This is where I grew up…in fact, I cleared that pasture when it was all blackberries and brambles, and you couldn’t walk through it without the fear of sticking your foot in a hole that you couldn’t see or stubbing your toe on a giant rock half-buried in the ground. When my parents bought this place in 2000, there were no pastures at all – there had once been, but they had been let go, and had grown up until they were impassable with any sort of motorized vehicle. I’m not kidding – you’d have needed the mars rover to get through it. We cleared the land by hand – my mama, my stepdad, my sister and I. And now it’s covered with grass (mostly. When it rains anyway.) for most of the year, and populated with Red Angus cattle, Katahdin sheep, and Tamworth pigs. My parents raise all natural, grass-fed animals with no antibiotics, no hormones, no bad-for-you additives. They get grass and hay; even the pigs graze, although being natural omnivores, they do receive a supplemental pig feed in carefully measured amounts, as well as whey, a natural by-product of the cheese making process that they love and is full of nutrients.
Mostly, they just roam around chowing down on all that grass and providing me with endless entertainment and photo opportunities. You can see that they’d much rather cool off in their drinking water than use it for it’s intended purpose. They are all well-fed, well-cared for, and well-loved – they’re not very shy, and will usually come up to investigate when we visit their domain.
That little cutie is the first lamb of 2013, although judging by the size of the lady on the left, he will (very!) soon be joined by twins or even triplets. My parents lost their ram last year – the stud of the flock – and it’s possible that this little guy will be stepping up to fill his hooves. He’s anxiously awaiting his name – it’s taking a while to come up with something suitably impressive.
I really miss being on the farm every day – when I was kid it just seemed like work, work, and more work, but now I can see how valuable our experiences there were. We learned how to work hard – pasture clearing, see above; we learned skills most people have no concept of – for instance, can you deworm and vaccinate horses, sheep, cattle, pigs, dogs, and cats? or shoe them, or trim their feet or toenails? or clean 18 stalls before 10 am?; and we got to experience some of the coolest things ever – like a half-hour old lamb/calf/horse try to stand up and find it’s mama for the first time. It’s work like you wouldn’t believe. Folks aren’t joking when they say “up with sun” – I had to be at the barn to feed at 7am everyday, including holidays, and we didn’t go in the house until everyone was fed and watered at night, and that might be 6pm or 10pm depending on how your day went. I’ve hauled 400 bales of hay in from the field, off the trailer, into the barn, then into the stalls in an afternoon – but I’ve also ridden through the Talladega National Forest in the springtime when everything is blooming and the horses are frisky. All of the work is balanced out by some miraculous event, or birth, or experience that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I learned so much, and gained so much appreciation for the land, the animals, the seasons, that I wouldn’t change it for the world.