Sunday, January 27, 2008

Not From Here

My husband and I have moved around a fair amount for his job. Since we married, we've lived in Western Canada, Wisconsin, northern Minnesota, and now we're in Kentucky (where we have our first farm.) It's funny for us, as when people ask us where we're from, it's not an easy question. Neither of us is from where we live now, or even where we've lived as a couple. I think I counted once and since I went away to college, I've moved something like 17 times. So DH and I often refer to ourselves as NFH (Not From Here.)

When you live in a place all your life, you make connections that run deep and wide. They're wonderful, you have family all around you, always someone you can call in a pinch to babysit or help with a project around the house, things like that. But when you move around a fair amount (it's not quite as bad as being in the Army), you do learn to be independent, and that's not such a bad thing. When we were a new couple with little babies, we couldn't call our moms and ask for help babysitting, they were at least 1,000 miles away! We had to learn to make friends, and get along with people of all sorts of cultures and backgrounds, and our kids have too, which I think is a good thing.

Where we live now, people know I'm not from here as soon as I open my mouth. I do not speak like my neighbors (although I'm learning) and they are reminded of it any time we talk together. To them, I'm the one with the accent (but to me, they have the accent!) But we always find a common ground of one sort or another, and often it's something to do with farming. Our community is primarily farmland, although the big city up the pike is encroaching a bit. Many people in this area still set tobacco, even though it has been deregulated as a crop. And there are tons of horses in our area - my husband once estimated he saw as many as 50 horses in one long horseback ride down our rural road.

So there's always something I can chat with my neighbors about if I find myself running out of conversation. Things like, how the hay crop is going to turn out this year, if many of the local varmits are showing up in their barns, whether we're going to get some good corn this year, or have another year of drought. Some things are great levelers, and living in the country we are so much more affected by the weather that we are much more conscious of it, all the time. And being able to find something in common with our neighbors that way, makes the fact that we're NFH just that much less obvious, if only for a little while.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Perspective changes

Living on a farm certainly changes your perspective about certain things. When I was younger, I thought raccoons were adorable, the book "Rascal" was one of my favorites as a child. My mother even used to go so far as to buy children's cereal to feed the raccoons that lived in her yard (even I thought that was a little crazy.)

However moving to a farm has changed the whole cuteness factor for raccoons at this point. Now I think they're nasty, brutish creatures, and we actually trap and kill any we can. Raccoons are smart opportunists. If you leave grain in a big garbage can, they'll not only rip the top off (bungee cord or no bungee cord), and eat the grain, they'll also defecate on what they haven't eaten so as to completely ruin it. Raccoon have small little paws that resemble nothing so much as human hands. They are very dexterous, and can put those little paws through holes smaller than you'd think. They are vicious, and will kill and eat anything they can reach, even pulling chickens out of cages piece by piece and eating them alive.

I don't care for raccoons any more. Or skunks, or possums, or stoats, weasels, or minks for that matter. Varmints who want to kill my chickens do not warm the cockles of my heart, no matter how cute their little faces may be. A live trap and a rifle work really well for me (to be honest, for my husband.)

The year we found them killing chickens (before we covered every pen with hardware cloth), my husband trapped and killed 30 raccoons in 30 days. It became a routine. He'd come home from work early in the morning (he works a night shift), check the trap, kill the raccoon, and take the carcass out to the hill in the west pasture. It got so that every morning there'd be a flock of buzzards waiting in the tree for him to bring them their breakfast. We took to calling that big oak the Buzzard's Cafe, and actually started to like the buzzards for how efficient they were at cleaning up the carcasses. Funny how your perspective can change about things when your situation changes as well.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ups and downs

Living on a farm certainly has its ups and downs. Sometimes, when it's cold and windy and nasty out, the last thing I want to have to do is go outside and slog around, hauling water, and doing chores. I'd really rather be back inside where it's cozy and warm, and I recall the days when I was a suburban housewife in my little house in Duluth. No real need to go out unless I had to drive somewhere, and there were no animals outside waiting on me to bring them warm water to drink.

But other days, when the weather is nicer and the sun is shining (amazing how much affect that has on my mood), I am SO GLAD to be living out in the country. I can sit down on an upturned bucket, look around over our fields, and rejoice in our good fortune. We have lots of land. Our nearest neighbor is far enough away that I can't see in through his windows, and he can't see in through ours. If I wanted to, I could theoretically sunbathe naked on the back deck, and the only ones who could see me would be the critters (not that I do that very often!) ((grin))

So it evens out. I will admit that spring is my favorite of seasons. Summer here gets much too hot for me, I hate getting soaked in sweat and having to work with it running down my face into my eyes. I dislike the winter less than the peak of summer, but I don't care overmuch for being too cold either. Spring and fall are my favorites, cool enough to work outside comfortably, warm enough not to be stressful for the animals. The middle ground is where I like to be, even when it comes to the weather.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

How we made the transition from city to farm

It's been an interesting road, morphing from suburban housewife to very rural farmwife. I know DH would disagree with portions of this story, but hey, he can get his own blog and then tell it his way.

I grew up in the eastern suburbs of Cleveland, but my maternal grandfather had a "gentleman's farm" of sorts, and I've been around horses since I was old enough to be propped up in the saddle and not fall over. We lived about two hours north of the farm, and went down to visit on a regular basis. I adored riding with Grandpa, he knew so much about animals and plants and trees, every ride was a lesson of one sort or another. My dream when I got older was to move back home after college and start breeding horses again in the big barn down there (great-grandfather bred high end American Saddlebred horses as a hobby.)

