Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why So Quiet?

Life's been crazy lately, leaving no time to update y'all on the "goings ons" around here. And unfortunately today's no different. My two girls are each at separate day camps in two very distant ends of our nearby city, I've got to rake 9 acres of hay and try to get it baled before it rains, again, and then both girls have separate softball games in two different towns tonight. Can you hear me scream, "Calgone take me away!"

So I'm writing here, quickly, to give you a few small hints at what has been happening in our life.

First, I directed a week-long leadership and environmental awareness camp for teenagers which was extremely stressful, but super fun. The camp was held at Atwood Environmental Center, a really great place where I happen to work part-time....part-time, at least, until Eco-Factor started. Then I worked way, way too much. Especially when you throw in the farm (in springtime) and my kids....in my world, that's plainly a recipe for disaster.
But I love being surrounded by a bunch of really interesting, motivated teenagers....they can be so intense! And intense is a good way to describe the week, as I barely pulled the camp off. Whew. It was one of those times where I felt I couldn't sit down for even a few minutes for fear of forgetting to do something important. Like feed the campers. Or remember my teaching points for each session. Or re-filling my cup of coffee for the 20th time that day. Which is also maybe why the week was so intense?

When it was over, my legs cramped up so badly I could hardly walk. Probably because I have this way of not eating when I'm nervous or stressed out. And then I spent a whole day on the couch unable to function in any way whatsoever. But I'm better now. And everyone liked the camp. So it was worth it. (I think.) Did I mention I was interviewed and that the interview is posted on a new healthy living website? Go check it out here:

Second, we've had lots of visitors to the farm, including my cousin Jenny and my Liberian "sister" Eva and her daughter, Marthaline. I hope to have a post up about that in a few days.
Third, we've acquired another tractor, making us an all-powerful, oh-so-important two-tractor farm. And anyone who knows anything about farming knows that's not really a big deal. But for us here in Irish Grove it's a pretty big deal.

And finally, something wonderful has begun to happen. Something magical. Something absolutely fun, amazing, and awe-inspiring. Or maybe I should say "Aww-inspiring".......

We've Got Babies!! Three of them, to be exact. And I'll get pictures up as soon as possible. Which means as soon as I have more than 20 minutes to breath. Ahhhhhhhhhh!!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Luck O' The Irish (or not)

I live in Irish Grove, I sport an Irish last (maiden) name, and I come from some pretty sturdy Irish stock.

So when during the past two farming years, my first two years as a farmer no less, I've been the happy beneficiary of some pretty good 'Luck o' the Irish', I just figured that the luck comes with the heritage. It makes sense. Somehow, I'm just destined to be lucky.

For the past two years, the weather's held out even when it's been too dry just south of here or too wet just north of here. The crop yields have been decent and grain prices have been strong. We've started a fine herd of Murray Greys and all of our cows were somehow impregnated by a very young, inexperienced bull. (May that be a lesson to you parents of teenagers!) We've cleaned up the farmstead, organized things a little, and done pretty well for ourselves, under the circumstances.

We've made mistakes, sure, and I'm very realistic about how many more of those are on the horizon. And in no uncertain terms do I deny the fact that there is absolutely no substitute for experience in the farming world. But the mistakes we've made so far haven't held any real, tangible consequences. Everything, thankfully, has turned out okay in the end.

And so that 'I'm Just Lucky' attitude wormed its sneaky little way into my psyche, set up shop and hung curtains. At first it was a welcome guest. It gave me the reassurance I desperately needed that I wasn't going to screw up this whole farming experience and ruin our beloved family farm. But lately, I'm Just Lucky has overstayed his welcome. He's eatin' potato chips on the couch, if you know what I mean, and he's started leaving his dirty socks under the dining room table.

Almost two weeks ago now, I'm Just Lucky finally overstepped his bounds and convinced me to mow the first crop of hay when we had a 4 day window of dry weather. I'm Just Lucky whispered to me that, "Sure, it looks like the storms could push in sooner that expected, but you're lucky, remember? Don't forget who you are, my dearest. You're Irish. You're lucky!"

So what do you think Miss Under-experienced, Relying On My Luck Farmer did?

I went and cut the hay!!!

