of our two golden retrievers and one sort of bird dog mix met me at the gate (they are 3 of 10 dogs roaming the farm, the majority being rescue dogs)…
Anyway I proceeded up the drive parked the truck and the rest of the dogs came to greet me as well… Once the requisite tumultuous hello’s had been addressed all around I looked out at the farm through the dark, just scanning the horizon as I often do. During that quite moment I heard a faint noise that at first was, indistinguishable. I listened hard, not sure at all what I was hearing – and then I heard it again. It struck me it was a noise of distress. I thought it must be one of the goats. It’s odd. We have 7 goats and without realizing it you come to know each one of their bleats. One is distinctive from the other. But this bleat was more of a muffled cry indicating pain or suffering or both.
We once had a goat get its hoof trapped in the fork of a tree and I thought – that must be it so I ran to the gate and ran into the pastures with my Iphone flashlight app as my light source (as limited as that is)… There was nothing in the pasture and it was hard to count heads in the dark – but again I heard that horrible, mournful bleat. Where was it coming from???
And then I saw one of the Pyr’s standing outside the pasture by one of the barn buildings and I knew. If you don’t know what Pyrenees are for or do – they are livestock guardians. Their job is to protect the livestock from predators. Well ours were whisked off by a well meaning, likely city dweller and deposited miles from our farm and their job. With one more mournful bleat echoing into the darkness, I raced and jumped the fencing, and found one of our new baby goats (just 8 weeks old) lying on the ground bleeding from a series of puncture wounds on his neck and hindquarters. Somehow he had gotten out of the pasture and had been attacked by either our dogs or a neighbors dog – but in any event he had been attacked and was clearly near death.
At first I didn’t know what to do; with the Pyr’s we had never had any of our animals attacked. I thought do I get a gun a put him out of his misery??? But how could I do that? This was Haylee’s goat. I owed it to the little guy, Bambi (his given name) and to Haylee (a beautiful, wonderful 12 year old girl) to do the best I could for all of us.
Just so you know how we came by these two new baby goats, it was in the most wonderful way.possible. One night Haylee’s mom Sara, who is my partner at the farm, was making dinner for all of us. We had harvested some arugula from the field and Sara wanted to wilt it with a bit of goat cheese. I suggested the best way to get goat cheese was to go to our friend’s farm that produced goat cheese and get it straight from the source. So we piled into the truck and off we drove the 3 miles to Dustin and Justyne’s farm at Noble Springs to get our cheese. During our greetings and introductions one of their goats birthed 3 little kids one doeling (female) and 2 kids males. Now males are of no use on a goat dairy (as you would gather)… So Haylee having witnessed the miracle of the birth of these two baby boys looked wide-eyed and we knew – we now had 2 more goats at the farm. As they are separated from their mom at birth they are bottle fed twice a day for eight weeks and then weaned. The little boy on the ground had just been weaned.
So with the little guy on the ground and the Pyr’s standing guard over him, I ran to the house got towels, a sweatshirt, a glass of bourbon and went back out to set up for a long night’s vigil. My first call was to our local vet, who I considered a friend. I got the answering service and explained the circumstances. I was told they would get right back with me – oddly I never, ever received a phone call from them….???? My next call was to our farm vet, Jennifer Hatcher, who is much further away. They have an emergency after hour’s number, which I called and got Alex Hagan, Jennifer’s assistant on the phone. I told Alex what had happened and we discussed the various options – I told him I would call him back. Next I called Sara. She was at a concert with a friend but it was her daughter’s goats and I needed to know what she wanted me to do. It didn’t hurt that Sara has a degree in Animal Science and worked as a vet tech in Colorado. I was clearly out of my element and just working on instinct and an overwhelming desire to save the little guys life – for him, for Haylee and I guess really, for all of us….
I was able to reach Sara, she was an hour away but at least on her way. I hunkered down with the goat and kept pressure on his neck wounds to stop the bleeding as he and I shared stories and a bourbon. I had serious discussions with him during those very, very long hours; that he needed to fight as hard as he could to live because there was no way I was going to explain the alternative occurrence to Haylee!!!
