I'm so behind I don't even know where to start! Beginning with now seems to be the only way. I'm hanging out in a café on my first day off in a long while that is actually relaxing (the past few were hectic) and I'm loving it. I didn't really want to leave for our first babies of the year (aside from seedlings in the greenhouse) began hatching last night-New Hampshire chicks! But they will continue hatching until tomorrow, totaling around 200 if all goes well, so I won't miss all the excitement. And then another round of eggs will begin to incubate.
The weather this week has been glorious; mid-forties which makes everything more pleasant-waking up, milking, doing chores, it's all better when you can feel your hands, or even free yourself from a couple layers of clothing. I just made what is likely my biggest purchase of the month-skype credit-to call some of my best friends and dearly missed in Morocco- both Moroccans and Americans and I'm all smiles now. I miss them all so much still.
Goodness now that I actually have a moment to sit and write I don't know what to write about. We've been doing a lot of meat curing; brining and smoking bacon, hocks, tails, ears, feet, as well as making lard, lardo, guanciale, etc. Soon we'll be making scrapple and a last round of bacon and other smoked meats before spring. We've also been organizing the freezer and inventorying all the meat that's coming back from slaughter- 6 Large Black pigs and two Scottish Highland steers (getting those two into a trailer was an adventure to report on as well). And eating copious amounts of said meat as well.
Then there's the garden aspect; all the seed orders have come in so we're making zillions of seed blocks, sowing and germinating the first crops of the season and planning and pacing out the garden. We're taking on a lot this year, over-doubling our garden space and implementing a cover crop rotation. We are also collecting eggs and scheduling and preparing for all the hatching, incubating, brooding and eventual slaughter dates for all these future birds. I'm learning so much here every day, listing it all this way just doesn't do any of it justice, maybe I should pick subjects out of a hat. In addition to all the big projects are the daily chores and attention paid to every aspect of running a healthy farm. Animals, land and people alike.
I naively hoped I had had enough personal growth for a lifetime in Peace Corps, and now would be all about farming experience and education. How silly I can be. There are the practical and straight forward lessons about how to farm of course, but the twisted, confusing an awkward path toward maturity and wisdom continues endlessly. It's a joy and such torture to grow. Old habits remain and allowing myself to be a victim of my insecurity keeps me from being strong. Not to get too into it here, but I'm definitely having to take a close look at the way I am weak and dumb so long as I believe myself to be weak and dumb. It's a horrible cop-out to say, well I can't do that cuz I'm too stupid to know how to. Can you imagine how annoying that is? Well I notice myself doing that ALL too often. But I'm aware and working on it, step by step right?
It's a difficult learning process; to get better at something while you're still learning how to do it. A mushy recipe of common sense, practice, good judgment and knowing how to ask the right questions. My progress is also slowed by simple skills I just never got, like math for example. Dammit they were right! It is practical! It began with poor education, then I reinforced my lack of basic mathematical knowledge by believing I didn't need it. It's embarrassing how poor I am at math, it's like reading I suppose; everyone needs it and if you don't develop the skill at a young age, it becomes more and more difficult to acquire. And maybe not everyone needs it, had I stayed an artist maybe, but a farmer certainly does! So there's another whole box-o-knowledge I gotta work on.
On a more positive note, I think my skills of adaptation are strong. I'm scarily good at making a home wherever I go, which makes it ever harder to leave, but that's a long ways off for now… I'm also just gloriously happy here. Having discovered what I want to do with my life, gotten myself onto the path, and doing it, well it's wonderful. I know how difficult it can be, if not impossible, for the majority of people to feel or be in charge when it comes to the career they take on and subsequently the way of life they live.
I am immensely grateful every day for being able to pursue what I love and am fulfilled by, and for the upbringing that made this possible. Since my mom got out of the worst of situations and onto a better life, she always made it clear by her actions the importance being fulfilled by both life and work and how intertwined that connection is. Many people can do a job they hate and come home to a home they love, but that was never the way of my mother. I remember when she decided to only work a certain number of nights per week in order to actually be home with her children. She was on a new career path, one she was very committed to and fulfilled by, but she was also a mother and knew that being both meant priorities and sacrifices. To value, respect and raise her children, we all had to take a bit of a cut in income in order to raise the wealth that is closeness of family. I remember not wholly agreeing with this at the time, as I was always worried about money, but later realized the importance of this change and it instilled in me the same values.
I don't know if any of this had made much sense, but what I have learned from her is that living well is living fully, maintaining both a home and what supports that home with integrity and passion. Farming is a way of life and a career in which I plan to accomplish both. Not having three kids in tow will hopefully give me a better start, but I don't expect anything to come easily. Life is good, and I hope all yours are going good as well. I finally got some pictures up on facebook, so check those out and I leave you with this bad-ass Pilgrim Goose (the ganders are white). She's so cool.