Much has changed around the homestead, although some days it just feels like the wheels are spinning.
Most of the reconstruction from the fire is done, the area is functional, at least until the bad weather comes. There are definitely things that will need to be completed before fall!
The rabbits are doing ok, I am breeding pretty heavy right now trying to get an idea of how many kits per litter for these new girls and get caught up on orders. Since I lost my best breeders in the fire this is really the core of the rebuilding. I have mostly young does or does that are new to me, so it is very difficult to figure how many kits to expect. I currently have 14 does and 4 bucks, and 44 under 3 months old. LOTS of mouths to feed. 3 more does are due this week.
I am currently working with the Eastiside Farm and Garden store to start offering breed stock there as well as doing classes.
This time last week was a very different scene here at the farm. I remember it as a noisy, chaotic mash of too many things happening all at once overlaid with tremendous grief at the horrible suffering that happened.
This morning? Quiet, calm and signs of hope.
The picture above is of a two week old New Zealand litter housed in my other barn. This morning they were snuggled up together sleeping peacefully - except Tank. Tank was sleeping in the feeder, by himself where he gets as much food with no work as he wants.
This is a picture of Pride. Pride is due to kindle today, and that hay she has there is a sure sign that she is building a nest and we might see babies soon. We lost 3 expectant does in the fire so hopes ride with Pride and Raven, the two surviving does that were bred. This will be Prides second litter for us, it will be a first for Raven if she has any.
I am working on a plan for moving forward, but have lots of details to work out and will need dollars to make it all happen. If you are interested in helping rebuild Crosstown you can - donations are always welcome!
I think I will mostly let the pictures speak for themselves. But the short, factual story is this: Saturday morning one of my rabbitry buildings burned. I lost 10 does, many of which were born and raised here. This accounted for over half of my doe herd. Some I've had for four years. Three of them were expecting litters this week.
However - all people, goats, chickens, bucks and 8 does were safe, and no damage was done to the house.
What happened? Heat lamp + goat. Basically the heat lamp in the goats room wasn't high enough or anchored well enough or the goats were being goats. But somehow the heat lamp got knocked down into a corner. The focused heat caught fire to a piece of fiberglass roofing material that was being used as a ground barrier. The fire then raced across the back of the storage shed to the rabbitry building. Hay + thin wood + pvc caused a very hot, fast fire. Luckily I had the help of an unknown stranger who was there as fast as I was and the fire department is only a block away.
While this is devastating and heart breaking it could have been worse. I will rebuild, but it will take some time and some help (both financially and with labor). I believe that raising rabbits is a good thing, I think this area is looking for that resource and I still would like to provide it.
I want to thank Kelly, Josh and Connor Spencer for not only coming to my aid, but for taking down the structure and taking care of the cleanup. I do not have words for how grateful I am - you guys are amazing.
If there is something greater than thanks I want that for my Sister Shelby. Not only did she drop everything and come from Vashon to help me, she coordinated with the Spencers to be there and took care of all the details of what needed to go where and all. The biggest thing though was dealing with me I think. Thank you. I guess I left that part out of the story - I had been very sick the week prior to this, bronchitis. I also had stitches in my hand from a yard accident the previous weekend. Being sick and inhaling the smoke cause a full asthma attack during the aftermath of the fire. The medics wanted me to go to the hospital, Sis got to deal with me at home instead. I am very grateful as hard as it was for me to not help with the clean up that she enforced me staying out of it. I will admit just this once - 'you were right'.
I will rebuild. It will take time, dollars and manpower. If you would like to help please let me know. You can email CrosstownFarms@Yahoo.com; fill out the contact form on the 'Support Crosstown Page' or call. If you would like to donate dollars you can! You can 'buy in' here online, mail donations, or go to paypal directly and 'send' money to CrosstownFarms. Watch here on-line and on Facebook for updates on what will be happening with the rebuild if you want to help physically with that part of it.
Thank you again to everyone for your support and understanding.
