Still Pondering Pigs and Sheep

I am still thinking about the pig farmer interview (see last post) and also happened across an article featuring an intensive lambing operation that added more fuel to my fire. As I fed sheep this morning my mind was deeply immersed in its own conversation and I was feeling a build up of emotions - anger, lack, frustration, sadness. I was furiously forking hay, feeling the turmoil of my inability and seeming lack of power to make a difference. It was only when I felt the cold wetness of the tears freezing on my cheek did I realize I was crying.

Is the fact that my soul is tied up in what I do a deterrent? Do I need to harden myself to some facts? Is intensive farming the successful way to farm? Have I got it all wrong? I am less than the others because I don’t make farming to be all about money, efficiency and a carcass? It burns me to see that they make a living and I struggle.

How did farming become about raising animals in a fast food manner? How is it that these types of farms are the ones being repeatedly acknowledged and supported?

I know I am not alone in this rant but today I felt like it. I feel like I am the only one who sees that we are pulling the wool over our own eyes. We have created our own farm crisis so much so that we need new definitions for farmer and farming.

And yet on each side of the spectrum are people, real humans, life. We each believe in how we farm. My method does not fit their ideal of farming and theirs certainly doesn’t fit mine, and we won’t be reading each others blogs. So what good is my anger or frustration at what they do?


  1. First, let me say I am sorry that you feel so alone. Having said that, I, like you, wonder at your anger. Is there not room for all types of farming? (I am not talking about allowing for inhumane treatment of animals or unethical practices.) But just as you might choose wallpaper for your bedroom, and I would choose paint for mine, can we not allow for differences in farming/ranching, too?

    We learned this while homeschooling our children. We were careful not to think less of another family's choice to send their kids to public school. Every family and every individual makes their own choices, as best they can, depending on their situation.

    There is a LOT of talk in our area in support of the conventional ways of farming because these farmers feel threatened. So you might be hearing more because they realize that if they don't share their story, they will be forced out of business because people no longer understand basic farming practices like why we shear before lambing (how cruel!).

    Two more things (and then I will quit). First, who says "they" don't struggle? I have seen the struggle of conventional faming, and it is no easier. Here in the US, we lost a LOT of farms in the 1980. And we continue to lose our precious farmland to development, because you can make more money selling the land than farming it. Second, as for your comment about you not making a difference, do you think you are not making a difference to your sheep? Your dogs? Is that not enough?

    Hugs to you. Live your life as best you can. If it is a sustainable way (and I am talking about more than just money here), others will be drawn to it. Don't waste your energy casting stones at the "other side", for as you say, they are people, too, with hopes and dreams and struggles like you.

  2. I thank you dearly for this comment Lona. You showed me what I lost track of.

  3. Hi I just found your website and blog just a short time ago, I see you are having some trouble copeing with the long winter, and are questing some farmming practices. As I am new to your site I am not quite sure what your views are but I am one that does not go down a well worn path maby I can help you feel better about your situation. You sound like a Heard quitter and I want to let you know about a gut in Colorado that has a weekly newsletter you might like. It's all about cows but cows and sheep are both run the same in a lot of the world. His name is Kit Pharo at Pharoe cattle co. if you look it up on a search engin you shoud find it easy enough. He touches on many subjects from poltics to religion but the main focuse is non traditional ranching. I am in Idaho and have a small place but I run 65 ewes and some cattle, I used to be an AI tech and have done everything for semen collection to embryo transplants.I have family In Wales UK and they are having spring stormes were they have 10 to 15 foot drifts and I have seen pictures where they have been digging ewes out of drifts some dead some alive and they are just starting to lamb in several places over there. Norm Morgan

  4. Hi Norm,
    Thank you so much for your comment. Yes, I think I am a Herd Quitter! I do know who Kit Pharo is. I am familiar with his website and newsletter and he came up here, two years ago I think, and gave a short livestock/grazing seminar. He's a good character with some great insights on life and a full sense of humour too. This gives me a reminder to seek out his work again. Thanks.
    I recently watched a short video of folks in the UK digging sheep out of the snow. Suddenly our struggles seemed significantly less so. I pray that these people manage well through the Spring and through lambing.

    1. Yes I was in the UK this last summer, I have family in Wales and Scotland. We went to the Royal Welsh Show while we were there and it was amazing with all the sheep breeds (43 seperate breed were shown ) . I keep tabs on what they are doing in the UK as far as livestock goes and they are in it deep in a lot of places. Here in Idaho a lot of ranchers use cats to plow snow for livestock, but when it gets dep most of the time it pays to have a loader to shovel the snow. Norm

    2. Arlette, I have been subscribing to your crooked fences newsletter for a long time, and reading your wonderful ranching with sheep site. Somehow, I never realized you had this excellent blog! You are certainly making a difference in how I look at things, and you make a difference by being an excellent reference for my young family with a new passion: sheep.

      I am a conventional grain farmer. I struggle, among other reasons, because I see what you see. I see the attitude prevalent today, of more, more, more. This land buying panic people seem to be on. I am a relatively small farmer, and I have not clambered on the bandwagons so to speak, because being the biggest is not my passion. Auto steer and gps, are not my passion. Shiny paint is not either. I have found that animal care is my passion. I just really like farming. I like growing crops, and probably always will, but I love the animals. We have hens for eggs, chickens for meat, we want a goat or two for milk. I want a couple of hogs this summer for more diversity of meat. Above all, I love our sheep! Sheep are something I do want more of: they impress me more than a shiny new combine, a bunch of expensive land:

      I am a 37 year old, trapped in a generation where these things are strange. No one hardly does the afformentioned things anymore. I see it so differently, and boy did I appreciate your post. I like simplicity. I think of farming of yesteryear: The harvest bees, the neighborly "butchering day". The disconnect nowadays is dreadfully sad.

      We struggle. I struggle in many ways: financially, emotionally. I am unsure about myself. I am shy. I sometimes do not go to town for two weeks, and then when I must go, I struggle, because I am not a real people person. I have nothing in common with anyone for 180 miles. I have no friends who "get" me nearby. All my neighbors are fighting for land, fancy machinery, more land, more land, did I mention more land??? lol They find it weird that I have chickens. I worry about my path I am on. I completely get your struggle. It is a hard one to explain to they who do not have "the struggle".

      Thank you for the post, this blog, your website, and crooked fences. Thank you mostly, for "getting it". For knowing about, "the struggle".


  5. Dale, if I wasn't convinced about making a difference before, I am now. Wow. THANK YOU for your generous and open comment. You have shifted something inside of me.

    "I am a 37 year old trapped in a generation where things are strange."
    Yes, I so understand this. I think we may be very similar. I'm very familiar with what it is to be shy, to skip going to town, and Allen and I are certainly the odd ducks out here, farming as we do.

    I have received many comments, insights and signs this past week that have opened my eyes and lead me to think people like you and I are so much more than the farming misfits we often feel ourselves to be. Rather we are quite indispensable, we are necessary and that is a stellar feature in this day and age. So thank you for being you and also understanding the struggle.


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