Tuesday, May 31, 2011

#18 - Loud Roosters a Problem

Having chickens in our backyard has been amazing. I've learned a lot about their behavior as I sit outside in my lawnchair and watch them strut around our yard. A great lesson I've recently discovered as I own my first flock of chickens is to NOT wear red toe-nail polish while bare-foot among the chickens. Farmers out there, beware, red toe-nail polish will entice the chickens to chase you down and peck off those little piggies as they are going to market!!

Since the chickens are only in my backyard, I can wear my flip flops or walk out bare-foot, but on our acreage we can't walk around without putting on good protective shoes.

After receiving a few painful, very serious pecks on my toes, I ran from the chickens and they literally ran after me to chase my toes as if they were food. If only they could make fishing lures that would work as good as this! But, the entire ordeal wasn't as fun as it sounds, but I truly did look as ridiculous while running for the back door. I also learned that chickens are surprisingly FAST.

Red Toe-nail polish not good when exposed in front of chickens.
I love our chickens, but the entire reason for us buying these seven chickens was for us to have fresh eggs, but two of these chickens turned out to be roosters. Uh oh.

Big Boy Rooster

Little Boy Rooster has a Big Attitude!
Over the past week, the roosters have been testing their big boy voices. They started with pathetic squawk attempts that sounded similar to a teenage boy as he goes through voice changes. Quickly, the roosters gained enough vocal experience to boast louder roosterly sounds. I'm sure they'll get better and better at their cock-a-doodle-doo-ing and that's a big problem.

Having awesome neighbors is a beautiful thing, but no one likes to hear a rooster making a morning wake-up call at 6am on a relaxing Saturday morning, especially when there is just a few feet between each house. All the sweet feelings that the neighbors had toward the chickens --- wanting to bring their children and grand-children over to see REAL chickens, the eagerness to get their own fresh eggs from our flock, the laughs we all share as we watch these interesting creatures --- all those fuzzy good feelings begin to disappear at 6:00am Saturday morning as our neighbors wake up from hearing the roosters' harsh, irritating, repetitive noises; murderous intentions take root.

The roosters have GOT to be evicted. Otherwise, can anyone say "Fried Chicken" block party?

Lyla giving Roo a wee taste.
Making matters worse, the two roosters are becoming territorial and aggressive, especially toward each other. Each morning, for one SOLID hour, one rooster will sound off, then the other sounds off and they alternate for one hour straight. Next on the roosters' agenda is their macho game of "I'm tougher than you." This is when the Michael Jackson movements start as the two roosters dance around each other with popping heads and fancy foot work, all we need is the music.

Surely there has got to be SOMEONE around Houston who won't mind taking a couple of roosters. We're determined to find this person this week. I'll give updates.

Calling all chicken owners in Houston!
We got to enjoy a nice break from being backyard farmers this weekend as we were invited to Caprock Electric Suds and Buds Crawfish Boil in Houston's Heights neighborhood.  My husband's best-friend from high-school owns this successful Houston based company, so we get to be buddy-attendees.

The party just getting started in Houston.
Jimmy and Tracy were excellent hosts and the food was AWESOME. Our platters of crawfish, corn on the cob, potatoes, mushrooms, sausage and jalapenos was over the top.

The Heights in Houston is a district with mostly Craftsman style homes that have been renovated or elaborate is a historic part of Houston known for serious efforts toward restoration of the neighborhood along with gorgeous new construction that is unlike normal cookie-cutter houses. The Heights is ultimately a cool place to live.

The party was held at the Heights Fire Station which is now retired, but the interesting building is available for local residents to use for social gatherings.

But, we soon headed back home to check on our chickens and the two roosters. We drove back through the heart of Houston and then through the heavy industrial lined highway toward our house.

Near our city, just outside of Houston, Texas.
And it felt great to get back home to our chickens, our garden and our dogs. But, on the way home from the heart of Houston we must drive through refinery and chemical plants on either side of a highway that's known as HAZMAT Highway. It's an interesting landscape. Daily, we all use products that these chemical plants help to produce, so I can't be mad about the stink and the scary chances we take with potential lethal releases into the air or explosions too near our home. That would be embracing double standards. I know our households need these products, but I'll be glad when I am able to live further away from the plants.