Well Sara finally arrived and ran to us – she went to work thoroughly examining all of the little guys wounds. Honestly, it didn’t look very good for the little guy… Sara then called Alex and they discussed the situation and various scenarios. Fortunately, Sara had recently brought her vet kit to the farm so she had some med’s in there that would help alleviate the pain and swelling.
What happened next is a bit of a blur – but happen it did. Sara picked Bambi up and started running towards the house. I asked,” what are you doing” – she told me “Bambi needed to get out of the cold”. I was further instructed to throw a bunch of towels into the dryer to make them warm and to get some old quilts.
So I ran to do what Sara needed me to do.. I happened to ask – “where are you going with the goat”???? “To your bed was the reply”… My bed????!!!! Really???????
Well with warm towels and 2 comforters I ran down the hall to find Sara lying in my bed next to the goat holding his neck and keeping pressure on the wounds. I did as instructed and covered Bambi with the warm towels and we laid him in the comforter so he would be comfortable. And I took up my position on the opposite side of the little guy. And for the rest of the night till 6 am we took turns holding the little guy – dozing off and coming awake to anguished cries. We noticed small changes in his breathing and horrible gurgling noises, but we didn’t mention these things to one another, we just held on. We kept our all night vigil and held him tight and when morning finally came – we whisked him to Alex’s and Jennifer Hatcher’s office where Alex put drains in the little guys wounds, injected antibiotics and shaved and cleaned more wounds – he did everything he could.
The little guy was still going to need to dig deep to make it and survive. Well we put him up in a stall in the big barn in a dog crate with his brother Thumper (yes Haylee named them Bambi and Thumper – what names would you expect a 12 year old girl to come up with????).. Goats do not like to be alone – they become depressed, not unlike people – so in went Thumper happy to see his brother!!! On my first visit to the stall later in the day I was sure he had not made it. There were flies all over him and he was motionless. I knelt at the crate and prodded him gently and then one eye opened. He was still with us!!! The little guy was a fighter!!! I took a bowl of water and tried wetting his tongue and then sprayed some fly spray and went on to other chores.
Yesterday was Tuesday. I came up to feed him a bottle of milk and electrolytes and found him standing, shaky as could be, but standing none the less in his crate. Today I went up for morning feeding and found him standing in the stall ( I left the door to the crate open just in case) and walking very gingerly, but walking!!!! Haylee is on her way, right now, to feed Bambi his afternoon bottle.
So today I will construct a gate to keep Bambi safe in the stall while he recovers but one that lets him see the rest of the residents of the barn, especially his brother. We hope in a short period of time he will be joining his buddies in the pasture!!!!
Life can be very hard to understand and a farm is nothing if not a microcosm of life and all that it holds for us: The turning of the seasons, the miracle of birth and joyous life, growth and harvest. And yet there is also the inevitability of decline and death But it seems with a measure of hope, a dose of prayer and a big heaping, helping of perseverance – you can find your way and take a walk in the pasture.
As will become readily apparent as I continue to write the Joe Natural’s blog, I do quite a bit of reading. Being possessed of more then my fair share of ADD I find myself reading and/or re-reading 6 books simultaneously (I blame this in part on my Kindle, which clearly enables such behavior). Now I am trying to keep in mind that Nicole has asked me at least say something about Joe Natural’s in my blog and I am going to try my best. But for a minute I would like to digress back to my reading.
I am reading Yvon Chouinard’s (of Patagonia) “Let my People Go Surfing” (the education of a reluctant businessman), a biography on Jack O’neill (of wetsuit fame), Eco Barons (particularly the chapters dealing with Doug Tompkins (of North Face and Esprit fame) and Roxanne Quimby (who started and grew Burt’s Bees).. What strikes me as I read about the various extremely successful people (on my Kindle oddly – that comment will make sense a bit later) is the path they have taken in their lives. The complete and polar opposite of how successful people of today’s era are.
