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Posts Tagged ‘Dyan Redick’

HOMEGROWN Life: The Richness of Farming

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

 

HOMEGROWN LifeMy Grandmother’s saying, one she borrowed from Benjamin Franklin, “the only two things certain in life are death and taxes,” came to mind this week. Yes, it’s tax season.

In between birthing 2 more sets of twins (that makes 4 in all), I’m tending the flocks and herds, starting up the dairy, chasing lambs, and howling at the goat kid antics. I’m wondering if the day will ever come when I actually sleep 8 or even 6 hours in a row. It’s time I bravely face the pile of paperwork that’s been patiently waiting on my desk.

Even though I am a tiny micro blip on the farming radar screen, I still keep track of the reality of what it costs and how much can be made working at this thing we call farming. I am proud to say that Bittersweet has been a sustainable operation since its second year! No, it didn’t happen because I have some magic formula for the farm supporting itself. It happens out of the sheer terror that if that changes, I won’t be able to continue.

The realities farmers face each year are enormous. The biggest realities are always: how much each year will cost? Can I continue year after year without at least making it pay for itself? That’s the very least farmers expect, because if we can’t say that – if we aren’t at least growing or raising beasts or plants to feed ourselves to cut down on the grocery bill –it’s hard to continue justifying the effort. Most people will say, you’ll never get rich farming.

After sitting down with all my piles, sorting through the slips and bits of paper with numbers scratched on them, I add up the two columns. One is what it costs to open my barn door every day. The other shows how much wool and cheese and milk and jam and pickles and soaps and other things I’ve sold. Turns out, at the end of the day, every day, 365 days a year, I am earning 91 cents an hour. That’s my definition of sustainable. I am earning, not losing, 91 cents an hour.

Now you may say, “You’re kidding, right? 91 cents an hour? Who would work for 91 cents an hour?” As it turns out, there are a lot of folks who do, and they wouldn’t trade it for 9,100 cents an hour. I’ve met a lot of them and we all seem to have something in common. We love what we do.

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There’s a certain pride and satisfaction in farming. Things almost never go according to plan. When you’re relying on Mother Nature in the form of living things, whether it’s beasts or plants, it’s all a crap shoot. I think it’s hard to explain why we do it to someone who thinks we’re all crazy for choosing the farming life style.

I’m frequently asked, “You can’t go anywhere, can you?” My reply is always, “I’ve been other places. I’m happy right where I am.”

I’m not a person who spent their life dreaming of having a farm. I did set out to get some sheep 20 years ago for a property I bought in Southern Pennsylvania. It was an old stone house Jacob Flohr built in 1855 and I/we were restoring it to its original state. I’ll never forget the day my husband came home and I was pitching the 1950’s oak flooring out the front door. There were wide pines boards underneath that needed to be revealed.

The house sat 10 miles south of Gettysburg and was on Lee’s retreat route. It had been a farm, and it was a hospital during the Civil War. All farms were. Every inch of space was utilized for tending to wounded soldiers. I found blood stains in the old crumbling plaster ceiling, blood that had dripped through the floor from above where probably more than one of them had lain, maybe dying.

The stone foundation for the old barn was still there. The original barn had burned down, maybe more than once. I found a gorgeous post and bean barn further up the road that would fit the foundation perfectly and the people who owned it just happened to want to take it down. The plan was to use it for sheep who would graze up above in the old apple orchards. But, the dream for sheep ended along with the marriage. We never got around to rebuilding the barn.

Twenty five years later, as I sit with my bits of paper, I gaze across the pasture watching my newborn lambs leap in spring’s cold morning air. The flock doesn’t have a post and bean barn with a stone foundation to lamb in, but they do have a view of Mosquito Harbor leading out to the Penobscot Bay. Some mornings, their fleeces are misty with the dew coming off the water and often they are treated to dried seaweed treats from Drift Inn Beach down the street. I think it’s a good trade off.

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I think I’ll take a break from my paperwork for an hour or so today and invest my 91 cents or even $1.92, in snuggling lambs, sitting with a baby goat in my lap, or running the brush over the girls’ backs. I might even bake a custard on this cool spring day with eggs from the coop and milk the girls gave me this morning.