Very soon, we'll live in the country on our beautiful acreage and we won't see these chemical plants any longer as we make a drive home. Instead, we'll see towering pines, rolling hills, cows and two-lane highways, and we'll be able to take in a deep breath of air and be confident that clean, fresh, tree-filtered air is flowing into our lungs. breathe country air.

Another section of highway near our house in the city.
Moving to the country will be incredible, but this week, I still live in the city and have two roosters that need to move out of here faster than fast. The search begins...

Friday, May 27, 2011

#17 - Washing Up...Here or There

For a few years we had an RV on our land and it seemed like we were living in luxury while making our weekend trips and enjoying our long summer stays.

Then, due to more difficult times in life, we took a long break from going to our acreage. All of the hard work we had done with partial clearing was being undone by Mother Nature. But, I had a good reason for holding back our visits for a while. My mother, who was in her 50's, was diagnosed with breast cancer, so I no longer had free weekends to go to our land. Tending to my dying mother was more important than cultivating our dream. I could not handle maintaining two places while helping my mother to make many, many trips to M.D. Anderson. But, that's for another time.

My sister and I visiting mom at M.D. Anderson, shortly before
she died while at home.
We pulled the RV off the property and stored it. We eventually sold it after it served a greater purpose. But, for the past several years we've not had anything on the land to lessen the harsh impact of being on raw land. We've been forced to be creative while roughing it.

Leaving our home in the city with nice amenities is not always easy, especially when it comes to having a hot water nozzle and a cold water nozzle at our fingertips. We have different bathing methods to choose from at our house that are rather luxurious...we have a huge two-person garden tub, a separate tiled shower and a second tub that is soaker-deep with multiple jacuzzi jets.

See? We clean up pretty good.

We have a lot of days when we look like city people.
But, the clothes we wear in the country feel much better!
On our acreage, when we need to wash up, we do have the luxury of a spring fed lake. It is constant running living water that is cold and fresh. There have been many times when we've taken our shampoo bottles and towels down to the lake to take a cold, clean dip. In the Texas heat, it sure does feel refreshing to take a bath that is provided by nature. Only problem is that we must trek about four acres to get to the lake, then we must make the long walk back to our camp site. And, if it is cold, then we nearly suffer hypothermia to be clean!

Even the dogs get a spring-fed lake bath in the country.

To help us enjoy an easier method to get clean, quickly, I made a suggestion. Remembering all of my camping trips as a child, I talked my husband into getting a sunshower. He wasn't really convinced that these worked so well until he began using them. Now, he's hooked.

We are a sunshower loving family!

These days, we bring large containers of water with us to our acreage and when we arrive on our land, Deputy Dave fills up the five-gallon sunshower in the morning and leaves it in the sun to warm up. Not only does it warm up, sometimes the water gets scalding hot and we must add cold water to the bag to cool the temperature.

From a pole, he hangs the sunshower and we get to enjoy the slow spray of clean, fresh water at the end of the day as it washes off the caked-on dirt from our every clogged pore. We must practice major water conservation by just getting wet enough to scrub off the dirt and to apply soap, then enough to wash our body free of the remaining dirt and soap residue. The little nozzle on the sunshower is designed so nicely: you pull it out of the hose a little to get the water flowing and then push it back into the tube to shut it off. Simplicity.

Over time, we upgraded out outdoor shower area and added a plastic chair for us to sit in because we'd often be so exhausted from our day's work and the overwhelming heat that it felt great to sit and have an easier time juggling the nozzle while using the other hand to scrub. We pulled an ice-chest close by to use as a shelf for the shampoo, wash rag and clean towel. An ice-chest always makes a great make-shift table.

Usually, we don't bathe until it is dusk or dark, but it is very liberating to be so "free" on our land. This is a huge benefit of not having neighbors, although we have seen people in the country do some pretty strange things. On that topic, we've seen some people on the streets of Houston doing some REALLY shocking things. After those disturbing memories, I realize, again, that country life seems to win my personal preference choice award for daily living.

