Temporarily stymied by farming.

June 26, 2014

I just stood there. I stared at the full 150-gallon water trough and wondered, “How am I going to move that thing 300 feet to the next paddock for my thirsty cows?”

An experienced farmer would have looked at the situation and immediately pulled from years of similar challenges to come up with three or four possible approaches. A much younger – and stronger – farmer would have applied brawn as well as brain to implement a solution.

But I am neither deeply experienced nor young and strong. I am, like so many new farmers across the US, over the age of 50 and coming to this new career after decades in a very different profession. I was pretty good in my old job, but farming presents tangles and hurdles at every turn. As a sustainable, grass-fed beef farmer, I’ve also taken on the challenge of building a healthy and happy beef herd without the use of grain, growth hormones and sub-therapeutic antibiotics. I’m committed to a tiny hoof print (c).

I’ve come to realize that my most frustrating situations are the physical ones – lifting 50 lb. blocks of salt, 50 lb. bags of alfalfa, and attaching implements to the tractor – things I have to do several times a day. Sometimes I find myself standing still, barely breathing, with my hands in fists at my sides, wondering how to even begin thinking about the problem of the moment.

This morning, my friend Kay posted a poem that helped. (By the way, Kay is a Kentucky cattlewoman, and a new farmer after a full career as a Naval officer.)

Real Work
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
And that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
Wendell Berry

And so I’m working. That’s good. I figured out how to move the trough to the herd. Now we can all breathe easier.


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