Wednesday, October 24, 2018

grassfed organic lamb on organic pasture

"How could you blame farmers for choosing to believe that they weren't poisoning the world, and their own children?"
Theresa Weir, The Orchard

I don't blame farmers for this belief. I think it's truly the remarkable person who can objectively look at what he's doing and realize something is inherently wrong with it. And, quite frankly, most people aren't that remarkable or willing to self-reflect, especially when doing so might threaten their very livelihood. 

Nor do I blame farm families for wanting to uphold farming traditions. There is beauty in honoring traditions, fiercely guarding the family ways, protecting the family land from outsiders and new ideas.  After all, this is what has been done for generations, and these traditions have served farm families well.

Or at least, seemed to have served them well.

Guarding tradition and passing down family rituals is the way all families work. Even those who never touch a plow or plant a seed. A grandmother teaches a grand-child how to roll out the lefse and fry it on a hot griddle; a grandfather teaches a grandson how to gauge just when to apply the next round of poison to the crop for the best harvest.

The problem is, the farm traditions being handed down today are not the farm traditions of old. Our agricultural practices look nothing like those of just a hundred years ago.

Many would argue that these practices are necessary for providing copious amounts of cheap food for the growing masses.

But are they?

Where will this cycle of chemicals end? Pests and diseases will always evolve faster than chemicals. Stronger chemicals today require even stronger ones tomorrow. We are already reading the symptoms of a system in distress.

When the soil no longer supports crops despite ever increasing amounts of fertilizers, when the pollinators die, when the super-weeds and super-pests no longer succumb under the mist of the sprayers or to the bite of the toxic-modified kernel of corn, the farmers of today, who initiated and passed along these rituals, will likely be long gone.

Their grand-children and great-grand-children will be the ones standing in the dust, wondering how their ancestors could have been so complicit in the destruction of their inheritance.

"Couldn't they see what they were doing?" they'll ask in bewilderment.

No my child, they cannot.  To see would be more than they can bear, and still toil out a living in what remains of the soil.

And the soil is all they know.  

So they choose not to see.  And I can't blame them for that.  Who among us would be brave enough to look?  Who among us is ever brave enough to look ahead to the future consequences of our actions today?

Chemical farming is like the arrogant patron at the fanciest restaurant, ordering the biggest steak and priciest wine, then leaving before paying the tab.

But somebody pays the tab. Somebody always pays the tab. 

As for me and my tiny parcel of earth, untamed by poisons and untouched by toxic seeds, it will not save the planet. It may not save the pollinators who inhabit it. It may not even save my family or those who are privileged to tend it after I am gone.

But when that day comes when my grandchildren demand that I account for whether or not I assisted or resisted the destruction of their one and only real inheritance, I will be able to look them squarely in the eyes and answer without shame or hesitation, "I chose to farm without poisons with the hope that you could have a future."

Farming without poisons isn't easy.

Then again, paying the tab is never easy.

But somebody, always, has to pay the tab.

Who will pay your tab?

"We rich nations, for that is what we are, have an obligation not only to the poor nations, but to all the grandchildren of the world, rich and poor. We have not inherited this earth from our parents to do with it what we will. We have borrowed it from our children and we must be careful to use it in their interests as well as our own."
~ Australian Minister for the Environment, 1974

~ Victoria Strauser, Wisconsin, USA, Earth

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Gypsy Farmgirl says goodbye

There are certain people that come into our lives and we're never the same again. 

They become part of our identities, attached by invisible threads to our very souls. 

We may not see them every day, or maybe even every year, but when we do, we pick up right where we left off without skipping a beat. 

It's in the catching up, the fitting together of all the missing pieces of our lives that have gone between, that we suddenly realize the big gap that was left the last time we said good-bye. 

And so we work hard at filling up the gap with as many happy memories as possible, so that when the next good-bye comes, as it always does, since nothing in this world is permanent, perhaps the gap won't seem so big. 

We put on a brave and happy face and tell them, "We'll see you when we see you and not a moment before!" while hoping it will be sooner than later, and wishing there was a way to make the time apart go faster.

