Monday, December 2, 2013

A Visit to Green Machine Farm

We had a great thanksgiving at Sarah and Erik's house in Minneapolis. The day after thanksgiving we bundled up and tumbled into the car for a drive down to Zumbrota, Minnesota to visit Lee's sister Cathy on their new family farm.

Cathy and her husband JA have lived most of their lives in the small town of Fayette, Missouri, not far from Columbia, where we raised our kids. They raised their family in Fayette, trying their hand at farming off and on. JA's family had lived in Fayette for generations, as had many of Lee and Cathy's relatives. JA had never lived anywhere else.

Their oldest son, Andrew, has farming in his blood. He is a creative, innovative guy, interested in organic farming and raising cage free chickens and grass fed beef. He and his parents started talking. Where could they move in the US, to a progressive state with inexpensive land and a ready market for healthy food? Where could they go and live out this farming dream? The decision was made to purchase an old farm in Minnesota.

Andrew has a wonderful blog, Green Machine Farm, all about the trials and adventures involved in starting up a farm on land that has been neglected for many years. I love reading about this new life they are building together. How to renovate an old barn, how to feed and water the livestock, how to start an organic garden, these are things I know little to nothing about. It's like reading an adventure blog about a strange and exotic land!

The trouble with farming, and the reason I would make a terrible farmer, is the awful uncertainty involved in every step. I like at least the illusion of control in my life, but if you  are a farmer you are confronted daily with so many things that are out of your hands. Will we get enough rain? Will the animals stay healthy? Will the cows try to run away? Will the dogs eat the turkeys? (What??yes...). All these unforeseen things can and do happen to farmers. It takes a calmer and more sanguine personality than mine. Those of us that get stressed out making the pies for thanksgiving could never handle farming.

It was so much fun seeing this farm I had read so much about in person. After a yummy lunch of turkey soup and Cathy's delicious homemade bread, we headed outside in the brisk Minnesota weather to see the farm.

It was a bright sunny day, with a good stiff breeze. One of the challenges last year for these transplanted Missourians was the cold and snow of a Minnesota winter. This year they feel more prepared, with a tractor with a large snow blower attachment, and more appropriate clothing too.

We headed over to what remained of their turkeys, a graveyard of feathers. Some visiting dogs that shall remain nameless made short work of their turkey flock the day before thanksgiving. This was terrible, of course, and at the same time weirdly funny, in a horrible sort of way. All we could say as we viewed the sea of turkey feathers was "oh my God, " in an awed whisper.

Then we went over to meet the pigs. Pigs are smart and are full of personality. Their piggy little faces viewed my camera curiously and then turned away, back to their lunch. Pigs are the one farm animal I'm a little conflicted about eating, but that grass fed pork is so, so delicious, I have no intention of giving it up. I guess I should say a little prayer of thanks to the Pork God before consuming my next slice of bacon, or something.

We walked up the hill to where Cathy and JA plan to build their house next year. Right now they are living with Andrew and Calina in the old farm house but as soon as the ground thaws next spring they will start on a house of their own. They will have a lovely view from their back porch.

We watched Andrew let the chickens out into the yard to scratch and sniff around. Chickens are not very bright. I have no trouble eating them, or their eggs. They are funny and colorful though, nice for snapping a picture or two.

All too soon it was time to say goodbye and head back to Minneapolis. Now when I read Andrew's blog I will be able to picture the actual farm-in-progress that I saw on a cold November day. Hopefully we will return periodically and can see all the changes that are sure to occur. I love farming, but only vicariously! I'll stick to my flowers and tomatoes. That's all the farming I want to do.


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