In Memory: The lovely girls we lost.
Unfortunately I do not have pictures of the younger girls we lost: CT's Hera; Juno; CT's Calypso
Yes, I know it is almost the end of February and there are only 28 days until spring . . . welcome to 2014.
Farming is 'seasonal' - yes it is calendar dependent, but just because the clock strikes midnight doesn't mean the new season is ready to start.
Lots of changes have happened here at Crosstown over the last 12 months, and I am sure many more changes will come, but now finally the plans seem pretty set. Plants are budding out, rabbits and chickens are producing, and most significantly the first baby goats have been born!
Moon & Ari are Nigerian Dwarf does born on Monday the 17th. At about 4 pounds they are tiny little signs that the new season is upon us. No going back, no waiting - full speed ahead into 'the busy season'; which lasts until the end of October by the way!
So a few brief notes about happenings here this year:
- Beyond running Crosstown Farms and focusing primarily on the rabbits I will be working full time at Pigmans Organic Produce. Link up with their facebook page to follow all the happenings there or sign up to be part of their CSA at www.PigmansProduce.com.
- The rabbit CSA will start the middle of May -- sign up over at the store for this great deal.
- I will periodically be hosting or helping with events which be posted here and on Facebook, so check back often!
* First work party -- SATURDAY March 1st. Key project - move and resheet greenhouse.
Two upcoming events already in the works in partnership with the Olympia Slow Food Group:
+ Rabbit class & dinner the end of May.
+ Farm Field Dinner hosted at Pigmans Organic Produce mid July. This 'ultra local' dinner is being planned to feature foods raised or harvested within 10 miles of the farm.
- I will not be growing produce at the Lemon Road site this year, so all CSA & Produce sales will be via Pigmans Organic Produce or the bits I grow here at the house. I may occasionally have eggs or milk available on a first come basis also.
Here we go -- hope you join in for this grand new adventure, I know we are looking forward to a busy productive season!
Yep I said "Reasonably Priced Food" not 'cheap', not 'affordable' those are much vaguer harder to define terms. But let us look for a moment at what is 'Reasonable'.
Last blog I rambled on quite a bit about two tomatoes. One that you personally bought as a start (lets say a mid sized one maybe $10 to buy) nurtured in your home garden and munched every last tomato that grew on it (lets say 10 pounds) blemished or not. You would find that to be a pretty good return for your $10 right? You don't measure how much water you put on or what the cost of that water was, you probably didn't fertilize it, and the little time it took you to care for you count as a healthy time outside to unwind. The farm grown tomato however was a much longer story. Months of prep work, care and tedious repetitive tasks. Each step in the process must be done carefully or the end product is damaged. I didn't mention either that when those tomatoes are finally ripe and beautifully red they are carefully picked, individually wiped down with a paper towel and then carefully packed in boxes so they are not damaged when transported to the market. If they are packed with stems on then each must be carefully arranged so that it doesn't damage the one next to it. If a tomato is damaged in transport then it is a loss- do you want to buy a tomato with a hole in it?
Look at this another way. Lets do some math here (I know you thought you left math behind in high school- work with me!).
Garlic. Garlic isn't cheap. The least expensive garlic at the market is $8 per pound it goes up to about $11 I think. A single large head of garlic we'll say is $1 (just to make the math easy) - is that 'Reasonable'?
Lets find out: Again for ease of math we will use approximate numbers. Lets assume that we are paying everybody from the farmer/owner down to the field hand $10 per hour (that's high I know, but easy math).
We will assume a 100 foot long bed that is three feet wide is planted with 150 rows (short way across the bed, 7 inches apart) of garlic 7 cloves per row . . . that gives you 1050 planted cloves of garlic. Now if you checked my math you know that my numbers don't add up- I rounded down the number of rows (100ft x 12inches = 1200inches/7inches = 171 rows x 7 cloves = 1200 cloves planted.) but didn't want to mess with germination rates and losses to voles and all that, so I took a chunk off up front and we will assume the rest are good!
