I got a laugh a couple of weeks ago from something a friend said. He said something to the effect that “He was impressed at what keeps getting accomplished out here on the farm especially considering my “young” age.” The reference was, as others have said, that it is funny how many times I have said that the farm is “finished” and no sooner is that project done than another one pops up in my head and is made manifest here on the land. Part of that comes from the fact that the work here, if you have never done it, is butt bustin’ stuff. It leaves you pretty spent, especially the necessary infrastructure. Every time I said it, I thought I meant it. This time though……….. I have had many signals from said universe (and my wife) to tell me it is time to stop the building and live in the creation. So that is exactly what I now intend to do.
You see, I was sitting down in the craft room contemplating my next weaving project, when it hit me; “This is how a farm is built!” I was looking at a book that uses a weaving style called “Overshot”. To describe it in painting terms we will use the idea of a blank canvas upon which your Monet masterpiece will be brought upon the earth. You start with a blank canvas, you dream something up, and then you start smearing paint all over it hoping something cool emerges (It might not get discovered until after you are dead, but that is beside the point). In weaving Overshot, you actually weave the canvas while weaving the pattern at the same time. So at the end, you not only have the canvas, but you also have the painting. If you think in terms of needlepoint, the artist starts with a blank mesh base to begin from and the stitches form the image as she sews through it. In Overshot, you are creating the blank mesh AND the picture all at once. THAT is building a farm and a homestead. In our case, we started with nothing and as we went along over the past 8 years, we built the canvas (infrastructure) while at the same time allowing the painting to emerge as we built. For instance, the first infrastructure we built was our chicken coup. There was nothing else here but a house and garage. We wanted chickens so we built that piece of the canvas and the painting was the actual chickens themselves. We wanted a big garden and a greenhouse, so we built it (canvas) now have a big garden and a greenhouse (painting). We wanted goats, turkeys, donkeys and pigs, the canvas was fencing and a barn and corrals. We want to rotationally graze animals and incorporate Permaculture principles (irrigation, water catchment and fencing (canvas), having those things incorporated into our farm (painting). You get the idea. The painting and canvas emerge evolutionarily together as you proceed. The funniest rookies I’ve seen online are those that get the animals, bring them to their property and then scramble to house them because they did nothing with the canvas portion first! It is quite the experience to watch someone buy a cow (a 1200 pound creature), and then scramble to figure out how to keep them from escaping! Happens here all the time.
So that is where the comments came from about being “done”. The continuation of the canvas building was because there was something about it that lacked “closure” and that is definitely where I am now – Creating closure. In this past year, while everyone was scrambling for toilet paper, I was out building fences. Aaron and I built the garden fencing during the beginning of the lock-downs. He helped me until he went back up to school, to build the north pasture so we could rotationally graze. When he left, I continued to build the canvas on my own. Now it is on to the closure, both physically and metaphorically. Our property is a big 40 acre rectangle. The portion we use as our homestead is about 15 acres and we lease the back acres out to a farmer that lives across the road, who grows wheat. The way the canvas developed was from the road to our west and then back towards the east. This wasn’t exactly planned, but the shape of the place lent itself to nice 90 degree angles. So nearest the road are the two big pastures. One has the livestock barn, the other is the new grazing pasture. Come back closer to the house and on one side is the garden and greenhouse, on the other side of the driveway is the boy goat pasture, chicken coops and pig pen. In the middle of it all sits the house and garage (which were the only things on the place when we got it). All of this forms 3 sides of a rectangle. But the 4th side is open to the back 30 and then out into thousands of acres of grass prairie. On top of all of that, for all the critters we have and have made the canvas very comfortable for (they aren’t crowded, they lack for nothing, they all have shelter, etc), our dogs don’t have that luxury. Sure they have a hut and a pen, but so they can range and sniff and do dog stuff, I have to be out there with them. The canvas is incomplete. By closing the back side in, they will have 5 acres to run around on.
