Friday, April 29, 2011

Grandmother, her Yippy Dog, & a Goatmobile Full of Hot Chicks!

Life on a farm is ALWAYS an adventure! Last week, a tornado struck just south of Groveport, Ohio . . . which also happens to be where Harrison Farm is located! When I went to bed that night, I knew there was a possibility of severe storms. At 2:27am on Tuesday morning, I awoke to tremendous noise (and it had to be astoundingly loud to awaken me!) I noted we had lost power, and went to check on Grandmother. Before I could get her bundled down to the sorm cellar, the tornado sirens ceased. The house appeared solid, and there was little I could do in the dark, so I went back to sleep. Poor Grandmother was incredibly stressed and didn't sleep that night.

The next morning I began to ascertain the amount of destruction. This was only two weeks after we had been struck by straight-line winds that took part of the roof off the big barn. The good news was that the insurance claim was already moving forward and the roofer was ready to begin repairs from that storm. There was some additional damage to the big barn from the tornado, but within 48 hours it was repaired since we were already next in line for the roofing crew! Unfortunately, there was enough additional damage that another insurance claim had to be filed. There was roof damage to the long shed, chicken house, and airplane hanger. Some barn doors and windows were damaged, and several trees wereaffected. All in all, though, we were VERY fortunate. All the animals were safe and none of the destruction was catastrophic. We were especially fortunate compared to some of our neighbors, who lost entire buildings.

Power was restored to the farm within 24 hours after the tornado -- thankfully! It was quite a bit of stress, however, on The Grandmother. Life carried on as we dealt with clean-up over the next few days. I was most delighted that my new chicks arrived on Monday! As I rushed around that day, I quickly set up a heat lamb for them in a corner of the kitchen, expecting to get them housed in the basement as soon as I had time that evening. Much of that day was spent working in the barn -- leaving me covered in manure & mud! The farm has become an extremely muddy mess, due to central Ohio experiencing its wettest April on record. The sun eventually came out that afternoon . . . and then the power went out yet again!

Grandmother began to panic with the loss of electric, and I was very concerned when I came in from the barn and realized she was lighting kerosene lamps in the house! I finished the chores while it was still daylight, and then consulted with Auntie about what was best to do for Grandmother. As it happened, Auntie's sump pump stopped working when the electric went out and volumes of water were rushing into her basement! Noting that Grandmother was on the verge of an anxiety attack, I decided I needed to get her somewhere warm that had electricity. She decided she wanted to go to the local motel. Shortly thereafter, I found myself (still covered in manure & mud) driving Grandmother & Buffy the Maltese to the Best Western, with my chicks in the back of my SUV! Remember those baby chicks? Baby chicks that cannot get cold when they are so young? I knew the Goatmobile was at least warmer than the powerless house!

In that state, I arrived at the Best Western! Thankfully, the Bahamian desk clerk was most understanding! I checked Grandmother in, and learned that pets were not welcome. Thus, Buffy accompanied me into Canal Winchester, where I was optimistic that I could leave the baby chicks with my friend Christopher. After all, what man doesn't want to say he has an apartment full of hot chicks?!? Of course, I wasn't expecting Christopher's neighbor to be out with his pit bull when I arrived with Buffy the Maltese . . . imagine the Goatherd trying to carry a tub of peeping chicks and a yipping lapdog past a curious pit bull! Buffy & I then returned to the Farm to check on Auntie and her basement. Thanks be to God, power was restored! The sump pump kicked back on and the water rushed outward. I then began the reverse journey to retrieve the chicks and then pick up Grandmother. And yes, it was absolutely worth the $88 room fee for Grandmother to have a warm shower and be able to watch Pat Sajak in comfort!

So life moves on, always full of adventures! Buffy & Grandmother are both bonded to the chicks (who continue to be in the kitchen on Grandmother's request!) We have not lost power any more this week. The roofer will soon begin repairing the outbuildings. More baby goats continue to arrive. And the Goatherd has even more amusing stories about farm life!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Politics & Farming . . . Is this a joke about manure?

It has been pouring down rain on the farm for most of the day. I enjoyed listening to the weather report on the radio indicate that there was a possibility of showers, as I looked at the kitchen window and watched the rain falling with great force! It was definitely a good day to stay inside, drink tea, and read a favorite book. Instead, however, I headed out to the barn to feed the animals. No matter what the weather may be, the goats still expect to be fed! Some of the highlights of the day included Rosie the Rooster flying into my face while trying to run away from Charlie Parker, chief rooster of the hen house. The new piggies rolling with joy in the mud, thanks to the pouring rain. The goats "yelling" at me to hurry up with their bale of hay -- while they stood in the dry comfort of the barn and I struggled to navigate the mud without dropping a massive bale. D Calf (my adorable new little angus) refusing to eat in the barn with the heathen goats, instead prefering to take his bottle in the soaking rain!

