Thursday 8 May 2014

Farming is Life

(the rest is just details)


I've fallen in love these past few days.

(what else is new? you may ask)

It's totally different this time!

When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a farmer.

Then I got older, worked in the mountains, sat in an office and forgot about the farm.

Until last week.

And now I want to be a farmer again.  Or at least marry one.
(I'm under no false illusions here.  I do recognize that farming - or loving a farmer - is probably one of the most demanding things a human bean (thank you SARK!) could choose to undertake.  And I am not excited about the idea of 4am wake-ups.  Or never taking holidays.  Or working all season only to have the weather destroy your crops.  But I do believe that knowing the land, learning how to live in harmony with our changing seasons and providing nourishment for our species - in a sustainable way - is one of the most noble, needed pursuits on the planet today.)

I spent the week with my seventh cousins thrice removed on their land near Clearwater, Manitoba.
I showed up like city-girl Paris Hilton on The Simple Life, only without the cute outfits (and showing less cleavage).  I arrived in nightclub boots and skinny jeans.  Like the wonderful people they are, my family welcomed me in with open arms (and a more farm-appropriate Carhartt uniform).  I vow to get one for myself now  (I mean, how can I possibly become a capable, resilient person without the right outfit?? Seriously...)

A calf literally fell out of its mother as Mom and I forced our compact rental car up the lane way. 

I named him Teardrop.  But don't tell Don.  Even I know that you're not supposed to name farm animals.
(But my parents' friends once made a pseudo-exception to this rule by naming their backyard cow 'Freezer Beef')
Within an hour I was driving a tractor.  And then I was holding a gun for the first time in my life.  I'd never imagined I'd see the words Winchester and Remington up close.  It was terrifying.  I can't believe my cousin Don trusted me to even hold the thing.  Thankfully, I'm a terrible shot, so the gophers of Clearwater have never been safer.

My family is absolutely amazing.  If there are more generous people on the planet, living with greater integrity, I have yet to meet them.  This land is their life.  Once upon a time they had fields yellow with canola.  Then they raised sheep.  And now cows.  When I asked Don why he switched from canola to cattle, he said that he didn't like what the crops were doing to the land.  He takes a holistic management approach to farming, mimicking nature's processes.  Allan Savory, who first conceived of this notion believed that, "only livestock can save us."  He believes that rotational cattle grazing can restore rangeland soil.  These restored grasslands are then able to sequester vast amounts of carbon dioxide, lessening our negative impacts on the atmosphere.

I only spent two days on the farm. 
But under these vast open skies holding a newborn calf in my arms, I had an epiphany.  This really is life.  In our cities, we remove ourselves from the cycles of life, death, weather and seasons, hiding out in malls and on freeways.  Here, out in the Manitoba wind, I was right next to my food, to my family and to the land - our lifeblood.  I think that this is what breeds resilience in people. This is an enormous part of what it truly means to be alive and human (thank you to Ken Low and Leadership Calgary for that concept).  And as Don reminded me, 'It's not the big things.  It's all the little things.' 

As we pulled away, I waved at Don in the tractor, his 3-year old grandson on his knee.  What a place for a kid to grow up.  This might just be what it takes for us to become free range humans again.  It's time, people.

Tonight I am grateful for:


For fresh wet calves,
Who stand a second after they're born.

For babies and boys
And Mom.
For the tractor
and Don
and Jan-Anne-Brayden-Mitch.

For the wisdom that comes from the fields,
for not letting skool get in the way of your education.
For resilience,
for sunsets.
For the generosity of strangers.
For family and farms and
Family farms.

For love and fresh food and pico de gallo. For twins and bottle-feeding and snowy white owls.
For a calf in wolf's clothing,
deep mud and 2-way radios.

For poetry and poets and
Even for iPhones.
For places without service.
And lives of service
And peace and
And Palestine.

I'm grateful for you.
And for me.
And for we.

And most of all, I'm grateful for this whole mad circle of life and for all the things that


  1. "Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."
    - Robert Brault .....and reinforced for me by my cousin Don :)

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