This weekend Julia, The Farmer and I headed on up to Wheelview Farm in Shelburne, MA. Owned by John and Carolyn Wheeler, Wheelview is a grass-fed cattle farm high in the hills of western Massachusetts. The farm has been in Carolyn's family for generations and you can feel the passion and respect of the generations through all the care the Wheelers take with their farmstead, barns and animals. They have a self-serve farmstand in a small ell off the side of the house. Their freezers are stocked with many different cuts of meat and it is delicious. Our visit coincided with their annual open house. There was plenty to do for the kids including looking for pennies in a kiddie pool full of sawdust (what a great idea and it sure did keep Julia busy!) I got to pick up some local grass-fed beef for our freezer (because even a lamb loving family need to have a beef burger once in a while). Carolyn had set out a lovely display of birds nests that she has found in the bushes and trees on their farm. I love that the little nests were full of black and auburn hair from the cows lining the inside of the nests.
The Farmer got to talk farming with a fellow farmer, John Wheeler. This always makes his day.
Farmers are a funny breed. They are most comfortable talking to other farmers. I have listened in on many of these conversations over the years. The talk always begins with the weather and how it is hindering some kind of farm activity. When the weather isn't hindering farming, then there is no time to talk for farmers to talk. They are out there mowing, raking, and wrapping hay. I know not to get in the way of My Farmer's haying schedule.
After haying, the conversation then moves on to admiring the conformation of animals and discussing many of the individual animals' attributes in a field before them. This can vary from pounds of milk from a dairy cow, number of lambs from a sheep, or mothering ability of a beef cow. Farmers are extremely proud of their animals and all the work they put into them. To keep a "line" of animals going, it takes untold hours of care for the animals and for the land they graze. I can see, after all these years, why farmers like to talk to other farmers. There is barely a "normal" person out there who understands the work that running a farm takes, nor can admire honestly another farmer's animals. (And boy, are the Wheeler's cows beautiful and healthy.)
The conversation then turns to trading farming ideas. This kind of talk centers around haying equipment, fencing, tractors, available farm loans, and dealing with non-farming neighbors. I always find this part of the conversation quite interesting because who other than a farmer could trade such information. Lastly the conversation turns to gossiping about other local farmers, what they are doing - whether they are good or bad farmers or whether their luck is good or bad. The conversation usually wraps up with a very short good-bye and then the farmers go their separate ways, until next time.
And so it was this weekend as My Farmer talked with John Wheeler, co-owner with his wife Carolyn of Wheelview Farm. The Farmer is never long with words nor conversation, except when he finds another farmer to talk to. Then he can go on and on and on. And he did. It was fun to see him have such a good time. We all enjoyed our visit and left feeling we are not alone in what we are doing, trying to raise lamb for local families to enjoy while keeping the pastures and hillsides green and fertile and land open for future generations. And Julia left with a pile full of pennies that she was very proud of.