But one thing led to another, and even though I worked as a groom/trainer at several barns on the East Coast, it didn't happen (long story for another post.) But the farm back home still remained, and one year when DH and I were home for vacation, we took the DDs down there with us, and went riding on the four pet horses that were still there at that time.

The girls were about 5 and 7 at the time, not old enough to go out on a trail ride, although DH dearly wanted to. He hadn't all that much experience with horses, and I wasn't comfortable taking them out on a long ride on horses who didn't get ridden all that often. So we just rode around and around in the arena, and left it at that.

Later that year, we discussed taking riding lessons, comparing it with the idea of buying a small sailboat (we were living in Duluth at that time, right near Lake Superior.) The decision we made then changed our lives forever. A friend told me of a riding instructor she'd met that she thought I'd really like, and I called her. She lived outside of town on a small farm with horses, goats, and poultry (gee, sounds familiar!) We signed DH and the girls up for lessons, and it all began.

Cynthia was a great person for them to learn to ride with. She has a wonderful attitude about teaching and horses, and passed those values along to my family. She introduced us to the concept of barefoot trimming and not stabling horses but letting them roam the pastures 24/7, which for me were very foreign concepts at the time. She helped us get involved in dairy goats, and re-introduced me to poultry (my grandfather and great-grandfather had poultry on the farm at one point or another.) And when we moved to northern KY, everything we'd done at their farm prepared us for being where we are now. So we owe her a debt of gratitude for all she taught us, and for pointing us in the direction we ultimately wanted to go.

It always baffled and bemused my mother, that this city-bred girl would wind up on a farm at 45, but really, if she'd thought about it more, she wouldn't have been surprised. I've never been a girly-girl, and always cherished the time spent on the family farm with her father. Mom's gone now, but I like to think both she and Grandpa are looking down on us here from heaven and are proud of all we've accomplished.

So folks, remember, follow your dreams, you never know where they'll lead you!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A bad afternoon

Had a wretched afternoon. I have eggs in the hatcher (which is like an incubator, but specific to the last three days, when they're about to hatch), including some from DD#1s favorite Silkie, Luna. Luna is White, the only White one we have, and the male I have in with her is a Splash, again, the only Splash I have. He's been sick of late (with "limberneck", a neurological condition caused by brain injury from bonking his silly head.) I don't know if he's going to recover or not, so hatching those eggs sired by him if I can is very important to me.

But so far I've not been able to get any of Luna's eggs to hatch, for whatever reason. This hatch I had three in there, which isn't many. One has hatched (yay!) and I think will be a White (maybe a Splash, hard to tell right now.) There was a second egg that had pipped, and was about ready to pop out, but then seemed to get stuck, and went no further (the hatcher has a plexiglass front so I can watch what's going on in the trays, if I use a flashlight.)

I watched this egg all afternoon. But did I check the humidity levels? Noooo, that would have been too bloody smart. And the damned thing ran out of water and the levels got much too low. The poor chick was stuck, and damn it, died.

Perfectly formed chick, seemingly a White, dead in the shell (I snatched it out quickly so as not to loose too much of the humidity I had sprayed back in there.) ((sigh)) I'm so mad at myself. It was a stupid mistake, and of course, it's always the ones we want the most which seem to have problems, not the expendable ones.

Lesson learned, be more vigilant about the humidity. But it just makes me sad, and mad, and sorry for the poor thing. Let's hope the third egg hatches after all (no sign as of yet.)

Intro of sorts

We live on a farm in northern Kentucky, although it's important to note that we're not FROM northern Kentucky. When people ask me where I'm from, I ask how long they have to listen.

I was born and raised in Cleveland, OH. Went to college in Syracuse, NY. Then to Manteo, NC for a year. Then back up to Syracuse. Then to NYC for a couple of months, living with a buddy in his loft (very cool.) Then Englewood, NJ (just over the bridge from NYC) for five years. Then to Nashua, NH for four years. Then to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for six years (to be with my husband.) Then to Janesville, WI for two years. Then Duluth, MN for five years. And we've been here in KY for going on five years now. So we don't really fit the local profile all that well. But we have a small farm here (45 acres is small, according to our neighbors) and we like it a lot.

We've got an interesting assortment of critters. Four horses, two dairy goat wethers, two big dogs, six cats (three in and three barn), three geese, six guineas, and about 100 or so chickens (I haven't counted the chicks in the brooder lately.) DH works a straight job, he has to, no way anyone can really make money doing the family farm thing any more. Factory farming has taken away any sort of profit that can be made, so most folks like us are really just hobby farmers. If we make enough money to pay for even some of the expenses, we feel like it's a triumph.

But we love being able to raise our own food (or, at least some of it.) We like knowing what goes into the meat we eat, or doesn't, as the case may be. We like knowing the animals we raise have happy lives until they die, and that they are fed good quality food and get to run around on grass and feel the sun on their little faces. No factory farmed chicken can compete with that!

We also show our chickens (see our website, for pics of our birds) and have fun doing it. Our kids do 4-H, ride their horses, and generally enjoy being here (although DD#1 will shake the dust of this place off her shoes and spend the rest of her life in a city if she has her way about it.) Living on a hobby farm is good. It keeps the family together, the kids happy, and DH gets to play cowboy to his heart's content. Gotta love it.