Of Curious Calves and Communications

2018 calves
Curious calves creep close to sniff at my Carhartt coveralls.

I can feel Spring itching to enter Indiana. We thought the Big Snow we had on the last Saturday of March was Winter’s last big showing, a last hurrah before consistent warmer temperatures and flowers finally reach us. But then it snowed on Easter. I enjoyed The Big Snow, crunching through it, watching new calves gallop around their mothers, tails held high, silhouettes in the coming dusk and falling flakes. The cold weather and snow, especially The Big Snow’s cold and dense and quiet six-inch fall, have helped me readjust to the Northern Hemisphere and, for the first time in three years, experiencing all four seasons in one year.

The spring has brought new opportunities, as well.

I’ve embarked on a new career. I am a farmer and a writer. I don’t consider one occupation more important than the other, as one exists at the same plane as the other for me. There is no writing without farming; there is no farming without writing. Take away one, and you might as well take away both and toss me into a car mechanic’s shop and ask me to fix the worn-out brake pad on a Hummer.

On the farming side, I’ve joined the family livestock operation as Livestock Production Assistant. Right now, I am feeding livestock and keeping an eye on calving season, checking the cows and calves and tagging newborns. I’ll be tending to hay in the summer.

I also write, edit, take photographs, and maintain websites for my new business, Root 61 Communications. The writing is focused mostly on technical agriculture magazines. So far, I’ve worked with and have been published in Feed and Grain and Seed World with an upcoming story in the next edition of Hay and Forage Grower. I’m editing a weed management manual and manage the Indiana Forage Council’s website.

Irrigation Channel near Methven.Dennis Hancock
Deidre Harmon (left) and I take pictures of an irrigation channel near Methven, New Zealand, in November. I connected with members of the American Forage and Grasslands Council for a tour of some agricultural areas in the South Island. Photo by Dennis Hancock, University of Georgia.

Things are slower now, but it’s just the beginning. I’m excited to see what all can happen in the next few months.

Along with my Livestock Production Assistant detail, I’m considering what agricultural endeavors I can begin for my own operation. I’m considering layers (chickens that produce eggs for consumption), 4-H calves, and more.

And, of course, life would be incomplete without sheep.

I can’t wait to buy my first sheep again.

It’s a funny phrase, “first sheep again.” I’ve been around sheep for my whole life and managed my own flock when I was in high school. But then I moved away for university and work and never settled back into home enough to buy sheep.

Now, I am settling back into home, and I’m going to buy some sheep.

Just thinking about it makes me smile.

I’m working out markets, which will most likely be direct, and thinking about some new ideas for marketing and managing. There’s a lot of potential with the land that’s already here.

While I was in Ireland, I was talking with a friend from back home about how much I disliked boat rides, especially the ride back from Skellig Michael when I didn’t have much to hold my stomach down and we were rolling in the Wild Atlantic. I couldn’t imagine the Irish leaving their country for America, watching that beautiful island disappear as they rolled into those tumultuous swells.

“I enjoy boat rides, but I’m always happy to get back to land. I’m quite happy to be a land-locked American.”

She replied, “You make your living from the land…as a farmer.”

And indeed, I do.

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