Billy For Sale

Hey everyone! We’ve had some early kidding, and because we had a single male breed the entire herd, we can’t use his bloodline moving forward. We call him Beef, he’s going on 2 years, and you can see from his kids (two healthy boys and a girl so far) that he is a successful sire. He’s on the small side for an Alpine mix, but he will grow a little more over the next year or two. He’s a great goat, very sweet, bottle raised, handles easy and has always been gentle on his ladies, probably because most of them are just a little taller than him. If you’re interested, just send me an email: writeractorfarmer@gmail.com  and we can discuss what kind of home you’re offering, and pricing. Here are some pics of my man taken on 3/7/20:

He’s been raised around electric fencing and obeys it perfectly. His female offspring should be good milkers for his part. Beef is special to us, so fair warning, I’m going to have some questions about your set up, and pictures of your barn and pasture would be great, I can also offer to deliver him if you’re close by, we’re located in Cherryville, NC. Thanks!

Chickeninity

I forgot how much this work likes to graffiti your hands and wrists, and, even in the off season, we all started getting poison ivy again. I figured it out. It’s coming in with the firewood. I’ve spent hours at a time just working and lingering in my pasture, one among the herd of eleven goats, and I discovered hoof issues, an abscess, and two, at my best estimate, a week from giving birth. Five more to kid after them, fingers crossed.

I built a new chicken coop in that time. Spent eight hours cutting midsized White Oaks and tracing them with a draw-blade until they were nude and pink. Night before last, around eight fifteen, Roan was in bed, my wife and I went out and carried every one of twenty five chickens to the new coop. After having helped me with this chore, she no longer eats chicken. For now. It is an ever-intimate experience holding a helpless animal in your arms that fully believes you are about to end it. I’ve been in this game a while though. I tuck one like a football between my belly and elbow and grab the other one by its feet dangling upside down so that I can carry two at a time. I care for the animals, I do, enough to separate my humanity from their chickeninity. It’s an awkward situation. I believe until that terrible day comes, the birds really just want their basic needs met and enough space to be left alone to chicken. I built that for them. It’s the best coop I’ve ever made.

Every chore was a domino in succession. Knocking that one out freed up the next old, disgusting, decade worth of shit filled domino to fall. A half an old tractor shed sequestered off a decade ago to put chickens in. It was hard, I’m still coughing up dust that probably has particles of my grandfather in it, but at the end of the day, the goats essentially lost a disgusting neighbor, annexed and upgraded their condominium and now have a whole building to themselves, to hopefully fill it up with healthy babies.

Having land is one thing, but going out and spending time there is the only way to keep it.

Strange Cats

Morning birds. Belting toads. Cats I’ve never laid eyes on before.
Coming out of the woodwork. Back barn repair and expansion
and tailend of firewood season starts every garden. In my head.
Out the window the other day saw a young chicken eating another one.
Hawk picked the bones clean clean down to her shoulders.
I buried the rest of her.
Fragrant mud.
Clean pajamas.

Farmers Can’t Eat Their Losses. We do.

Farming is the ultimate brick and mortar business. And look at what our economy does to brick and mortar businesses. Well, that’s happening to the farmer, except they can’t quietly shut down one franchise at a time like Blockbuster, they actually provide an essential product. So starting last century, we’ve been subsidizing a dying industry. Agriculture can not eat its losses. It is one hundred percent weather dependent. When the season goes sour, their already razor thin profit margins cut into the red the way a creek disobeys its banks, on average, at least twice a year. There is no level of innovation, no new work model, no new equipment or genetic manipulation that can change this. It is the very nature of mining the surface of the earth for minerals and nutrients that can only be expressed through very particular organisms who can only survive in very very particular environmental conditions. You want to talk about a moving target, well farming would be much easier if it were as simple as a single moving target, but it’s hundreds overlapping, running, breaking down fences and catching new-barn pneumonia and newborn flowers wilting in overdue frost.

I’ve said it before, and people have laughed at me, and argued with me, but if you could run a farming operation and end up back exactly where you started, no profit, but no debt, no eaten expense, just right back at zero, you’d be one of the most productive and outstanding farms that exists in this country today. That’s not to admonish the bar for being set so low, it’s a recognition that all agricultural production is an exchange of real estate. Shipping out corn, beef, eggs, milk, is an exportation of land, of local space, minerals and resources, a bad season, a reduced return, can’t be accommodated, not even once. Essentially, a farmer is left only with the option to repurchase their most basic, essential asset, the vitality of their land, year after year, when their predetermined, artificially reduced pricing doesn’t yield enough to return what was taken from the fields, or to clean out what contaminated the barns, or to replace the good grass in neglected pastures.

