Saturday, January 21, 2012

Down on the Farm

When we were hippies, we decided to get back to the land. A bunch of us, mostly family, found a decrepit old house on seventeen acres, next to the river in Brusly, Louisiana. The owner would allow us to live there rent-free if we fixed the place up.

It was a big, concrete-walled house, built after the levee, on a long, narrow strip of land, and the place had been, we guessed, primarily a small ranch, cattle or horses–the acreage was mostly fenced-in grassy pasture.

So we acquired some livestock–a horse, a pair of goats, some chickens, seven dogs and a duck. Wife and I, two small children; my wife's cousin and his spouse; my sister-in-law; and a few assorted friends who came and went. We did some rude plumbing, hung paneling, built a carport, re-roofed the place.

Along the way, Cousin Jay got an old boat he worked on in the back.

I borrowed a rototiller and went to plow a garden space.  First furrow, thirty feet, I hit a buried pipe and blew up the rototiller. Went to Sears, bought parts, and fixed it, in the process learning that I was about as well-equipped to repair small engines as I was to be a farmer.

Got it fixed, tilled the space. The women planted stuff. 

Organic, of course. 

The bugs in Louisiana loved us. No spray? They ate well at our place.

We learned that you don't plant watermelon next to gourds, because they cross. You get something that looks like yellow watermelon and tastes like wood pulp. Even the insects wouldn't eat it.

Mostly what survived were carrots and green onions. We went through a fifty pound bag of brown rice that year, fried with carrots and onions, and we all turned orange.

The horse, Miso, was a stallion, insane and never ridden. A neighbor who was a cowboy offered to break him to the saddle. He stayed on three, maybe four seconds, was bucked off, and the only thing that got broken was his arm. 

The goats–Nan and Bill, of course–ran and hid every time we approached them.

The chickens didn't last long enough to have names. They escaped the coop, and one at a time, jumped into the yard where the pack of waiting dogs ate them. After the first one, we sat in the kitchen and watched. Birds that stupid deserved it, we thought.

The duck fell in love with Giesla, the mini-daschund, and followed her around everywhere.

We were probably the worst farmers who ever lived.

After the house was fixed up, the owner threw us out, and that was that. What I learned was: Never again ...

I told you that story so I could talk about this one:

A woman I know has written, under a pseudonym, Tammy Owen, a memoir of her farm days, House of Goats, and it is well-written, funny, touching, and actually useful for anybody who is considering the idea of becoming a gentleman (or lady) farmer. It's an ebook, available at or Smashwords. 

You should check it out. 

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