Fall Break: Part 1
Being a farmer, and I can speak from experience as I have been farming with Geoff since school ended for Fall Break on Thursday, consistently parallels the Karate Kid movie series (the original movies with Pat Morita and Ralph Machio not the more recent Will Smith’s son’s franchise). Allow me to elaborate.
Since virtually all farming takes place outside, farmers are consistently subject to the whims of weather and regional climate. Similarly, in the American movie classic, The Karate Kid: Part II, Daniel-son and Mr. Miagi fall victim not only to ancient feuds, but also the caprices of seasonal typhoons on the island nation of Japan.
On Saturday Geoff and I were on the second day of our barn cleaning out project when we could see across the valley that a storm was moving in. By the time we can see weather moving in here there is a very limited amount of time before rain and wind are upon us. So we sprung into action. We covered the chicken tractors with an extra layer of protection because the broiler hens did not do so well during the last storm. We fed, watered, and tucked in for the night all of the various poultry. All the while, the winds picked up, the skies darkened, and had we been in Okinawa we would have heard the clanging of the warning bell perched precariously on the village bell tower and rung by a girl so frail and small that only Daniel-son could come to the rescue.
In our case the winds and foreboding brought only a gentle rain instead of the decimation of a village and the resolution of ancient feuds as in the Karate Kid. But otherwise the parallels were eerie.
In spite of an abrupt weather related ending to our process, we did make good progress during our two-day barn-cleaning endeavor. It was a little bit like an archeological dig. To the best of our knowledge, the land our farm is on was a homestead in the 1920s. Sometime around 1940 they moved the farmhouse from its location near the road to its current location about a quarter mile back from the road. In 1947 the son’s of the owner’s of the farm (and perhaps some cousins) carved their initials into the wooden door of one of the barn stalls. One of those son’s went on to inherit the farm and eventually, when he was in his 80’s or 90’s sold it to the couple we bought it from (or so we believe). They owned the property from around 2000 until we bought it in March of 2010. The barn contains evidence/relics/garbage spanning seventy years and three families. The upper floors of the barn were a time capsule to tobacco farming. Geoff, since I am afraid of heights and don’t have particularly good balance, climbed to the top of the barn and shoved all the garbage my way. One section was clearly used first to hang tobacco as evidenced by dried up leaves, tobacco sticks (these two to three foot long toothpick shaped sticks that play some role in the tobacco harvesting and hanging process), and other tobacco processing accoutrement. This section was probably then used as an improvised hayloft and corncrib. We cleaned out some extremely ancient hay and dozens and dozens of old corncobs.
While we had hoped to find the Lindbergh baby, we did not. But we did take a journey through the minds of some very, very different landowners and their thoughts about how to best utilize and organize this space. Needless to say a tobacco farmer (the first owner), an arms manufacturer (the second owner), and Geoff (the third owner) have decidedly different purposes and strategies for barn use.
On an unrelated note, I learned this weekend that walnuts in their un-shucked form will stain your hands a gross yellowy brown color. I learned this after I had already attempted to shuck a walnut and before Geoff decided to mention that the discoloration would be long lasting. The bad news is that my hands are stained; the good news is that it is prime walnut harvesting time. The moderately disappointing news is that we have no walnut processing equipment and Geoff is deathly allergic to walnuts.
Finally, this just in, Goats are smarter than electric fences. While with some wild creatures, Scooter for example, just the idea of a fence and one experience having been shocked is enough to keep the animal contained indefinitely, goats really like to push the envelope. Geoff and I spent the better part of this morning trying to transfer the goats from their old paddock to a new paddock when Miss Priss decided to test the boundaries of goat psychology. She chased four of the six goats out of the fencing before we could turn on the juice and then jumped out herself. The only two left in the paddock were our livestock guardian dog, Maggie, who was noticeably distraught about the misbehavior of her flock, but who is also very afraid of the electric fence, and Nadine, who is notoriously disobedient and was only being good accidentally. Geoff, Scooter, Bailey, and I had to run around like crazies in the field until Miss Priss decided she felt like forcing all of the other animals back into the paddock. Maggie was glad to have her kids back, and Geoff and I have developed what will hopefully be a more secure method of transferring Goats in the future.
And now it is time for lunch.