Miolea Organic Farm

  (Adamstown, Maryland)
Organic Farming from a City Boy's Perspective
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What Matters

I am jaded, as much as I am open minded, pragmatic as much as I am principled, disappointed as much as energized.  Because of my years of mistakes and foibles, I have learned a great many things.  The one lesson that stands out is of a plethora of people who have helped me throughout my life that added to who I am and what I have become.  Then again some are shaking there heads and still cringing at their association with me.  There are always two sides to any story! 

My first official part-time job title was "Porter," while working in a hospital kitchen.  I was sixteen at the time.  A year or two into the job there was a blizzard and I worked sixteen-hour days for eight days.  My parent’s house was two blocks from the hospital, which made it fortuitist given transportation conditions in a blizzard.  Because of that effort the Director of Food Services took it upon herself to help guide me into my future.  It was not until a major calamity but it happened nonetheless.  It was an innocent joke that went south when someone else followed suit.

The hospital was run by the Catholic order of the Daughters of Charity, who had thirteen hospitals up and down the east coast.  As a porter, I worked in the kitchen in the lowest of jobs.  Cleaning mainly and delivering food carts to the different floors for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Then retrieving them to be unloaded and steam cleaned.  I scrubbed pots, cleaned floors, walls, doors, shelves, ovens, fryers, grills, warmers, refrigerators, if it was in the kitchen I had to clean it. 

The grill that the public and hospital staff saw had a pegboard sign advertising specials for the day.  A pegboard sign is one of those things that you put letters on to spell different words.  Like "Fresh Eggs," or "Bacon and Sausage," and then a price.  Well one night I thought it would be funny to change the letters around to say something else.  Being eighteen at the time, my hormonal inclination was to put up "Fresh Ass to Go,”  I figured the morning crew would come in, see it for what it was, have a laugh and change the sign.  I did not think I would have a copycat add something else.

The next time I came into work there was a big up roar about the sign being changed and an investigation was conducted.  I thought what is that about, I simply changed the words a little.  At the same time Willy, the manager of the dish sanitation section, asked of one of the complaintents, "How can she say anything about "fresh," when she is 75 years old?" that was his quote not mine. 

Well the inquisition was on; Mrs. Andersen, the Director of Food Services, interviewed everyone.  When my time came, I sat in front of her and she proceeded to tell me what this was about and asked if I had anything to do with it.  I am honest to a fault and I admitted that yes, I did do it.  Her immediate question was "What kind of sick mind puts something like that up in a Catholic hospital?”

I was stunned and blurted out, "All it was was Fresh Ass to Go, how bad could that be"?  "What about the other thing?" she asked.  "What other thing?”  I asked in return.  She looked me dead in the eyes and said, "Fresh P***y".  My jaw dropped, and I immediately went into denial.  "I will take responsibility for what I have done, but I will not take responsibility for that".  I was emphatic.  I was not going to take the blame for someone else’s mischief.  I might have caused it but, I did not do it, nor encourage it.

I guess I convinced her because she said, "Okay," she then talked about my work ethic, my value to the organization and being there when needed.  Then she asked, "What do you want to do with your life?”  I was eighteen at the time but still knew the answer.  "I want to work with computers, I want to sell mainframes,” I said.  The thought of growing was not a thought.  She said okay and told me I could leave. 

I use to deliver the "Morning Sun" newspaper in the hospital and sold papers from floor to floor six days a week.  This started before my first year of high school and lasted until I was a sophomore in college.  So being there every day, I was able to look at job postings frequently.  Some time later on the "Jobs" board was advertising for a computer operator position.  It was the midnight to eight shifts on Friday and Saturday nights.  I applied and used Mrs. Andersen as a reference.  I was about to become a social pariah at the age of eighteen.  I worked weekend nights, holidays and went to school during the week.  These were the first steps that helped lead me into adulthood.     

I cannot help but feel a sense of returning the favors, to give for what I have received.  I have given and will continue to give, not out of obligation but from a sense of commitment.  You see what we do here by treating the earth, air, animals and water correctly is just part of our whole make up.  To give back does wonders for the human psyche.  I know I should give of free will and I do.  However, a lot of my motivation comes from the looks on people’s faces.  I have been there and I know what they feel.  I also know that I need nothing in return from whom we help.  I would like if they pay it forward but there are no strings when we give. 

I volunteered at our local soup kitchen for a year.  Talk about a humbling experience and helping the poorest of the poor.  I still felt good after the kitchen and dinning hall gleamed from my cleaning.  Now we drop off excess vegetables and our spent layers for soup so that others are nourished.

