Monday, November 10, 2014

Still Laughing

Here we are just a few weeks away from Thanksgiving. The farm is a whirl in turkey preparations. Today we will be processing at least 20 turkeys and, hopefully, 75 chickens. It's 7:01am and Bill and I are masterminding our game plan. He is finishing the last few sips of coffee, I'm squeezing in a few lines of typing and watching the blue slate sky out the bedroom window. The sun hasn't come up enough to make anything brighter than the color of a warm grey cat.
I love this part of the day. The time where I get to be quiet, alone, and sitting still. Usually I hide from Bill. He always finds me just to say good morning, but he knows I need this time of solitude, like a medicine and he retreats. We'll be working together soon enough.

Recently, we had our first class here at the farm to teach other inspiring farmers what we do. At the end of the day, Yasuo, a friend and great photographer, snapped a candid photo of us. I love this picture. As tired as we were, we still could laugh together.

Just a week later, we celebrated our 29th Anniversary. The farm held us captive this year, and we were too tired to even go out to eat. But after seeing this photo, I am so grateful to have a husband who is willing to share this crazy ride with me and still smile.

Friday, July 4, 2014

It's been five years!

Lately I've been reading some info on blogging: why people read blogs, what makes a good blog, and finding your voice. I'm new at this. I get all kinds of ideas to share while I'm in the field doing chores.
Up until now the blog seems to have been more of a record of our journey. After all, in the beginning we did feel like pioneers on this odd patch of needy ground, trying to do something new here that had never been done before. The green stripes across the sad, yellow and brown grass made us giggle with delight over what we knew would happen to the rest of our farm as the chickens fertilized and creeped across the grass in their tractors. Every new animal we brought out here has had a different impact on the soil, insects, and wild birds that call this home too. Not to mention the learning curve we've experienced in animal husbandry. I never knew the heartbreak the death of a baby lamb would bring, or the feeling of triumph in having grass the height of my shoulder after the summer rains. Our marriage has been tested, our bodies have been toughened, and our minds have been stretched. And now here we are on the five year anniversary of packing up everything we owned and moving to Trenton.
 I'm starting to feel a shift in the farm. Don't get me wrong, there are always surprises, but I now can say we've learned enough to at least have a routine. Maybe we are ready for phase two. I have no idea what phase two is. It doesn't matter. I didn't know what phase one was either.

Here are some things I'd like to happen in phase two:
1. More time for art. (After all, I now have a pretty good looking studio somebody should be using out there.)
2. More delegation. (In other words, hiring other people to do a few things we can't get to or just can't.) This one has already begun. Our neighbor has finished a fence project and it looks great!
3. Less clutter in my own life. (Oh, this one's a hard one for me. There are so many projects I love to do. Soap making, Spinning, furniture refinishing, yada yada. I'm trying to purge, I really am.) This one is sorta tied to number one.
4. Come up with a better chicken tractor design and more infrastructure to make our chores easier. (It takes so much more energy to move a heavy tractor and drag hoses.)
5. Begin to offer classes. (This is for both art and farming. We'll keep you posted.)

That's it. Five goals for the next five years. I'd love to hear what you think. There is wisdom in many counselors. I'd love to also hear what interests you in a blog. Do you like to hear about the funny stuff and the day to day challenges, sort of diary style. Or would it be far more helpful if I gave it more of a "how to" feel. And then on the other side of things, I can always talk about what's going on inside my head. Maybe not.
Thanks for your time. It means so much to me when you tell me you've read my blog post.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Yesterday, in the cool early morning, a visitor arrived at the farm. She had been here before and we greeted each other with a smile and a handshake. Joni's a scientist studying turkey vultures and how they find their quarry. She'd come to collect olfactory tissue samples from the chickens after we had processed them. She explained that the tissue samples needed to be fresh in order to do her experiments, so she came prepared with sterile containers and ice packs. As she got set up, and I finished making the rounds with feed, it occurred to me how many ways our little farm has touched others in our community and beyond.

The week before last we had another visitor. This time it was someone who wanted to buy turkey breast to make into a line of dog treats. We chatted about starting up a new business and she mentioned her connection with a big cat rescue. Later that afternoon I called her up to see if she wanted to take some turkey carcasses to the tigers.

We're almost at the five year mark for our farm and it tickles me to think back on how many different people have come to see what we're up to. Over that time, we've met scientists, vets, entrepreneurs, grandkids, grandparents, cub scouts, homeschoolers, college kids, and of course other farmers. All of them have been interested in one thing - chickens! 

Some very good friends of ours have an orphanage in Haiti. They came to see our farm that very first year and were so excited and full of ideas that they have been growing chicken in Haiti with the kids ever since. There have been at least two other couples who have come out to see how we do our chicken housing and are putting together business models in the islands of the Bahamas and Honduras. Many family flocks in Gainesville have been started on our farm, but one of the most precious is owned by a special needs young lady who is now learning how to care for her new chickens herself.

When we began Laughing Chicken Farm, we had no idea what we were getting into. We thought we'd grow a few animals and sell what we could for some extra income. Wow! God sure has taken us farther than that. When the phone rings I never know what to expect. From requests for semi-trucks full of chicken "paws" to ship to the Orient, to the people in Montana who were having a "Testicle-Festival" and wanted to know if we could ship them turkey testicles.