I’m getting close to the end of the internship. With each passing day, my excitement to get home grows and grows. I am so excited to see everyone and start working on my farm and building my business again! Here are a few lessons from the past week here at Polyface:
MONDAY: It’s possible to dig through rock. Yes, you heard me right, you can dig through rock. How do I know? Well, that’s what I did on Monday morning. Eric, Adam, Mariah and I worked on putting in a new waterline on the farm. We use a trencher on the tractor to install the pipe, but we have to hand dig all of the access points. Thankfully, here in VA, the water line is only buried 18-24 inches deep. Eric marked a spot and gave Mariah and I a couple of shovels, a digging bar and a mattock. Little did we know that the spot was full of rocks – big thick rocks. We started digging and almost immediately heard the dreaded sound of metal on rock. Lovely.
Thankfully, this type of rock, when hit just right, will chip apart. So, Mariah and I took turns swinging the mattock with all our might and using the digging bar to uncover more rocks. Throughout the process, I discovered a valuable digging nugget of wisdom – yelling a rock-breaking war cry as you’re swinging with every ounce of your might does help give you more umph. Eventually, Eric came over and assessed our progress. When he saw how many rocks we were dealing with, he decided we could make do with a 12inch hole and pile up more dirt around it instead of trying to dig deeper.
The whole experience got me thinking. Are there rocks in my life that I think are impossible to dig past? Maybe the impossible obstacles are possible to break through. Maybe all it takes are the right tools, a whole ton of sweat and one killer war cry.
TUESDAY: Give a stewing hen a try. On Wednesday, we processed 120 old laying hens. These are 2-3 year old hens that have been a part of our laying flock and are now reaching the end of their productive life. I highly encourage you to try eating a few of these hens a year as they are by product of the egg industry. They are tough, so must be cooked slowly. The fat is extremely yellow, and the taste is flavorful. Turning them into nutritious, delicious bone broth is a great idea!
WEDNESDAY: Everyone should visit a meat processing plant. That’s exactly what I did on Wednesday morning. The Salatins co-own a small, USDA inspected slaughterhouse about an hour from the farm. All of Polyface’s beef and pork is processed there. Every year, the intern team gets a tour of the facility. We see everything from the kill floor to the packaging room. I was struck yet again at how many people are involved in the food industry. Seeing all of the different equipment and jobs that are involved in a slaughterhouse was also very interesting.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure how I would do watching something as large as a cow be killed. I’ve killed plenty of poultry in my day, but I had never observed anything else slaughtered. Thankfully, it didn’t bother me. In fact, I found myself fascinated by how they handle such large carcasses with ease. It struck me how disconnected the vast majority of Americans are from the food we eat. What percentage of the population has ever seen livestock slaughtered? Probably a very small number. Yet we all depend on this basic process to keep us alive. I know that the thought of exploring this side of food can be uncomfortable for people. Everyone’s happy to learn how to gather eggs and pick strawberries, but when it comes to actually killing a living, breathing thing, people tend to look the other way. I challenge you to turn back around and explore the not so fairy-taleish aspects of food. I guarantee it will give you a deeper appreciation for the food you eat.
THURSDAY: The small farmer/entrepreneur wears many hats. On Thursday, I did a variety of jobs and was struck by how many different hats the small farmer has to wear. At sunrise, I was out moving, feeding and watering the broiler chickens. Before 7:00am, I was covered in sweat, spilled water and feed dust. Then, after breakfast, I was assigned to work with Leanna on inventory work. She brought me boxes of meat and I sorted and counted them by cut and weight range. During the afternoon, I headed up the mountain with Marit and Daniel to get a trailer-load of firewood. Then I was off to start gathering eggs. I finished up the work day by scrubbing the brown tubs that we use to carry and drain chickens during processing. That’s one of the things I really enjoy about being an entrepreneur – you never get bored. There are so many different things you have to do to run a successful farm business (production, emails, marketing, slaughtering, farm maintenance, website design, etc.). I love the diversity of tasks!
FRIDAY: When life gives you too many eggs, freeze them. We have a lot of medium-sized eggs right now. Some of these eggs are nearing their sell-by dates. In order to keep from having to feed them to the pigs, Marit and I worked on freezing some for use in the winter when eggs are much more scarce. How does it work? First we crack the eggs into a bowl. Once we have a dozen or so cracked, we dump them in a blender and scramble them for a few seconds. Then we pour them into silicone cupcake forms and put them in the freezer. The final step is to pop the eggs out of the forms and put a dozen on a styrofoam tray. Then we vacuum seal them and put them back in the freezer. Supposedly they are great for use in baking!
SATURDAY: I love Saturdays. I slept in on Saturday morning. Then it was time to change my tire (I had been driving around on my spare for a month…oops!). Thank you for helping me, Hunter! After finishing up with my tire, I went into town to run some errands and get my oil changed. I rushed back in time to eat lunch and spend the afternoon listening to Zach Bush speak at Polyface.
Zach Bush is a medical doctor who has done extensive research on how soil health impacts human health. I enjoyed listening to his presentation. There were things I agreed with and things I did not, but it was fun to hear his perspective and learn from his research and experience. One of his main points was the importance of community. He argued that we often think about nutrition and exercise when we consider human health, but that we should be considering things like friendship, love and fellowship. I agree that community is a vital aspect of wellness.
After a lovely 2 ½ hour nap, I headed to the local Starbucks to write and enjoy the wi-fi. Overall, it was a delightful day!
SUNDAY: There’s nothing like old friends. On Sunday, I had the immense joy of seeing one of my best friends, Juliana. We’ve known each other for 14 years now and spending time with her is always a blessing. It was fun showing her around the farm, swapping stories and sharing lots of laughs. Although I love the new friends I’ve made here, there’s nothing like old friends.
And that’s all for this week. Just a warning, there’ll be no blog post next week. Why? Well…I think I’ll keep that a surprise for now. You’ll have to wait till the next week to find out!