Long story short......10 days later, the hay is still on the ground, has been rained on ump-teen times, and will soon be a nice black, slimy mess. The alfalfa continues to grow, of course, and is now growing through the windrows in the places where it's not getting snuffed out due to lack of air and sunlight. The ground is saturated from the gazillion inches of rain we've gotten in the past 10 days, and I wouldn't dare put the heavy tractor in there, even if we do get a few dry days. I've got to go call the farmer that was going to buy all of this hay and let her out of her contract. And next winter, we're going to have one heck of a time trying to force the cattle to eat this degraded yuckiness. That is IF we are ever able to get this darned hay dried and baled in the first place.

Luck o' the Irish? I don't think so.

Now please excuse me. I'm got some spring cleanin' to do.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Herstory: My Path to Farming, Part I

Nature. Country. Connections. Roots. Family.

These are words that make my heart swell. These words are likely the reason why I'm so darned happy living in a place I never, ever thought I'd come back to.

Sure, Irish Grove was a nice place and all. But as I was growing up, I found it too small town, too Midwestern, and just too 'ho-hum' for a girl like me. I was going to change the world, you know....and the world I was to be a'changin wasn't Irish Grove, for Lord's sake. I was going to change the world out there, whether that meant out West, Alaska, or some third-world country. I had big dreams. Bigger dreams than could fit in Irish Grove.

As a highschooler, I was one of those rare kids that actually knew what she wanted to do. I loved animals, I loved the rural countryside, I loved wilderness, nature, wide open spaces and the way my heart would soar when in the presence of a beautiful rural landscape. So I knew I wanted to go to college to become a Wildlife Biologist, and that as a wildlife biologist I was going to change the world. What an idea! As a wildlife biologist, I could spend every waking moment outside in a natural setting and get paid for it! Who cares if it doesn't pay well, or if there are no National Parks close to home? Close to home wasn't where it was at, anyways. I was going global, remember? Yeah, I was focused, determined, young. I went to UW-Madison, and I became a Wildlife Biologist. No second thoughts. Full steam ahead.

Next I joined the Peace Corps to gain experience in wildlife biology and because I wanted to help the poor in a developing nation. (OK, and maybe for the adventure of it.) But mostly I joined the Peace Corps because I had always dreamed of going to Africa to work on the great savannas, and the Peace Corps was the fastest, most effective way to get there. Africa was where its at for a wildlife biologist like myself. Africa was the the big kahuna. The be all, end all. Africa was my destiny, and I was going for it. I filled out my application, requested Africa as my first choice for location, and didn't bother filling in my second and third choices. In my mind, there was no other choice.

But you know, those darned Peace Corps people had different ideas, and they valued my Spanish experience--which was nothing to write home about, let me tell you--over my wildlife biology degree. How dare they? How dare they derail my dreams, my life's pursuits, my ambition to be a Wildlife Biologist and to take the continent of Africa by storm?

They plainly didn't care. They thought it was much more important for me to be able to communicate with my host country's people....p'shaw. And they thought it was better to send someone with an agricultural background (a very questionable agricultural background) to agricultural lands instead of vast savannas and grand deserts. The nerve!

But the biggest kicker was that they weren't even sending me to work in wildlife biology! I was going to Panama--hardly the exciting, exotic African nation I had hoped for--and I was going to work in Environmental Education.

"Umm, excuse me but I couldn't hear you very well. Did you say Panama? Panama, like in Noriega? And, umm, please forgive me once again, but did I hear the word Education? Education meaning like a teacher, with a classroom, stuck in a building, with a bunch of kids? Ah, yes, of course.... Environmental Education volunteer in Panama. Wonderful, yes that's perfect. Now will you please excuse me while I go cry myself a river?"

My disappointment only added to the building anxiety (aka FEAR) I was experiencing as my departure grew closer. I literally felt like I was jumping off a cliff into the unknown. Where I would land, or how I would land, or if I would land, even, was a mystery. At this point I wasn't only leaving behind everything and everyone I knew and loved, I was going to a place I didn't really want to go to, and I was going to work in a position I most positively did not want to work in. Where were my open spaces? My wilderness? How could I realize my dream of being a wildlife biologist as an environmental education volunteer in Panama?

Yes, Panama is exactly where things started getting off track.