These were people with little or no formal education. Chouinard began as a self taught blacksmith in Maine. Quimby lived in the woods of Maine for over a decade without running water or electricity. Doug Tompkins climbed mountains. Last but certainly not least, Jack O’Neill, tried corporate job after corporate job until he followed his passion for the sea. These were people possessed of a self confidence to pursue the path less traveled. They were true adventurers in the real and physical sense. These were seemingly ordinary people doing what they were doing not for financial gain, but for the pure joy it provided them. These were people of little or no means who subsisted by the dint of their resourcefulness and resiliency. Their lives were lived and continue to be lived on their own terms.
What is strikingly coincidental, well maybe its not coincidental, is that each one of these people in addition to building large, successful business enterprises has, through their efforts and labors communed with nature and in each and every instance they have formed a indomitable bond with our earth and their role in its care. Their efforts to preserve our environment and the quality of our life upon it has become so intertwined with their businesses it is impossible to differentiate what their mission is – business or deep ecology. And with this understanding, one gains clarity that they are not and need not be mutually exclusive.
Today we have Zuckerberg, or Bezos, Sergey and Larry. Certainly successful in monetary terms beyond comprehension, but sadly, their success and that of their ensuing peers seem to be steeped in the caverns of a computer lab. Their mountains, woods and seas are virtual. Their battles are intellectual. Their endeavors…..cerebral.
Now I am not diminishing their accomplishments (heck I do all of this reading on that infernal Kindle – who thought it was a good idea for an OCD – ADD person to be able to download books all day long anyway??). But they are certainly of different stock then their predecessors.. Something important has been lost. Read about the folks I first spoke about and you tell me: Who would you rather be stranded in a remote, forbidden area with – a can-do, resourceful mountain climber or a somewhat physically limited person with an IQ score off the charts??? For me the choice is hands down…
Now I will say, there is actually one person, iconic really, who in my opinion was the bridge between these eras…. Steve Jobs. He talked his talk and walked his walk. He sought out his truths and lived them. He was unique in being of the real world and the electronic world. Possibly the last of the Mohicans. Can one say that??? With all the p/c stuff who knows anymore…
Oh shoot… Nicole nothing about Joe Natural’s… But I have to go back to the farm and start planting our seedlings so we have early tomatoes and cukes and squash and lettuces!!!!! Gotta run……..
Normally, my blog, much to the dismay of our “Social Media Girl” is a social commentary regarding my observations as a farmer and reformed consumerist. I enjoy sharing these observations having had a foot in each camp. I know Nicole, I’m supposed to talk about Joe Nat’s – let’s try for next week. Anyway, in my travels this week from the farm to the environs of Tampa, FL, National Public Radio had a segment airing on the Bob Edwards show called “This I Believe”… The essay of the day was from a gentleman who happens to be a diary farmer in New Hampshire by the name of Dave Stewart and from where I sit; it was compelling and eloquently expressed my thoughts. So I would like to share Dave’s essay with you…………
I believe in Monique and Julie, my cows.
I believe in my cows for their alchemical conversion of sunshine into milk. Cows work their magic with the simple ingredients of grass, water, and a dry shelter from wind and rain or the summer sun. I believe in my cows because we drink their milk, eat homemade yogurt and cheese, and enrich the gardens’ soil with their manure.
My cows and I are faithful allies in the effort to keep our pastures safe from their natural enemies: trees. The woods may have looked lovely dark and deep to a poet who lived down the road in Derry, but trees are patient partisans waiting to advance and reclaim land which is rightfully theirs. We hold the trees back, my cows and I, for our co-conspirators: grass and clover, vetch and weed. Throughout the growing season, I watch for the places where I will turn out the animals to strip the leaves off the seedlings that sprout in the sunshine at the edge of field and forest.
