Bigger is better…Can’t have too much of a good thing…I’m better when I busy…Mother Earth…
This has been quite a summer at Sunbird Farms. It was the summer that wasn’t planned. Or maybe the summer that was over-planned. From international travel to a totally new job in the “real world,” it has been a summer of going and doing…some of it good, some more challenging than one might prefer. When you start responding to the daily question of “how’s it going?” with the tired, but true, “I’m still alive,” you know it’s time to take a little stock of events.
More than anything, the bucolic summer that was envisioned in early spring has failed to materialize. We’ve spent less time in the garden, less time in the yard, less time developing our poultry projects, and less time getting any closer to our “local” lifestyle goal. Just last week we had to make the tough decision to pass on the Slow Food conference in Turin, Italy, where we had been asked to represent the local food movement as a US delegate. We’ve just simply had no time to raise the funds we needed. A heart-breaking, but responsible choice. The heirloom tomatoes we’ve tried to cultivate have produced literally fewer than 10 tomatoes…from 13 plants (of course the volunteer cherry tomato plant at the back of the house is producing in spades, with absolutely no management from your’s truly). This essentially amounts to the sum total of our summer garden, if you don’t count the garlic and onions we planted in the spring that we’ve been blessed to harvest. Truth be told, we did have a prolific blackberry bush that granted us favor, but our blueberries came and went like the ocean tide. Our walnut orchard is ever-faithful, an environment that can tolerate less attention if the proper attention is given. It looks to be a strong bearer of “fruit” this fall.
With these minor exceptions, Mother Earth has been less “nurturing mother” and more unforgiving force. In my experience as a gardner and farmer, real mothers everywhere should take exception to the use of this term when describing nature. For while it is beautiful and idyllic at times, it is equally relentless, irreverent, and unconcerned with our efforts, hopes and dreams. Because I have not been able to tend to our poultry as much as I wanted, we have lost dozens of birds to the minions of mother earth. It has been amazing to see how discerning these four-legged furies are, selecting only the choicest fowl for their table: American Bresse, Sulmtaler and the venerable Dominique. And though I lay in wait for them morning after morning, they escape my retribution, waiting patiently for my work week to start again. It has been painful friends, but it has taught us many lessons about other fallacies.
Bigger is not better. We don’t need more, we need to focus more on less. You can have too much of a good thing, and then it too becomes a relentless taskmaster, demanding quantities of time without appreciation for quality. While “working hard at work worth doing” is a grand thing, working hard for work’s sake is a sad thing. To find that work worth doing, to make it your focus, to see the resolution of your efforts and have time to reflect on your accomplishments….that comes from a life of less, not a life of more.
And so it is with resolve, and a bit of resignation, that we look forward to a better fall. While summer has not been without its blessings (vacations on the beach with family, promotions to new opportunities), it can be better appreciated for its lessons. We must find a better balance, maintain margin for the good things in life (family, friends, farming, faith), and enjoy the virtues of intentionality and focus.
We will continue to offer wonderful poultry to the world, despite the best efforts of mother nature (ha ha), and look forward to sharing those with you this fall. We are changing our focus to respond to new needs and a greater appreciation of local climate. Our anticipated offerings for fall include:
- BirchenMarans (French chocolate, who can resist);
- Marsh Daisies (perfect egg layers for our flood-irrigated orchards);
- Belgian Malines (massive table birds that did amazing in our 100+ degree days, laying any day);
- Sulmtalers (for all the reasons a Dominique makes sense, this Austrian delicacy has won us back)
- Dominiques (we love this breed…how this bird lost favor in America I can’t understand, great layer, great forager, great carcass… I think our obsession for “bigger” in this country has really skewed us on quality…but that post is for another day)
- Black Bresse (again, looking for quality and excited to experiment with this variety)
- Sussex (we are deciding between the light and the speckled….we have great lines of both and will share our conclusions with you in coming posts)
- Pita Pintas (given our recent predator invasion, we’re almost afraid to talk about these yet…but they are AWESOME)
We will be passing our Cream Legbar project on to others, not for any reason other than a desire to downsize. We will however, likely keep our trio of White Legbars, which we find fascinating. We have a lovely trio of Jubilee Orpingtons with a mahogany Greenfire/Sacre cockerel, and two lovely Diamond Jubilee Greenfire/Gisbrecht hens. If you’re interested in these top line orpingtons, please let us know. Finally, the breed that has absolutely endeared us this summer, the White-Faced Black Spanish, may find it’s way into our store, but time will tell. If you have a great source for these fantastic birds, please share it with us as we would like to add a little diversity to our flock.
Expect this list to see some editing, with a possibility of it shrinking a little once we have time to be discerning. One saying we do put some stock in….less is more!