Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Small Farm School 2013

The sun was just peaking over the horizon on Saturday morning when my mom came in to wake me up. I rolled out of bed and put on my 'cleaner' jeans and my new 'You might be a farm girl' shirt. I didn't even dare look in the mirror - it was too early. ;) Then Mom headed out to milk the goats, and I was off to do what chicken chores I could do by myself since the rest of the posse was still wrapped up in their toasty warm beds. After a quick bite of breakfast and pulling ourselves together, we (Dad, Mom, Caity and I) loaded up into the car 15 minutes later than we had hoped and hit the road to go the this year's small farm school put on by Oregon State University (Why do the schedule this sort of thing so early in the morning when the target audience has a farm and animals? I'm still trying to figure that one out). We arrived in time to get our registration packets and get settled in our respective classes. To maximize all that was offered this year, my parents and I used the 'divide and conquer' technique. Caity learned all about tractors (safety, driving, attaching implements, etc.) Dad took the berry path; Mom focused mainly on dirt, what's in it, and what can make it better. Me? Being my ADD sort of self, I bounced all over the place.

First session was all about raising small flocks of chickens. According to the instructor, a 'small flock' is anything  less than 3,000 laying hens. 3,000! I can't even begin to imagine that many birds on our property.
The next class was taught by a master gardener. Can you guess what it was about? ;) Transplanting veggie starts. And since the day was all about small farms, he took it the larger scale garden route.
By this point, my stomach was demonstrating a vast array of whale calls; it was time to eat. I scarfed my lunch down as fast as I could for two reasons - 1) I was competing with yellow jackets for my roast beef and 2) I heard some 'baas' and 'neighs.' Caity and I scurried the direction of the animal sounds and we found a draft horse, some alpacas and a couple of sheep.

Of course, animal time was cut short due to the next session starting.

I was then immersed in the world of honey bees. Their biology, what makes them tick, some basic bee keeping, and the lo-down on colony collapse disorder. It's called a disorder for a reason since it's not a disease - it's a certain set of symptoms with numerous contributing factors ranging from pesticide usage to suppressed immune systems to miteicide (am I spelling that right?) to a lack of genetic diversity. Say wha? Yeah, apparently the 1920 Bee Act prevented any more bringing in of bees from international sources. Hmm.

It's usually by this time of the day that I check out. My brain decides that it's nap time. So instead of going to a chemistry-laden dirt class like my mom did, I decided to enroll in the writing farmers session. With the smaller class size, it was much more personal. We went around the room saying our names, a little bit of our writing background, etc. It was intriguing to hear all varying reasons and uses for writing in the farming world. Some put together newsletters or worked with CSAs. Others, like me, just write for the heck of it.

The end of the day and I went kaput. Emergency ice cream was much needed. So ice cream I procured. With my head full of new ideas and tons of notes and my stomach full of ice cream, I sat down at my desk that evening and tried to get this post written. It didn't quite happen on the schedule that I was hoping for. The ice cream was good though. ;)

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