I believe my cows stretch time. Despite the demands of single-handing a small, diversified farm and shepherding two teenagers, I find time to stop and watch how a healthy cow moves, and how a sick or stressed animal shrinks and shies. When I drop off dairy to my neighbors, we talk about our families and wonder where time has gone. After dinner, my kids undo time by making ice cream soup out of the laboriously frozen product that had been my goal minutes before.
Morning and night, I, like my grandfather the dairy farmer before me, confirm Orion’s progress through New Hampshire’s dark winter skies. Walking to the barn I remember the grad student I was at the time of his death a quarter of a century ago. I fretted over the responsibilities that life’s defining events would bring. But milking the cows reminds me that the ability to shoulder a burden is a gift on loan. Soon enough, age or infirmity will end my twice daily walks to the barn and the cows will slip into memory, where the burden will be light and easily shared with anyone who will listen.
Tonight, though, fatigue gathers in my arm as I carry a sloshing pail of milk back to the house. A brittle cold snap has settled over the farm, leaving my fingers and toes numb and slowing my work in the barn. But the glow from the kitchen windows and the glitter of starlight on the snow warms me.
Thanks to my cows I appreciate the responsibilities of my here and now.
Ayuh, I believe in my cows.
Dave Stewart raises cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, bees, vegetables and fruit on McClary Hill Farm in Epsom, New Hampshire. In addition to believing in his cows, he believes in E.B. White’s maxim: “A good farmer is nothing more nor less than a handy man with a sense of humus.”
From last week’s blog I received a reply from Dustin of Noble Springs Dairy, the essence of which was expressed as their desire is to “provide to The Community.” That got me to thinking: In taking our efforts on the farm to the opening a small café / farm store – what exactly were we doing? Were we developing an enterprise or was it something more then that? I think Dustin has it right. We were using the production from our farm and that of our fellow farmers to provide our community with the best of our efforts.
I know, I’ve surely been to a fair share of businesses over my half century of kicking around. And business is the appropriate term. They offer and provide a service or goods that I may (albeit sometimes may not but that’s a whole other story) be in need of and then upon receipt of the good(s) or service I remunerate them accordingly. I am satisfied if what I receive is valued fairly and the quality of the goods or service is what I expect.
So is that what Joe Natural’s is? Are we a business? I mean we provide goods and a service and we are paid in kind, so it would seem to make sense that we are a business. But as I ponder the question, from where I sit – I don’t think it’s quite as simple as that:
Maybe it’s watching our vegetables grow from tiny seeds. Maybe it’s watching our animals grow strong and robust from infancy. Whatever it is, we clearly develop an attachment and a healthy measure of pride in what comes from our farm. We share that sense of pride with our farmer friends as we know all to well they endeavor, labor and strive as we do.
So when the folks come to sit and eat with us – they just aren’t folks they are our friends (or soon to be friends). And as our friends we want them to have only the best we can offer. We want our friends to share in the bounty of our labors. When I am toiling away, I do so with great satisfaction knowing my labors will provide healthy, delightful and delicious sustenance to our friends.
And our friends they are ……from A to Z……. from Aida, to our 3 Zach’s (yes he is one of the Zach’s)… From Anna and Joe, Brad and Kimberly, Bridgett and Jeremy, Brooke, Chris and Lorrie, Christina, Connie, Dan, David and Amy, Doug and Deb (our very first friends), Fred, Gary and Alex, the Greens, Hattan, Cheri and Dwayne, Isabel, Jay, Joanie, Josh and Jenna, Jessica, Jonathan, Jeremy, Jimmy and Lisa, Kate and Sarah, Kent, Mary and Harrison, Lana and Neal, Laurel, Lisa and David, Melissa, Melissa and Scott, Missy, Mike and Jody, Nicole and Keith, Peter, Quincy and Jonathan, Rodney and Glen, Sheri and Steve, Sheryl, Tracy and Scott, Tim, Vicki, Whitney and Yvonne and 3 Zachs….
