Wisconsin is the Dairy State. In order to do anything dairy related (unless it is for your own consumption,) you need a proper, legally licensed setup. I did some research. Without a dairy barn to retrofit, we’re looking at 100’s of thousands of dollars to construct such a facility. How much milk would we need to produce and sell to cover that kind of debt?
Guess that’s out of the picture for a long while. I hate the concept of being deep in debt. And scaling up on goats just doesn’t sound right, for now. Now to tell you why this has come up again….we got a visit from the State. And we have learned our lesson from this visit. We are not messing around with dairy products anymore. We cannot risk losing our farm, or going to jail, or incurring massive fines in order that some may taste the delicious cheeses I make. We’ve been putting homemade things in our CSA shares this season, and cheese has been one of them. If we make it here on the farm, we figured it was fair game to share with our members. Nope. I wasn’t even going to ask them if this was ok. After looking at the rules, we just can’t risk it! Even though I make it from my goats to my own high standards, which is to say- we eat it, it is not dangerous in my opinion- if we were to continue this sharing, we could end up in jail. Ridiculous, but it is true.
To the west of us lies the promised land of Minnesota. The state which has included in it’s constitution that the “farmers of the farm may sell on the farm, the products of that farm.” Not in our state though. Our farm is members of the amazing organization Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which is on a mission to enable small-scale farms to create herd-share programs that allow customers access to raw milk. Not everyone can have a cow or goat in their yard, or the time to dedicate to milking, but sooo many want access to raw milk. If we were able to meet this need, it could help us make it here, but it is SO RISKY to go out on a limb and try to fight the Dairy Industries Super PACS in this state. I don’t want to spend time in a courtroom defending raw milk. I just don’t. I want to farm, I want to be here with the animals, my husband and our land. Maybe this makes me a selfish fool. I want people to have access to raw milk, but I feel it is the consumers who can change this, they are the ones who must, if they want it so badly. The farmers CANNOT spend their life energy fighting this fight, risking their farms and futures.
So, here we are. I might have 7 goats milking next year. That’s alot of milk. Even if I made cheddar cheese wheels to age (cheddar condenses a lot of liquid volume), each and every day, I couldn’t use it all, and I don’t really want to be so tied to the kitchen for hours on end each and every day. So, we going to bring pigs back to LTD Farm, as well as keeping all our goat kids next spring. All these beings will feed on this rich milk, and once a week or so I’ll save milk for cheesemaking for our own needs. We’ll once again have pigs to offer for sale and succulent, young kid goat in the fall. I like this plan, and it will ease my life significantly. I can milk into a random bucket, which will go straight to the kids and the pigs, instead of meticulously sanitizing 1/2 gallon jar after 1/2 gallon jar every day. I can focus more time on the garden, which we’ll be growing, thanks to the pigs’ hard work of rooting and pig-a-tilling they’ll do as they grow with us.
To live; what an honor and special experience each and every one of us gets. It is a gift which is easy to take for granted. While we live, we will most definitely experience illness, pain, sadness, suffering, and death. But we will also experience love, beauty, joy and happiness. Farming exposes you to both, constantly.
We’ve been overwhelmed this week with the hard part of human life and living. When family members go to the hospital, it reminds you how very fragile life is, and how important those you love are. Take time to tell those you love how important they are to you!
When you have a family member or friend who is not appreciating the beauty of life and living, this presents a challenge. At least it does for me, I have a sister who’s trying to immerse me in her choice of a miserable life. I don’t have more to say about it right now, but she is a challenge on so many levels.
When we got the call this morning, from Andrew’s Mom at 2:30, everything stopped. His Dad had had a heart attack. He was doing ok, but it was soooo scary to receive this news. After the call, we dumbfoundedly wrapped up in robes and blankets and went out to stare at the stars, watching for the Orionid meteors while processing the importance of this man in our lives. George is astounding. He is so patient, loving and kind, and SO very helpful with things around our farm that we do not have the knowledge to do on our own, and although Andrew’s folks live almost 2 hours away, they are always willing and able to come lend us a hand. They both help us over and over with so many projects, it is such a blessing. They are such a blessing…Thank you Arly and George for all you do, all you are and we love you so much!