If you have never lived in a rural setting, people are a little weird about their dogs. They seem to think that it is ok to let them out and then not worry about what they are getting into or where they have gone. Our neighbors are no different. To our north, the family goes to work in the morning and they leave old FIDO out to roam around at will, which usually means he/she comes through the Piece O Crap barbed wire fence over to our place. Having the back side of the canvas unfenced leaves unfettered access to our place for said foreign critters. Being the more responsible adult in the room, I will not have my dogs returning the favor. With this final closing off of the back side of the 15 acres, the dogs can run themselves stupid and I will never have to wonder where they ran off to. In addition, should any of our other critters manage to escape their pastures (Think goats. They are escape artists that can get past you and out into open field before it even registers in your head that they escaped) they will encounter a redundancy. Nothing can get out without permission. Trust me, I over build everything. The pens are all made with fencing designed to keep horses in and this last side is fencing used for cattle. Unless they are high jumpers, they are staying put!
So I have embarked on what will definitely be the last fencing project (The completion of the canvas). YES I MEAN IT! Fence building is ball busting work, and I have to admit that at 58 years old, this construction stuff is getting just a bit too painful. The last fence closes off the back of the farm and completes a very nice symmetrical canvas with an incredibly cool painting on it that we now get to interact with for the rest of our lives.
Not only did this make sense from a physical standpoint, it was very nicely balanced emotionally as well. When I started this last fencing, I had in mind not only to square off the canvas of the farm, but to have it done by the end of March. You see, the end of March 4 years ago, was when I sold my practice and left work. Unfortunately, 3 months later I was in for surgery and that sidelined about a year or so of canvas building; but, 4 years, to me, was a nice square number to finish the construction career. This last fence is the closing off of the farm, the framing of the painting, and with any luck, the walking away from this psychotic society. A good online friend once said, “I don’t understand the world anymore, so I am opting out.” That is where I am. The metaphor of closing off the farm, living in the painting, and opting out of an insanity that I have no power to cure, works for me. If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time, you have seen what we’ve accomplished. At this point, modesty be damned (thus referencing the injured knee picture) I did it, I am proud as hell of it, and what it can provide and bottom line, we certainly deserve it. For those who have said they are jealous of it….. success comes with blood, sweat, and tears. This is the culmination of a 30 year career, dashed dreams and the emergence of what we consider to be a fantastic success. To quote the movie “The Incredibles” – ‘Luck favors the prepared, darling.’ People are often envious of sports figures who seem to be able to effortlessly perform their chosen activity. What they ignore are the thousands of hours of practice and drilling that got them to that point. Make no mistake, I am a black belt in farm building. We are not novices. We earned the scars and now we have earned this closure.
As of tomorrow I will have hand pounded in another 90 fence posts along 900 feet of fence line. My little tractor just wasn’t up to the task of drilling the holes for the wooden posts so I actually hired that done. A local friend came out with his huge skid steer and punched the holes. What would have taken me 2 days, he did in less than an hour. Well worth the money. The gas powered post driver I bought in order to give my shoulders some relief from the relentless pounding of steel posts (when this fence is complete it will mark almost one full mile of fencing installed by yours truly) gave up the ghost after a dozen – #screwTitanpostdrivers. It seems that it is always better to either do it yourself, or work with someone local. This machine was a complete piece of crap. Oh well, as it really is the last fence construction to be done here, as of tomorrow, I will have no need of it. We are expecting what could be the biggest snow storm here in 9 years this weekend, so my shoulders will get a chance to heal before the actual stringing of the fencing commences (We’ll see about that snow prediction, we had the bomb cyclone here a couple of years back and that sucker was no slouch. If it bests that, thank god we are Preppers!)
During the snowstorm, should it transpire, it will be the perfect time to transplant this year’s seeding, fire up the grow lamps, make Mozzarella cheese, and contemplate my next weaving project….. perhaps a nice Overshot.
“Plant like your life depends on it. Because it does.” – Collette O’Neil, Bealtine Cottage, Ireland