Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas, 2007

Christmas day. It’s nearly noon and it’s been a good morning. Santa dropped by sometime after 3AM (!) and brought especially fun spy gear for Dylan this year. That Santa certainly has our son’s number – walkie-talkie wrist watches and eye-link communicators and even a special briefcase with a secret compartment and shooting darts.

But now the men have retreated into the man cave, each claiming a screen for himself – Dylan is trying out his HP Order of the Phoenix computer game (courtesy of Elise and Robert) and Mark is beginning what will surely turn into a months-long marathon of Kung Fu watching (courtesy of Nana).

Jessie is working on the lamb bones Santa brought him (a request via Dylan) out in the driveway and the hens are enjoying their Christmas gift of total free range. I think the cats are a little miffed overall by their recognition that their morning was entirely stocking-free.

And, in direct violation of my demand for no gifts, my family instead showered me with wonderful kitchen-related items and even new Keens! I’ve decided a no-gift policy is definitely the most rewarding strategy. ;-)

But, it’s not just been a good morning. Perhaps the greatest gift is that of a very good year. 2007 has been a year of quiet hard work and settling in. As chronicled erratically herein, we started the year out with a fresh batch of fragile new chicks, took a European vacation of a lifetime and saw our dear Nadia get married, and finished up the calendar by beginning to realize our dream of a viable farm enterprise. These same chickens, almost a year old now and fat and beautiful under their roosterless lifestyle, now produce the most gorgeous eggs imaginable. A dozen or more a day with ready buyers all around us, scooping them up at the driveway’s end and leaving sometimes more money than requested.

I see now that laying hens are truly the backbone of any small farm. They form the foundation that allows you to build and experiment. They need little, are joyous to watch, and produce for you a product that nearly everyone not only wants but covets. I read just yesterday that eggs contain all the essential nutrients needed for our survival save Vitamin C. That is truly amazing. They are little miracles, these girls, and I am grateful for and to them. I feed them the very best food I can and I try to keep them happy. Other than that, they do the rest.

So, as the hens begin to pay not only their own way but part of the sheep’s way, we can begin to plan and focus on other aspects of what Stop Sign Farm might grow up to be. It means our mistake of underworming the new lambs is not as devastating as it otherwise might be, that we can afford to keep our meat around for another few months while we get them healthy again and not gnaw our knuckles to bloody nubs about the cost of hay.

Probably the most important epiphany, farm-wise, has come about slowly and mostly recently. Contrary to our impressions at the very outset, it is clear that it is animal product, meat and eggs, that people here are most interested in. Selling the beautiful fleece has been an absolute thorn in my side, but I could sell 10 lambs worth of meat today if I had it. Everyone wants to buy hand-raised lamb and farm-fresh rainbow eggs. People I would have pegged as pseudo vegetarians practically rush for their checkbooks the minute I start talking about getting near slaughter time. It’s very interesting. I think there are more people like me than I realized – who want to eat meat, just good healthy meat, raised and killed humanely so that we’re not just the last stop on a factory conveyer belt spitting out death.

As 2007 draws to a close, however, my father’s health is at an all-time low. He lies in St. Michael’s hospital 7 days after his triple by-pass and valve replacement surgery. It’s been up and down, but today was awful, with his lungs having to be aspirated of the fluid that’s built up and his thoughts turning to giving up. This had been my secret fear – much like my mom, my dad has little experience “being sick” and I was worried he wouldn’t work through it well. I hope we wake up tomorrow w/both my parents still on this earth.