In case you were wondering…

Breakfast Bunny was surprisingly tasty

Breakfast Bunny was surprisingly tasty. A little weird, but very edible.

We had a blast visiting our Ohio family. We got a chance or two to be helpful, and we learned a lot from their systems, dreams and schemes.
Here’s a photo version of a day at the farm, beginning with morning chores.

The cows provide milk, cream and butter for the family, but my understanding is that most of the milk goes to the pigs, providing them with a great source of (relatively inexpensive) protein.

The cows provide milk, cream and butter for the family, but my understanding is that most of the milk goes to the pigs, providing them with a great source of (relatively inexpensive) protein.

The golf cart pulls the chicken tractors! It's a whole lot easier to move their three than it is to move our single tractor by hand.

The golf cart pulls the chicken tractors! It’s a whole lot easier to move their three than it is to move our single tractor by hand. The chicken tractors are moved every day to provide the Cornish Cross broilers with fresh grass and a new supply of bugs to eat.

The draft

The draft horses graze ahead of the chicken tractors to clear a path in the tall pasture. Genius!

Sean is the pig whisperer

Sean is the pig whisperer

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Pumping water is one of the big electrical draws at the farm, and patching hoses is a big draw on manpower. These pigs are helping to create a pond that will provide livestock water with no hoses and no electricity!

Pumping water is one of the big electrical draws at the farm, and patching hoses is a big draw on manpower. These pigs are helping to create a pond that will provide livestock water with no hoses and no electricity!

Behold! The pond-makers in action!

Behold! The pond-makers in action!

They are the prettiest, happiest, muddiest snurflepigs I've ever seen!

They are the prettiest, happiest, muddiest snurflepigs I’ve ever seen!

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We went out looking for a group of lambs that had an appointment with the butcher. These appointments are made months in advance.

After chores, we went out looking for a group of lambs that had an appointment with the butcher. These appointments are made months in advance.

The pastures at the farm are gorgeously in bloom this time of year. Where are those sheep?

The pastures at the farm are gorgeously in bloom this time of year. They’re also very tall and easy to hide in. Where are those sheep?

Sean is sad because there's a lot of work ahead of him. The lambs we were looking for escaped and got mixed in with the flock!

Sean is sad because there’s a lot of work ahead of him. The lambs we were looking for escaped and got mixed in with the flock!

Baaa! We had to herd the entire flock through a narrow gate. They walked in circles for a while before they noticed the opening.

Baaa! We had to herd the entire flock through a narrow gate. They walked in circles for a while before they noticed the opening.

Once the sheep got going, it was mostly a matter of keeping up.

Once the sheep got going, it was mostly a matter of keeping up.

Jesse, Sean and Dante are separating the desired animals from the rest of the flock and sending them down a chute to the trailer.

Jesse, Sean and Dante are separating the desired animals from the rest of the flock and sending them down a chute to the trailer.

Get in there!

Get in there!

It was a beautiful day for a lot of work.

It was a beautiful day for a lot of work.

After a long day, Jesse, Fezzik and Sean teamed up for evening chores

After a long day, Jesse, Fezzik and Sean teamed up for evening chores

The pigs and chickens graze together. Pigs make good predator protection for the chickens.

The pigs and chickens graze together. Pigs make good predator protection for the chickens.

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Hitch

 Hitch up yer dungarees! This weekend kicked some derriere and I’ve got some thoughts I’ve been thinking on and I’m ready to spill because I think I done thunk ’em out fully.

1) Hitchin’ up the team:

Meet Jesse and Chelsea. They’re living and working on Jesse’s family’s farm in Ohio.

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We played board games and had real conversations and amazing food all weekend. Every time we end a visit with them, I’m left with a hole in my heart as the car rolls down the gravel road. We always talk about ways to bring our lives closer together, and someday we will. These folks are our family.