Farmers can’t eat their losses. The American people do.

I get to choose

My grandpa only ever knew me as a little boy. I only knew him as an old man. But every day I work on his land, I stand under his trees, hold his soil in my hand and watch it drift away in the breeze, he knows. He sees.

I’m no longer a little boy.

The old man is buried beside a church in town.

But when we pick up antiques and put them to work, when we give our backs to what we’ll never get back, we can no longer call it memory.

Eternal life might be secondary to eternal use.

That’s why I prefer stories to memories.

Anytime I get to choose.

On Us

At some point, you submit. If it is happening this way, then it is on purpose, there was never any other order of things. I don’t know what this is, just what it isn’t, and primarily, this is not an accident. I know that is hard to read. I’ve lost people. I’ve failed at things. I know you may have told yourself it was a deviation from the plan, but it wasn’t. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and God what is God’s. And blame for the things we do to one another falls in no way on the divine. Though the humans who use them would have you believe it’s out of their hands, all weapons are shaped for them. A thousand ways to feel washed clean. One form of filth.

The only sin is born in a decision you know you shouldn’t make as you make it. That’s it.
It has always been up to you. No matter how fervently you deny it.

Maybe God made a lumpy rock with saltwater licking shorelines. But it did not invent America. Or life. Or humans. Or the disgusting way a millipede’s legs all work together in waves.

Maybe God invented the perfect atom, brick, building block, with just enough consciousness written within, that this brick is one part mason, one part chemist, one part pragmatic technician, one part way back in the rear, engineer. Brick all the same.

Which would mean we truly own our choices.
Our hardfought, often unnested consequences.

I know this hurts. But we are doing this to ourselves.

I blame God for creating potential.
But this, reality, all of this.

This is on us.

Splinters

Little board sliver slithers soft forked maple fangs into the palm of my hand.
It bit me. This thing I am ripping. Stripping.
Nibbling no more than an eighth an inch a pass.
Snake maple.
Spider poplar.
Rabid dog mahogany.
Cherry red in the tooth.
Knotty walnut.
Creamy peanut butter pine
with rotten streaks of jelly.

No One Hears It

My mom says I love you with her hands.
She spells it out for us. With her smile. With her eyes.
My mom doesn’t say anything unless she believes it is true.

Mom walks out of her room in pajamas at nine thirty on Sunday morning
we all know what it means.

Like a brim that wiggled off the hook but kept the bait.
We sleep in the results of the decisions she makes.
Answered prayers. Skipping church.

My mom has climbed into every trench with me chucked a grenade overhead
and charged the enemy inside me. There is no moment in existence more poignant
than when your parent looks at you honestly afraid and asks ‘what’s next?’

Life. Robin. The early bird who could not wait to get to us. Robin.
Egg cracked many months too early. You knew to hurry and get to her.
You carried her to us like a robin fills the little yellow triangles chirping in her nest.

My mom is her mom.
My mom had to also be my grandma.
Before she was ready. She was handed a burden
I will never in my lifetime be strong enough to bear.

Because my mom is here.
She fights for it.
She outpours it.

She says I love you with her hands. Some fingers bend and others straighten.
She spells it out. My mom shouts I love you across the room.

And no one hears it.
But her children.

The Stage – New Paint

Each scuff on the stage is some poor character’s misstep.
Clunky unfamiliar shoes. Heavy heeled.
Scarred the thick black matte some poor soul was paid to paint.
So many scuffs in the same space seem to create a scar.
A gouge. A place gone bare.
Where now the plywood can be seen.
Winking.
Like a relative.
Like a minister of some kind closing only one eye with a headnod.

A family made up solely of the unfamiliar.
Strangers. Who share blood. When we squeeze the egg.
Globs of it left out glistening on the floor.

So many scars and you start to see real damage.
Splintered fibrous tissue torn up through the paint.
Same missteps.
Sudden stops.
Wide eyed wonder and anchor jawed acknowledgment.
Brakes struck down through the boots now officially digging into the structure.
The lumber-boned and lead-skinned body of our theater. Footsteps.
Stumbles. Outright tumbles. Foot falls. Close calls.

Memory.

So many misdirected footsteps wearing unfamiliar shoes.

Then new paint.

What is new paint put up against the past.
Scuffed. Broken. Peeled up.

But if we didn’t paint it every year
there’d be no stage left.