The Realistic Farm Tour

One of the projects we're working on is ways to bring more people to our farm. A lot of folks want to see what we're doing, and we've been contemplating open farm days, and possible ideas for classes we might teach. Well, while Eric and I were discussing it the other night, we came up with the idea of the "realistic farm tour" that gives people a real sense of what actually goes on on a farm - we could market ourselves a unlike all those other agritourism ventures that sell the dream - we sell the reality! Here are some of the activities we are sure people would pay us to do!

"Explore the aggressive weed garden" - learn hands on the biological principles that underly the ability of weeds to outcompete most annual vegetables on disturbed (ie, farmed) soils. Our "weed walk" will introduce you to the major pests of our region, their uses and the curse words used to describe them. Annual vegetables, looking pale in sickly amongst the weeds will give you an actual, hands-on chance to try out your weeding skills - plenty of time is allotted to this workshop to give you a real sense of the experience. Bonus activity: Count seeds on thistles and lambsquarters, and calculate next year's weed load that you have failed to prevent.

"Goat Behavior Workshop" Learn more about the inner workings of these beautiful dairy animals, and why they act as they do - and the curse words at times used to describe them, their behavior and their antecedents. Watch a five year old goat doe reduce two adults in their late 30s and 40s to hysteria, by refusing to come into the pasture. Watch a doe put her foot in the milk pail for the third time that morning. See goats locate fence weaknesses with 100% accuracy in seconds. See goats reject perfectly good hay that some other goat breathed near. Enjoy being rubbed against by a buck in rut.

"Agrarian parenting: Mothering and Fathering on a Working Farm": Experienced parents show you how to balance work and family. Watch Sharon attempt to scythe while being interrupted every 3 minutes to yell "I don't care which one of you found more salamanders - just stop bickering and put them back in the creek!". Watch Eric attempt to repair barn door with 9 and 7 year old "helpers" who think sledgehammers are awesome! Watch two 30 and 40somethings reduced to hysteria by a five year old human who definitely put his shoes the 6 acre field. Learn new curse words to apply to yourself and your antecedents when you finally break down and threaten to dismember your 7 year old's stuffed platypus if he doesn't get it out of your face while you are planting onions and he bursts into tears.

"Goat Sex 101, 102, and 201" This workshop, hosted by Simon 9, Isaiah, 7, and Asher 5, will cover all the salient aspects of goat reproduction and anatomy. Especially suitable for young children whose parents haven't gotten around to explaining the facts of life to them yet, and would love to have it done by other people's children. No new curse words will be taught in this lecture.

"Time Management for the Busy Farmer" - The key to successful time management when you are farming, working and raising kids is simple - accept that you are always going to be behind, then lurch from things that you should have done last week to things you should have done two months ago to the present crisis, and on to the next one. Also remember to work hard on expanding your "Things I will do when pigs fly" list - the more normal stuff other people do you can put on that list, the happier you'll be. The second workshop in this cycle "Learning to love sleep deprivation" will be available on request.

"Pick a buttload of little tiny things." You've always dreamed of being a farmer, right. Now you can enjoy the real experience - picking a whole lot of little annoying things for 9 hours in the sun. No matter what the season from early spring (dandelion blossoms for wine) to late spring (chamomile blossoms) to high summer (currants) to late summer (beans) to autumn (every last damned cherry tomato), there is always something small that needs to be picked, and picked some more. Learn new curse words to describe the idiot who planted these things and thought it would be a great idea to sell them! Bonus activity - wash an endless number of eggs that birds pooped on!

"Agrarian Housekeeping:Domesticity for the busy Farmer" Get a tour of a real farmhouse! Learn why we say "it isn't just a home, it is an ecosystem!" Count the cobwebs in the corners. Find out what that the possible candidates for making that weird smell are, and how to (mostly) remove it. Learn how many legos can fit in a set of couch cushions when Mom and Dad are busy and have never actually thought to explicitly forbid filling the couch with legos. Explore the bottom "compost layer" of the perpetual laundry pile, and to begin every recipe with "first, wash the following dishes you will need..."

"How Not to Make Money: A Workshop": Get yourself a farm, baby! This workshop will teach you all the ways to lose money in agriculture, including "Acts of God, nature and climate" and "Stupid shit you did to yourself." This is a long workshop, so bring a lunch and pee first.

I assume people will be flocking in!


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I just wanted to write and say how much I love your posts about your farm. A very dear friend of mine married a cattle rancher and in the past two years, has decided to turn it into a miniature farm. Literally -- she has this strange affinity for miniature animals. Except goats, I just can't convince her to get mini goats, even though I promise to visit more often if she does.

Love this post.

Thank you especially for "Stupid shit you did to yourself." It's good to be reminded I'm not alone in this category.

You might also consider another class about throwing the aforementioned cherry tomatoes (and other abundant veggies & fruits) into the freezer saying "I will process these during the winter when it is less hectic" Oh yeah!

By Sue in Pac NW (not verified) on 15 Feb 2011 #permalink

For that last workshop, alternate title:

How to Make a Small Fortune Farming (Start with a Large Fortune).

I think this may now rank as my favorite of all your blog posts, ever.

Please don't make more time for farming by reducing your blogging time. Enjoyed this post.

