Sitting at the library the other day I overheard a man telling a boy about a site he had visited in Peru. “There were stone walls there, stones in all sorts of shapes, not just rectangles and squares, but odd shapes like pentagons and diamonds, all fitted together to make huge, sturdy walls. The stones were carved so exactly and fit together so tightly that you can’t even slip a butter knife between them,” he said. I have visited this site in Cusco and marveled at the walls and heard the same comment from the guide who was showing us around.
Although the fellow in the library went on to conjecture that such engineering was impossible for humans to have mastered some four thousand years ago, and therefore proof of alien visits to earth, I know what it took for the ancient Incans to construct the walls. It took strong backs, master craftsmen, organization, resources, and will power.
It will take something similar to build our farm. Yeah, alright, something similar on a much smaller scale. My back is not strong. I know this as a fact, as several days ago, in the middle of pruning brambles and pulling weeds along the fence line I tried to rise from my squatting position, heard something go ‘crack’ and found myself frozen in pain in a half crouch. Ow! A day of ice, pain killers and rest, and two days of walking with a cane made me very aware that age is catching up with me. I do not have a strong back. The kids are new to manual labor and while enthusiastic (until the heat overcomes them) are also unskilled and tire easily. We are very lucky that the family member we are staying with, although also suffering from some of the creaks and twinges of age, does still have a strong back and is willing to help us out with the heavy lifting.
He is also the master craftsman among us – coming up with solutions to the barn repair problems that are more creative and inexpensive to implement than my more mainstream ideas. Too bad he has a day job! Thanks to his engineering skills and strong back we have begun to fill the gap below the barn wall. Soon we will have the first goat pen completed.
Unlike the Inca Kings, our resources are extremely limited and dwindling fast. Thanks to the much lower than desired sale price of our old trailer, and the mishaps and additional costs along our journey we arrived with only a very small nest egg. We have attempted to keep costs low; accepting a neighbor’s help to mow the pasture, borrowing tools, scrounging many of the supplies we are using (scraps of sheet metal, bits of board and concrete) and purchasing others cheaply from the Habitat Restore.
Nevertheless, some purchases of new material were necessary (330 feet of goat fence set us back nearly $300) and our nest egg is exhausted. Although we hope to have the pen and pasture ready shortly, we won’t be able to purchase any animals until I find work and save some money. With any luck (long time readers are rolling their eyes now as our track record with luck is dismal – but perhaps we’ve turned that corner?) that will be soon. Does will be bred in fall and expecting does are sometimes available in September or October and I’d like to purchase up to half a dozen then. I’ve applied for half a dozen jobs since we arrived and will be putting in applications for another three or four this week (still waiting on the background check for the substitute teacher application and the college transcripts for the extension agent job).
Several other aspects of our farm are either on hold, or scheduled for later in the year as well. Both bees and chicks are more available and easily transitioned into the farm in early spring. Bees need to build up a honey base to survive the first winter in a new hive so buying them now would be counterproductive. The relative whose farm we are using has suggested since she has room in her hen house, we purchase chicks in the spring and eventually move them into her coop. We can share expenses and eggs. While laying hens are available now, any new inhabitants would need to be quarantined before being introduced to the flock and we don’t have a structure available to do that. The spring chicks can be easily quarantined indoors until they are ready to join the flock.
Gardening is also likely to wait until spring, although we may try some fall veggies in a modified greenhouse. Again our farmer relative has suggested we just plant in her vegetable garden, where the soil has already been built up. A tour of her garden illustrates some of the difficulties of the sustainable life. The extended heat wave has wreaked havoc with many of the plants, even though the additional watering has kept the plants growing, beans are yet to appear and the tomatoes are slow to ripen. Squash and scale bugs have sucked the moisture from the plants, causing sturdy vines to wither and collapse overnight leaving their stunted fruit marooned on the ground. It’s a reality check and a different picture than the richly green plants bursting with luscious ripe produce that entice me from the pages of my sustainable living guide books.
So for now we will begin the Boxcarkids Farm in a small way – with a few angora rabbits (the kids objected to raising meat rabbits). This area is known for its arts and crafts and there is a strong local interest in hand spinning and fiber work. Since our relatives are very involved in the arts community we have a line into several venues at which to sell the raw angora wool. We are very excited to be adding our first ‘livestock’ to the farm this afternoon.
We will continue to work on the goat pasture and barn and I’ll continue to work on my database of networking activities for goat sales – for example, getting in touch with the local Muslim and Jewish community organizations, and the butchers who cater to ethnic restaurants. This week is Fair week and we’ll be talking to local families who raise dairy and meat goats, and attending the shows and auctions to get an idea of the characteristics of the best goats and the prices they command. We want to be ready when we have the funds.
We cannot match the Incas; our walls still have gaps to be filled, but we are organized and excited and we have a wealth of enthusiasm and determination! Stay tuned for further updates and the unveiling of the Boxcarkids Farm Page – coming soon!
Note – we have limited communication presently, having fallen behind on the phone bills and lost smart phone service, so comments will only be moderated when we are at the public library where we can enjoy internet access. I’m not ignoring you – just ignorant of your attempt to communicate! Sorry!