Monthly Archives: July 2009

Chooks

Yesterday was a blistering 108 degrees in the mid-Willamette Valley, so I betook myself to the OSU Library to borrow some air-conditioned comfort.  While there, I decided to undertake a little project.  I located a bunch of farming books from pre-1959, and settled in to see what I could learn.

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See, here’s the deal.  I know all about modern farming.  I have a degree in it.

I have a great appreciation for the advancements in science and knowledge that have augmented farm production in this day and age.  But the more I stop and think about industrial farming, the sadder I become.  There’s something just not quite right about a lot of our methods, and these old forgotten books are helping me put my finger on it.

I cracked open that book up there [Practical Poultry Management by James E. Rice and Harold E. Botsford, copyright 1956]  and was immediately struck by what I read on the first page.  Italics added by yours truly for emphasis.

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Brooding is one of the poultryman’s most interesting types of work.  The thrill of placing chicks under brooders and watching them develop is well-nigh universal.

It is cheaper than buying pullets of the same age.  Furthermore, it is more fun.

To such as this, brooding chicks is a joy….

…the end result is likely to be satisfactory to both chicks and attendant.

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Every single one of these books speaks of the joy of watching your animals grow healthy and strong.  Doesn’t it seem like that is missing in modern industrial agriculture? I promise you, no one at Tyson Food, Inc. is experiencing much fun or  joy in watching your Chicken McNuggets grow up.

Lest you think these books were written by kooks, I assure you…these are college textbooks published by eminent Cornell agriculture professors of the 1950’s.

Come over to my house and crack open some of my Animal Science textbooks from 2006.  You won’t see a single word about the joy or satisfaction of raising healthy animals.

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This handsome book was published in 1895.  [Don’t try to buy it, it’ll set you back $150 these days]

Get a load of this quote!

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It may be assumed, therefore, that we do not advocate the keeping of fowls in unhealthy places, and that unless there can be provided a reasonable amount of open space, a light, comfortable, dry and well ventilated house, it is much better to do without the birds altogether, and trust to buying eggs from those who have more favourable opportunities for keeping them. (Profitable Poultry Keeping, Stephen Beale, 1895)

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So, you decide.  Which birds look like they are experiencing the more favourable opportunity?

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I think it might be time for modern-day farmers to dust off those old textbooks and remember some of the values of the 1950’s.

And in the meantime: trust to buying your eggs [and meat] from those who have more favourable opportunities for keeping them.

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(Almost) a Quarter-Century

In 6 days, I’ll be 25 years old.  25!  Now I can start having quarter-life crises (or maybe I already had one, and that’s why I’m abandoning conventionality and starting a farm). Now I can rent cars.  Now I can get a cheaper rate on my car insurance, ’cause now I’m all kinds of responsible.  Now I can look up from my book and see 30 looming in my face.  Aaaghh!

The best thing that has happened to me so far (and I haven’t even had my birthday yet), are the big packages that keep arriving on my doorstep from my Mommy.  In the first one, I got this:

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Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy, by Lynley Dodd!  This was one of the best children’s books I had, growing up  in New Zealand!

The next package contained these:

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Family Friendly Farming and Salad Bar Beef, by Joel Salatin

And more adventures of Hairy Maclary in Slinky Malinki and Hairy Maclary Scattercat.

And this:

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You Can Farm by Joel Salatin.    Complete with yours truly in a cowboy hat and a sundress.  Quintessential me.

And last, but not least:

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The Good Neighbors!!  Remember them?!

Thanks Mom!  Also, thanks for taking all those daily walks, abstaining from coffee and chocolate chip cookies, and devouring all those What to Expect when You’re Expecting books 25 years ago.  It must have worked, cuz I’m still alive to see a quarter of a century.

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Hay! That’s What I Make, I Make a Lotta Hay for a Little Pay!

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It’s hay-making time around here, and I’m loving it.  Our drive home from Newberg on Sunday was scented with the sweet, heady smell of mowed grass.  The sun glinted firey orange off barns as it slid behind the Cascades, and we drove with arms out the windows, holding onto summer.

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Legacy

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This past weekend saw more than 75 people descend on the little town of Lakeview, Oregon.  They traveled from five different states, and represented more than fifteen cities.  What they all had in common was relation to that handsome man in the cowboy hat:  my maternal grandfather, Russell Mike Dillavou.

Grandad raised eight kids in Lakeview, hence the quantity of nieces, nephews, cousins, and grandkids running around today.  He lived in Lakeview pretty much his whole life, and was a cattle rancher through and through.

I like to think I have a little bit of Grandad’s ranching blood running through my veins.  I know that as a kid, I would have given my left arm to ride around with Grandad in his beat-up Dodge pickup and watch him work cattle from his four-wheeler or his quarter horse.   But he was a gruff man of few words, who took a serious outlook on ranch work.  I was always to shy to ask him to let me tag along, being a pony-tailed girl from a beach town, who thought horses were buddies not just strictly work animals. But I hope he’d be proud if he knew that his granddaughter was planning on running beef cattle for a living, even if I do plan to let my farm dog sleep in the house once in a while!

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[me as a baby cowgirl, chillin’ with grandad]

Everyone in Lakeview recognized Grandad as he drove around town with his border collie sitting proudly on the top rack of his well-worn ’86 Dodge Ram pickup truck.  A lot of my childhood memories are of meeting him at a local diner for breakfast or lunch, his pickup parked out front and his dog waiting patiently.  Great-uncle Donny told me that he’d often pass Grandad on the highway, and they’d pull out their CB radios and greet one another.

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Since Grandad passed away a few years ago, Uncle Max has had that old Dodge pickup parked in his back field.  I just happen to be in need of a good, strong, farm pickup, and so I asked him if he’d be willing to let me have it.   It needs a little work done, but I’m excited to say that I’ll soon be the proud new owner of Grandad’s ’86 Dodge Ram.   It even has a steel rack  and cage that Grandad installed in the bed and over the cab.  (A gun rack too.  Watch out Corvallis!)

I can’t wait to be driving that pickup on my own farm.  Hopefully I’ll soak up a little ranch knowledge from the seats of that old Dodge.

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Good Neighbors

As we start out on this unconventional farming adventure, our friends Josh and Cara loaned us their DVD set of Good Neighbors.   Keith and I started out being mildly amused by this 1970’s British sitcom, but as the episodes progress we are dying of laughter every night.

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Last night we came home from small group, poured ourselves a glass of Pinot Noir and a big bowl of potato chips (disgusting pairing – I wouldn’t recommend it), and watched Good Neighbors til way past our bedtime.

Bottom line:  if you haven’t seen this show, you’ve got to get it now!  It’s the story of Tom and Barbara Good, who quit their corporate jobs and abandon their upper middle-class London suburb lifestyle in favor of a self-sufficient farm in their backyard.  They till up their front lawn and back yard,  plant vegetables and buy pigs, goats, chickens.  Their neighbors, Jerry and Margot Leadbetter are terribly uppity snobs who think the Good’s have gone crazy and stop at nothing to tell them so.  The best part is that the farming lifestyle is depicted fairly realistically, with Tom and Barbara struggling to market their crops and make their own electricity.  It’s not all peaches and roses on the Good Farm.  The relationships between the four characters are  exquisite, and the actors are marvelous.  Every other line is hysterically funny.  If you like Friends, or The Office, you’ll be a fan of Good Neighbors.

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