One cannot really get back to sleep after this kind of call, but we tried anyways. Ducklings were pipping in the incubator downstairs, and I dreamed of their little selves emerging from their eggs, and had mysterious dreamscapes involving my mother. We tossed and turned until the beginnings of that late fall dawn came to slightly brighten our bedroom. Even though we couldn’t sleep well, we could not just rush to the hospital, we have lives depending on us here, and routines to maintain. Turkeys, goats, rabbits, ducks, chickens needing food and water, eggs needing to be collected, and ducklings hatching out. We had scheduled our last chicken harvesting day for this day, and made the “cancel” call to our friend who was coming to help, she was very understanding. After our chores and making sure all our charges were good to go, we left for the hospital, which was over 2 hours away. Seeing the family there was so important, and seeing George doing ok and soaking up the love was priceless. When we arrived back home, all our animals were doing well, and the incubator had sprouted 16 little ducklings, the most babies we’ve ever had in a hatch!
Tomorrow we will await news of George’s progress, and we’ll be packing up our very last CSA boxes of the season. And then we’ll be tackling the chicken harvesting on our own. These are the beautiful Bubsters for our own eating, as well as a couple last orders. Life and death. Life is undeniably full-circle.
We’d planned a little weekend getaway months ago with our farmsitter, who conveniently is my youngest sister. This getaway was aligned with the end of our CSA deliveries had finished for the year, and before it got too wintery. There was an overnight trip planned to make a dinner for Kickstarter supporters in the northern parts of Minnesota, followed by reservations for a cheap (but cozy-looking) hotel on the South Shore of Lake Superior in Bayfield. As we nervously prepared for leaving our farm-baby, Andrew mentioned how funny it would be to just stay on the farm afterall, and have my sister do all the chores, using the funny term “stay-cation.”
But…. we had actually planned to really get away for an actual weekend! A couple nights in a fresh locale would be so rejuvenating! Then life showed us it had different plans. There was a terrifying heart attack in the family, and then a weasel attack our pastured rabbits the very morning we’d planned to leave. We hemmed and hawed all day over what to do. We could not justify being gone over a whole weekend, away from the farm, but decided to to go do the dinner.
The concept of even one night away scared us to pieces. The weasel had returned, after a whole year without any problems. And it had struck when we were here, so obviously us staying wouldn’t prevent anything from happening. we did our best to ramp up security, tucked the remaining rabbits out on the pasture, back into safety of the rabbitry shed, and changed some of the electro-net around to reinforce the ducks. And then, with conflicted hearts, we left my poor, dear sister to care for all our animal children and the farm for one night. Praise be, everything went ok, she understood our fear of the attacker and so she spent the early dawn and early dusk patrolling the hinterland areas around the farm with the 3 farm dogs in tow.
After the dinner, we arrived home late the following day and were told by my little sister to sleep in the next morning! Andrew’s “stay-cation” was coming true! She proceeded to take care of everything for the next 4 days, with maybe a little supervision and checking in on our part. I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to sleep in after getting up early for milking since January…..it was amazing! Mel was a natural at caring for the farm, this multi-armed crazy beast of need. She reveled in making sure all our kids were cared for and was so excited about the remaining bounty in the garden, and most of all, she just took care of so much for us, so we might have little time to relax.
Daytime is less worrisome in terms of predators, so we took the chance to go do a couple daytrips while on “stay-cation.” One of the days we went up to visit Andrew’s folks, spending the day together working on our firewood stash. His Dad is recovering well and together they are an unstoppable team. The other daytrip was to a state park with gorgeous hiking trails and a 5 story overlook tower. As we hiked we did lots of talking and processing together, vigorous brainstorming time. Lots of “what are we doing? and how can we do it better? and how are we going to make it?” This is the life of the small scale farmer who may be re-inventing the wheel, but dang it, we’re trying to make a living and it is hard. The concensus is that we have to put in our time, work as hard as we can, learning somethings the very hardest way, but we will make it eventually. We’ll be poor and we won’t be going on vacation anytime soon, but we’re in it for the long haul. Success wouldn’t feel so good if it was just instantly acquired.