Ok so we now have 1050 planted cloves of garlic . . . how did they get planted and how did they get from a full head of garlic to a clove? Remember that wonderful head of garlic you were looking at in the Market? Well at the end of the season many pounds of those are held back by the farmer to plant the next years crop. In this case it takes about 30 pounds to plant a bed -- that's $240 worth by the way. You've peeled garlic before right? Now imagine breaking apart and taking the loose wrap (not completely peeled in otherwords, but mostly) off 15 lbs of it! About 5 hours worth of work ($50).
Each 100 foot bed needs to be tilled, fertilized ($), composted and tilled again prior to planting. Lets be conservative and say two people working together can do that in 1 hour (2 hour total time = $20). It takes a single person working quickly about 1.5 hours to plant a full bed ($15). Each bed will need to be weeded throughout the season (thus the 7" spacing to allow for a hoe) careful to not damage the garlic. Giving one hour to weed each bed means 90 seconds per row of garlic (really fast) -- Lets say one worker does that 4 times during the season that is another 4 hours of work ($40). At some point the bed will need to be fertilized again and maybe mulched - another hour ($10). Mulch -- that is either purchased (more $$) or made on site (more $ in labor time) so we'll add in $10 for that. Then it has to be harvested - I'll assume it takes a bit longer to harvest than plant if for nothing else than it weighs a lot more taking it out of the field - we'll say 3 hours to harvest a bed ($30). Sometimes you can let the garlic dry in the field, sometimes you have to cart it to the hoop house and lay it out to dry - lets hope for the best and say we field dried it before carting it out of the field. Now that it is dry the roots and greens have to be trimmed and the heads put on trays in the hoop house to complete the curing process. Braids are a whole different story that we won't go into - we'll just look at loose heads here. Even at 30 seconds per head (really fast) that is nearly 9 hours of trimming time. Once it is dry the dirt must be hand rubbed gently off each head keeping on as much of the papery wrapper as possible (you don't want to buy dirty garlic) before it is bagged or boxed up to take to market. At 15 seconds per head (really fast) that would be a bit over 4 hours to clean ($40). This is just the list of things I can quantify . . . don't forget that there are other costs involved: the land itself; water; taxes, L&I etc for laborer; insurance; tiller; fuel; hoop house/barn; farmers market fees; transportation; marketing; containers (storage bins, bags etc); time (usually the farmers) monitoring the crop for readiness to harvest, the heads for dryness, doing the taxes or organic certification paperwork - the list goes on and on. Lets just say an additional $50 for the full season.
Garlic - $240
'Peel' garlic - $50
Till/fert/prep - $20
Plant - $15
weed - $40
Fert/mulch application - $10
The Fertilizer - $10
The Mulch - $10
Harvest - $30
Trimming - $90
Cleaning - $40
Other - $50
$595 per row (very rough estimate) to produce 1050 heads of garlic equals nearly .60¢ per head just to break even - maybe.
So the question becomes is a 40¢ 'profit' reasonable? Too much? Not enough?
Now think about this: Garlic is the most profitable crop grown on many local farms.
Many farmers net less than $30K per year and put in long physically demanding days, I would guess few if any see anywhere near the median income DSHS listed for 2013 of $42,960 per year (that was for a single person by the way - a couple would have needed to bring home $56,184). Most farm workers - field hands - harvesters - whatever name you give them, make minimum wage & farmers struggle to be able to afford to hire enough of them so that the farm owner doesn't have to put in 12 hour days.
So next time you walk up to a farmers market booth and question the price of the locally grown, organic, often hand tended produce . . . thank the farmer instead or grow your own!
You want to buy fresh local healthy produce.
You want everybody to be making a living wage.
You want to make the best use of your money as possible.