The humble outdoor shower area got another face-lift during the past couple of months as I moved some old bricks that we'd previously used outside the RV as a pathway. These bricks had been my mother's and they had ended up forgotten and buried far beneath many layers of dirt in her backyard. They were testimony to the days when she craved flower gardens and a manicured yard to satisfy her own need to be outdoors. However, she didn't have much help in the yard area, so the dream died shortly after she had worked so hard to make it come true. Maintaining her dream was another story. Over long years, the yard with its overgrowth and lack of attention swallowed the bricks.

I prefer to put some Bluebonnet pictures I took in the Texas hill country
this past year, in honor of my mother, who loved taking wildflower trips.

One day, my husband and I took the time to actually uncover the many bricks so that they could actually be used and enjoyed. This was at my mother's suggestion. She wanted those bricks to be put to good use. She'd been to our land and knew how they could be used and appreciated. Deputy Dave went the extra mile to dig deeply to recover every one of those old bricks. I'm glad we took them out of the ground or no one would have even known the bricks existed.

One of Deputy Dave's hands that I love so much and am willing
to share with this ladybug...the only other lady I am willing to share with!
It was a lot of work to get the bricks to our land all those years ago to use at our RV. After we'd removed the RV, Deputy Dave had thoughtfully stacked all the bricks under a tree. They sat there for years. And, in the past several weeks, it bothered me that they were just sitting there being useless, so I decided to re-purpose those bricks in our outdoor sunshower area.

Brick by brick, we moved the pile from one area to another by wheel-barrel, then I put on my gloves and laid them out. Instead of having to sit in the plastic chair with our feet raised and dangling in the air to avoid the dirt, we now have bricks to stand on, firm ground, as if we are in a luxury 5-star hotel! Well ----- almost.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

#16 - Wedding Seating...Without the Seats

For those of you who are following this blog and are in the loop, you might know that I am trying to plan a 25th wedding anniversary celebration on our land to renew our wedding vows.

If you have been married for 25 years, it is time to do some serious celebrating! As most people know, staying married is not an easy feat. I'd love to paint a Fairy Tale love story between my husband and myself, but it has sometimes felt like a dramatic Lifetime movie, almost unreal, but we all know that life IS a drama.

My husband and I seem to have invisible rubber bands wrapped around the two of us and when we try to run the opposite direction from the other one, those rubber bands snap us back together and become tighter than before. Yes, we are rubber banded together. I know, I is incredibly romantic.

In honesty, my husband and I have had a wild 25 years together, we've raised children, our own and "foster" children; we've lived the military life; we've faced the effects of temptation; we've suffered through a bad economy and bad tempers; we had our home destroyed by a Hurricane; we've lost treasured loved ones; and we've confronted catastrophic illness after it invaded our home, and I, as a young mother, nearly died.

During all of this, the world kept spinning and we kept returning to the day we said our vows to one another. A wedding day does matter and we are blessed to have had two wedding days. The rubber bands were stretching, but not breaking. The vows didn't insulate us from the world and it didn't make us do everything perfectly, but those vows did serve as a touchstone to give us remembered strength that would carry us through disasters that often left their mark. A lifelong commitment of love can sure help to buff away the scuffs of life.

Since we have already had two weddings...the first when we eloped and then another full church wedding several months later, we've been fortunate enough to exchange our vows a couple of times already. I think that having to say our vows repeatedly did help us to remember them.

Maybe this should be a REQUIREMENT before you can get married...maybe we should be expected to memorize our vows by heart. No cheat-sheets allowed. Simply mimicking the preacher's words won't cut it. Since most of us have such a hard time honoring our vows, maybe it's time that we really learn the words and the meaning of the words that we are going to say BEFORE we say them. It's a good thing that I'm not a marriage counselor because I think this would be an excellent way to torture my clients with "home-work."

During our elopement, I was so dang nervous that my legs shook severely and nearly buckled beneath me. In our pictures, my husband is seen holding both of my hands because he's helping to keep my body stabilized as I keep swaying and am close to fainting due to nervousness.

To complicate matters, I also have inappropriate laughing when nervous and I was in a fit of odd hysterics the entire ceremony. This is my weird way of responding to stress. So, I know I repeated words and it was sweet and awesome, but I might as well have been making a public speech in front of 10,000 people because I had zoned out. It was a blur, but I remember the room being full of laughter. My laughing was contagious and it caused Airman Dave to laugh, the pastor to laugh and my friend in attendance to giggle out loud.

