Farming made good memories

Published 12:02 pm Thursday, July 28, 2022

Do you miss farming? It’s the question I’m most often asked. Yes.

 

When we retired from our white-collar jobs with corner offices, we still wanted to do something we could look back on as an accomplishment far off the beaten path of our careers. So we bought 40 acres in Rutherford County and built from scratch a blueberry and livestock farm using strict organic practices.

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We raised hundreds of chickens and processed the meat ourselves on the farm for sale to the public. When Thanksgiving rolled around, we processed 75-100 heritage breed turkeys we had raised. A flock of more than 100 laying hens, many of them heritage breeds, kept us and our neighbors and customers happy. All of our poultry were free-ranging pasture raised and fed either organic or non-GMO food.

 

At one time we kept nearly a dozen bee hives, harvesting and processing their honey for sale.

 

Our herd of Nubian dairy goats produced milk that Anita used to make soap and a variety of cheeses, all sold to the public, when she wasn’t developing a You Pick blueberry operation that served not only the public but restaurants and breweries.

 

Our guinea fowl, often as many as 40 birds, free-ranged on the farm consuming ticks, one of their favorite foods, and other pests. (We have found only a handful of ticks on us in 10 years.)

 

Cover crops–buckwheat, crimson clover, Daikon radishes, cowpeas, and a variety of grain and grasses–were grown to build and protect the soil while also feeding livestock and honeybees.

 

We rotated our crops regularly because diversity disrupts the disease cycle.

 

A little more than a year ago we decided working 10-12 hours a day, seven days a week was best done by younger people, so we sold the farm. We had created more memories in a decade than many people do in a lifetime, and we were thankful for that.

 

Some of the memories are brightly colored, filled with enough laughter and sunshine to almost erase the physical scars gotten along the way. A few are sad. Still. You can’t raise livestock and keep pets without them stepping on your heart. We lost some incredible two- and four-legged friends there. We can tell you where we buried each one of them, saying a farewell over each gravesite.

 

And yes, I miss the goats. We helped the mamas give birth, and cried whenever we heard that any of their offspring died once they were at their forever farm. I was the milker, and I miss leaning my head on their belly and pulling milk from their teats while they munched their food.

 

Anita misses her chickens.

 

But we left 40 acres of earth in far better condition than when we found it. We got featured in “Our State” magazine, participated in annual farm tours and were among the first to get involved in agritourism. We fed a few people along the way, became a “destination” for dozens of family members and friends, and met farmers all around the area who proved, even when no proof was needed, that people in agriculture are the soul of Western North Carolina.

 

Now we can slow down a little. Wet a line now and then. Throw a saddle on a horse. Calm an old dog in a thunderstorm. Spend extra time on a flower bed. Do battle with invasive plants while hailing the virtues of native plants. Paddle a kayak. Write a little.

 

But loaf? Never.

 

Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at hardscrabblehollow@gmail.com