Thursday, January 22, 2009


I just noticed that Oliver labelled one of the file slots "Farm." It makes me feel good to see evidence of our dream coming to life, however slowly. I have been incubating this idea since I was little. Today, while scratching the sick calf's neck, I had a memory of wanting to be a vet when I was young ("what do you want to be when you grow up?"), and then alongside that memory was a little voice that said, "no, THIS is what I wanted." The calf belongs to Lisa, an excellent farmer who I work for and learn from. The little guy is designated for the freezer in about 2 months, but right now is very sick and we're not quite sure of the cause. It has been severely cold out lately, which compounds any illness, so it could be just an upset stomach -- which, in ruminants, isn't so minor. At least he is not grinding his teeth like he was (a sign of pain). We brought him a couple of friends. The freemartin heifer (meaning she's sterile -- the frequent consequence of being a twin in cattle) and the other bull calf joined him, after much protest and a little rodeo, and he put his ears up a little.

I work at Lisa's farm, and then I come home and work on our own farm. Farm to me encompasses so many things: us, animals, plants, neighbors and visitors, steady work. I have always liked hard work. Sometimes, especially during early morning milkings, I am whiney and wish to go nap for the rest of the afternoon. But I don't really want that. I feel better when I am productive. I feel productive when I am producing something! A farm is where things are growing, where my life is dependent on the lives of the animals and plants, and vice versa. We cultivate, and mind, and strive for health. I suppose, with that general definition, you could say that Oliver and I already have our own farm. But I can't really call it a farm until we have some animals. We are in the beginning stages of planning out how the year will go. We know we want to raise chickens and pigs this year, and are debating lambs. We will have a full garden and grow a lot of produce to eat fresh, freeze, can, and store in Ann's root cellar (Thank You, Ann!). So now it is the business end of things. Wouldn't we rather be outside? But the "boring" stuff is not actually so boring: pricing out equipment, researching where to buy piglets. I'd like to get a tutorial in Excel so I can make spreadsheets to lay out some financials before we make any big purchases. What else are you going to do in the winter? It does seem each season keeps the next in mind.

I just put the yogurt to set and need to go hang laundry by the stove before I head back to work. We're unloading 300 bales of hay this afternoon...and then I milk.

In peace,


  1. Lucy, your life sounds like my childhood. I don't exactly envy you because as a result of that childhood, my lasting dream has been to live in a house with central heating, but I know the sense of satisfaction farm life can foster. Good luck! I know lots of Vermont farmers of all stripes, if you need any connections.

  2. Hi Kate, yesterday I was stacking hay with a guy in his 40's who was telling me how haying was his first job, he got paid 10 cents for getting one bale from the field to the truck to the haymow and it paid better than collecting cans. He kept saying "I can't believe I used to think this was fun." I'm such a different breed of farmer not having grown up with it. But I don't make any pretentions. I grew up in suburbia and I wouldn't change it. But there's just no other way I have felt good about my life than doing what I am now. We love our wood stove but also talk about wanting radiant floor heating someday!! Speaking of VT farmers if you know any who raise Tamworth or Bershire pigs, I'd like to know that.

  3. There's something just WRONG about messing with hay in the winter. I mean, no one likes sweating bullets in the hayloft in July, but for some reason stacking hay in January always feels perverse to me.

    Speaking of radiant flooring, I used to work at a farm (the one in Canada, actually, where I went when I took time off from Smith) that had it in the barn. It was awesome. It meant we could get water on the floor in the winter without the barn aisles turning to skating rinks.

    I will ask my mom about pigs; she may know of someone who can hook you up.

  4. I have never worn so many clothes to stack hay as I did the other night. Nor have I ever stacked hay without sweating bullets! It was kind of nice. Are you working with horses now?

  5. Dude, I'm working at the Smith horse barn again. Don't ask. It's not quite farm work, which is fine. We don't have to do any fencing, and we don't have to make hay, just stack it. It's a lot of grooming, shit shoveling and feeding. Also, much aisle sweeping. It pays the bills, but an idyll it ain't.