October 5, 2009

I spent today doing my least favorite thing…..combing through
account records, double-checking for errors, and sending emails to
clients detailing the status of their respective accounts. Oh, joy.
Even though I haven’t been exactly running my own business for decades,
there are two things that I figured out early on. One, have a business
plan.

Two, there are something like nine different functions that need
to be undertaken in any business. Sales, accounting, marketing,
production, banking, development, client relations, etc etc…..I don’t
know them all off the top of my head. Maybe those aren’t even the right
categories….but the point is, business isn’t just about how one earns
the money. Earning it does no good if all the income is out there,
uncollected, because someone failed to keep track of transactions and
settle accounts. I’ve seen people who were brilliant at what they
did….they repaired machinery, or did custom farm work, or kept
beehives by the hundreds, but they went broke because in their offices
(if they could be termed as such) there were landslides of invoices,
bills, and clutter cascading in tricolor reams onto the floor. What was
the business’ annual income? No idea. Top three expenses?
Well……..maybe there’s a way to guess. No one of us knows whether an
endeavor will succeed or fail in the long run, but not minding all the
different things that need attention is a great way to start on the
wrong path. 

Yesterday was lots more fun. We went to Hoes Down,
the big open house at Full Belly Farm in the Capay valley. Compared to
my small farm, Full Belly is an enviable megalopolis of Farmdom. Dozens
of full time workers, acres and acres, beautiful outbuildings, an
enviable fleet of tractors, diversified livestock, and customers of an
upper socioeconomic class willing to support all the fun. I don’t think
I ever want to get that big, but it sure is nice to visit. Yesterday my
friend Lisa and I were sharing our heritage livestock. We had our small
corner in front of "Pinto Bean" the Jersey cow. I brought one of my
rare Beltsville Small White turkeys in a carrier, so that people could
have a chance to peek at a breed that’s almost extinct. We also had
"Solo", who is a Spanish Black hen that has her own Twitter account and
tweets in something like turkey haiku. And there was "Coco" the 3 month
Navajo-Churro lamb. Both Solo and Coco belong to Lisa, and Lisa is the
Animal Whisperer. The turkey wants to sit on her shoulder. The lamb
will jump into her arms if startled. And follow her around like a lost
puppy. It sort of has to be seen to be believed, but I’m not making
this up. At some point in the afternoon there was a milking
demonstration, and Pinto Bean was none too happy about having to wait
so long to be milked. After the show was over Dixie cups of raw milk
were passed around. I really enjoyed getting to try that, because if I
ever decide to get my own cow, I should at least know what the product
tastes like straight from the source. 8% milkfat and still quite
warm….not bad. That could be some really worthwhile ice cream once
the cream rises…. anyway, it was really interesting to watch the
visitors. Our everyday lives are a source of amazement for people that
don’t live this way. I imagined if the shoe were on the other foot….
a crowd of us country folk travel to the city. We oooooh and aaaaaah
over seeing a dining room table with matching chairs. We can’t get over
the marble inlay shower with three shower heads, and we line up to ask
dozens of questions about the attachments on the Cuisinart. That sounds
really odd, but that’s what it can feel like to answer questions all
day about the most basic aspects of animal husbandry, crops, or the
like. And it’s poignant, too. One hundred years ago all this "farm
stuff" was common knowledge. Everyone either grew up this way or
visited their grandparents in the summer who still lived on the farm.
And now, with the demise of thousands of small family farms in the name
of progress and corporate agriculture, us rural folk are quite a
novelty. Many of us resist this disconnect, and it’s why we give up
weekends and time here and there when urban dwellers want to know more.
We feel it is vital to reconnect people with what has been taken away
from our national culture. It’s painful when a child has never seen a
living turkey or a hog….it just shouldn’t be like this, but it is.
And toward the end of the day, as I sat there reflecting on all this,
ol’ Pinto Bean caught me right across the face with her manure-sodden
tail. Oh yes, rural living…..

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