Let me introduce you to Mark Rothkoop, the missing piece of our rotational grazing system. An eggmobile whose form has been completely collapsed into function…that’s what I wanted. I’ve built a number of chicken coops over the past 4 years, often with my friend Kenny Latta, who is a much better builder than me and is capable of making things look nice when they are finished. Kenny loves to make chicken coops beautiful. Personally, I think beauty is often a euphemism for “too heavy to move and readily accessible to raccoons.” This one would be different. The coop is 5×11, dimensions that lack economy in terms of wood usage (plywood comes in 4×8 sheets and 2x4s come in two foot increments) and eschew elegance entirely for the sake of fitting as many chickens into as much roost space is comfortable for them. The corners don’t match. There are few, if any, 90 degree angles. Its beauty, if there is any, is that it is a statement against art for art’s sake. Art for chickens’ sake maybe. If it keeps chickens safe and dry, it’s beautiful as far as I’m concerned. It’s cheap; it’s ugly; it probably should be 2 or 3 different coops, and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t look like Mark Rothko painted it.
Although, I’ve always tended to gravitate towards what I consider more “practical philosophy” like applied ethics, I must admit to having a soft spot for some of the more esoteric debates in the modern period. Begrudgingly, I should also admit that mentally I’ve allowed a false binary to creep into my thinking about Philosophy as a field. On one hand, you have “practical” subjects (moral philosophy, applied ethics, political philosophy, and bits of philosophy of science) and on the other you have more theoretical subjects (metaphysics, philosophy of religion, epistemology). The former are useful in that I’d like to think they can affect the real world, while the latter are those subjects my community college students pointed to as evidence philosophy has no bearing on the “real world.” That binary was shattered for me this week, when for the first time my goats and guard dogs attempted to escape.
…let me explain.
Every memoir, blog, how-to guide, and business handbook on farming that I’m aware of has a section on the weather. Is it really necessary to go on about the ways in which the farmer’s life—when to plant, when to rest, when to till, when to spread manure, move goats, make hay, sleep and wake—is organized by the weather?
Yes. Yes, it is.
I thought it was clever, the epitome of what I’m trying to do with this “Farmlosophy” blog. Last week we got our two Lamancha does, and I worked out a whole Don Quixote thing. I would explore my doubts about my project—are the giants of industrial agriculture like Monsanto and Cargill really just windmill-monsters? Am I just over romanticizing an era where hard working heroes still exist, indeed prevail? Am I really just crazy or is there something to my madness? —all couched cleverly in a literary reference that ties the work back into the more abstract, academic lens with which I’ve promised to look at my farming endeavor. What better a way to do my farmlosophy!
While I still have a romantic attachment to this idea, I can’t bring myself to write that blog. Here’s why:
Generally, I am not a huge fan of tired aphorisms. They have always seemed to be so obvious as to not be worth saying anymore. That all changed these past two weeks, when I figured out first hand why that first person felt compelled to say out loud, “many hands make light work.” Last weekend, my buddies Mike Larivee and Marie Dennan were kind enough to spend their Saturday afternoon battling 12 foot tall blackberries vines (no seriously, see below) and this sticky little plant that known as any of the following: cat brier, greenbrier, or smilax.
Who am I…and what am I doing here?
It is astonishing to me that this whole ‘farming thing’ was planned. It certainly doesn’t feel that way sometimes. About 9 months ago now, I decided to quit my salaried job as the Executive Director of a non-profit to pursue my dream of starting (and hopefully maintaining) my own farm. While pursuing food justice at the non-profit level was an enormous opportunity and helped me to develop valuable horticulture skills and business skills, the position never felt quite right. You see, about five years previous, I was afflicted with an incurable desire to become a farmer.