And in writing this I came to realize Joe Natural’s is significantly more then a business – it is a community, filled with friends who we count on and who count on us. The way a community should be.
A happy, healthy and prosperous New Year to all………….
Well, another week has tolled and its time, once again, to write this weeks blog. By the way, how does one do this every week? It’s quite a daunting task!!! I mean I’m sure I will run out of ideas in another week!!!!
So, guess who mentioned, once again, I did not write anything about Joe Natural’s – which purportedly is the whole raison d’être for the blog. And further opined that my prior blog may have been tinged with a bit of self serving, albeit hypocritical commentary inasmuch as we are engaged in the business of commerce. Ah, the Social Media Girl… Such as taskmaster!!!
So, that got me to thinking: Is it commerce that is inherently bad or is it the way that commerce is plied? Is there commerce steeped in integrity and therefore reciprocally, commerce absent of such underpinnings?
Well, I believe there is a type of commerce, one which we at Joe Natural’s are engaged in, that promotes local production and consumption: A commerce that sustains both its practitioners and its consumers. A commerce that is concerned with the core values of the care and maintenance of our natural resources.
One only has to look at firms like Stonyfield Farms, Patagonia or Tom’s to see that even on a large scale, commerce can be conducted in an ecologically responsible manner. Employing responsible practices (which tend to be initially more expensive then those used in more traditional commerce), these firms are profitable, enabling these companies to fund other socially and ecologically necessary projects on both a local and national level. These practices ensure consumer loyalty from those of us who have taken the time to understand the challenges we face in trying to leave the earth and its resources, less diminished. So big, while maybe not always better, doesn’t necessarily have to be bad……..
At Joe Natural’s we subscribe to a more localized form of sustainable commerce. While we are our own farm and the source of much of what we serve, we can not do it all – nor would we choose to. We would sorely miss our farmer friends. We would miss the camaraderie of being able to share the pleasures and occasional travails of the life of a farmer. We would miss the wonderful goat cheese we get from Dustin and Justyne at Noble Springs, the wonderful dairy cheeses we get from Padgett and Nathan at Sequatchie Cove Farm (plus the absolutely amazing steaks and roasts), the amazing beef for our burgers from our friends at Triple L, the amazing milk and cream from the Hatchers and our jams and preserves from Marsha and Ron, our Amish friends.
Each one of these wonderful people farms, painstakingly and lovingly working their land to produce the most wonderful of products, all the while remaining faithful and responsible stewards of the earth they are so blessed to work on. We are pleased and privileged to be able to purchase the amazing products they produce. In turn we are able to utilize the bounties of our farm in conjunction with those of our friends to produce honest food that delights and nourishes those who choose to eat with us.
It is my thought that each of us who chooses to farm and then sells what they grow and / or produces does so not for the delight of achieving monetary riches but rather for the sheer joy of working our small piece of the earth. We delight in being able to produce food that is a joy to eat and done in a way that is humane, uplifting and spiritually satisfying. That, as it were, is what sustains us.
So it seems there is commerce and then there is commerce. I’ll let you decide.
– Farmer Joe
As you know last week was my very first time blogging and the wonderful girl that does our social media wondered if I could by some chance stay on point this week (as that didn’t happen last week) and discuss Joe Natural’s; all we are about and all the wonderful things we do…. Well I am trying really, really hard but……. there is just this one little something on my mind I want to discuss so here goes: The Christmas season is upon us in earnest. You can tell by the inordinate amount of traffic on the roads heading to the myriad of retail establishments for the sole pleasure of trying to figure out what to buy the exhaustive laundry list of people stuffed into your pocket or pocketbook ….
So two thoughts : Is that what Christmas is really about ???? And why can’t we give gifts to people we care about on any random day we feel the urge??? I’m no theologian but it is difficult for me to understand where the religious significance is to a holiday so firmly steeped in the exercise of purchasing… I mean my church attendance is sporadic but aren’t the teachings of the bible more in line with having less worldly possessions? Doing for and giving to those less fortunate?
