Farmers Work Hard!

I am not talking about me, even though I am a farmer and I do work hard.  I’m talking about the Sweet Potato Man and his partner (“Peanut”).  Yesterday morning, Peanut called me (he has a cell phone, SPM does not) to tell me that they had two truckloads of peanut tops in the field to be picked up and that they’d be down there all day digging sweet potatoes.  When he called me, I had a load of hay on Yoda that I needed to unload.  Once I got that (and numerous other things) done, I got Gel and a pitchfork and we went down to the field to get the peanut tops.  SPM and Peanut were digging sweet potatoes, they do it using a plow to loosen the potatoes, then they crawl (yes!) down the rows picking up the sweet potatoes.  As they pick them up, they sort them according to their size.

I expect large farms have ethnic people to do this crawling, but neither SPM or Peanut are spring chickens and I know I’d be awfully sore if I had to crawl the length of those rows picking up sweet potatoes.  I was still sore from manually digging sweet potatoes at my friend’s house on Monday.

I loaded the peanut tops (got them all on one load!), brought them home and divided them between the goats, cows and rabbits, then headed back and got another load of sweet potato vines.  By the time I got done, I was completely coated with red clay.  I’m not sure I’ve ever been so dirty.

There was a time when I thought SPM should give me a discount on the bushels of over-sized sweet potatoes that I bought from him over the winter and spring because they were, well, over-sized, but now that I see how much work is involved in raising and harvesting this crop, I think I am getting a discount!

I do not know for sure, but I expect SPM has been farming his whole life.  He does a good job and he’s a wonderful, giving man.  I am blessed to know him and all of the other farmers I’ve met over the years.  They all work really, really hard to bring you good, healthy food.  Pay a little more for it.  If you have a little extra money, pay a little extra knowing their hourly wage, if there even is one, is well below minimum wage.  I surely don’t earn any money farming.  We eat excellent food, but what we make on our sales goes right back into the farm.  I’m sure that’s the way it is for most small farms, at least in the beginning.

We bought another Jersey cow last night.  During the day, I went across the street and managed to get my hands and then a halter on Faith (the Jersey cow that we bought over a month ago now, you remember, the one that was supposed to be giving three to four gallons of milk and bred to calf in May, neither of which was true [damn Jamie, if you are reading this, don’t you know you don’t screw someone you know]).  Wally and I thought we were going to have to lasso her in order to catch her.  I couldn’t believe I caught her as easily as I did.  She’s a good girl.  Hopefully she’s bred now.  She looks a lot better than she did when we first put her across the street.  I wish we had put the Guernsey calf with her because if we did, he probably wouldn’t be so lame (remember, he got caught in a fence and injured himself a while back).  After the Faith fiasco, Wally and I have been reluctant to buy another Jersey.  We’ve looked at a few, but none seemed suitable.  In order to get one in our price range, we were looking at older cows.  An “older” cow living in a conventional dairy setting may not transition to a grass-based diet without ending up looking like a walking skeleton.  I made that mistake with Gwen.  She was young when we got her and in poor condition due to her lameness and  I made the grave error of feeding her “candy” grain, which she got hooked on and when the store I was getting it from had trouble keeping that grain in stock, she refused to eat anything else and I had a heck of a time getting her rumin working correctly again.  She’s doing fantastic now and looks excellent!

There are few dairies that truly graze their cows.  Gwen came from Piedmont Dairy which is just a few miles from us.  I know they graze their cows.  That’s why we got Gwen: she couldn’t keep up with the rest of the herd out in the pastures.  I’ve been talking off and on with the owner of this dairy trying to get another one from him, but he never had anything, at least not at a time when we had the money to buy one.  I checked with him last week and heard from him early this week.  He had one: a first time freshener with swelling around her hock.  They had been trying to treat it, but it wasn’t resolving and she couldn’t keep up with the herd.  I went to look at her yesterday and then talked to my homeopath, conventional veterinarian and a good friend of mine who knows a  lot about cows and they all agreed that we couldn’t go wrong with this cow.  If we couldn’t heal her, her meat would be well worth the amount of money we had in her.  Plus, she is CONFIRMED pregnant and due in March.  Essentially we bought two cows … maybe even a heifer … for very little money!  This was a perfect time because the dairy is involved in showing at the local county fairs and didn’t have time to take this cow to the packing plant.  So, we saved another cow from the packing plant … which believe me, is not Animal Welfare Approved.

So, we picked her up last night and her name is now Penny.  She settled in like she was born here eating the Matua hay, Chaffhaye and peanut tops with relish.  We’ll see how milking her goes this morning; she’s not broke to lead so it ought to be interesting.  Gwen gave three gallons yesterday morning!  That’s more than she’s ever given!  I don’t think Penny is going to give anywhere near as much, which she shouldn’t because she’s a first time freshener.  The owner of the dairy said that the reason why they tried so hard to heal her was because she’s got a very valuable pedigree; he said she was one of the best first time fresheners he’s ever seen.  He told us when we bought Gwen, two years ago now, that we couldn’t have bought her from him if she wasn’t lame.  Plus, given that Penny’s only a first time freshener, she’s been out in the pasture eating grass most of her life so adjusting to life here won’t be so hard on her.

So, two more goats are going to be removed from the milking string this morning so I’ll only be milking five goats.  I am milking Gwen twice a day, but in the evening, she doesn’t have much milk.  In fact, she had very little last night.  Her baby is taking all of it.  That’s okay.  I’ll have to milk Penny in the evening now.

Needless to say, I did not get in my garden yesterday.  Too busy harvesting gardens belonging to other people!  Today, must do it!  Tomorrow I have to drive to the Amish farm to pick up more chickens.  Love their chicken!  They are awesome!  This family does a good job raising their birds.  Talk about working hard, that family works really hard!  Until we have our own birds, I’m proud to sell their chickens at the Farmer’s Market.  Unlike so many, their birds are pastured and they feed all local grains, grown conventionally, much of it on their farm.

Until later …