This was me, and I bet it is you too:
The tale of two tomatoes
Remember for every beautiful, blemish free tomato that you cringe at paying $4 a pound for there are many man-hours of labor behind it; many inputs (minerals, supplements, infrastructure, water); many more tomatoes that have been fed to the hogs because they weren't as pretty or were damaged in some way. All that time and tossed away food the farmer still has to pay for. When you grow your tomatoes at home you eat those blemished or slightly damaged ones - a farmer can not sell those, even though they took just as much time and energy to grow. They eat some, the farmer and farm hands always get the cast offs (which if it is good enough for them to eat why isn't it good enough for all?) and some goes to the food bank. But in large part the farmer has to figure at least 25% of food grown gets zero return.
A challenge for you: Next time you go to the Olympia Farmers Market on a Sunday in Spring hang around until market closes. Slightly after 3pm you will see farmers taking box after box of produce and virtually filling the performance stage with food.
Why? It is food that didn't sell - perfectly good, often times Certified Organic food that is being given away, no return to the farmer. Again Why? Because you and I didn't want to pay for it and the farmer can't store it. Now, don't get me wrong - I love farms giving to the homeless, or those that don't have enough to make ends meet. Sad thing is that farmers struggle to pay their workers more than minimum wage, and so often you will find farm workers in those food bank lines. When there is so much labor that goes into the food and so little return it is difficult to make that livable wage available to all. Often times the cast offs that farm workers get off the farm is not as nice as the food being sent to the food bank.
Part two tomorrow: "A living wage vs Reasonably Priced Food"
It has been a month since my last post - wow time flies!
So the struggles of 2013 were addressed, hashed about and lived through. But, as most folks do at the end of the year, lets recap the good:
Goats: Received 2 goats at the end of 2012, both had single kids in Feb/March, I learned a ton about goat care and raising, learned how to milk goats (a first for them too), learned how to make cheese and generally loved on my girls. Sold one kid for a flock of hens and had to put down the other due to an injury, but through that learned that I could process a goat all on my own - we also discovered that goat meat is yummy. October 2013 took my two girls to be bred again & brought home more goats! Now have 4 adult does (all hopefully expecting) and a buckling!
Pigs: Started 2013 with 3 pigs at the house, quickly moved them out to the other property. Learned about raising, feeding and containing pigs and by March I had decided that pig farming was not what I wanted to do! Don't get me wrong, I love pigs, they are cute and intelligent sweet creatures. They are also escape artists extraordinaire! After multiple times getting calls of 'your pigs are out again' and re-working the fence repeatedly I decided I would prefer the pigs in the freezer. So a group of friends got together and had a butcher weekend. Worked through the process from field to freezer, even tried our hands at prosciutto and bacon making.
Chickens: Started 2013 with 4 hens here at the house and a 15 at my friends place. Added 3 here and another 15 to the property including a gorgeous Australorp Rooster, and 2 Buckeye roosters. Was going to raise some meat birds here at the house and even let our broody hen hatch out some chicks, soon decided that our property is not well suited to small birds! After they escaped the property multiple times I decided that they were not doable here and sold them. Raccoons got into the hutch and killed our favorite hen, but otherwise they have all been very well. Had a very small egg CSA (6 folks that got eggs every week) that went very smoothly through the spring and summer.
Rabbits: Had more rabbits born, raised, sold and processed than ever before. Overall quite a bit of interest in rabbit meat on an ongoing basis - even had 2 folks test run a CSR (Community Supported Rabbit - pre-purchased a 6 month supply of rabbit). The Slow Food group I am a part of hosted 2 different events this year show casing rabbit and we are in the planning phase for other events this upcoming year. We are starting 2014 with 23 rabbits - 5 bucks and 18 does, we will be running American Chinchillas, Silver Foxes, New Zealands, and mixes.
Check out all the information for the 2014 Rabbit CSR on the 'Support Crosstown - Store' page!