As I stood in the pouring rain, watching the goats eating inside the barn & enjoying time with the new calf, I was overwhelmed with such a sense of joy! Yes, I was soaking wet. Yes, I was covered in mud & manure. Yes, my back was ouchy from having to carry extra bales of hay. I was, however, quite filled with happiness at my life on the farm. So few people get to experience the sincere joy that comes from honest labor on the farm. I know how blessed I am to have my life! At the same time, I realize the precarious position of farmers. We work to feed everyone, yet very few people understand our work. A lack of understanding can yield criticism without knowledge. A lack of understanding can also allow for well-intentioned efforts to fail -- especially on the part of our political leaders.

Over the years, as I have become more politically active, I have tried to include political awareness as a part of almost any speech I give. Whether I am discussing ethnic markets or careers in agriculture or usage of animals by humans, I always include my encouragement for farmers to become politically active. Our political leaders rarely have a strong background in agriculture. I often joke in my speeches that few of them have had the pleasure of being in a barn at 2am, kneeling down in the manure, covered in blood & placental fluid, with their hand shoved up inside a mother sheep as they struggle to deliver a baby lamb! Thus, we farmers need to be able to convey to our political leaders what we need to be able to continue providing a safe, healthy food supply for our country. This is truly a national security issue.

Last night I watched a documentary about the Great Famine in Russia in the early 1920s. I never recall learning about this tragic chapter in Soviet history, and I was absolutely astounded by it. Following the Russian Civil War, the Leninist government took grain supplies from the farmers to "redistribute" food. Not only did this mean that the farmers lost much of their own food supply, they also lost their seeds for the next growing season. Following this move by the government, a terrible drought affected Russia's agricultural lands. Famine spread throughout the nation and absolutely devastated the population, largely due to ignorant agricultural policies on the part of the Soviet regime.

Herbert Hoover, a much-maligned president, ended up being the salvation of the Russian people. Hoover was serving as Secretary of Commerce under President Harding at this point. He was known as a well-organized businessman and true humanitarian. At the height of the Great Famine, 25,000 Russians were starving to death EVERY WEEK. Cemeteries were being robbed for meat sources, straw roofs were devoured. Hoover worked to convince Congress to authorize the purchase of American corn to send to feed the Russian people. It was a vast undertaking -- jeopardized by anti-Soviet sentiment in America and the interference of the Soviet government (which was quite willing to let undesirables starve to death). Thanks to Hoover's efforts, shipments of food helped to stave off hunger and provisions of wheat provided seed for the next harvest.

I have a completely new respect for Hoover after seeing this documentary. The pictures from Russia of the starving children, the butchered dogs & cats, and the stacks of corpses will always haunt me. This humanitarian undertaking by Hoover was emblematic of the American drive to help others. It also allowed for the Russian people to develop a new perspective toward Americans. It is unfortunate that Hoover is too often portrayed as an uncaring Republican who allowed the Depression to rage while doing nothing. This documentary led me to do some reading on Hoover. I am now quite impressed by this gentleman who worked to help others. Of note, as an experienced businessman, he realized that the American economy would eventually right itself as part of the cycle of expansion & contraction. He knew that throwing vast amounts of taxpayer dollars would only serve to create an overbearing national debt.

The fact that much of the suffering in Russia from the Great Famine stemmed from ignorant agricultural policies, underscores that farmers must continually connect with governmental leaders to promote sound policies. Farmers are so busy working in the fields and laboring in the barn that it is difficult to allocate time to write letters to our leaders, make Congressional visits, and reach out to state lawmakers. For the success of our livelihood and our way of life, however, we must make this a priority. I had the pleasure of attending a legislative reception last week for state lawmakers. There, I was delighted to see Representative Michael Stinziano, who is a freshman in the Ohio House. Rep. Stinziano has made an effort to connect with local farmers to learn about our issues, and this is greatly appreciated! It is very important for farmers to take time to meet with our political leaders and discuss such things.

Last month, I had the pleasure of joining the presidents of Union County Farm Bureau and Madison County Farm Bureau to meet with Congressman Steve Stivers in Washington DC. We had a very productive session discussing issues that face our area farmers. It was refreshing to note the interest of Congressman Stivers & his staff in learning about the farm community! I recognize, however, that farmers are just one of many groups that ask to meet with Congressman Stivers and Representative Stinziano. We are fortunate that both of these gentlemen have been very responsive to learn about farming. As farmers, it is our responsibility to continue this dialogue -- to educate our leaders and to promote our products. It is our responsibility to help guide American farm policy. Without our experienced input, our leaders cannot make informed decisions. If we do not engage our leaders, we risk creating the same ignorant policies that led to massive suffering in Russia during the Great Famine . . . and there may not be another Hoover to help save our people!