After all the other jobs I’ve had and all the paychecks I’ve gotten over the years, it’s today that I receive the largest paycheck I’ve ever had, plus 91 cents an hour. That’s the richness of farming.

MORE FROM DYAN:

HOMEGROWN-life-dyan-150x150Dyan Redick calls herself “an accidental farmer with a purpose.” Bittersweet Heritage Farm, located on the St. George peninsula of Maine, is a certified Maine State Dairy offering cheeses made with milk from a registered Saanen goat herd, a seasonal farm stand full of wool from a Romney cross flock, goat milk soap, lavender woolens, and whatever else strikes Dyan’s fancy. Her farm is also an extension of her belief that we should all gain a better understanding of our food sources, our connection to where we live, and to the animals with whom we share the earth.

PHOTOS: DYAN REDICK

HOMEGROWN Life: Mairzy Doats, A Lambing Time Theme Song

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

HOMEGROWN Life

How is it the song goes? “…Dozy doats and little lambzy divey.” At Bittersweet it’s become my theme song, as it’s lambing time.

Lambs are usually associated with spring when temperatures warm and bits of green start to appear. At Bittersweet, lambs arrive when the snows are still blanketing the ground and winds are whipping up the rocky Maine coast. In the dark of night when temperatures plummet into teens and sub zero ranges, babes arrive as steaming bundles of fur taking their first breaths in a cold winter world. Bits of fluff on wobbly legs, umbilical cords dangling from their newborn bellies, eagerly poke tiny noses into folds of legs, anxious for their first sip of milk. Moms grumble their individual voices to each, reaching around with their noses to tickle the newborn’s tails, encouraging them to keep trying to find their source of nourishment. She knows success can be the difference between life and death.

BittersweetLamb1

Being with my flock, mostly as an observer, but also as a midwife is very rewarding for a shepherdess. Knowing when to intervene and when to stand back and let nature take its course is the biggest challenge. Encouragement for both mom and babe sometimes comes in gentle pats or a tiny nudge to reassure that “you’re doing a great job, keep going, I know you can do it!”

Instinct is a powerful force in a flock. Moms know best; I’ve learned that patience is the most important quality a shepherdess possesses. When even patience fails, or there’s not enough milk for two hungry twins, I’m blessed with bottle lambs. With them comes daily lamb cuddles, tiny hooves trailing on my heels, and lambs snuggling in my lap when their little bellies are full and they can barely keep their eyes open. In farming, success is measured in these moments.

BittersweetLamb2This year, play-yard in the room next to where I sleep holds two tiny girls at night. For me, it’s selfishly easier to feed a hungry lamb at 8 pm and again at 4 am without having to go back out to the barn. Ever snuggle with a newborn lamb in your jammies? A tiny voice whispering sweet content sounds in your ear as it slumbers on your shoulder. Trust me, it’s addictive.

Ireland is where I first fell in love with lambs. I would wake up to the sound of moms and babes calling to each other in their distinctive voices. They wander freely to the edges of the rocky cliffs and back up again where they are spotted as dots high on the mountainous landscape. Now, I wake up to my own lambs frolicking with their moms just outside my bedroom window on the rocky coast of Maine.

The first thing I pick up in the morning isn’t a cup of coffee, but the lambs. I carry them to the kitchen where they dance around my feet as I prepare their first bottle. Once their tiny bellies are full, they play together while I prepare my first cup of coffee, keeping an eye out for my whereabouts. Then we make our way to the barn together to begin our day.

Some people find winters long and weary, but for me, winter is the time for cuddling lambs.

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MORE FROM DYAN:

HOMEGROWN-life-dyan-150x150Dyan Redick calls herself “an accidental farmer with a purpose.” Bittersweet Heritage Farm, located on the St. George peninsula of Maine, is a certified Maine State Dairy offering cheeses made with milk from a registered Saanen goat herd, a seasonal farm stand full of wool from a Romney cross flock, goat milk soap, lavender woolens, and whatever else strikes Dyan’s fancy. Her farm is also an extension of her belief that we should all gain a better understanding of our food sources, our connection to where we live, and to the animals with whom we share the earth.

