Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Life cycles

Steve and Lee feed kids at the lamb bar

Monday, March 5th

I wake up to a very cold morning. I look out upon a crispy landscape. There is a very hard frost blanketing the farm. As I walk up to the barn, the grass crunches underfoot. Every blade is coated with a fine layer of blue-white ice that crackles as I make my way up the hill. The sky is light, but the sun hasn't risen above the trees to the east. The barn is a hive of activity, everyone is already hard at work.

Life and death are a part of the farm experience. Animals die, cattle are slaughtered, pigs are butchered, roosters are culled, garden plots get tilled. There is a give-and-take relationship. You make cheese from the cows and goats, the leftover whey goes to the (soon-to-arrive) pigs, the chickens eat the table scraps, all of the animals provide manure for the soil, and the compost helps make the garden florish. The compost pile is in the chicken yard so the chickens scratch at it all day long, helping to turn the surface of the compost. The flies like the compost pile too, and the chickens love to nibble on fly larvae. The farm has very few problems with pests because life is lived in balance. It is a great place to observe, learn, and be a part of this highly orchestrated dance.

Even though the Tates are grieving over the loss of Norma, there is work to be done every day. Nothing can be ignored, even for one day. Things cannot stop because every moment counts on a busy farm. Life goes on whether you like it or not.

Right now, we are playing a waiting game. Steve ordered a new pasteurizer this winter. It is due to arrive this week. The fresh goat milk is scheduled to arrive on Monday. Steve's sweating because the new equipment needs to be plumbed and tested before any milk goes into it. We'll probably be making some raw milk cheeses before we can pasteurize the milk and make fresh cheese. The old pasteurizer has been sold to someone in Venezuela.

Even though we're waiting for the milk and the machinery, there is ALWAYS something to do. Steve's wife, Lee is a great organizer. She is good a delegating chores as well as managing the livestock around the farm as well as the goats over at Sammy's farm. The week begins on Monday with a "staff" meeting. Everyone checks in and the week's work is assessed. Two people tackle the feeding of the kids three times a day. Raw cow's milk needs to be picked up at Sammy's so the kids have milk to drink at meal times. This week, the kids are being disbudded. A hot iron sears the horn area and prevents it from growing. If allowed to grow, the kids could hurt themselves or others. The kids scream bloody murder during the process, but recover in about five minutes and behave as if nothing has happened. They smell like burnt flesh and bone for the rest of the day. You have to be a bit sadistic to enjoy disbudding baby goats.

Preparing the garden for spring is another major undertaking. The upper garden and lower garden are still full of winter veggies and edible flowers. Kale and collard greens are still producing, but this week, some beds are being turned and planted with the first spring crops. Vidalia onions and leeks have been waiting to be planted for a few days. The soil has been drying out and is ready to take on new plants. I can't wait to see this stuff grow during the next few months.

I got to make cheese with Carrie, the other cheesemaker. I call her Carrie Carrie, because she is the original Carrie around here. Little Carrie doesn't mind being dubbed 'Little Carrie'. Carrie Carrie showed me how to make fresh chevre logs. We cranked out about 100 one pound logs, set them on a rack in the walk-in refrigerator and prepared orders for wholesale accounts. Carrie is fun to work with. Since she grew up in the area, we spent the entire time talking about our favorite North Carolina topic: food. She's a big fan of Bojangle's, too. I've gotta get me some chicken here, soon.

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