Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Farming as a way of life

For the past 117 years this farm has been a way of life for FIVE generations in my family. Farms as most of you know do NOT have a secondary income, do not have off the farm jobs and everything that we have, has come from farming the land or making milk with our dairy cows or meats with our beef cattle, pigs and now sheep. For a farm to make it through five generations, something must be working.

I cannot fathom living any other life. This life is not easy, nor would I want it to be. The new and daily challenges that it brings, can only make a family stronger, body, soul and mind.

Farming MUST make money to continue in existence. As a young child I cried every time I had to sell one of my cows because they were poor performers in some field (calving, milking, putting pounds on a calf etc) or were old, losing molar teeth, bad feet etc. I promised I would try and breed better animals that were more sound, healthier, lived longer (longevity), milkier, easy keepers with low input. I"m proud to say our family has attained some success but our work is NEVER done. I feel there is always room for improvement.

Its nice to have pets to scratch on their backs or under their chins but in the reality that is farming, we have to sometimes let those go, even if they are our cherished friends. In truth, new friendly animals find their way to us and we have new friends to scratch and tell our secrets too :)

Today I just had the vets come out to draw blood samples on 54 mature sheep. It took 6.5 hours (what could have happened DID happen). Do I have the 1,000 dollars to pay for all the testing, the lab fee, the vet visit and their hourly rates? Its a priority to me and I make arrangements to have it done. Its something I feel strongly about and don't think you need to do it. But I must admit its a good selling point. People feel 'safer' buying from someone who has tested for these blood diseases and micron tests. Those are two of the very first questions asked when I get emails regarding sales. Do I do it for the sales? they sure help pay for stuff, but ultimately for the health of my flock and the strain on my body/mind are the main points. I get paranoid about having any sheep or cow or pigeon that is sick or unthrifty. The more I can do to keep them healthy, the better.!

Dogs are also a huge part of our farm operation. If we didn't have herding dogs, breeds that have been around for hundreds or thousands of years (just check out the 24ish breeds in the herding group with AKC) we would be lost. The dogs not only bring us the livestock, but they do it in a calm and easy manner, something a 4wheeler or person could never do. These dog breeds were MEANT to work on the farm, period. I wouldn't have any other type of dog than a herding dog. Especially since I live on a working farm.

Integrity. I stand behind my animals. Their health, their quality, their purpose. I would think any farmer would. The proof is when you have repeat customers. They are the best advertisement you can have :) And I thank my customers....those that have purchased beef (breeding stock, stock for feedlots and those that purchased meat) pork, (meat purchases), lamb (breeding stock, fleeces and meat..yes all three), pigeons for pets or breeding stock and soon to be dogs. Being a multi-faceted farm is like any 'old school' farm, where diversity ran rampant and the concentration of one species in climate controlled barn was never thought of.

Our family farm works. Plain and simple. It has to, or we wouldn't have jobs, a place to live or a paycheck. I have no one else to pay for my bills, no spouse to work off the farm to make the real money. Its just me. And I need livestock that sells and produces goods whether it be meat, milk, breeding stock or fleece. And I think I'm doing just fine thank you!


Amy said...

Hey Garrett,

I see in an entry a ways back that you don't know how to spin yet. With winter coming, it's a great time to learn, then practice! (My experience with the public has been that many men spin, just don't admit it much.) You'll love having better knowledge of the fleeces you produce, and soon you'll be using your yarn for clothing. I know men who knit socks, and working on your farm, I'm sure you'd find warm Shetland socks useful! You could make warm hats and gloves, too. Don't be afraid to try, lots of guys are already doing it!
Amy at Wheely Wooly Farm

Amy said...

'nother thing...everyone's spinning looks goofy for awhile when they are starting out. Keep the patience up or come back to it a few hours later and it will progress to something you'll feel better about. That is the natural learning curve of anything, and spinning is no exception. Save your first yarn and put it away somewhere for later. It's great fun to go back and look at how far you've come in your skill. Getting started can be the most daunting. Don't start on an heirloom spinning wheel, try to borrow or get a low cost modern wheel as the wheel will take care of it's job so you can get the hang of it! Good Luck, and don't falter! You'll be glad you stuck with it!
Amy again.

Juliann said...

Hi Garrett,
You ARE doing just fine! Keep doing what you're doing, you're on the right path.

Available sheep

With my work load continuing to pile up, and less time to spend with the sheep, I am offering the following: My entire flock of BlueFaced ...