Sweet success…the ultimate dream…the thing we strive for day after day. But what exactly is success? Who determines it, and why does it always seem out of reach? When we are in the thick of our season at Three Forks, it is often hard to view things as a success when they appear to come at the loss of something else. This season has been the busiest yet and though I used to think early spring was our busy time with the set up, we never experienced a true lull in our schedule this summer and the day to day work definitely took its toll…on all of us.
Being a farmer is great; I log many outdoor hours in the sun (and rain this year), I witness many beautiful sunrises and sunsets and I am fortunate to be attending two farmers markets where I can converse with other vendors and share my bit of knowledge on farming with you, our valued customers. But with each success I have learned that I must let something else go in order to make room for that success. When I try to manage it all, nothing flourishes to its full potential.
I had large visions of staying ahead of the weeds this summer…ha! And having our laying hens move on a neat pasture rotation around the property. I thought our pigs would forever be over indulging on lush grasses and that the chickens would follow a predictable growth pattern because I had so carefully scheduled our processing dates back in March. We were following a strict feeding schedule measuring and calculating the exact amount of feed that should be given each week. It was going to be busy I knew that but I thought I was prepared. But this is where reality steps in to educate me.
In truth, the grass is knee high in sections of the garden, the laying hens got bored of their little sections of yard, have gone completely rogue and have literally flown the coop, and the pigs have had to be a little patient as we are constantly trying to stay ahead of them on pasture rotation (they are just such ravenous consumers this year). To top it all, our chickens, despite careful planning and recording of their weekly growth rates, they all grew at their own rate and all three flocks progressed differently. How dare they!
All of this and yet nothing has failed, they are just variations in what I was hoping would be a streamline operation. Where I managed to weed I have harvested some of the best broccoli, cabbage and snow peas that I have ever grown and my carrots are incredible. I don’t have a melon or tomato to boast of but potatoes and pumpkins are definitely abundant.
Our laying hens have dark yellow yolks and light, fluffy whites that are unlike any other egg I have tasted and though they can be annoying trailing my every maneuver, I feel good knowing that they are creating such a rich, nutritious food for us by consuming 90% of their diet from my garden and surrounding grounds.
The pigs are healthy, fat and robust and we are so impressed that we are planning to keep a few for breeding purposes. This year was the first time we have seen the difference that good genetics can make in breeding livestock and it has been a really eye opening experience.
And lastly our broiler chickens, this year has been yet another steep learning curve for us as we have learned to manage multiple flocks and all the logistics that come with it. And though we have hit a few bumps along the way, we managed to raise 1200 chickens and we still like doing it!
So why is it so hard to sit back and relish in what should be considered overwhelming success. Well, I can’t say, maybe it is similar to the artist being her own worst critic? I have a lot of ideas of how things should look, and sometimes I can be a little stubborn about changing that view. It is now, that I begin to don my ‘graduation goggles’, (‘The relief and nostalgic feeling one has about a time in their life when it is about to end, even if the time was completely miserable’ – urban dictionary.com) that I can consider the true success of the season. There is still work to be done; there are animals to be cared for, tools to be put away, veggies to be picked and preserved and an embarrassing amount of grass to be pulled. And to be sure, when one job is completed I will find three more to add to the list. But that is the reality of being a farmer, and success comes in facing each day with a renewed sense of energy and determination to keep working and growing the farm into those ideal visions I so stubbornly cling to.
So was 2017 a success….heck yes it was! and there is more to come. But before I dive into this next phase, let me take a few moments wearing my graduation goggles to soak up the last breath of the season.