The farm just acquired two gorgeous Haflinger draft ponies, Molly and Polly, at an auction last weekend. They’re a trained team, and are to be used, among other things, for logging and to haul wagons and farm implements. It felt so good to smell like horse again. Jesse and Chelsea taught us the basics and let us each try driving the team. The girls know their stuff and they’re eager to work. They’re really magnificent, purposeful, powerful animals. My superior position felt fragile: It was a privilege to direct their strength, but I never felt like I had any ability to command them without their consent.

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We were lucky enough to be present on the farm for Open Farm Day. I hung out with Molly and Polly and got them ready for the driving demonstration, but not before checking out the chinampa and the hugelkultur. I helped Chelsea put up signs, which meant I got something of a grand tour.

It's a living fence! You can see the willows starting to leaf out. It'll provide fencing for livestock, withies for basketry, food for critters, and wildlife habitat.

It’s a living fence! You can see the willows starting to leaf out. It’ll provide fencing for livestock, withes for basketry, food for critters, and wildlife habitat.

They raise a lot of sheep, and they're ridiculously cute when they're small.

They raise a lot of sheep, and they’re ridiculously cute when they’re small.

This eggmobile is moved from place to place to give the chickens fresh grass. As it moves, it leaves a well-fertilized swath in its wake.

This eggmobile is moved from place to place to give the chickens fresh grass. As it moves, it leaves a well-fertilized swath in its wake. There are also chicken tractors for the broilers, which are moved on the daily to keep the meat birds delicious.

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In addition to all the cool stuff mentioned above, the farm practices management intensive grazing with their sheep and cows, presents farm-to-table dinners, and is hosting a permaculture course. I’m selling them short by trying to list it all. They rock.

Jesse told me a great story about a hawk that used to prey on the chickens that would graze in the pasture. When they started grazing the pigs and chickens together, the hawk killed a chicken, only to have his dinner stolen by the pigs! The hawk spent the rest of the summer sitting mournfully on his perch, gazing down at the fearless fowl below, knowing they were unattainable thanks to the pigs.

The kind of farming that our friends practice is something that I aspire to emulate in every aspect of my life. They solve problems creatively and seek to build streamlined, efficient systems that are sustainable and productive. The farm is beautiful and it does important work. It allows the people who live and work there and the patrons who support the business to live ethically. It educates people about the significance of food in the economy and the environment.

On Saturday night, we had a picnic dinner and a fire in a hilltop pasture. The view was stunning, the food delicious, and the conversation candid. We are all at this amazing point in our lives where we have these enormous choices to make, and the imminent decisions can either be crushing in their significance or can make you feel free.

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2) Gettin’ hitched:

A ton of our friends are getting engaged these days. Sean and I have been together for almost six years, we are the dream team, and we choose each other every day, gladly. Marriage seems like an obvious choice for us, but we’re not getting married, at least not for a while. There is no compelling reason for us to get married: We don’t believe that our lifestyle is sinful (apparently some people do?!), and, though we want to have kids someday, we don’t think marriage necessarily has to come first. There is, however, something that compels us to not get married: we can’t buy into an institution that excludes people that we love. Love and partnership aren’t limited to one man and one woman, and marriage shouldn’t be either. Until it’s an option for all of our friends, in any state, we refuse to take advantage of our privilege. For Sean and Keely, the personal is pretty much always political. That said, I’m super stoked for some beautiful weddings.

3) Bonus

highlights from my conversation about the farm photos with C:

Ms O: “they have a wire bottom on their chicken house, which is on wheels, so the chicken poop falls on the ground and fertilizes the grass, and they move it so they can fertilize all over the place”
C: “That’s awesome!”
(this is markedly more enthusiasm than I expected)

C: “Are those solar panels? Way cool.”

C: “when they were logging my woods, the tractors ripped that place up. Probably, if you were doing it with horses, you’d do way less damage. That’s what my grandpa did. He had mules and stuff when he first got here. That seems like a pretty good way of doing things.”