Friday, January 30, 2015

Tales from the Past

This past weekend a distant colleague, a woman I've never actually met but share farming as an occupation, posted a request on an all women's farmer forum I belong to. She was asking for examples of how others found ways to re-energize their farming spirits when circumstances seemed to drain the enthusiasm out of them.

She'd fallen on some tough times, (it's the dead of winter, and she farms in the North for one thing), and was in need of some encouragement. Finding encouragement is something that can really make or break farmers when the odds seem stacked against them.

Gratefully, I'd had a particularly uneventful weekend myself, for the most part. In as much as, no one had broken in to the (now, after 2 break ins, emptied out) yurt at the back of the property; tried to steal the storage shed, (again); cut through the fence and driven across it in a golf cart to get to their stash of stolen vehicles on a neighboring property (they'd finally been busted); or been blasting heavy obnoxious unfamiliar music at night so loud even my computer's volume in my house, couldn't drown it out - a multiple times a day daily occurrence with the new Zumba studio rocking out next door.

No, this past Sunday in fact, I mentioned while it wasn't a dull moment by any means, was relatively calm only having had to make 2 trips to the big box "hardware" store for a hand tool I rely heavily upon; break up a hen fight between some newly introduced, (one disabled), hens in the herb area; break up a cat fight between one of the escapee house cats and a neighbor's barn stray; and first thing in the morning, discovered the presence of a broken water pipe that would now need to be located, dug up and repaired - forcing me to shut off the water to the barns used to water the animals - until I can find time for that unscheduled project.

But other than that, it was a relatively quiet day, for Life on the Farm.

One of the other ladies on the forum, in offering her support to this colleague, posted a most wonderful read. A series of letters written by a woman who, along with her husband, held down a farm of hundreds of acres for 28 years in Oklahoma. Now that in and of itself can be filled with a bit of strife as we all know the weather there can be a great challenge during any given year. But add to it that these letters were written in the mid 1930's, during the worst, (to date), "drouth" and historical (hopefully never to be repeated), dust bowl era.

It made for an interesting read and put any of my worst days on the farm back into perspective, not only for a daily blessing check, but for the potential that we may be heading back into another climatic event such as what brought many farmers to their knees - and ultimately, out of business, and even ending in death for some who couldn't escape the ill health caused by the dusty air.

The author speaks in these letters about the "new" methods of farming on contour lines, water-catchment techniques and rotating crops and cover crops for erosion control. These are methods, among others, of the permaculture techniques that I and many of my colleagues are quickly, if quietly, embracing. In fact, many are preparing now for the potential worst to come of water rationing; much more restrictive than what we've seen in our lifetimes. Water rationing that pretty well put many garden centers and landscape contractors either out of business or nearly so, back in the early part of last decade. 2005 saw some municipalities outlawing the installation of seasonal, annual (read, water thirsty) color flower change outs on residential or commercial properties. I know it severely hurt my fledgling garden center business with a store-front full of flats of beautiful color plants without new homes to go to. We have flirted with various restrictions each summer since. No one sees it getting better soon.

So, I share with you now, for reflection as well as for insight, the link to those letters written back in the 1930's. May her words prove both inspiring as well as encouraging and informative to us as we march forward looking at another "climatic change" in our earth. Regardless of what you think is causing it, it's happening. And if we're to continue eating, we need to learn from the past, and embrace some new - old ideas.

Now go eat your food, and get your hands in the dirt - Naturally!

PS; Since originally composing this blog, my farm adventures escalated in losing at least a half a day's work trying to fill-in and getting the tractor really good and stuck in an over-sized hole, courtesy of the utilities company truck, at my pasture gate - with more rain on the way; a hawk lunching on one of my little bantam chickens; and not getting my transplants in - because I couldn't get the right equipment out to the field to finish prepping the beds - thanks to the sinkhole at the gate! Still - nothing compared to life in the 30's on a farm.


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