Produce: Not my best year ever, but almost made my goal for the CSA. Learned alot and had lots of help and encouragement from other farmers. Grew lots of kale, chard, collards, lettuce, cucumbers and cabbage. Didn't have the variety or quantity that I would have liked, but good food all around anyways! The land is pretty well prepped and ready for 2014, the 2 greenhouses and the hoop house are still up and ready for use (could use some clean up of course!) and the chickens are having a grand time cleaning up the leftovers. I started working at Pigmans Organic Produce Patch in September and am learning tons there. I will NOT be doing a CSA this year. Since I will be working for Pigmans I will be full time plus on their farm and promoting their CSA. I will still be planting a few crops, mostly things that the animals and humans can both make use of.
Home: Jaeden made it through the summer and his first 3 months of high-school - at a school of his choice (he actually had to fill out an application and go to an interview before they let him in!). This summer he was able to go on vacation with my folks and then we went with them for a weekend in Leavenworth, WA just before Christmas. We made wonderful new friends and are looking forward to a great year getting to know people better and be more social. Jaeden is getting more involved in the high school group at church as well as doing more things with folks from the rock hounding group. I am still hoping to do more in the neighborhood and will be focusing more of my time on the main property and hosting events there.
That's a wrap.
So all in all it was a crazy busy, amazingly educational, topsy turvey, whirlwind roller-coaster of a year . . . but that was last year! We have spent the last week or so 'spring cleaning' and organizing - we aren't there yet, not organized or clean by any means, but closer than we were. I've taken time to stop - to just sit down and think about what is key to me. What do I really want to do when I grow up? I don't have an answer for that completely either, but I know better what I don't want to do. There are changes coming . . . changes here at home, changes to Crosstown Farms, changes for us individually. Looking forward to another year of growth and education, of giving back and building up.
I'll leave you with these 4 thoughts to ponder and hopefully help shape your year:
'You have a 100% success rate of surviving really bad days.' unknown
'Success is not final; Failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.' Winston Churchhill
'My imperative is to seek every moment and to live so God is in control.' Joel Salatin
'For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.' Bible, Jeremiah 29:11
It's that time of year when we reconnect with folks that we maybe haven't seen in a while. The standard questions and answers ensue: 'How are you?' "Oh, we're fine- how 'bout you?"; 'It's been a good year- what have you been up to?' "you know, same old thing- work, kids, house stuff" . . . . It's a pretty standard, surface level conversation. Not because we don't care about each other, but in some cases because we do. This is a time of year when all is supposed to be happy and festive, we contact those we haven't talked to in months because we should have months ago and have a reminder now to get in touch. We don't contact them to burden them with the hardships of the past or the struggles of today. We want to hear the good and to share the good.
But what if something is different? What if everything isn't ok? What if the response to 'How are you?' returns "Ok today. Paid the landlord half of the rent that's due for this month, and paid about half on the rest of the bills. That only leaves us with about $100 and if I don't pick up some work soon I don't know what we will do when that runs out. Put in some more applications last week so hopefully will hear back on a job soon!"
What becomes your response then? Do you question further? Do you offer to help? Or do you tell all about your promotion at work and your latest ski trip?
I must admit to being on both sides of that conversation today. Connecting with people that I haven't talked to in a while and not wanting to go into the details of my year or even my current situation; and talking to people who know the situation and tell me to cut the crap when I say everything's fine.
We all have struggles. When we do it's not unusual I don't think to not want to burden others with them. But, as I have been reminded, burdens are lessened when shared.
Back in July I posted to this blog and a little piece of it was:
"The end of March I had to stop taking medication that helped control my bi-polar episodes (a story for a grey winters day) and experience what stopping a narcotic cold turkey is really like, and then learn to manage life without the drugs (an ongoing process). By the end of April I was in the midst of a divorce and trying to manage major changes at home and maintain some sense of stability for the 13 year old that looks to me for it. I allowed these struggles to divert me from my schedule; planting that should have been done in March and April didn't happen until May and June. I managed to make bills (through gifts and grace and savings) for 3 months while I played catch up, working long days to try to get everything back on track. According to my business plan I won't be pulling a wage, even if I had done everything according to plan, for another year at least. I can break even - I can pay for feed and some general expenses, but that's not a living wage. That's not paying rent or keeping the lights on, the water running, all those little necessities. I can put food on the table - that doesn't worry me, but the rest? The rest I consider an epic fail."
