Monday, April 5, 2010

Unpredictability and life's transitions...

Today Chuck dropped off a few hundred pounds of orchard grass seed and a smaller amount of alfalfa seed up at a different farm in the country. Since I was a little girl, I have planned to someday live on this farm, known locally as "The Knight Place." I can remember my parents driving home from visits with my grandparents, with me in the backseat of the old Custom Cruiser. The plastic smell of the car seats, the gentle way the twisting roads would lull me to sleep as we travelled - it is as vivid to me now as when I was a child. I remember them telling me that this farm would belong to me someday, and I've looked forward to that day my whole life. The farm still belongs to my mother currently, but here, we are beginning the first step in making it "our farm" and future home.
A local family of farmers have rented the land for many, many years, growing tobacco on it and on off years planting some other crops or a little hay. Tobacco is of course not the industry it was once, and although tobacco probably put roofs over the heads of most of the people in that community, change has come and even the tobacco farmers are diversifying. This year our farmers plan to plant Burley instead of Fluke-Cured tobacco because there is more of a demand. They mentioned to me it requires no pesticides, and that was welcome news. I have always wondered about the chemicals used to grow tobacco - the herbicides, the pesticides, and the chemical fertilizers. I can't help but wonder how much will be in the land for many years to come. I hope it isn't so much.

This year, I approached the farmers about reclaiming some of the farm for our goats. This was such a bad winter, with so much snow and ice. I want to be able to have the goats on a small partion of this new farm next winter. It isn't far off the road, so we could afford some gravel, and it has the possiblity of having both power and well water. I don't know if Chuck will still be travelling a lot, but I know I don't want another winter of having to trek down a steep, slick hill with only a headlight on my head to cut through the darkness, and several gallon jugs of water tied together hanging over my shoulders, just to find at the bottom of the hill a branch across the fence has drained the battery on the electric fence and I don't have the physical strength to muscle the marine battery a quarter mile up a hill to bring it home to charge. No, I would like next winter to be a little more user-friendly.

So we are going to plant a pasture of orchard grass and alfalfa in hopes of creating a winter pasture for the goats on the new farm. I've taken care of animals my whole life, but this will be our first pasture "from scratch." We did plant chicory in the current area where the goats are, so they would have a higher tannin, high quality forage for summer. The hunters who bowhunt the property told my husband they believed every single seed he planted last fall came up, and now it does look like most survived the winter. I will be interested to see how well the chicory comes in now with our record warmth.

Of course, with spring, and with warm weather, comes unpredictability. While at the second farm, my husband noticed it looked a bit dark over towards the goats. By the time he reached the original property, only a couple miles down a country road, the ground was piled up in hail and a dense fog was hanging low in the valley. That's right - hail, on a day where the temperature bumped 90 degrees. The goats really did look surprised by it all, even after most of it had melted.

I will wind up this post with my husband's reflection on our new pasture on the Knight Place. As the sun set in the West, he couldn't help but think how this marked a sunset of sorts for the farm's long life in tobacco production. Generation Farm was named because these plots of land have been in my family for so many generations, and now, we are starting a totally new venture on this heritage property. We can only hope that this is just the start of a fruitful new life for the farm.

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