Monday, May 8, 2017

goofing around at Kinney Valley Alpacas, Ontario, WI

Ever have one of those moments where everything seems right in the world?

Not that everything is done on your "to-do" list, because it never is.

But there are no critters loose or injured or sick. The day is sunny but cool enough to work comfortably. 

There are no bugs. The pastures are green and growing, And you are getting sh*t done.

You look around, and all the creatures seem content, and everything seems ok.

You have this moment of peace and calm.

You sit or stand and look around, amazed and grateful.

enjoying a peaceful moment at Kinney Valley Alpacas, Ontario, WI

Of course all hell breaks loose soon after.

Something is sick or injured or dying or loose (or all 4), or mother nature is wreaking havoc.

And once again you question why you do what you do, and if it was your fault that something went wrong.

But for that one brief moment in time, everything was right.

Or mostly anyway.

And you try to hold onto that moment. So that when the bad days happen, as they always do, if you're very, very lucky, those moments, and your friends and family, will prop you up, until the good moments overshadow the bad ones again.

Cheers - 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

pastured pigs at Meadowfed Meats, LLC, Kendall, WI

One of the biggest influences on my decision to farm, and how to do it, came from Joel Salatin's books.

Among his practical tips and words of wisdom came these words:

"Our motto is we respect and honour the pigness of the pig and the chickenness of the chicken. That means not confining them in a house with hundreds of others."

Allowing an animal to express its natural behaviors, such as the scratching and pecking of chickens, or the rooting and tilling of pigs, becomes an essential part of giving that animal the best environment in which to live, and therefore, the best possible life.

On our "little farm," that is exactly what all of our critters get to do.

pastured pigs at Meadowfed Meats, LLC, Kendall, WI

For many years now we've talked about getting pigs. We enjoyed watching the pigs at our friend's farm and always figured we'd try it ourselves.

One year turned into five, and I finally decided it was time. A few e-mail inquiries later and we were rushing to put together a pig shelter (thank you old pallets!) in our old garden space, which, due to my current schedule of working full-time off of the farm, is lying dormant.

The perfect pig palace!

Now "Roto" and "Tiller" spend their days happily rooting and tilling up the old garden, happy as pigs in, well, mud.

If that isn't the pigness of the pig, I don't know what is.

Cheers -
gypsy farmgirl raises pastured pigs, Kendall, WI

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Sweetgrass toms at Meadowfed Meats, LLC, Wisconsin

Master Tom and Tiny Tom wish you all a very, merry Thanksgiving.

{They will be enjoying running around the pasture on turkey day as we enjoy lying around in the living room.}

Cheers -
Gypsy Farmgirl wishes you a very, merry Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

one of the bluffs in mill bluff state park, wisconsin

It is difficult when you are a farmer, even a small one (that is, own a small farm, not be a small sized farmer) to get off the farm on any sort of regular basis.  

explanation of mesas and buttes in Mill Bluff State Park, WI

The chore list extends to infinity and beyond. It can make a seemingly industrious person feel downright lazy to indulge in some personal, off-the-farm time. 

But that is exactly what I need to keep some "work-life" balance.  So I do my best to have some small adventure off the farm every week. 

shadow fun on the Camel Bluff trail, Mill Bluff State Park, WI

Today I took the short drive up to Mill Bluff State Park, not too far from Tomah, WI.  All the park gates were closed, and I wasn't sure which entrance would yield the best hike, so I took a chance on the Camel Bluff loop, an easy, level, 1.25 mile circuit. 

The trail is wide and pretty sandy, but hard-packed so it's not difficult walking.  It's also mostly in the shade of mature stands of pine, which would make it a cool saunter on a hot summer day. 

light, shadows and bokeh

The trail was so easy-going that it made it very easy to really enjoy my surroundings, and stop often to take a closer look at details near the trail, like the angelic looking seeds of the milkweed pod. 

Setting them free in the breeze is one of my favorite tiny pleasures in the fall. 

tiny soft fireworks of milkweed pod seeds

There are side-shoots off the main trail that lead up to the individual bluffs, and I took advantage of those, too.  