That's a part, here's another way to look at it:
In all honesty though that is just the events; that doesn't even begin to describe the long hours of work trying to run a business and take care of animals on top of everything else, the emotional stress, dealing with a pre-teen in turmoil, etc etc.
That's my year. How was yours?
I'll be back later with the flip side! Remember: 'It's all good!'
Today actually started in January, or maybe Febuary, or maybe even last June when I decided to quit my 'real' job and become a 'farmer'. . . but it certainly didn't start when I woke this morning.
This morning? Well this morning I woke late (7am), was worried about a couple of the rabbits yesterday so had stayed up late after having not gotten home for the day until nearly 9:30pm. There was also something in the yard last night, the dog woke me around 2am growling and running to the back door. So being accepting that the dog hears things I don't I got up grabbed some clothes, slipped on my lime green sloggers and met him at the back door. As soon as I opened the door he ran out across the yard, up my compost pile and jumped over the fence, all without a sound. GGRRRR. So back through the house I went into the front yard - only slightly more awake - to find him standing in the middle of my front yard looking quite pleased with himself. But nothing to show for it! I still have no idea what he had gone after.
So anyway .. . when I finally did wake up this morning it was to that panicky feeling of being late. I know your saying: "it was only 7am you couldn't have been that late!" Normally by 7 I am up, have had my coffee and computer time and am outside milking the goats. And besides, today was CSA day - harvest day! I had food to harvest, package and deliver by noon. So I threw on my clothes, woke up my son and ran to get started, only to be stopped cold - literally.
Cold rabbits that is. You see baby rabbits are born hairless and helpless. They can't keep themselves warm, the doe (female rabbit, mother) builds a nest out of hay and fur before she delivers them. Once she has the babies they burrow down in this great nest mom made where they can keep warm until they grow their own coat. Well, a month ago I bred on of our American Chinchilla rabbits, Spinner, and this morning she decided to have her babies. She was one of those rabbits I said earlier I was worried about. Yesterday she had 1 baby outside the nest box on the wire, it was dead when I found it, but she still looked just as big and round as in this picture. So I was waiting, watching and hoping that she would have the rest while I was still up.
She didn't. She had them sometime before 7am. She didn't pull any fur or make any kind of nest for them, she did have them in the nestbox though . . . all 11 of them. Two of them were still born and two of the nine that were left were so cold they were barely moving. I took the nest box out of the cage, grabbed the two cold ones in one hand and tucked them up inside my shirt against my bare belly, grabbed the box with the other hand and headed for the house. Set Jaeden to warming washcloths (15 seconds in the micro, lay over bunch of bunnies while warming up next one, switch, repeat until they are warm and snuggly and holding their own) while I went to milk the goats.
After milking the goats checked on the rest of the rabbits and saw that one of my other does had made a huge nest of fur in her box, but no babies in it yet. I took a big handful of that fur and we snuggled the babies down in that.
By now is was 8:30ish so we (Jaeden is my master assistant on these of all days) left the box of warmish baby bunnies on the kitchen table and drove the 7 miles out to the farm. Harvested Kale, Chard, Lettuce, beets, flowers and collected eggs, fed the chickens and watered the greenhouse. Am frustrated everyweek at how little I have to offer my members, but more on that later. Loaded everything up in the car drove back to the house. Jaeden harvested the rest of the flowers and started making boquets while I finished up the rabbit chores, filling waterbottles and making sure everybody had food. Still no babies in that second nest box.
My intern had arrived while we were out at the farm and she helped me gather all the herbs needed for the CSA bags. I then showed her how to flesh hides and set her to working through a bucket of hides that needed to be processed. By now it is 11ish.