Sadly, Christmas has become a time of the year that induces people to angst over a severe bout of budgetary distress and then spend the ensuing months paying off credit card bills at exorbitant rates of interest in order to feel - feel what??? Certainly not a religious contentment or fulfillment… Since when does one need to incur debt in order to attain spiritual enrichment?
Seems to me the meaning and spirit of Christmas has been pirated and remade as a pseudo religious holiday under the guise of an orchestrated consumer frenzy. Somehow the idea of “less is more” has reasserted itself as “more and then some more” Now I’m not taking sides or talking about differences in religious beliefs, or lack thereof… I just am just observing people and listening to them bemoan the imminent task of having to venture out and buy presents, accompanied with a look of peptic distressetched on their faces …. I don’t sense peace or tranquility or joy - just a sense of abject obligation …. Well just something to think about.
Could in fact simpler be better? Maybe Christmas is the perfect time of the year for families to be together with the goal of bringingjoy and happiness to each other. Maybe it’s a time for taking a long walk together, hand-in-hand, saying nothing, just being together as a family A time to reflect upon the true gifts present in our lives. For friends to share time – time well spent. A time to let those you know – know that you truly care about them… A time to lend a hand. A time to help. Seems to me those are the important gifts…. These are gifts you can both obtain and give with pleasure and joy and then share and share again.
And what does it cost you??? All it costs is personal involvement and commitment…Then in lieu of a monthly credit card statement, you get a gift that keeps on giving – day after day, year after year. I know sacreligiious. I mean the impact to Walmart and Target and Macy’s and Kohl’s and Best Buy. What am I thinking !!!!!!!
But wait!!! How about this………..
We put the Christ back in Christmas and rename this other holiday…… Let’s see…. “Spendamus”… Hmmmmm …maybe “Splurgimus”…Wait – I know….. “EXTRAGAVAGANZAMUS”!!!!!!!!!!!! There it’s all settled…. Oh shoot…. Forgot to talk about Joe Natural’s again…. Oh boy am I going to hear about it……….. Sorry Nicole……Well maybe next week……… Happy Holiday Season to All…………
– Farmer Joe
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Well, this is my first time ever blogging and I imagine that for a business such as ours the intent is to provide interesting and stimulating facts that encourage people to eat at our café…. That I should endeavor to create a measure of kismet and build the solid foundations of long-lasting relationships…
However, I believe I am going to miss my mark, as it were. I am actually going to use this opportunity to ruminate and grumble about the state of the world (vis a vie through my having quests at the farm this week) .. About the lack of care and interest, supposedly responsible people, show for the land upon which we live and depend upon.
Joe Natural’s began and continues as a farm based business. Each and every morning, rain or shine, the day starts with tending to our animals. The rest of the day can go in any number of directions depending on what needs to be done and what has broke and needs repairing or what other emergencies arise. The bees, flowers, vegetables all need constant care and attention – a form of job security as it where… Truth be told, I always forget to turn the compost pile so every once in a while I have to run up to the top of the farm and bring the tractor down to turn the pile (we use Alpaca manure as its high in nitrogen)…
Anyway back to the matter at hand: We had company in town this past weekend. A good friend for a lot of years. A monetarily successful person who waxes philosophically about organic food and health and all manner of related subjects – because as we all know – it’s all the rage to be organic these days…
Well anyway, the first evening they stayed at the farm, I was getting ready to make a fire (as we always do) and he asked if he could help… I declined the offer, but he was not to be dissuaded. So off he went with me to collect fire wood from the wood shed. Now, I chop and split my own wood (by hand I might add).. If you haven’t thought about it, during the course of the year trees come down around the farm and regardless of whether they are soft woods or hard woods we make use of them. Nothing like a good fire to keep the farm house warm and keep the electric company from absconding with your hard earned money.. By the way if you haven’t ever split wood by hand it isn’t done liked the portray in the movies… You don’t use an axe… An axe being a sharpened blade only gets buried in the wood and then you spend the rest of the day trying to extricate it… Believe me, I’velearned the hard way (what do you want from a guy raised in New York City??)