Up close with one of the small bluffs in Mill Bluff State Park, WI

soft limestone and soft colors at Mill Bluff State Park, WI

carved graffiti in the sandstone walls of a bluff in Mill Bluff State Park, WI
I  may have even climbed up a bit for a better view, although I found the view at my feet to be as delightful as the view of the horizon.

the world in mossy miniature

"There is an ancient conversation going on between mosses and rocks, poetry to be sure. About light and shadow and the drift of continents. This is what has been called the "dialect of moss on stone - an interface of immensity and minute ness, of past and present, softness and hardness, stillness and vibrancy, yin and yan.”

― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses

Warm sunshine uninhibited by the shade of the white pines now streamed down on my bare skin, warming me as I stood up with butterflies in my stomach and took in the grandeur of the view around me.

All too soon it was time to climb back down and head back to the farm in time for evening chores, which have gotten earlier as the sunset creeps backwards on the clock.

I did not have time to do the trail to Mill Bluff itself, but I will be back with that journey in mind.

Until then, it is back to the tasks at hand, here at the Little Farm.

Cheers -
Gypsy Farmgirl takes a hike at Mill Bluff State Park, WI

Monday, November 2, 2015

Sweetgrass turkeys - jakes - strutting for Gypsy Farmgirl

I never took myself for a "poultry person" until the first time I brought home day old chicks from the local farm supply store. 

I've been raising chicks from one-day-old every spring and summer since, both laying breeds and meat breeds, and even trying my hand at hatching out our own (although as luck would have it, we got 10 out of 11 roosters that year!).

Sweetgrass turkey jakes strutting their stuff for Gypsy Farmgirl

But it was my first bunch of Blue Slate turkeys from Cackle Hatchery that really sent me head-over-heels in love with poultry and especially, with turkeys. 

And what an odd love affair this has been.  

the brilliant blue head of a strutting Sweetgrass turkey

Turkeys have an undeserved negative reputation.  Far from being stupid, (and no, turkeys will absolutely not stand out in the rain and look up and drown, so if you've ever said that, please stop it immediately) I have found them to be the most social, the most curious and the most gregarious of all of the domestic birds on our property. 

Their faces are divine studies in theatrical performances, as their heads and necks turn from a pale pink to vivid tones of blues and reds whenever they are near an object of attention - either the hens, or more often, us. 

when you're a turkey, a snood is not just a snood

The names of the parts of their heads are also delightful - from the snood hanging over their beak, which stretches and elongates when they strut, to the caruncles on their head and necks, which also engorge and turn brilliant red during a strut. 

{And yes, for turkeys, snood length does matter, with longer snoods winning the hearts of hens and usually determining the dominance level of the tom.} 

a Sweetgrass tom turkey in full strut

An adult turkey has 5,000-6,000 feathers, from the long proud tail feathers to the tiniest of tiny feathers on the tops of their heads, which appear like an angelic halo (look closely at several pics on this page to see this).  These beautiful feathers are not just for looks, either, as a turkey can fly up to 40 mph and in the wild, naturally roosts in trees. 

Their big brown (or blue) eyes are keenly sharp, as any hunter with a goal to bag one can attest to, their field of vision encompassing 270° and even seeing in color.  

big brown turkey eyes and a 270° field of vision

But it's not the many fine attributes that I fell in love with, although they make it all the more justifiable. 

It's the essence of the turkey personality, the "turkeyness of the turkey," so to speak. 

It's the way the babies are so calm when you put your hand into the brooder, coming up in serious earnestness to investigate your fingers, and their escalating peep, PeeP, PEEP! when excited. 

the end of my turkey tale... or tail.

It's the hens that will curl up in my lap for a snooze, or fly up and roost on my head, or sneak up behind me to steal the gloves out of my pocket, darting away in an exuberant game of "keep-away."

Mostly, turkeys are just darn good company. 

And that, my friend, is good enough reason for me to fall in love. 

Cheers - 

Gypsy Farmgirl loves turkeys

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