Siesta

My Grandpa was one of the hardest working men I’ve ever known.  He was up before the sun every morning and didn’t stop working until it was down.  But every single day after dinner (which is what we called the midday meal) he took a nap.  The nap was exactly 20 minutes long, although he never used an alarm clock.  He’d just lay down on the couch and 20 minutes later he’d get up and continue the work day.

When liked that little break when I was a kid.  Those were 20 minutes we could play while he slept.

But now I see the wisdom of his rest break.  Many years later I read that 20 minutes is the perfect nap length, long enough to get rest but not so long that the person falls into deep sleep.

The first time we visited Spain many years ago I marvelled at their workday.  They ate big lunches then took 2 hour siestas before resuming work.  Everything closed for a couple of hours in the early afternoon.  Supper wasn’t until late in the evening.  At first I resisted that kind of schedule, which seemed unnatural to me.  But Cherie tried to get into the flow of local life, and it seemed to work for her.  So eventually I did too.  And it seemed to make good sense once I was doing it too.

These days I try to take a 20 minute break after eating lunch.  I’ve started to get so used to my little siesta that I get annoyed if it is interrupted or impossible.  I suspect we’d all be better off if we made time for a little rest break like that in the middle of the day.

I recently read that the Spanish siesta tradition is dying out, at least in Madrid.  Apparently there is just too much pressure to stay on the business schedule being followed in the rest of the world.  It seems to me it would be a pity if the Spaniards gave up their siestas. 

Hopefully I’ll be able to maintain my little mini-siestas here on White Flint.

Love Wins

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Good Neighbors

It rained hard last night.  A few hours earlier I had hay on the ground.  Had it rained on the hay, it would have ruined it.

We’ve worked late into the night getting up hay before.  But last night I had it all safely in the barn by nine o’clock.  For that I can thank a neighbor and his son, who loaded a trailer of hay while I was baling and put it in my barn for me.  Cherie and I were able to get up the rest of it well before the rain hit.

My neighbor has had some health issues lately and he really doesn’t have any business loading hay.  But he’s a farmer and, like most farmers around here, he lends a hand when he sees that one needs lending.

He didn’t need many square bales, so a few weeks ago he asked me if I’d bale his on halves.  He said he’d cut it if I would rake and bale it.  I responded that if he would cut mine too, then I’d rake and bale his and he could keep all his hay.  That made good sense to him since he’d already have his mower hooked up and my fields are very close to his.  Yesterday when I went to rake his hay I realized that my suggestion had been unfair to him.  His fields were much smaller than mine so he’d cut a lot more of my own hay than his.  We never said anything about him loading my hay, and having already done more than his “fair share” that was certainly not necessary.  But he helped me out of tight spot anyway.

I’d do the same for him of course.  We’d both do it for any of our neighbors. 

A pity that this kind of thing seems to be dying out.

Love Wins

Economies of Scale

Amish farms give the lie direct to that false god of “agribusiness”:  the so-called economy of scale.  The small farm is not an anachronism, is not unproductive, is not unprofitable.  Among the Amish it is still thriving, and is the economic foundation of what John A. Hostetler rightly calls “a healthy culture.”  Though they do not produce the “record breaking yields” so touted by the “agribusiness” establishment, these farms are nevertheless rightly productive.  And if they are not likely to make their owners rich (never an Amish goal), they can certainly be said to be sufficiently profitable.  The economy of scale has helped corporations and banks, not farmers and farm communities. It has been an economy of dispossession and waste–plutocratic, if not in aim, then certainly in result.

Wendell Berry (1981)

Love Wins

Billys

Johnny is our buck goat.  Almost every goat on the farm was sired by him.  When folks from other farms see him they always comment on his superior size.  He is a fine looking animal, even if usually foul smelling.

Johnny was born here, one of the first kids we had.  A friend had given us Maggie, his mother, telling us she had not been bred.  He was wrong about that.  On a cold wet winter morning, while I was away from home, the man who was building a pasture fence for us came to the house to inform Cherie:  “Your goat is having babies.”

Johnny didn’t stand for hours after he was born.  He may well have died had Cherie and Peyton not intervened.  He spent much of his first few days of life in Peyton’s lap. 

He fully recovered of course and grew to be the impressive, virile buck that he now is.  His temperament is exceptional.  Never once has he displayed any aggression at all toward any human.  We attribute his gentleness to those hours being held by Peyton.

I love the fact that our herd continues to produce quality kids from a buck like Johnny, who has no pedigree.  Our kids do just as well, or better, than those from farms with expensive registered bucks.

But Johnny can get a little lazy sometimes.  Instead of breeding the does when they’re ready, sometimes he’ll do nothing for weeks, waiting instead until a whole lot of them are in season, then breeding them all on the same day.  Consequently we’ll end up with multiple nannies kidding on the same day, rather than spread out as I’d prefer. 

