Posts Tagged ‘not especially profound musings on farming


the redundancy of roosters

Yesterday I came upon two roosters tangled in electric netting. I never turn it on anymore–a good thing–but the situation was grisly even so.

They had been fighting, that leaping and kicking thing. One bird kicked the other into the netting. The attacker got his legs tangled, the attackee somehow got his head through a hole in the grid. There was a good deal of blood around the neck and head of both birds. They kept fighting for some time by the look of it!

By the time I came on the scene they were both spent, panting and bleeding. I tried untangling the wire, but their struggles to free themselves had tightened the tourniquet to an impossible place. I was loathe to cut the fence to free them. It was a hundred dollar fence, and the roosters themselves were worth less than nothing. No value, no function, save entertainment. (And they ARE fun to watch. Our friends Zoe and Mike coined it: “Chicken TV.” Really. You’d be surprised.)

I imagine a real farmer would have taken a tin snips to the birds, not the fence. But I am soft.

This is not one of those stories about how the worst things happen to me. Rather I think the motto should be, when it comes to farming, at least the halfassed way I do it, is “Dang, I didn’t see that coming.”

My agrarian woes have been bothersome, but in the scheme of things not catastrophic. No rain for 10 weeks? Just part of the deal. Plan for it. Beehives decimated by small hive beetles, until this year a bit player in the cast of pest players? It happens. Farming is hard.

Today the weather is changing. The wind’s howling would have meant a serious storm on its way just a few weeks ago. Now it’s just a typical autumn breeze. The washing is flapping hard on the clothesline. The sun is still warm, but as of today no longer quite balances the cool of the wind.  I think of the twins, who are having a pumpkin patch excursion at school today. Did I dress them warmly enough?

Just took a walk among the cows, checking udders, hooves, and reproductive equipment. They are mostly all big and healthy, and I think I am more prepared than I have  been for winter. But that is not saying much.

Today my New York friends will arrive for their annual Kentucky golf outing.

For seven years now, I have picked up my guests at the Lexington airport, usually on the late Friday flight. Dennis, Dave, and Richard appearing feet first at the top of the arrivals stairs. Always grinning and laughing about something, usually some crazy Campbell riff. This year, of course, will be different, as Campbell will not be there. I really can’t imagine what that will be like.


Not especially profound musings on farming

The thing about farming is this. You never really know if you’re doing it right.

I found both of my donkeys dead in the trees yesterday. My guess is that they grazed something poisonous, most likely poison hemlock, which is everywhere in the early spring.

After finding them, I took to Googling around on the subject of poisonous plants and livestock. And yeah, maybe I should have been alert to the possibility that my donkeys or cows would try some new forage, especially as the grass has not really taken off yet.

I might have realized that the donkeys always tend to eat last. They get shoved out of the prime grazing areas and kept away from the round bales by the cows. Still,  they looked in great health, even after a hard winter.

Being a good farmer takes time. And lots of observation. And the conclusions he draws from those observations can be useful, or they can be dead ends. They can involve seeing something insignificant as important.

When donkeys up and die, or a cow dies, or has a stillborn calf, or when I find a dead beehive filled with honey, I have to interpret some maddeningly ambiguous signs. I might take action based on these signs, but are they the correct actions? Am I grazing the cows efficiently?  I judge by how the pasture looks the following year. But is that nice clover growth a result of my clever grazing management, or just because we had an exceptionally wet spring? It’ll be years before I really know, and then will I know what I know any more than I do now?

A line from a senior year contemporary American poetry seminar has stuck with me: experience prepares you for what will never happen again. That used to haunt me. Now, not so much.

Ineffable beauty, unspeakable evil, and all sorts of crap in between

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