Actually you use tool known as a maul.. A maul looks like an axe but it has a blunter and heavier head so when you strike the wood log with a descending blow it splits the wood rather then cut into the log. Your best efforts notwithstanding, every so often you need to use a wedge and a ball peen hammer as well.. Anyway I’m sure you get the idea, it’s a lot of work. Work that I consider a wonderful and productive exercise (I gave up my gym membership soon after taking up farming and have never looked back)!!! Another aside, to conserve on fossil fuels, I walk the farm as much as possible carrying feed bags and whatever needs to be hauled by my own two feet. Besides being environmentally responsible it allows me to eat a bit more then I should and I fall asleep by 7 (I’m a huge fan when daylight savings time is over as I don’t feel so odd being asleep by 7 - at least its dark out!!)
Sorry for the tangent…. Now where was I??? Oh yeah……back to the point of this whole missive….. So, I start the fire… My fires are constructed along the lines of anorganizational chart of sorts. First some recycled newspaper, then some twigs cut from the downed trees, then some little wood (kindling as it where) from, you guessed it, downed trees… Now here’s where it gets a wee bit complicated: To get the coals hot I use the soft wood split logs first with a small amount of the split hardwood logs on top (the soft wood doesn’t burn hot but I don’t want to waste the wood. Then as the fire burns down I put on unsplit hardwood logs so we get a long lasting, toe warming, toasty fire…..And knowing how much time and effort went into chopping the wood, I judiciously use up my store of hand split wood..A reasonable and rational thought – no???
So my guest, who will remain anonymous (what’s that disclaimer they use in books ? “the names and places have been change to protect the innocent” or something to that effect – for a moment I thought it was please put you your tray tables up and your seats in their locked and upright position – but then I remembered where that was from) piles on log after log…..No amount of painful moaning, begging or pleading could stop him from his goal… The fire appeared to leap out of the chimney over the roof and up to the stars…. The intensity of the fire when it is massed, causes the wood to burn at a much faster rate, thereby necessitating more and more wood (if in fact one really deems a roaring fire a necessity) begetting the need for more and more wood – until, sadly, the whole pile was used. Used in the most disrespectful and irresponsible manner possible.
What does this little episode say about us??? What does it portend for the future of our land, our resources, our food, our health and that of our children and grandchildren??? How can seemingly intelligent, well educated people be so callous towards the care of that which binds us??? Have we become so lost or so egocentric we believe that wood actually comes from the front of a grocery store or a plain looking fellow in an old, battered pickup truck parked along the side of a road? And of course such blatant disregard for our trees extrapolates into blatant disregard for fossil fuels and the blatant disregard of all of the earth’s resources.
Look ……..for much of my life I surely wasn’t any better. I stand equally as guilty of making sure that my part of my world was handed down further diminished from how I received it. Unfortunately, that is the way it is. But I’m hopeful it doesn’t have to be. Yes, I decided to learn to farm and as a result developed different values. My curiosity and desire to learn lead me to reading various books by ecologically based authors. Agrarian Essays by Wendell Berry. The Contrary Farmer by Gene Logsdon. Great Possessions by David Kline. There is so much to learn about life. The difference between living well and a life well lived.
Well I didn’t tell you a damn thing about Joe Natural’s and maybe that’s just the right way to start. If you want to discuss my point of view you can visit me at the shop in Leipers Fork. If that’s too far a drive wait a bit. On February 1st we are opening a second Café in Cummins Station (across the hall from Wild Wasabe) . Or your welcome to come visit me at the farm and chat if you’d like.
– Farmer Joe
Look who joined us for lunch today! Mike Wolf, from American Pickers, & friends. Be sure to catch new episodes of American Pickers on the History Channel each Monday at 9/8c.
Mike Wolfe, from American Pickers, and friends joined us for lunch today!