Haha! Great post. I would be flocking in, if I didn't live across the country. Would you please offer Learning to Love Sleep Deprivation online?
... remind me again why I thought a night class on farming would be fine to stuff in between my regular night meetings? ...
For those who lack access to goats, but wish to personally experience the hysteria produced when animals refuse to eat Perfectly Good #@#$#! Food (and then complain they're hungry) ... try borrowing some cats.
-- mind you, I love my cats ...


That sounds like much of my childhood. I live in a town now, with a tiny tiny yard. (But we do buy our food from the local farmer's market).

I'm laughing hysterically! I have tears in my eyes. You forgot the one called "Get other people to do the job for you by running agritourism seminars, and then spend hours cleaning up their messes and repairing their mistakes (works equally well with one's own children)"

I can think of more enjoyable ways to lose all of one's money than owning a farm. Vegas, blackjack and hookers come to mind...and I wouldn't need a workshop on how to go about it.

To each their own, Mark. I think I find chasing the sheep out of the strawberries more fun than throwing money at people who don't care about me, whether they be sex workers or card dealers.

Thank you for this wonderful post! I would attend gladly, were it not that we already have become rather professional in basically all of these subjects. It still is reassuring to see that farm-life with children and goats works much the same way overseas. :)

Love it! Sounds just like our place only more organised!!! And your kids seem to have more clothes on...echoing the lego in the couch, when we made the rule "boots and hats at all times", we forgot to specify anything in-between! All I can say is thank goodness for aerosol sunscreen!

Sign us up...we'll bring our tips for thriving agro-eco adventures like: coppicing your firewood from the icy winter woodlot with tubesocks as recycled mittens...creative hanging techniques for using rotten meat in your pawpaw trees to pollinate those persnickety blossoms...oops-- can't share all the fun secrets before the class.

Thanks for the joy of shared experience.

Yah, this is a keeper post, Sharon.

I knew when I as halfway through it that most of the comments were going to be "great, but you forgot this one..." :-)

I'd suggest you incorporate the best of those, and make this a permanent addition to your sidebar; "The Prepper's Guide To Hitchhiking Through Reality".

Oh, yeah, and you forgot this one...

"Hand to hand combat training for the daily dealings with the insanely optimistic Murphy."

"Learn how to handle everything when, in the middle of 3 goats giving birth simultaneously, your sheepdog-in-training slips his collar and gets loose. And gets into the henhouse, and eats/smashes all the eggs. Which you just yesterday contracted with the local grocery store, after 2 years of negotiations, to deliver daily. And your youngest child throws up in the back seat of your car on the replacement eggs you begged from your Aunt who lives 60 miles away when you are 5 miles out of town on your return trip from her farm through the ice storm. And when you pull off the road to deal with it you run over the broken glass there from the 5 car pile up that happened on that curve an hour ago, and you get a flat tire. Then get rear-ended by the local sheriff's deputy who most hates you when he can't stop on the ice."

Ok, couldn't help it:

"Explore the bottom "compost layer" of the perpetual laundry pile, and learn how to turn the lusty organisms you find eating your shorts into the most awesome sourdough starter ever!"

Thanks for this post! I have been mostly envying you for your abilities to juggle everything so well... and now I feel a bit better to know that juggling is so messy! :-) I don't have kids (of either type) but the rest of it is familiar -- especially how the tasks on a mini homestead pile up to the point that I actively bar friends who have maids (sorry - cleaning service)and suburban homes from coming within 40 feet of my place! You should definitely permanently post this on your left margin!

Lol. About 10 years ago I invited an online friend who was visiting the area to our farm. She brought her gardening father a man approx. 70 neatly dressed.

We had somewhere between 1 1/2- acres under cultivation. He made some comment about the weeds. These gardens had many hours per week of weeding in them (it was prime summertime). I said our first goal is yield if we get enough weeds out to allow the plants to be happy, we're happy :).

I LOVE IT! I just blogged about this same thing the other day. It seems like farm tours and farm magazines sell an unrealistic view of farming. I have a couple of friends that need to go to your farm tour so they can stop telling me how they are "going to make soooo much money selling goat milk, or raising meat rabbits, or raising bison, or making cheese, or (insert ridiculously labor intensive farming idea here)". They go on and on about how they are going to quit their jobs and buy a farm and make tons of cash. Meanwhile they are too busy to mow their 1/2 acre lawn they currently have because they are playing World of Warcraft for 20 hours straight. Yep, I am just waiting for them to buy a farm and show me how it's done!

ABG, I suffer from the "getting it right" syndrome too but am getting over it! Maybe a 12 step program?

By Sue in Pac NW (not verified) on 17 Feb 2011 #permalink

This really hits home. I'm wondering how I will handle a 5 month old, a 3 year old and four goats giving birth (and milking) in two weeks. Instead of worrying, it's probably safe to assume Chaos will take care of my new farm. She has references and is extremely dependable.

I am reminded of a bit from a Le Guin novel: "One goat outnumbers three people. Three goats outnumber thirty."

Your comment about picking a buttload of tiny things really hit home. I tried chamomile last summer - it was very prolific but after I picked it numerous times, I decided to give it up. It just was not worth my time to pick or dry. I'll have mint tea instead for the winter.


What a wonderful post. I've got my own to add, more related to sheep and guard dogs than goats but very closely related.