Agriculture: The Here and Now

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Turkana Farms is transitioning, as Mark revealed in last week’s bulletin. By this time next year, the land will be under someone else’s watch, and likely under a different name as well. With that knowledge, we’ve had to adjust our plans for this year quite a bit, and reimagine our visions for the following years quite a bit more. What will Victoria and I do after this year? Where will we live? I don’t have answers for these questions, but I can say that I’ve been in this position before. Being accustomed to seasonal work, I know that it’s too early to worry about these things. The opportunities that will be available at that point do not yet exist. And there are more pressing issues to worry about right here, right now.

Snug as bugs under sheet metal, Photo by Troy Spindler

For instance, the chickens need a clean coop. The pigs need a warmer, drier shelter. And the sheep… well, the sheep need lots of love and affection – as always. No matter how far into the clouds we are as we speculate about the future, the farm has a way of bringing us back to the ground, literally.

Our pair of retired pigs has been of particular concern lately, considering the cold and rainy weather we’ve had. The sheep have nothing to complain about, as their fancy new barn keeps them perfectly happy. But Possum and Vernon, on the other hand, are stuck with their beat-up old metal structures. They’ve grown accustomed to one farrowing hut that Peter S. patched up a while back. It’s where they slept all summer long, not far from where we deliver their food. Unfortunately, it has become a bit of a problem this winter.

Vernon, in his old age (he’s turning 14 this year!), has developed some mobility issues. That, combined with cold and generally gross weather, has discouraged him from leaving his hutch very often. He’s been hiding in there way more than he ought to be, which means I have had to get in there, muck out his bed and give him fresh hay a lot more than I ought to be. We turned to our farmer friend and local pig expert, Grace, for advice. After giving the pigs and their home a thorough inspection, Grace told us we need to move them to a new shelter ASAP. It needed to be bigger with a larger entrance, so that Vernon can have an easier time getting in and out, and I can have an easier time mucking it when I need to.

So I spent an afternoon patching up a different, larger shelter and delivering wheelbarrows full of fresh bedding (aka hay rejected by the sheep) to their new home. I made their bed, but could I get them to lie in it?

It was a pretty easy sell for Possum. She loves fresh hay and came over to observe as I brought all the hay from the barn. When I showed her the finished product, she made some adjustments to give it her own flair, but then she contentedly plopped herself down inside.

Vernon, however, was much more resistant to the change. After I managed to coax him out of his old corner, I had to walk him two doors down to his new and improved hutch. He did not do so gladly. He refused to follow me, so I had to direct him by gently patting him with an old shovel handle. Loudly expressing his annoyance, he reluctantly followed my directives, and several times turned back to try and go home. I explained to him that a better, more comfortable home lies ahead, but he would not listen to logic. He was set in his ways.

Eventually he inched his way to the newly-positioned food trough and ate his lunch. Then he turned and saw Possum, comfy in the shelter, so he trundled over and snuggled up next to her, grunting at me ungratefully as he passed by. Success. The next morning, he was up by the food trough waiting for me before I even got there! Now that he doesn’t have to wait for Possum to get up, he’s turning into a more confident and independent boar. This must be how the Fab 5 feels after each episode of Queer Eye.

We like to joke that Possum and Vernon are an old married couple. They grunt and gripe at each other from time to time, but I can tell they care for each other. Possum is more capable, so she has adopted the caregiver role. She lies next to him, keeping him warm, and she leaves behind ample grain portions for him. Whenever I bring them fresh bedding, she scoops it up and places it in the hutch. Vernon tries to help too, picking up a mouthful of hay and placing it gingerly in the corner; then he gets tired and must lie in it. But I can see the caring effort.

As I see Vernon spooning Possum, who’s nearly twice his size, I wonder what has kept their marriage stable all this time (6 whole years!). What sort of unsolicited advice would they give to Victoria and me as we take our own step into married life? Maybe they would say “Don’t go to bed hungry” or “it’s the big things that matter.” I guess, as much as the farm brings you down to Earth, it can just as easily send you back up into the clouds.

If they were really talking, or we were really listening, the answer would be simple: Don’t ask us. Ask each other.


Eggs are here! We can handle your orders.

The youngest hens have started laying adorable, smaller eggs, you are welcome to enjoy for $3/doz

Tiny hot matchbox peppers, $5.00 a string, dried and quite decorative.
Acorn squash, $2/each
Cheese Pumpkins, $2/lb, 5 to 8ish pounds

EGGS: $5/doz, $3/doz (fun size)

MEATS: We keep some on hand, but it helps to order ahead in case we need to retrieve from our stash in the big commercial freezer. See below.

GEESE: One remaining, about 8.5 lbs. $10/lb.

ROASTING CHICKENS – Nice fat Freedom Rangers, frozen, largish (4 to 7 lbs, a few smaller), $6/lb.

LAMB: Whole or Half $7/b (hanging weight), Riblets $8/lb, small and larger leg roasts $14/lb,

PORK: Loin pork chops, $12/lb (2 to a pack, btwn 1 and 1.5 lbs),
Spare ribs and country ribs $7/lb
baby back ribs $8/lb
fresh ham roasts (2 to 3 lbs), $12/lb
smoked bacon, $12/lb
Kielbasa $8/lb

FARM PICKUPS: Email us your order at, and let us know when you’d like to pick up your order. It will be put out for you on the side screened porch of the farmhouse (110 Lasher Ave., Germantown) in a bag. You can leave cash or a check in the now famous pineapple on the porch table. Regular pickup times are Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., other days by arrangement. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call at 518-537-3815 or email.

Agriculture: The Here and Now

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