Yep, in the middle of the "I do" part and I'm laughing harder and harder.
Three months later, on the day we got married in church, I was more calm because I was already secretly married. What was there to be nervous about? I was a pro by now! There were no jitters because I'd already been jittered-out during our eloping. This time, in the church, I heard the vows, loud and clear. I focused on the words because I didn't want a repeat of the day we eloped with my all-encompassing nervousness that shut out everything around me except my absurd compulsion to laugh hysterically and to shake violently.

However, even in church, I did still have moments of uncontrollable laughter which would set the entire wedding party at our sides into stifled chuckles and red-faced attempts to not fully burst out laughing. At one point, David and I couldn't even look at each other because every time our eyes met, we would start laughing as the pastor was giving his serious marriage sermon. How inappropriate! Don't look at me!

Even with a few laughs, it's a much calmer day than when we had eloped.
Let me remind you, I had been 18 but for less than one month when we eloped. My husband basically married a kid, so I had responded to the stress like a kid. Three months later, in church, I was vastly more mature and I had plenty of distractions around me to help prevent a nervous crash of laughter. Well, I guess I'm still a kid because I still laugh at the wrong times. Worse than that, my daughters do the same thing. Horrible.

Since our budget is no laughing matter, renewing our vows on our land is going to be a day without frills and without glamour, unless I win the Texas Lottery, in which case we'd probably hire a caterer. But, as it is with our current non-existent budget, we will stand among the towering trees and with clarity and hopefully without uncontrollable laughing, we will be able to let each other know how much our marriage has served to better our lives. We've built a good, beautiful life together.

One thing I can say about having solid wedding vows to recall is that the vows sometimes prompts you to hear that little voice, "You should not call your husband a $@*# because you promised to honor him!"

So, we'll renew our vows this coming September to honor our church wedding vows, the ones I do recall.

That's only about four months away and our land is no where near prim and proper to compete with our city dwelling, it is wild and unruly. There is no running water or electricity and we might even have to arrange for a company to deliver a couple of potty houses for the weekend. But, we will have a patch of land deep in the woods ready for our ceremony. It feels extra sacred in this particular spot. It's near the site where we will likely build our future home. The ground is covered with a carpet of fallen leaves and pine needles that are softened by time and there is very little underbrush to get in the way. A huge canopy of trees provides ample shade and incredible natural beauty that can't be rivaled. Who needs wedding decorations when Mother Nature is in the house?

I got this photo off the Internet and love this idea...
I love the idea in the photo above; I do believe that this will be one of the ideas that I'll be using for our third wedding to be held in the country. I'll have a few lawnchairs for any older people and for those who cannot sit on the ground, but the rest can sit on the soft ground using a sheet from our baskets. I'll probably go to Hancock Fabrics and buy more bundles of cheap of material scraps that are large enough to be used for little ground coverings. I'll tie them up with ribbons and put them in baskets for our guests to use for extra seating.

Being married to Deputy Dave has never been boring, but this upcoming celebration is surely going to be interesting, especially if I can't arrange for temporary potty houses to be rented for the weekend. Deputy Dave might be building a rustic, mobile sweet! Somehow, I think it will be another day filled with lots of laughter.


Deputy Dave began making these after my best-friend Kelly brought a pan-load to our Easter gathering and they disappeared faster than any other food. I ate my first one that afternoon and instantly became addicted. Thank you Kelly!

During several social gatherings, we've made these and we cannot keep them from disappearing. We can never make enough. So, of course, this recipe that we've made numerous times with such success has officially gained entry into the PURPLE FOLDER!

The reason I especially love this recipe is that we can assemble these in advance and then cook them on the BBQ pit when we get to our land. Either by oven or BBQ or grill, these are heavenly.