PHOTOS: DYAN REDICK

HOMEGROWN Life: Remembering Dollie

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

 

HOMEGROWN LifeHave you ever known someone who just made you feel good to be around them? Like a kind old aunt who in her gentle way, had a presence that brought out the best in the people she met.

That’s what my Dollie was like. Except Dollie wasn’t a kind old aunt, she was a goat. I lost Dollie on January 7th. There’s a big hole in the barn without her.

Now, when I open the barn door, expecting to see her face light up and greet me, she’s not there.

Dollie had a way about her from the time she came to live at Bittersweet. She was a two-year-old then. She was born on a farm in Washington, Maine, part of Pixie Day’s herd. Dollie was always a little smaller than the other girls in the herd. She had a gentle nature, and the combination of the two meant she got pushed around a bit. After she delivered twin boys in her second year, Pixie decided she would be happier living on another farm, so she contacted Brian at Seabreeze Farm to ask if he knew someone who would give her a home. Brian contacted me. I had just started my herd with two goats from Seabreeze, my Frannie and Barnie. I called Pixie and went to take a look at her. It was love at first sight.

Dollie came home to Bittersweet and I gave her a stall to herself. She was pretty scared. She hadn’t been handled much and I realized she just needed space to adjust to her new home. For the next four months, I spent time letting her get familiar with her new surroundings, and me. It took time but finally she stopped running into a corner of the stall when I opened the gate. We went from her not wanting to be touched, to daily brushings and time playing with the little ones. Eventually, she assumed the position of “herd Queen”, being the oldest.

Still, she was always gentle, never pushing anyone away when treats were given, always allowing the little ones to have their way. I think she always remembered what it was like to be bullied in her original herd. As the years went by, she liked coming out of the big stall to enjoy her twice daily ration of grain and sit with new little ones in the next stall. They would gently push their foreheads together, share bits of grain and hay and sometimes, at least it seemed to me, talk to each other. She was like that gentle old Aunt you know who was always happy to share bits of candy from her apron pocket.

Dollie lived at Bittersweet for five years. During that time, she gave me two sets of twins, two boys and two girls. Shellie is her baby from two years ago. She’ll have babies of her own next spring. Shellie is very much like her Mother. She too has a gentle way about her. She plays with the babies, always waits patiently for her food. Sometimes, when Frannie decides she needs a few more pats, Shellie will look at me as if to say, it’s ok, I’ll wait.

This was the last Christmas I had with Dollie. On Christmas morning, I sat in her stall with her head in my lap and we listened to Christmas carols on the radio. Their station is always set to WBACH. It was the most peaceful Christmas I’ve ever spent, and I smiled at the irony of it. Twelve days later, I was calling my friend Duke to help me put Dollie to bed in her final place. She’s in the pasture, where each day I can visit, say good morning and then go out to the barn to greet her herd mates.

They say if you want to learn how to treat your fellow human beings, spend some time with animals. I know mine have taught me a lot. Dollie’s gentle ways and kindness towards her herd mates is an example. She had a quiet presence, but her manner and gentleness shouted a big lesson in how to make it through this life with humility, grace and compassion.

I miss you Dollie. There’s a big hole in the barn without you. I thank you for the five years we had together. You’re gone far too soon and I’m sure if we had more time, there would be so much more you could teach me. I’ll miss our talks and our giggles at Frannie’s antics, especially times when she thought she’d dethrone you from being “herd Queen”. You’ll always be my Queen of the barn. And, in the spring, if Shellie has a girl, we’ll name your granddaughter after you. I’ll be thinking about our times together when you gave birth to babes with me by our side. It will be Bittersweet. But, I’ll never really be without my Dollie.

MORE FROM DYAN:

HOMEGROWN-life-dyan-150x150Dyan Redick calls herself “an accidental farmer with a purpose.” Bittersweet Heritage Farm, located on the St. George peninsula of Maine, is a certified Maine State Dairy offering cheeses made with milk from a registered Saanen goat herd, a seasonal farm stand full of wool from a Romney cross flock, goat milk soap, lavender woolens, and whatever else strikes Dyan’s fancy. Her farm is also an extension of her belief that we should all gain a better understanding of our food sources, our connection to where we live, and to the animals with whom we share the earth.

PHOTOS: DYAN REDICK