Column: Getting a fresh perspective does wonders
Wow, it feels like this past month has really flown by since our last food section. What a jam-packed three weeks we have had here on Oxbow Farm.
The whole purpose of this series is to showcase how we are learning everything as we go, being new farmers and all. Hence the column’s name, “Starting From Scratch.” I would say that a majority of time my learning consists of fewer big “aha” moments and more frequent, smaller “well that was interesting” moments. I choose the best of the bigger stories to share. It is less interesting to talk about little triumphs, like my findings on the optimal time to collect eggs during the day.
One of the big things I have learned these past few weeks is the reason why more experienced farmers than I, always advise never to name the animal you plan on eating. Although I knew that Vanilla, our pig, would be going to slaughter one day, it was hard to see him go. And Camilla, our lone pure white laying hen, looks identical to one of Gonzo’s girlfriends from “The Muppet Show” and therefore, by order of the children, she must stay no matter how many eggs she does or does not produce over the course of a year.
Sometimes, because I do more or less the same things day after day for weeks on end with no break, I fail to see the humor and fascination in the things around me. The best way to change that is to have a couple of young teenagers come and work with me in the barn for a couple of hours.
Hailey and Atticus came to work for a few hours last week and, although their job of sorting leftover produce for the animals was less than glamorous, somehow they finished quickly with a smile on their faces. Their excitement and wonder with the simplest tasks was somewhat contagious. They were amazed how fast the chicks had grown since they were here last. When it came time to feed the pigs, they were surprised by their size and strength. They asked lots of questions, some of which I could answer and some I could not. They were grossed out when they touched a dirty egg while they collected a basketful. They would scream and try to wipe their hands on each other. They were scared of the lone, cranky hen, screaming out a warning as she guarded the eggs she was keeping warm beneath her in the nesting box. And as Hailey found out firsthand, it doesn’t really hurt when you get hit in the head by a flying chicken. As I drove them home after their time in the barn, they were enthusiastically asking when they could come back again because they had so much fun. For me, it was a much needed dose of positive perspective.
Although the day-to-day chores are not thrilling, the business side of Oxbow is. We are thriving and new opportunities keep arising. Our farm store is now officially open, so our neighbors near and far can come and shop for eggs and stock chickens at their own convenience. Our own baked goods will stock the store in the spring and we will have veggies in the summer. Our book club has picked up momentum, and I am starting to see more Oxbow Farm bumper stickers around town. We have been approached to provide fresh chicken to local schools and restaurants this summer and fall. Speaking of restaurants, have you been to The Bagel Mill recently? They are now serving our eggs on their sandwiches.
The local food movement is expanding and it is very exciting, and not just for us. Other farmers have expanded doing what they love because the demand from the consumer is there. Spring will soon be here and I’m eager for the opportunities that await.
Kim Graham lives in Dublin with her husband, Jim, and their two children. The couple hails from New Brunswick, Canada. This column chronicles their first-ever adventures in farming. For more about the farm, see www.oxbowfarmnh.com.