(Pictures to follow recipe instructions)

10 Jalapenos (makes 20 stuffed jalapenos)
1 Pkg of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, on counter for 30 minutes prior to stuffing jalapenos to soften
1 Regular Pkg of Thin Bacon ( should have about ten slices, each slice cut in half)

DIRECTIONS  (Pictures will be below)
1. Put on a "Handling Glove" to be worn for touching jalapenos or you'll surely be sorry. If you are clumsy like me, you need to wear gloves on both hands along with a pair of safety glasses and full clothing protection. If you are like Deputy Dave, you'll only need one gloved hand for touching the jalapenos.
2. Rinse the jalapenos in a colander and let dry.
3. Slice each jalapeno in half, leaving veins and a few seeds according to level of desired heat. Deputy Dave uses a melon baller kitchen tool for this job. He also indicates which is mild or hot jalapeno by the stem. This time, the mild jalapenos were the ones WITH the stems. This makes it easier when it comes to serving time, so you can inform your guests accordingly.
4. Take a bit of cream cheese and put it into jalapeno cavity
5. Wrap a 1/2 piece of bacon around the stuffed jalapeno, trying to not overlap it too much so it will cook thoroughly and not be undercooked. You want the bacon crunchy, not raw.
6.  You'll need a thin-bottomed cooking sheet lined fully with foil. The pan must have a rim of edges to keep in the bacon grease as the jalapenos cook --- place the prepared stuffed jalapenos onto cooking sheet, then put them in the refrigerator for about 15 - 30 minutes to let the cheese firm up again before cooking. You can also prepare these in advance and pop the pan in the oven as the guests are starting to arrive.
7. In a 450 degree pre-heated oven, cook the stuffed jalapenos for 15 - 17 minutes. If they get a crunchy "blackbottom" they are actually more flavorful. Be careful when removing from oven so that the hot bacon grease does not spill onto you or anyone else.
8. Prepare a dish or an area with absorbent paper towels and carefully place cooked jalapenos onto the absorbent material for a couple of minutes.
9. If you can hold back the crowd, transfer the jalapenos to a serving dish and remind everyone about which ones are mild and which ones are hot. Of course, if you have an particular guest you wish to "honor", then have them eat an "especially" prepared stuffed jalapeno containing full veins intact and extra seeds as you eagerly stand there watching their expression. Have the camera ready. Texans know how to have a good time!

These can be reheated...just use a light spritz of cooking spray onto a foil lined pan to reduce the likelihood of sticking.

Deputy Dave frequently cooks these on the open grill at his BBQ pit for even more flavor. But, no matter which way you make these stuffed jalapenos, they are delicious.

Everything out and ready to make Blackbottomed Stuffed Jalapenos!

Slice each jalapeno in half.

Remove veins and seeds, if you want a mild flavor.
The veins is actually where the heat is found.

"Hot" jalapenos still have some veins and seeds / "Mild" jalapenos are scooped clean and have stem showing.

Softened cream cheese filled inside jalapeno half. Kelly said you can season the cream cheese
with a bit of taco sauce, if desired. But, these already have abundant flavors.

Using a small flexible spatula, Deputy Dave quickly fills all jalapeno halves.

Uncooked Stuffed Jalapenos waiting to add delight to someone's life.

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees - will cook the jalapenos for about 15 minutes, add a few
more minutes if the tops of the bacon does not look cooked enough. "Eyeball" it.

Cooking sheet should be thin, have edges and be covered with foil, unless
you like cleaning mini-disaster zones.

Ahhh, the mingled flavors are too joyful to explain. Just try it and you can be one of us

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

#14 - Fences Gone Wild!

Living in a suburb just outside of a major metropolitan area means that we have cedar fencing for our backyards. The cedar fence must be built with marine grade runners and posts with galvanized screws to hold it together. We can't have chain link fences, nor picket fences, only wood cedar fencing at the approved width and height according to neighborhood association rules.

City backyard with the fence built to neighborhood regulations.
We're tucked inside suburbia.
My husband is here with his grand-nephew and his Aunt
who is visiting from the Washington D.C. area.
We have a relatively nice sized backyard for our area, but when we go to our spacious acreage, I always come back to our home feeling boxed in. My opinion may be disagreed with by many neighbors in the city, but it seems to me that our large home sometimes looks a tad ridiculous sitting on this tiny bit of land, fairly close to the house next door. Often, I have to laugh at the absurdity of convenience.

Actually, I'd rather have sprawling land with a tiny house on it.

As a city person, I can tell you that, very often, my fellow city people (and I've been included in this bunch) feel incredibly independent and cutting edge in their character, yet the truth is that they are crammed together like sardines with full dependency on purchased resources for survival. Life is commercialized to the hilt and you don't have to think too much about fencing because it is usually taken care of for you due to your closed-in environment.