So to help remedy this we added Ramon to the herd.

We bought Ramon from a neighboring farm, when he was about 7 months old.  At that age he was no threat to Johnny, so they didn’t fight.  Ramon has matured in the breeding paddock with Johnny and now they get along reasonably fine.  Ramon’s presence inspires Johnny not to be so deliberate about his duties.  Ramon will be all too happy to take care of any duties that Johnny neglects.

Ramon is a fine looking billy so we’d be happy to have some kids sired by him.  But I don’t think Johnny will let that happen for a while.

Just a little slice of life here on White Flint.

Love Wins

5 times

I don’t write about politics and economic policy on this blog any more.  It used to be my main subject, but a few years ago I decided to leave all that ranting behind me.

But I read something this morning that I felt I had to share.  Not to score any political points for one side or the other–I truly don’t care about that.  But rather to illustrate how our societal obsession with overconsumption seems to have drowned out reason at all levels of society.

In 2008 economists finally acknowledged that we were in a recession.  During the 08-09 period U.S. GDP shrank by over $200 billion.  As we all know, this triggered an extraordinary set of political and fiscal moves (by both parties and both administrations) including massive deficit spending in amounts previously unimaginable, as well as unprecedented “quantative easing,” the Fed’s euphemism for the printing of new money.  The panicked policy makers flooded the American economy with trillions of borrowed and newly printed dollars over the years that followed.  Even now the federal government is still spending over a trillion dollars a year more than it takes in, making the eye-popping deficits of the Bush years seem almost insignificant.

The result of all this new debt and depreciated dollars?  We have attained 2-3% growth in GDP since 2009, causing economists and policy makers to declare victory.  The recession is over, they say.  The multi-trillion dollar helicopter drop worked.

But did it really?  The increase in GDP since the turnaround has been cumulatively a shade under $800 billion.  But to achieve that gain, we’ve saddled ourselves with an incredible $4.2 trillion in new debt.  As I read recently, essentially we borrowed 5 times more than we grew, then claimed victory.

Imagine running up an additional $50,000 in credit card debt over a few years during which your income increased $10,000.  Is that progress? 

Conjuring up illusions of economic growth with money borrowed (stolen?) from future generations solves nothing.  Avoiding a hangover by trying to stay drunk accomplishes nothing in the end but a worse hangover.

We are the richest nation, by far, in the history of the world.  Yet we seem unable to live within our means.  Prudence, frugality and thrift aren’t even considered virtues any more.  Our virtues are growth, consumption and aquisition.  A measure of success is how many credit cards we have. 

What ails us is too much consumption and too much debt.  We cannot cure that ailment by increasing consumption and debt.

What we desperately need to do is start living within our means.  Unless we do, a hard rain’s gonna fall.

Love Wins

Kelly and Kids

For those of you who have been anxiously awaiting an update on Kelly and her kids Heeza and Sheeza (I’m pretending that there are such people), you’ll be pleased to learn that they’re doing well.  Once they were a few weeks old they could start to wean, so we didn’t need to bottle-feed them any more.  And the pressure on Kelly’s milk bag was relieved, allowing it to return to a more normal size (although it’s still a little lop-sided).

Heeza is still a pushy little rascal, who wants all the attention when someone is in the pasture.  He likes to jump on people and nibble their clothes.  We found consistently that a few bottles of milk will spoil a goat for life. 

Kelly makes good babies.  But this is twice in a row she’s had nursing issues, so we’ll be retiring her to a different pasture where we keep retirees and young females until they’re old enough to breed.  The only retiree there now is our grumpy old goat Maggie.  So even though we’ll be taking Kelly out of the breeding rotation, it will be good to give the adolescents a better adult role model.

Love Wins

Blessed

Saturday before last, as I went outside to do the chores, I was thinking about the trip to Farmville we’d be making later that morning, to see our son graduate from Longwood University.  But even with the thoughts of a busy day swirling around in my head, the beauty of the morning was nearly overwhelming.

I stepped out of the house into an unseasonably cool air and a symphony of bird songs.  The sky was beginning to lighten in the east as a half moon still shone brightly overhead.  The animals all greeted me with joy.

The feeling flowed over me–I am blessed.

It was the just the beginning of what would be a wonderful day with family, sharing a milestone event.

I took some time during the day to reflect on some of the great times I’ve shared with our son on this farm.  He is part of the sixth generation (at least) of us who have lived and worked here.  He taught me a lot, even as I know he learned a lot.  I admit to being a little sad that he won’t be here this summer, even as I am happy for him as he launches into the world to begin a new journey of his own.

I ended the day as I began it–feeling very blessed.

Love Wins