Thursday, July 7, 2011

Citizen Farmers

I admit it.

At times I wonder why we moved here.

Like the time when a drunk driver ran a stop sign across the street and continued down the embankment to plow over our stock panel fence and leave skid marks 10 feet into our pasture.

"Oh yes," commented a neighbor "I've lived here for 5 years, and seems like every year somebody comes careening down one of these streets and does something stupid into one or the other of our yards."

I asked my girls if they saw the accident, since they were playing in the yard at the time.

"Yes" my 5 year old answered blandly "But they just didn't realize where they were going. Once they found out, they backed up and drove away the right way."

And there are those, fond of revving up the engines of their 2-ton pick-ups and laying on the gas to see if they can hit one or two of the stray hens that escape our enclosure. Not exactly neighborly.

In this close-knit community it sometimes it seems like everybody knows your business, has made their judgments about you, and keep a close watch on everything going on. Sometimes that can be a nuisance. No padding about the house in your underoos for an early morning read, or a midnight snack. No loud marital disputes, or bathrooming behind a bush.

But I can't count the number of times when this farm was succored in many ways by random citizen farmers pulling in the driveway, or pounding on the door at all hours, day and night, to tell us about sheep that have gotten loose, goats that are out, a cow that came untethered, and a chicken dead on the side of the road. Sometimes they'll be downstairs in the dark banging on the door to let us know in sugared tones and raspy voices that our icelandics are on the road...

"sorry to wake you honey, but I saw your sheep out on Harlow, and honey, I didn't want anything to happen them...I live just down the road...and...."

Another time a gentleman did a U-turn, pulled into our driveway as we were harvesting veggies and asked "Is that your cow up there in that field? She didn't look so good. I think she might be thirsty, just thought I'd drop in and let you know..."

A CSA member, after roaming the farmstead came up to me asking:
"Do rabbits lay eggs? Cause there are a lot of them under the hutch!"

Many times I've been stopped on the road, "Is this your farm? Are those your goats? I can't tell you how much I love your place! I drive out of my way to pass by here on my way to town, just so I can watch the animals!"

Sometimes people watching you is a good thing. Sometimes they make you feel like there in this crazy adventure with you. Sometimes you can feel it quite keenly, like a thin strand of electric wire giving you a little jolt just when you need it...a zip and zing which cuts through all your mistrust and your misgivings, and your missed opportunities and sings: "Ain't no man an island! We got your back...Keep on keeping on....Reminds me of when I was growing up on a ....."

And these little things tie us together whether we were looking to be tied or not, and more than that, these pigs, and sheep, and chickens, and cows, and goats tie people up with their they haven't thought about in a while, not with all their bills to pay, their sitcoms to watch, vacations to take....

The Sheep seem to get in all sorts of trouble. Pastor Mark from the Baptist church up to road has been down before, letting us know that our flock goeth astray, and would we need any help bringing them back into the fold? Once my neighbor watched in disbelief as a lamb skittered about on the roof of the barn. We were up in the veggie field at the she sent her husband up to Tom and Candy's place where he ran into Farmer Shane and delivered the message...but by that time the lamb had jumped back down to solid ground, giving our neighbor an afternoon's worth of entertainment, and all of us something to introduce ourselves over.

One of my favorite recent chains of citizen farming started with the people who saw our sheep out, going berserk over the evenings fireworks, so they telephoned Mrs. Bailey who ran down in the dark to knock at our door and let us know. We all jumped into the truck for an adventure under a pyrotechnic sky, and the next morning Mrs. Bailey reappeared with a plate full of bars to console us in our time of sheep wrangling.

Just today I was out picking black raspberries with my daughters on the side of the road when a car slowed and a head appeared at the window. "Where's your cow?" she asked. We had just sold Daisy two days before. "I'll miss her! I always like to look at her sitting at the corner just chewing her cud..."
Sometimes we can't choose our neighbors anymore than the family we are born into. Sometimes they prove as aggravating and nosey as our mothers and fathers, sisters, and brothers. Then again, sometimes they prove as kind.

We're going to be reimbursed for the fence because a lady snatched the license plate number from the car that mowed into the T-posts, as she witnessed the accident. She gave it to the police, who sent Officer Wheeler to check up on us and let us know we can file a complaint.

Seems like there were two citizen farmers working for us that day. One who thought we needed a new fence. Another who made sure we'd get one.


  1. Wonderful post. Your joys and misgivings mirror ours in many ways. Thank you for this.

  2. we lose a mail box every year to an errant motorist or teen prank, unfortunately no one ever seems to be around to snag the plate. :(
    it is wonderful to have neighbors who care, even if they can become quite nosey at times. :)