But, for us, having acreage has prompted us contemplate the need for fencing. Eventually, I would like to have a few goats. I must have been a closet farmer all along because I've been fascinated with chickens and goats and other farm animals for longer than I can remember. But, after I study different fencing for different kinds of animals, I walk away feeling more confused than ever. To add to the confusion is each person's differing opinion on fencing materials.

A picture I took while visiting a farm.
I'm terrified of electrified fencing lines, but so many people who farm say they are necessary. I guess I'd learn everything necessary to keep all of us safe, but I have these awful mental daydream moments when I can see myself stumbling right into the electric fencing and being entangled so that I hang there frying until someone finds me. Have I mentioned that I am not the most graceful person on the planet? Or, I can picture company coming to visit and someone's little child wandering over to an electrical line and ZAP, the kid is a part of my electrocution nightmarish daydreams.

What about bad weather, mud puddles and electricity or a grounding system that goes awry? What about a snapped wire that needs repair?

I took this picture going thru a small two-acre farm outside of Houston.
This area is for the chickens and that is electrical fencing.
We saw several chickens zapped while standing there.
On the other hand, I've heard that a low line of electrical fencing can also help to keep predators out of the fenced area. Zap, get back, you funky bobcat!

I am learning about cross-fencing and different areas that will need to be cordoned off to separate the babies from the regular adult population of animals. Fences. Fences. Fences.

At a farm checking it out...picture taken as I was walking through the baby-pen.
It appears that we'll need a tractor with an attachment for post-hole digging. I believe Deputy Dave will appreciate not having to use a hand-held post hole digger. Just a thought.

I love this look - the fence seems to be very sturdy. (Photo from goating site).
For perimeter fencing, the Texas Forestry Division recommends a "Fire Break" which is land cleared for several feet to prevent a fire jumping from the neighbor's land to yours. But, I also like the look of a strategic natural perimeter, a barrier of lush greenery to provide added privacy and sound buffering.

This fence is supposed to be good for goats. (Photo from goating site).
Once the main house is built, I'd like to put a nice, attractive fence around the perimeter of the house to keep farm animals from accidentally getting into our "personal space." I still expect to do some regular gardening around the house itself and would like to keep the wildlife and farm-life out of that area, as much as possible. My cousin's farm, on over 50 acres, is set up this way. The house has its own fencing around it and there are cattle grates for the driveway entry. It works.

One of our concerns are the creeks that run through the property. Since the creeks, bluffs, etc., do break up our land in places, we'll have to fence more sections to avoid the creeks. But, we will be fortunate enough to be able to run a pump from the Spring fed creek to a trough for watering. I think.

We have so many trees on our land that we'll need to incorporate them into our fencing. Learning how to do this will be the challenge. More importantly, we have an area of land that we are dedicating to grow pine trees for farm usage. As time passes, we'll figure out all the ways that pine trees can be utilized, but we've been trying to get opinions on rustic fencing made partly with pine tree posts. I've heard that they do not last long, but since we have abundant pines, it is a free resource from the land.

I like this fence - I took this picture last month at a babyshower we attended.

I didn't ask, but am interested in the kind of wood they used
and the way they attached it.

An interesting fence with a mix of modern steel and rustic wood.
I wonder how long the wood pickets will last and what equipment we'll
need to do this on our land? Also, would pine tree slabs be
workable for fencing? We have plenty
of pine wood on our land, so I'd like to utilize it in every way possible.
As we get closer to the time when we'll be moving to our land full-time, our fencing questions are becoming more detailed. We will start with getting the area around the house fenced and then an area fenced for the goats I will be getting. I'd like for us to have goat milk to make goat milk products.

Since goats are notorious for being escape artists, we'll need to make sure the fencing is nicely built, sturdy enough to withstand their bumping and rubbing against it and the fence should help discourage climbing. I've heard that putting a running board along the fence will serve as a buffer for their rubbing and bumping so that the actual fence can be spared.

We have a lot to consider and fencing systems are definitely a part of our farm-land master plan. I'm sure it'll be another area of trial and error for our Farm Life Lessons. However, I hope that we have lots of successful trials and minimal error due to good research and solid advice from others experienced in good fencing.

