Wednesday, July 2, 2008

death of a dream

I realized that again, I have not posted in a month. Life is busy.....
In the average week I work 45-60 hours at my off farm job. sometimes it requires evening travel. This crimps my agrarian ventures, as well as attempts at frequent blogging. However,in the past couple of weeks:

The sheep were all sheared
Gardens were weeded
late oats were seeded
Barn was cleaned for hay storage
last years ram was sold
I attacked the mess in the machine shed, watched the rain and waited to make hay.

Sometimes in the midst of this, there was real excitement. Monday night a week ago, I got home from work after dark. The Cows were still out on a pasture fenced with temporary electric fence. When I tried to bring them across the lane they missed the gate to the barn and headed down the lane towards the road. One got to the edge of the busy road we live on. The road used to be a country lane. About 12 years ago the Township repaved it and ever since is became a busy shortcut. drivers fly up that road talking on their cell phones. I have a mortal fear of one of these drivers hitting a cow. I got them herded away from the road and back to a hayfield behind my mother's house. 3 hours later, I got the last one in. Herding black cows in the dark is tough.

Monday night this week, I ran into a poor mangy fox in the back pen of the barn. He had killed Spotty, one of my pet bantams. My Lovely wife tells the story better than I can.

The Fox problem is a typical challenge of stock raising. A keeper of flocks has an obligation to protect his charges. The Cow escape issue is my lack of ability to manage them. We have had three escapes in 6 months. Right now we lack the money or time to fence the front line. I have a choice of either worrying about the next time this happens or selling the cows. I mad ea deal to sell the cows to a breeder at the other end of the Township. Selling the cows is a kind of setback to me, but I can't do everything. Selling the cows is the temporary death of a dream to breed and build up a little, but high quality beef herd. I try to avoid allowing the death of the dream to be too overtaking by cultivating gratitude for what we have, including:

40+ fruit trees
A large grape arbor that had been feeding my family for decades
2 productive vegetable gardens
Blueberries, black and red raspberries
80+head of various sort of poultry for meat, eggs, and beauty
12 sheep
Enough woodland for a lifetime supply of firewood.
Good hay ground and a good solid barn to store the hay for sale or feeding

Last but not least, a long marriage with someone who largely shares my dreams and the way I prefer to live out my earthly time.

I have also had dreams die before. We used to have a very large flock of sheep, around 70 brood ewes, and a 150%+ lambs crop. Five years ago, I had a virus settle into my heart, and ended up in the emergency room. Due to my health, we had to sell every animal on the place except for a few chickens and ducks. I simply could not care for them.
Two years ago, I was diagnosed with nearly complete recovery, so I started looking fo livestock, but on a smaller scale. In some respects, we are now stuck between a very large self sufficient homestead and a very small commercial farm.

After some discussion we have decided to again focus wholly on sheep for our livestock. We are going to look to pick up a few more head and expand from there. There are some good reasons for this. I have greater confidence about realizing profit from sheep than cows. In an expensive grain market,we can feed sheep cheaper, especially Cheviots. Our main barn was built for sheep, as were most of the fences.

We are people of modest means. While I love my heifers, I cant afford the time or cash to ensure they have the facilities they need. Because I did not plant any corn feed costs may become a problem. Sheep and Goats are often better livestock for poor country people.

While I am an unapologetic carnivore, I am delighted that the heifers are going to be brood cows--not steaks. I hope they know they are going to a good home so they go on the trailer easy.


wildside said...

The death of a dream, any dream, can be hard -- my girlhood dream that didn't die was for more of the same life I grew up with (only more of it and hopefully with sheep instead of cows!) -- that's why it's difficult for me to let go of my dream to live in the wilds on vast acreage again despite my spouse being very much a city boy and not at all inclined to the country life... But knowing I'm married to someone nice and of good temperment who cares not just for me, but for my elderly mother now living nearby too -- and making sure I take time each day to count my blessings for what I do have and am able to do with it does help keep me on track with my little plot and somewhat soothes the itchiness I feel in my feet for another sort of life. I know I've gone awfully soft blogging in suburbia and am not at all sure I'd be up to the task anymore.

This is a very inspiring post you wrote. I can see you do know how to do the 'gratitude' exercise well -- and am very happy to hear you are recovering from your illness...

Thank you for your comment over at my blog yesterday. Plaintain Patch and I both replied to you there, but I wanted to make sure to drop by here as well.

My best to you and your lovely wife.

The Midland Agrarian said...

Thanks for reading and writing.
I try to spend a little time each morning with the old Common Prayer Book. It reminds me both of my shortcomings, and how much Grace has come into my life.

If your heart is with home and family, and you are staying on one place and trying to be as self sufficient as circumstances allow, you have made it as an agrarian.

By the way, two weeks later, I am happy the cows are now living two miles away. They were a lot of worry. I am glad I had them, and proud of how well they grew (From 1800 pounds for the three to 3700 pounds in about six months), but I am happier without them.

Eventually, we have to let go of everything.

Best to you and yours as well.

wildside said...

Oh, yes, I've got lots of those there shortcomings! But have also learned that a person's greatest weakness can turn out to be their greatest strength and vice versa.

Thank you, your words are encouraging this AM.