Hell or High Water
First of all: apparently my access to viewing comments on the blog was blocked or disabled, and I somehow missed the lovely, encouraging, uplifting comments from several of you folks who have bothered to come back to this tiny corner of the interwebs and read one person’s very small story. Thank you for your insight and stories especially related to the last post. I am limping along at the moment for various reasons and notes like yours are exactly the shoulder-shaking I need. Some mornings, I have to hear a stern, “Chin up – you got this.” Really, thank you. Really, really. I did leave out some of the more egregious bits – like how FSA was going to put a lien on each of our assets (including every animal, every tool, every vehicle). How, without prior explanation, they casually explained (about 7 months into the process), that any vendor I worked with would have to sign a contract with FSA, too. How customers at the farmer’s market would need to make checks out to FSA and to me. Mind boggling, important stuff that was never included on any forms, applications, guidelines or brought up in any of our countless conversations.
Because of this spectacular waste of time, I’ve searched for any value that came through the loss of progress. Aside from the exercise of creating business plans, the loss of time also provided a necessary pause in the frantic planning and (sometimes) thoughtless decision making. I’ve learned so much about the business of this business over the course of this year, and made mistakes that would have been more costly had the loan come through sooner. (That last comment was really just for Jeremy who has asked me to try and “focus on the positive” – SEE JER?! My glass is half full!). Sigh.
Aside from all that, things are moving – slowly. Painfully. Loans may close next week, a barn may be built this week, orders for equipment have been placed in faraway places like the Netherlands. The porch is slowly filling with 3-bay stainless sinks, commercial soup kettles (my version of a cheese vat). Calls are made daily to suppliers and welders, and I continue whispering frantically to friends and mentors about our plans (or lunacy. Same thing). And our fears. I think half of this process is admitting it could fail, punching through the doubt, moving forward anyway. That’s how I deal with it, at least.
Speaking of doubt: lately I’m not certain about the cows, one of those rather hasty decisions I tend to make. Perhaps this is because of Winnie’s persistently clogged teat that the vet can’t cure, the one that forced me to cross myself before inserting a cannula to drain the milk (and I did not vomit = personal growth). Perhaps it is also because I have still not established a routine for milking the cows the way I have with the goats, a process that just felt fluid and simple to me since the beginning. The cows, no matter how romantic my notion of milking them, remain a mystery.
Although having the commercial milking parlor built will naturally allow for a more efficient cow-milking system, I’ve learned there is a reason few dairies milk both species. The law requires that all of the milk from goats and cows remain separate – even if they end up together in the same cheese. Different equipment must be used to milk them, milk but be stored separately and it is not until the moment of cheese making (in a vat or pasteurizer) that they can be united. This means equipment costs are double – twice as much. This also means my milking and clean-up time is double (twice as much). I’m not ready to abandon my plan for creating dual species farmstead cheese mostly because I love my cows so deeply. But if I had to choose – and that’s not a choice I’m ready to make – it will always be goats. Because…goats? I actually believe I cannot live without them.
This is not on the scale of Sophie’s Choice, but for someone who’s spent a year developing a plan, it’s hard to know when to quit a concept that may fail. But then, it all might fail – so do I scrap the entire plan? No, of course not. Lately, I wring my hands a lot with worry: while inspecting that pesky udder, while removing cactus from Junebug’s bewildered face, while pulling baby chicks from the water bucket, while scratching the bellies of stupendously dirty – but happy – pigs.
We are entering the Dog Days, when outside work can only happen at sunrise and sunset, when animals lounge uncomfortably in the oppressive heat, when we do our annual “Why God why do I live in Texas?!” plea up to the heavens (No, really, why?). But that question is always answered, usually in the heady hours of summer twilight. And the cow question will be answered too, with some wisdom I’ll inevitably discover along the way. That teat will heal. That barn will raise. The loan will close. And although I’m no longer certain exactly when or in what form it will take – come hell or high water – this dairy will be built. Amen. Again and again.