So, feel free to give your personal opinions on fencing. We have cleaned out our ears and are listening closely!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

#13 - Definition of a Farmer

Like a hot political debate, some people are ready to pop a vessel in their effort to defend their personalized definition of a farmer.

First Harvest of the Year.
Like my husband says, I was conducting a dangerous activity, I was thinking...Does having the official title of "Farmer" have to do with the amount of land you own? Or, does it have to do with how many animals you own? What about the variety of animals? Maybe it has something to do with whether or not you raise your own animals on the farm for personal consumption? Could it be that a person has to be farming for a certain time-frame before they can be dubbed a "farmer?" What about the people who don't grow crops, but have some animals...Are they a farmer?

Love our vine-ripened tomatoes.
In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a "Farmer" is defined as a person who cultivates land or crops or raises animals.

David prepping another area of the garden for more seedlings.
After several weeks of reading many different farm blogs, one prevalent fact is true, most farmers are supportive of other farmers. It doesn't matter whether they are a small farmer, commercial farmer, backyard farmer or want-to-be farmer...they all seem to be peaceful, helpful, even delightful people with an above average ability to be joyful and wise.

Hidden treasures all throughout our garden.
 However, I came across a man's blog the other day and he is a self-proclaimed "big-time" farmer. He has many employees and has many different kinds of animals that he raises strictly for commercial purposes. He openly talks bad about the small time farmer, as if they really aren't farmers at all because they are not living off of their produce on a commercial level. He also seems to think that if you have 5 sheep, you cannot understand how to raise sheep, unless you are like him and have 100. He owns hundreds of acres and thinks that people with small patches of land are not farmers at all. What? Is he serious?

A fun Backyard Farm animal.
He continued to rant and rave about how a farm should look --- according to angry farmer man, your farm is doomed to be ugly and industrial looking, messy and never picturesque. He said that anyone expecting their farm to look decent is not in the real world. He said any farm that looks a tad appealing is not even a farm. Well, I know people who have farms and they do have ugly spots here and there, but overall, their place is a dream. Their dream.

Fresh sweet basil ---- gotta have loads of this goodness for our weekly fresh pesto.
Well...I guess Mr. Commercial Arrogant Farmer was was making his own narrow definition for a farmer. Problem is, he's wrong. Merriam-Webster disagrees and I think I'll listen to the ultimate source for definitions rather than this one man's bloated ranting. Besides, his definition is a bit too self-serving.

Raising a little farmer niece.
So, my conclusion is that a true farmer is one who loves his land, his animals and his way of life. The barn might be leaning a bit, but it's still a work of art. The old tractor may not start, but it's a part of his history. The fence might need a coat of paint, but it is weathered and has character. He may not have as many animals as he did in his younger days, but he still runs the farm with the same old dedication. He'd tell you that farming is about taking some land and making it work for you and the animals and the multi-task all day long, from being a mechanic to repair broken machinery to sitting for hours on a tractor and talking with God. A woman on the farm is so in-tuned with her animals that she knows when a cow or goat or sheep is about to give birth and she is right there the entire time to welcome the new addition to the farm, face to face. A farmer has a big heart, a lot of dedication, a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day and he is prepared for the best and worst in life.

My niece visiting and being able to do her favorite things, tending to the crops and chickens.
So, Mr. Commercial Arrogant Farmer, go ahead and keep judging others by their assets...comparing them to your hundreds of holding pens and big transporting trucks and all those hired hands...because it seems that you may have actually forgotten what it means to be a farmer. I do see a huge difference between a cold, detached commercial farmer and the farmer who has met every animal on his property and has seen the chickens laying eggs on his land and he likes to tend to his crops. He is more in touch with his land on a personal level than any other big business person could comprehend and he still does pretty darn good.

Seed potatoes. I think.
Finally, I am a Backyard Farmer and am proud of it! I am trying to keep working so that I may one day soon live on my acreage so I can do this farming stuff full-time, but I am starting right here, right now, in the city. And, I am glad to own the silly title of Backyard Farmer! In fact, I embrace the title just to irritate Mr. Commericial Arrogant Farmer. My backyard here in the city might be pretty small, but I am still raising animals and tending daily to my crops, so I guess I meet the definition of a "Farmer."

I think I just heard Mr. Commercial Arrogant Farmer's vessel go POP!