Time for more simplicity …

We are now all moved in.  It has been a long, hard move.  At first, it was exciting, all the planning and preparation, but when we got into the down and dirty … the stuff that had been sitting for months (years?) and not touched needed to be dealt with: either deciding to move it or trash it.  We had accumulated a lot of stuff — stuff that we had used or might use, but maybe never did or will.

I had lived on Herter Road for over 12 years, I think, longer than I’ve ever lived any where.  There were a lot of memories there.  It seems weird to be attached to a piece of property, but I was.  It got to the point, towards the end of the move, that I couldn’t stand to be there.  I felt like I was violating it.  Wally, being the amazing man that he is, finished up the last of the move.

The new house is nice.  It really is, but it still feels foreign.  We will not have to work as hard to do what we do as we did on Herter Road.  Just eliminating the hill that we had to climb numerous times a day usually hauling something or other is an improvement.  Unless it’s milk for our consumption, milk does not even come in the house now: it is poured in THE BUILDING.  Yes, we have a building for our freezers, milk refrigerator, coolers, etc.  It’s pretty wonderful and weird.

I’ve been milking goats and now cows since 2008.  I’ve been selling raw milk for animal consumption since 2008. It is the money maker for the farm.  It’s probably the most labor intensive thing that we do, but it’s what people want.  They don’t want the duck eggs or the rabbit; sometimes they want the beef and pork, but we usually do not have a big supply of that.  It’s frustrating.  We are not a dairy: we are a diversified farm, but it doesn’t matter.  People want what they want and except for the milk, usually what they want is something that we do not have.

Wally and I made the decision when we moved to the new place that we would cut back on the farming.  We are getting too old for the rat race that is farming, or at least farming how we do (did) it. Wally works a full-time job, I do most of the farm chores and go to school full-time (maintaining a 4.0 GPA).  We need our weekends to rest and recoup (and do homework).  People do not want to come to us: they want us to come to them (via farmer’s markets or delivery).  We knew when we moved that we would loose some of our customers because it’s further out in the country.

The ducks: I love my ducks.  I like that I’m preserving a rare, heritage breed, but their egg laying is unreliable, at best.  I should not even use the term “unreliable,” they are laying seasonally, as they should, but shit, when I am swimming in duck eggs, people do not want them.  They want them during the holidays, when they bake, they want them during the winter and summer, when the ducks do not lay much, if at all.  They were slacking off in their laying before we moved.  The first day they were at the new farm, I gathered 19 eggs, but after that, nothing.  We knew the stress of the move would stop their laying, but we’ve carried those ducks for so many months with no eggs to sell that we just cannot do it any more.

So most of them are going to a new home on Saturday and hell, I hate to think about where they are going, but they are.  I’ll keep the Welsh Harlequins, Khaki Campbell ducks and the few mixed breeds and that will be it.  Duck eggs for Michelle and Wally.  We love them and appreciate their nutritional superiority over chicken eggs.

The rabbits: when we were just beginning with our breeding program and did not have many rabbits to sell, we had pages of people waiting for them.  Now that we have rabbits stacked on top of rabbits, no one wants them.  That’s partially due to the fact that we are not going to the farmers’ markets, particularly the Charlotte market, but people know where we are and if they wanted rabbit (which admittedly they will continue to say it’s the best rabbit they’ve ever had), but they do not want to travel to get the rabbit even if I met them in a convenient place.  They will instead buy inferior products at the farmers’ market for the convenience.

I know I sound bitter – I am. I’ve done everything right as far as the care and raising of these animals is concerned.  I deliver to people what I say I raise, but it has done nothing to foster customer loyalty.  The only customer loyalty I have is for the damned milk.

So the rabbit program will be cut back drastically.  I had been raising a line of spotted Silver Fox, but I will switch back to pure solid colored Silver Fox and that will be it.  I have been purposely phasing out the American Chinchilla rabbits over the past few months and with the next group of rabbits that I process, the last of the American Chinchilla rabbits will go in the freezer.

What do I do now?  Continue to focus on my photography, which I am making steady progress with.  People want to see beautiful food, they want fuzzy, pink farm stories.  I can tell fuzzy pink farm stories and accompany them with beautiful pictures.  I may be able to make some money doing that.  Believe me, taking pictures and writing stories is a lot less labor intensive than caring for a farm.  I will continue to farm, but for Wally and me and the few loyal customers that we have retained.

And that will be that.

Until later …

One Reply to “Time for more simplicity …”

  1. Hi Michelle,
    I am so sorry to hear your news! The new place sounded so promising – a fresh start. A sanctuary you can call your own. It’s quite natural to feel grief at leaving your old place – there were lots of memories there and that is where you first conceived your ideas and conducted your experiments in organic farming. You can definitely write about your experiences over the past 12 years! And I’m sure you have lots of photos as well. But I understand your frustrations. No point in keeping creatures that don’t earn their own keep. You can only support them for so long, and if there is no market for them, then it’s time to step back and re-evaluate. Just wondering – you have, no doubt, explored the new area you are in for potential markets?
    The other thing I was wondering about… what about bees? Have you ever given and thought about raising bees for their honey? True, it can be tricky with the risk of pesticides, funguses, and killer bees… Bees are in the decline, but perhaps your new place would be welcoming to them? There’s lots of work involved with bees as well, but maybe not as labour intensive as what you’ve been doing thus far? Just a thought…
    I have followed your adventures for many years – 12 years? – back when you were raising cats in Boston (I think it was). I admire you for your strength and your character and trust that with some quiet time you will be able to regroup. Meanwhile, enjoy your photography – you are really good at it! Each photo tells a story (and you are a very good story teller!).
    Please keep posting – it’s good therapy for you and the rest of us!
    Cheers,
    Pat (from Canada)

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