When Jill and I began to work together on our Charming Farming project, “That’s how you learn!” quickly became our motto. Being new to, well everything, we had (have) a lot to learn. It is not in my nature to jump into things feet first. I tend to hang back, wait for a safe opening, and then dive in enthusiastically. Jill, on the other hand, is definitely a feet-first kind of girl. One would think that we would balance each other out, her go-for-it attitude would be tempered by my wait-and-see approach. Not so. Turns out, I am easily influenced. Or maybe, I’ve always been more of a feet-first kind of girl at heart, and just didn’t know it. In any case, we are both jumping right in. And when we get together, we are unstoppable – not always a good thing. Here are some of the things we’ve learned:
1. When hauling chickens to an auction, pen up the bird dogs. One sunny Saturday afternoon, Jill and I decided we would learn the ropes of a local livestock auction by buying and selling a few chickens. It seemed easy enough. We’d just toss a few chickens in a big cage and load them in the back of her truck. Getting the chickens in the cage was easy. Thanks to the kids.
Getting them to the truck was terrifying. My dogs attacked the cage on the way to the truck and Jill and I were nearly mauled to death in the process. I fell down. Jill nearly threw her back out, and one of us (okay both of us) used swear words. It was a harrowing 20 feet journey, but everyone survived, and us usual we had a good laugh about it after the fact.
2. “Four times the money” means 4 x the money. Fast forward a couple of hours to the auction. A nice looking group of hens came up on he auction block and I was ready. $5. “I’m in!’ $6. “Yes!” $10. “Well, okay.” $11 dollars. “Uhhhhh. Welllll. That’s more than other chicken have gone for, but it’s still a good deal for four laying hens. SOLD!” Four chickens for $11. WRONG. My first clue when the auctioneer asked me how many I wanted. “Huh? How many?” I thought I just bought four chickens. I did – for $11 EACH. That’s not a fortune, or even a lot for chickens. But it was $44 dollar lesson.
3. Know when to hold ’em. So, one of our favorite Charming activities is to go to animals sales, auctions, and swaps. Recently, we came across a woman at a swap meet selling mini-pigs. For a split-second, the old, hold-back me was in control. I wisely advised, “Jill, we cannot bring home baby pigs. Big Hal and Bid Daddy Dave will kill us.”
“Meh.” She shrugged. “What are they going to do? Divorce us?”
“You’re right. Let’s do it!” I agreed. “But first maybe we should hold one.”
Are you familiar with the expression “squealing like a stuck pig?” We now know where it comes from. And remember that story in the Bible when Jesus casts the demons into the heard of swine. We’re pretty sure this little fella was one of the offspring from that heard. At least we learned that lesson before we brought little pigs home.
4. Don’t count your rabbits before they’re hatched. Rabbits have a reputation for being prolific. It’s a lie. a horrible, crushing lie. The details are best saved for another day, but between the two of us, we have lost four litters in two months for a total of over three dozen rabbits. And of course we were disappointed by the loss of the cute little bunnies, but we were also totally bummed about not making enough money in rabbit sales to keep our kids in new Under Armor for the rest of baseball season. After all, new Under Armor is a linch pin of our business plan. Dang.
5. Work first. Solve the world’s problems later. With husbands, kids, and careers, and it isn’t easy to find time for friends, let alone Charming Farming activities. Still, we try to hold regular “staff meetings” where we get together to talk about the blog, plans for Charming Farming gear, and of course, our livestock. But since we are also great friends, our meetings can sometimes get a little sidetracked. Before we know it, we are laughing and talking and trying to solve all the world’s problems. It’s good. One of the reasons we started Charming Farming is because we have so much fun together. We just have to be careful not to have so much fun, we let the crops fail. Oh, who am I kidding? The chances of us reigning in our good times for the sake of “business” are pretty slim – especially with margarita season approaching. But after all, we are called Charming Farming, not Serious, All Business Farming. That doesn’t even have a nice ring to it.
A few days ago the Littles and I wanted to take the new goats for a walk. But we were afraid. What if the dogs chased them? What if we couldn’t get them back in the pen? What if they ate a poisonous weed along the road. Just when I was about the tell the Littles that perhaps we better not, the wise words of my dear friend and Charming Farming partner came to mind. So, we jumped in feet-first. We had a glorious morning. The weather was beautiful. The goats and dogs were delighted. And the Littles were beside themselves with joy. And that, my charming friends, is how you learn.