Jaeden & I put together the CSA bags for delivery, combining what we harvested with what other gardeners donated and loaded up the car. One more bunny check: Spinners litter of nine are holding their own heat, Miko (the one that pulled all the fur we borrowed) still didn't have any kits. Quick email off to the CSA group, then left to deliver actually deliver. Arrived at the CSA drop site at Noon - most of the members were already lined up outside with their bags in hand. They really are a great group! Its a quick drop off, return trip home and arrived before 1.
Switched gears and headed out to help with the hide cleaning. We worked through 11 hides by about 2:30 at which time I remembered (thanks to alarm settings on electronic calendars) that I had a 4 pm meeting. Somewhere during all of this Miko had her babies - 13 of them . . . well, maybe. There most definately are 13 babies in the nest box, but 7 are black & white, 6 are solid. It is possible they are all hers; she is a White New Zealand and I bred her to a Black Silver Fox . . . but, her roommate is due tomorrow night - with full blooded American Chinchillas. It's hard to say right now, but I am thinking that Nia, Miko's Am. Chinchilla cagemate, had her babies early and just made use of the huge nest that Miko made. So while I cleaned up from the cleaning hides, Jaeden did bunny checks, passed out cold ceramic tiles to everyone and refilled water bottles.
I meanwhile was trying to herd the baby chickens and Henny Penny back into their run - did I mention earlier that for some reason I decided it would be ok to let them loose in the yard for the afternoon? Let me tell you two week old chicks are fast! Caught momma hen just fine - no problem other than she screamed like crazy and sent all the babies diving for the bushes - the raspberry bushes - that grow along my neighbors fence - chain link fence - that 2 week old chicks can fit through. Yep! While this 40 year old, two 20 somethings and a 13 year old were trying to round up 10 baby chicks one spooked the wrong way and went through the fence into the neighbors yard. Of course by the time Jaeden and I had gone around the block to the neighbors house (back yard neighbor of course), rousted him out of bed (he works nights) so we could get into his back yard, then searched all over his heavily bushed back yard . . . of course by that time the wee little chick had found its own way back into our yard! By now its 3:30ish.
So the intern and her friend (the second 20 something that was helping catch the chicks) headed home; my dear friend picked up Jaeden (he is going to Canada with her family for the next 4 days) and I grabbed my stuff and headed for my meeting.
I know this is getting long - I never claimed to be a good writer - but really, keep reading I will get to the point. Besides isn't it great to see what is considered a 'normal' day for someone else?
Shift gears again - a little bakground: back in January I started taking a business class. Specifically a Agri-prenuers class. Yep, somebody (an amazing group called Enterprise for Equity) had the bright idea that maybe they should teach farmers, ranchers and all other foodie folks how to actually run a business. Great plan, really intensive class that is designed to make folks like me that don't like to commit things to paper or work out the details do exactly that. They end product of the class? A business plan, with projected incomes, expenses and all the details of "You want to do what? How are you going to make that work?" The class ran through March, we had into April to turn in our business plan, tonight was a followup and prep for our graduation (a community event) the is the 21st of August. Tonight was when we got to tell everyone what inspires us in our business, what we see for the future and what our needs are. Tonight is when I cried. Tonight is when I told this group of sucessful and struggling, strong and independent business people, friends, that I might well lose the very thing that inspires me.
