Visiting farms for the Growing Local series has had a very educational impact on me. I am learning things that I never knew but have always wondered. I also am experiencing something from my past that seems to have faded over the years – the simple days, when I was young with no cares in the world except what was right in front of me.
Even when I was able to go to the gym and take yoga classes … that was my ‘me time’. It was something that gave me that moment of ‘slow down and catch your breath’.
Certain things in my life have changed and so has my schedule. I am delighted when I go to visit a farm because that seems to give me the ‘me time’ that I need to just let loose.
Farmers don’t expect me to come out there in full make-up and my hair in place or wearing high heels. They expect cowboy boots or mud boots and a-la-natural Jen.
I get to take in the clean, fresh farm air. I get to traipse around in my Dingo’s and sort of get my cowgirl swagger going. I meet good people with a passion for good, clean and simple living. No telephones ring, no crowds push through and no computer to stare into. It is just me, a farmer and a time-out, the Zen-Jen side of me, if you will. I am not thinking of what I have to do next. I am not worried of what someone will think of how I am dressed or how educated I am.
I don’t think about my finances– I am able to lose myself in someone’s natural living state and pretend for a little while that I am as carefree as the cows that I see. I must say that I enjoy seeing the animals the best. I always enjoy getting to meet the farmers or local growers, but when there are animals to observe that just makes it even more fun.
I found that I love goats. I experienced loving, beautiful, clean goats at Sheerlark Farm, Tant Hill Farm and a few others. At the Tant place, I fell in love with a goat named Shelby that kept scratching her head on my leg. I recently saw a sow for the first time in my life at Cloud Crest Farm. I realized that the smell of pigs is far different from horses and cows. I am not as fond of pigs - unless they are frying up in a pan in the morning.
I even like chickens. Since I started writing this series and visiting these farms, my oldest twin Jonathan Carter, has tried his hand in raising hens. He is doing well and I have tasted his eggs - they are good. I think he wants to do a lot more as he learns. He and I both attended the Michael Pollen lecture given at the Tivoli Theater recently and have been learning more about local eating and how important it is - not just economically important for our city but mainly for our health. We both are slowly trying to move away from so much of the processed foods in our diet. This can be challenging.
I have been going to the Main Street Farmers Market on Wednesday afternoons when I can. I am learning slowly how to buy fresh food and what to do with it. Gaining Ground recently put out two cookbooks that are free at the market and they teach how to prepare and cook these good wholesome foods that our local farmers grow. Some of the things I have never heard of! I have fun posting on my public page on Facebook, the things that I am trying such as Pok Choi, Kohlrabi and Swiss chard. Many restaurants in our city support local growers and they buy local for their menu. These are actually my favorite restaurants because you can taste a difference in the freshness.
Recently, I visited a farm in Sale Creek called Crider’s Creek Farm. I met with Lucy Crider and her two sons Jack and Jacob. Those boys reminded me of my own sons and how much I loved and enjoyed raising boys. Their sense of adventure, their excitement – it was so much fun to hear them tell of their farm adventures. Jack seemed most excited to tell me all about the bees. For such small creatures, I think they fascinate him the most because there was a small amount of danger for him.
Jacob went on his own way and collected bugs and threw rocks in the pond. Lucy loved showing her goats. We went out to see the goats and the hens and she even had turkeys! One was named ‘Big Tom’. I was surprised after Jack had introduced me to all the chickens, hens and smaller turkeys to turn and see Lucy holding a turkey. She then asked if I wanted to hold him as if she were a new mother holding a cuddly newborn that I might want to steal some sweet baby lovin’ from.
I don’t ever listen to any apprehensions that I may have if an opportunity to do something different is offered. I am a ‘seize the day’ kind of girl if I hear my inner child say, why not? But I did tell her that the last turkey I had encountered was at the ranch where Smokey is and it tried to attack me (he is now in the ranch owner’s freezer). Big Tom didn’t look like he was very mean, sitting all curled up in Lucy’s arms.
“Um… sure!” I took the turkey from Lucy and she told me to grab the bird’s legs. It took me a second but I was holding Big Tom just like she instructed me. I had given Jack my camera and he aimed it and said, “Smile! Say cheese!” I think I was actually gritting my teeth and faking a smile as I was a little afraid that Tom would suddenly peck at me. He didn’t, he was well mannered and sweet and…
And… he just poo’d on me! I am a girl. I am a girl that doesn’t like worms. I am a girl that doesn’t like bugs. I don’t like to touch germy things if I can help it and a huge turkey just poo’d on me. But I am on a farm; I have no cares at the moment… not even turkey poo bothers me. All I can do is laugh. Lucy had grabbed the camera from Jack and made sure she got a photo of me holding Tom.
I told Lucy what happened and she thought it missed me. I let Tom down and showed her my brown slimed, hand.
“This is what a rock is for” I said. I wiped my hand off on a nearby rock. Then I grabbed for my camera case that had sanitizer. Lucy said they had antibacterial gel if I wanted it and I pulled out my handy spray from my camera case and told her that I am used to having it with me. She said, “Oh you’re smart.” I still felt very Zen and at peace. I think I would be more afraid of a grocery cart full of germs than turkey poo. It wasn’t so bad. After wiping it off on the rock and then using the sanitizer we walked around for the rest of the tour of the farm.
Tom the turkey was all puffed up showing his beautiful fan of tail feathers. Jack has an ear-piercing turkey call for his conversation with Tom. After a while, I saw a long floppy thing hanging off of Tom’s face. Lucy said it is a sign of excitement, either sexual or aggression. It is drawn up like a cone on the head when it isn’t flapping around. I think I would get more aggressive or annoyed with that thing in my face. I wondered just what it was that Jack was ‘saying’ to Tom with his turkey screeches. Whatever it was, Tom’s floppy-doodle was just dripping all over his face.
Maybe that’s God’s joke on the turkey to ‘put something in his way’ when he is feeling a bit aggressive or ‘randy’. Just like He does humans with the time gap that a female reaches her peak of interest than a male does. Also, I think God has a sense of humor in the fact that women mature faster than men during puberty so you see a lot of healthy, blossoming teenage girls paired with a scrawny, boyish young man and they are the same age. Then it gets even funnier to God, I bet, when the fifties hit.
Men get all distinguished and sexy looking, finally reaching their ‘full feathered’ turkey magnetism while a woman begins looking as if she were his mother instead of his wife. Most women will cover their gray just to have an even-playing field, though I have seen many that can really pull off gray in an elegant way. God’s joke continues while the man struts all the right stuff, puffing up his sexy feathers when all of a sudden his floppy doodle gets in the way. Sigh. You may think it is God’s great design to control over-population, but God knew that we would invent birth control. I think God just likes to laugh at all of us turkeys.