This is a little window into why we have the motivation, drive, fortitude and stamina to keep taking the hits and getting back up.  We are part of something bigger, from working on the USDA Organic BMSB workgroup to giving extra vegetables at the stand or to the soup kitchen.  We are but just one piece in a huge puzzle that depicts all growers.  Give willingly and you shall receive.  You do not know what you will receive but I assure you that whatever it is it will be for the benefit of the greater good.  Treating people, our land, water and animals with dignity, kindness and reverence is what drives us and makes all of us give thanks,  It is what matters most. 

Buy Local:  Now is the time.  If not now, then when?

 

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Fer Coadee 8 months........

Coadee is now eight months old.  The dog eats stink bugs, at least we witnessed her eat four of them.  The last one she regurgitated.  We purchased a large kennel to keep her in during the day/night as needed.  She has proven to be quite the escape artist, she is out more times then she is in, despite our efforts to reinforce incarceration of the animal.  To stop her fleeing, I need to tie down every link at the bottom of the fence.  She just keeps pushing at the links until she can separate them.  For as big as she is, the escape whole is amazingly small. 

Her training is continuing at Carol's and on the farm with us.  We are at a stage, in training, where we do not have to tell her that chickens are out.  She senses they are out and goes and gets them.  Sometimes we see them other times we follow Coadee's gate.

The chickens have learned when she comes out it is time to start heading back to the pen or face Coadee's unwanted attention.  We have not gotten the whole process down yet, but we are getting there.  We would like Coadee to chase the chickens back into the pen.  She has most of that process down, but we are still missing the “how to get the chickens in the pen,” part.  If I am there, I take the bird, say speak to Coadee, so she barks,  and toss the chicken over the fence.  The chicken takes flight and I tell Coadee what a good girl she is.  She has also learned however, that it is easier to pick the chicken up and bring it to the pen instead of chasing it around wildly until the chicken decides to head to the pen.  This has led to some heart stopping moments.

Like the time I came around the corner of the barn to see Coadee with a chicken, head in her mouth, walking back to the pen.  My heart sank, the chicken had to be dead, and it looked limp in her mouth.  I yelled for her to sit which she did.  I was walking to her, I told her to drop the chicken, she does not really know drop yet but she released the chicken, looking up at me with those big brown eyes.  The chicken starting flapping her wings, shook her head, neck feathers bristling somewhat stunned.  I expected the neck to be broken given what I saw.  How she survived is beyond me.

Coadee gently holds things between her jaws, but at the same time, I have had to repair the corner of a wooden step that she chewed away.  She still nips rather hard, but that is her herding instinct coming out, something that my wife has felt.  When she is at Carol's there are plenty of young ducks, chickens, geese, rabbits, kittens, turkey’s her farm is a menagerie of heritage breeds, so Coadee has learned to control her jaws.  She has learned to come when called, fetch, sit, lay, almost knows left versus right paw, drop things from her mouth, stays, speaks, hush (sometimes), help move the chickens, heard or corral them, protect, warn and generally tries to help with what you are doing.

I could be pulling on the chicken pen and she will come put her mouth on the rope and try to pull.  Usually it is opposite of how I am pulling but it is a learning process.  If I happen to be brining in an extension cord, or water hose she has the thing in her mouth going in the opposite direction.  Weeding is one of those helping things too.  She has at least stopped biting my hand when pulling weeds, now she just nestles in next to me and starts digging the dirt with as much gusto as she can muster.  She has the basic concept just not the subtly of what we are doing.  Sometimes she actually gets weeds, more often it is the plant.  We still have work to do on identifying plants from weeds. 

It is getting harder and harder to drop her off at Carol’s but it is the best for her.  She is turning into the asset my wife said she would.  She also brings a certain amount of joy, surprise, frustration, amazement and education to the farm.  We are learning as she is, sometimes she is smarter other times we are.  For ego reasons I am not going to give the percentage breakdown on that last statement.

Coadee is at least working in the rain now, something she was not doing before.  I think she likes being toweled off and has figured out getting wet leads to being dried.  This is a game in itself.  I cover her with a towel and she tries to get the towel to lie on and chew.  She is bigger and stronger so the process takes on the look of a wrestling match more then a drying session.    

However, it is an exercise that both of us seem to relish.  She tries to get the towel while I dry her paws, legs, tail, head and body.  Her tail wags, the whole time, as she competes for towel space.  This is her at three months

Coadee has become one of the good things about farming.  It is just another one of those links in a long chain forged by events, time, people and stubborn determination.

Buy Local:  Stay local, support your community farm.

 

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