AgriCulture: A Ewelogy

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Helena and Sofie nuzzle each other affectionately. Photo by Troy Spindler

 TURKANA FARMS, LLCGreen E-Market Bulletin August 2, 2019
WHAT’S NEW THIS WEEK: Cucumbers continue to abound. Beets as well.

A Ewelogy

Hi All, Troy here,When I gave the sheep their grain snack Thursday morning, I couldn’t help but notice something was off. After they’d eaten all the grain, the sheep made their routine exit out of the corral and through the hoof bath. There were a few stragglers, but I easily ushered them out without needing to get insistent. It all went so smoothly, it was as if they’d done it a hundred times before. When I paused to reflect on how well-behaved everyone was, it dawned on me – one was missing. Where was the one that was always last out the door? Where was the one that would go back to double check the feed bowls, making absolutely sure there was no grain left? Where was the one whose name I would curse as I shoved her out to join the rest of the herd? Where was Helena?I followed the herd out, trying to catch a glimpse at each ear tag. When Helena had her fleece, she was easy to spot, but since everyone was shorn, she’s been harder to distinguish from the grey mass – save for the fact that she was always in the back of the group or off on her own. This helped me determine that she definitely wasn’t with us and didn’t come in for breakfast either. I set off on the search, calling out to her, hoping for the best. But something told me that she couldn’t hear me – that she was gone for good. She loved breakfast grain more than anyone.Sure enough, I found her lying just over a ridge, unmoving, in an oft-frequented shady spot. After a moment of silence, I found what I thought was a very apt final resting place for her. I buried her at the bottom of the hill, surrounded by multiflora rose bushes, a plant that I believe perfectly encapsulates her personality.Helena was without a doubt our most stubborn, thorny, and altogether obnoxious ewe. But if I had to settle on just one word to describe her, it would be “defiant.” She refused to leave the barn when we wanted her to. She always found ways to wriggle into forbidden areas. Pretty much anything we wanted her to do, she would do the opposite. This, of course, made her a true inspiration to all of us.On many other farms, Helena’s individualistic qualities might have targeted her for culling. Her recalcitrance has tended to slow down operations, and her behavior was overall quite unsheep-like. Here at Turkana, those same qualities made her a long-time favorite. Some, including Mark, would justify keeping her by saying, “Well, the farm was never meant to run like a business.” This may be part of it, but something besides largess kept Helena in the herd. Independence, strong will, willingness to head-butt those in power — these are all deeply held values here at Turkana Farms. The farm has always been inseparable from Peter and Mark’s politics, and Helena was the perfect reflection of that. By refusing to conform to age-old sheep stereotypes, Helena was not just resisting us, she was resisting fascism. If we were doing things that she didn’t like, she wasn’t afraid to let us know. More often than was practical, we would end up caving to her will: letting her stay in the barn while we filled up the grain bowls, letting her stay behind for extra grain when the rest of the herd left for pasture, and so on. She was exerting her influence on us, and we couldn’t help but respect that. Perhaps against our better judgment, we can’t help but protect that legacy either.Helena gave birth to a pair of twins this January. Due to her age, her condition, and the cold, the newborns struggled to get their first meal. We rushed them inside to warm them, and enlisted the help of our friend Lexie, who was here working on their novel at the time. We named the twins Rowan and Sofie after characters from their book. After several hours of force-feeding colostrum supplement, an essential energy boost for newborn lambs, Rowan was able to stand, but Sofie was having seizures. So we returned Rowan to mom and kept Sofie next to a heater overnight. Rowan, unfortunately, didn’t survive the night, but Sofie revived with an unexpected strength. We started her on a bottle but occasionally brought her to Helena for real mother’s milk. Helena recognized her, but never let her drink very much. I’m sure it was because she wasn’t producing much milk to begin with, but sometimes I suspected that she knew whatever she didn’t feed, we would supplement with the bottle. If so, I can’t blame her – because she was right. We co-parented Sofie for several months, until she was big enough to wean. She’s now a healthy, curious, independent lamb. We love to show her off, because she is so charming and friendly with people. And yes, she goes wherever she pleases, defying all the boundaries I set for her.I don’t know what took Helena down in the end. As long as I’ve known her, she’s looked scrawny, matted and tired. When someone would ask why she looked like that, I would say, “She’s lived hard.” But in my head, I would think, “Maybe if she just did what we asked without putting up a fight, she’d look better.” I knew that wasn’t true, that it was my own frustration speaking, but it was hard to shake the feeling that something was “wrong” with Helena. Somewhere deep down I must have internalized a sort of social neoliberalism that looks down on the very act of protest, rather than examining the system being protested. But just because I feel pressure to conform to the covert standards of white western settler colonialism, doesn’t mean I should apply that same pressure on the sheep.There was nothing wrong with Helena. She was a force for good. She made me think harder about our operation, why it is the way it is, and how it could be better. She deserves to be celebrated, just like all black sheep.WHAT’S AVAILABLE THIS WEEKLots of Rainbow Chard – $3/bunch 
Cucumbers, $2/lb 
Mugwort, $1/bunch for infusions or tea 
Beets, $4/bunch (mixed bunches Chiogga, Detroit Red, Golden, or tell us your preference), 
Scallions, $2/bunch 
Kale $3/bunch two different varieties, deep blue green straight leaf and curly leaf 
Collards, $3/bunch 
Wax beans and haricots verts $2.50/lb (limited quantities) 
Purslane, $2/bag 
MINT: $.75 a bunch 
DILL: $.75 a bunch 
SHISO LEAVES, $1.00 FOR 10EGGS: Production is now in overdrive. We can handle all your orders. $5/dozMEATS: We keep some on hand, but it helps to order ahead in case we need to retrieve from our stash in the big commercial freezerGEESE: One remaining, about 8.5 lbs. $10/lb.TURKEYS: A few small ones left over and frozen $11/lb .GUINEA FOWL, We are sold out!ROASTING CHICKENS – We are sold out til FallLAMB: shoulder roasts at $10/lb, riblets $8/lb, small and larger leg roasts $14/lb, lamb stew $7/lb, shanks, $10/lbPORK: Loin pork chops, $12/lb (2 to a pack, btwn 1 and 1.5 lbs), Jowl (roughly 2 to 3 lbs each), $12/lb, 
Spare ribs and country ribs $7/lb 
baby back ribs $8/lb 
fresh ham roasts (2 to 3 lbs), $12/lb 
picnic or Boston butt roasts (roughly 2 lbs) $12/lb 
smoked bacon, $12/lb 
Kielbasa $8/lbDUCKS: SOLD OUT

AgriCulture: A Ewelogy

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