Photo Captions: A great meeting in Washington DC with the Farm Bureau State Women's Trustee, the President of Union County, Congressman Stivers, the Goatherd, and the President of Madison County!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Baby Goats!

The venture between Middle E Performance Horses & Goats and Harrison Farm has been a wonderful experience! Last fall, ten lovely ladies from Middle E came to Harrison Farm to spend time with Boyo K. Manley of Harrison Farm. With a few minor bumps in the road (typical of goats!) the ladies are doing splendidly! As of this date, we are delighted to announce that Hen has beautiful twins, Georgia and Mustard both have single boys, Hilda is the proud mother of an adorable daughter, and Beefy Junior just gave birth to handsome twin sons. Boyo is proudly strutting around the farm with delight at these arrivals! We look forward to the imminent arrival of more babies!

Photo Caption: The lovely Angela of Middle E Performance Horses & Goats holds little "Two Sock", son of Hen & Boyo. Note his darling white stockings on his front legs!

A Visit to the Goats -- and Goatherds -- of Knox County

I had a great time today with the 4-Hers of Knox County! The Knox County Goat Improvement Association sponsors an annual fair goat sale, and hosts an educational clinic prior to the sale. I was honored to be asked to be the speaker for the clinic this year! There was a great turn out of 4-Hers and parents at the event, and the goats that were lined up for auction were lovely! What makes a goat a fair goat? Fair goats, or "club" goats, are raised specially to be show goats. They are typically from the Boer breed, or are a Boer-cross goat. Boers tend to have excellent meat, but are rather high maintenance -- thus they are perfect for market goat shows since they flourish under the devoted attention of 4-H members! As a contrast, my goats are "commercial goats". They are not as pretty, but they are low maintenance.

The Knox County Fairgrounds is a lovely site, set on rolling hills. The event was held in the beef barn, and I even had a beautiful "model" goat to use for demonstration purposes! (Her ear tage number? 1013, my birthday!) I shared with the audience of 4-Hers and parents some ideas on goat care, preparation for show, and what a judge looks for in a market goat. To establish my credentials, I opened by explaining to the kids that every animal I ever showed at the fair won grand champion. Every animal! Of course, I only showed one animal at the fair. And it was a rat. But Generallisimo Francisco Franco triumphantly trounced 41 other hamsters, guinea pigs, and ferrets to win the title of 1994 Fairfield County Grand Champion Pocket Pet! I can only imagine how impressed these young 4-Hers were!

We discussed appropriate housing (it's pretty embarrassing when your goat escapes and eats your neighbor's flowers), the importance of nutrition (you'd feel like junk if you ate junk food all the time and so would a goat), and medical treatment of goats (internal parasites = weak intestines that tear = angry Ethiopian customers when intestine-cleaning takes too long). The story of my little goat with lung problems got a good laugh. Last fall Isabelle was suffering from lung issues, probably pneumonia. I began a 3 day regimen of penicillin to treat her. On the first day she did not feel well, so she sat quite still for the shot. On the second day she was better, but still to weak to protest much. On the third day, however, Isabelle was greatly recovered. While I tried to hold her and medicate her properly, she squirmed & squirmed. The next thing I knew, I had given myself a shot of penicillin in the finger . . . OW! The good news: I never got sick this winter!

I encouraged the 4-Hers to PRACTICE and PRACTICE with their goats. Goats are crazy, this is a fact. In the show ring, goats will jump and tug and run. What makes a difference is if the young person has spent time with the goat and knows how to handle this situation! Also -- as my mother always ingrained in me during my 4-H competitions -- it is sooo important to smile. If a 4-Her looks worried or miserable, the judge can tell. If the 4-Her smiles and appears confident, the judge is much more likely to be impressed during a showmanship competition. Goats are incredibly awesome and a show is a wonderful opportunity for a young person to show off their skills. It should always be fun!

Finally, I shared with the 4-Hers what I look for in a market goat. In a show that focuses on a certain breed, I judge based on breed standards. In a market show, however, I judge on what the carcass will be. The goat market rewards a higher price per pound for 50-70 pound goats, so I feel that is the size range which should be encouraged. These shows are to teach young people skills to compete as successful goatherds. Thus, they should not be encouraged to raise 100-120 pound market goats -- these animals eat more feed, which costs more money, and thus creates a smaller profit for the goatherd. Market classes should not be beauty contests. In a breed class I consider such things as the grace of a feminine head, the pigmentation of the goat, and the attachment of teats, but these things have no impact on the carcass & should not impact a market class. While I dislike more than two teats on a breeding goat, as a butcher I don't care how many teats a goat has when I cut up the chops & roasts!

It was a great pleasure to speak to the young goatherds of Knox County today! I sincerely appreciated their hospitality and hope they will come to love the goat industry as much as I do!