I spent three months grinding out details, making a plan, pushing for a goal. . . .I spent three months struggling and watching it start to come apart at the seams. The end of March I had to stop taking medication that helped control my bi-polar episodes (a story for a grey winters day) and experience what stopping a narcotic cold turkey is really like, and then learn to manage life without the drugs (an ongoing process). By the end of April I was in the midst of a divorce and trying to manage major changes at home and maintain some sense of stability for the 13 year old that looks to me for it. I allowed these struggles to divert me from my schedule; planting that should have been done in March and April didn't happen until May and June. I managed to make bills (through gifts and grace and savings) for 3 months while I played catch up, working long days to try to get everything back on track. According to my business plan I won't be pulling a wage, even if I had done everything according to plan, for another year at least. I can break even - I can pay for feed and some general expenses, but thats not a living wage. Thats not paying rent or keeping the lights on, the water running, all those little necessities. I can put food on the table - that doesn't worry me, but the rest? The rest I consider an epic fail. I fear I might lose this place we call home, this is a rental. . . I don't own it and can't pay for it. The owner has every right to tell us to move on . . . I have gracious friends who will allow us to live on their property (at least temporarily) with all our animals . . . but what then of Crosstown Farms? What of Urban Ag and producing your own food in an urban environment? What of my constant statements "you don't have to have acreage to grow food!"? How does that work if I am living on acreage in the country? What about that vision, our future? So tonight at class did I say all this? No. When I tried to articulate what inspires me in my business, what I see for the future and what my needs are . . . I cried.
And got nothing negative back from anyone there. They know. They struggle. They have family, needs, bills. Is their journey the same as mine? No. But they've been down their own path with all the pitfalls.
After class I talked with several members of the group individually and explained my stumbling blocks, my failures. And got back encouragement, suggestions, leads and work. Not for pay, not yet, but this time for produce - a swap, or partnership really - I work for them for extras for my CSA folks. Its a win win. I learn how they managed their schedule and methods, they get free help and an outlet for extra produce and possible new customers, my CSA members get other types of produce that I wasn't able to grow.
Left feeling hopeful.
Got home and grabbed the mail had a largish unexpected package. I opened it up and there was this book "Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a North Michigan Farm". I broke out laughing . . .and crying! Having no idea what today would bring my amazing entrepreneur and author sister (check out OurDailyToast.com) put this book in the mail a few days back. Today, here & now it was the perfect fit and I can't wait to read it!
I still have a ton of things to do that I didn't get done today, they will still be there tomorrow.
Checked the animals, milked the goats, collected the eggs, the rabbits are doing good - even the babies! There were 22 born today, 7 yesterday and 4 a week ago.
So, did today truly start just this morning when I woke up late? Did it start a month ago when I bred those rabbits? Did it start back in February when I advertised that I was going to do a CSA and people invested in my 'farm'? Did it start in December when I signed up for the business class? Or was it last year when I quit my job, or even the year before when I first tried gardening for other people? Not sure when it started, but today - like yesterday and tomorrow - is just a tiny tiny piece in this masterpiece that is being built.
I re-learn everyday that there is a community out there! There are people that care and support and struggle right alongside each of us. Sometimes our paths cross daily. Sometimes we may never meet them in person. But they are there, walking step for step . . . not in our shoes or on our path - that is meant for us alone, but in their own parallel struggles and joys.
There is always hope for the future, I can't wait to look back from some tomorrow and be able to point to today as the starting point.
I have had many questions recently regarding my rabbit setup and how I process. There will be more thorough posts coming soon, but here is the brief overview that I have been typing in emails!
My rabbits are raised in group cages so they have interaction with other rabbits. They have unlimited access to pelleted feed and water, additionally are given greens from the garden or given time in large pens on grass. Two to three does are generally housed together, one bred at a time. The kits are raised with the does until they are about 6 weeks old, then moved into growout pens. The kits are processed between 10-12 weeks old (between 5-6 pounds). The process is very quick, and hopefully pain free. I use the cervical dislocation method, I feel that this method gives me the most control of the animal no matter their size and assures me of a quick end. Once the neck is broken the heads are immediately removed and they are bled out into a waste bin; hides are removed whole for later use; internal organs and feet are then removed to the waste bin. The whole rabbit is then rinsed and soaked in cold water. Once the whole batch of rabbits are processed they are each washed thoroughly packaged, weighed, and refrigerated.
There's the super quick start to finish - more to come soon with pictures!