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Wednesday, April 01 2020
The New Normal?

I keep hearing a term being tossed around - the "new normal."

As this pandemic sweeps across the world, very few remain untouched. Those of us who live on farms are perhaps better able to exist in a state of self-quarantine since that really doesn't change our day to day lives much. We aren't going stir crazy here because there is plenty to do and yet, we no longer feel the pressure that we need to be somewhere else. There is nowhere else to be. Somehow that makes it a little easier to do chores and tackle the list of honey-dos you've been putting off. 

Foraging expeditions for necessary items are stressful and leave that nagging fear I may bring the virus home. That means another two weeks of quarantine before we can relax. We see others not taking things seriously. Either they have no clue how easily items are contaminated or they are apathetic. I've spent enough years collecting DNA that I know how many places this virus may linger. Therefore I take no trip in public casually. We watch the news and are appalled by the number of people who selfishly continue to gather in large groups. Either they are oblivious or they do not care. It doesn't look good for us as a society. I can only imagine that the Italians see news reports of American spring breaks and simply shake their heads. 

I spend a lot more time outside now. Spring allergy season brings a whole new twist. "Is it cedar pollen or Coronavirus?" I've never been a hypochondriac but now I worry. How many people could I infect if I carried the virus? But as we look around us, we realize that we are blessed to be living away from the Metroplex and like everyone else, we're getting a taste of what's really important. I can raise anything that can walk to water but my gardening skills are less than stellar so now I'm feeling that pinch. I still plan to put in another garden this year but my backup plan is to trade eggs, meat, and cash with friends who have better gardening skills. Now more than ever we must share our skills and buy local where we can. 

My chickens are now essential personnel.  Their eggs provide for four families and so when a rat snake killed an adult hen last week, not only was I livid but it rattled me a bit. The hens are essential and cannot be easily replaced. Snake lovers, please spare me your protests that rat snakes only eat eggs and will not kill adult birds. Horse Hockey!

"There is no rat snake in Texas big enough to eat a chicken!" (Yes, I heard this one.)

I didn't say the snake ATE the hen, I said he killed her. These snakes that eat birds don't necessarily stop to consider that they cannot eat the bird they kill and so the shocked and enraged farmer is left with a dead hen that was alive ten minutes earlier before she walked into the coop where a snake was hiding. She is dead. Her head is now purple and wet. I have a friend who lost three hens in one night as the snake went from hen to sleeping hen. She found three dead hens and a rat snake the next morning. Pardon me, but now I make no apologies for killing any rat snake I find in my chicken yard. 

"But the snake has to eat!" 

So do I, darling. So do the four families that hen fed. There is nothing like a pandemic to bring out our basic instincts. I'm not gonna fight over toilet paper, but come after my chickens and I will shoot your ass. 

The Navajo-Churro sheep show that was to be held here in October was cancelled and so now the wether and rams that were to be butchered for the show dinner will end up in my freezer instead. I'm still eating on a bull we butchered years ago. The meat is good and each time I open the freezer I'm thankful for his sacrifice to feed my family. Ironically the price of beef in grocery stores continues to climb yet beef on the hoof has plummeted in value. Four main meat buyers have a monopoly and so as the American public pays more for beef cuts, the American rancher can no longer afford to sell his cattle at auction because they bring a fraction of their former value. Unless cattle prices come back up, our calves are worth more to us in local freezers. And our own. 

My new normal more closely resembles my old normal except that now it's a necessity. I'm back to tending the sheep in the pasture but now it's because I must stretch that corn as far as possible. Not only do I not have a paycheck but each trip out endangers me or others if I happen to be carrying the virus. (Until we know differently, we must all assume we are carriers.) So out to the pasture I go. I take a few dogs to manage the flock and protect the lambs from being snatched. They are large enough to keep up now but sometimes they get absorbed in grazing and don't notice when the flock moves on. If I have two or three Big White Dogs around any predator lurking will be detected before a lamb disappears. 

Like the rest of the country, we are cooking from scratch more now. I'm back to baking a lot of sourdough bread so I didn't panic when the bread was sold out at the grocery store. For the first time we are actually fishing for dinner instead of entertaining the grandchildren. It's nice to know that in less time it would take us to go to the grocery store, we had caught two fat catfish. Two catfish, two potatoes, and a few hush puppies fed two people dinner and lunch the next day. 

Last week I was astounded when I went to the grocery store and found it sold out of all pasta and dried beans. As a child we were really poor. I remember asking my mother, "Momma, are we poor?"

"No baby, we're just broke right now."

My momma knew how to cook and stretch a meal so that you enjoyed Poor Man's food. Now it's called "comfort food." It's really about making more with less. Now our family like many others, returns back to Poor Man's food, meals that fill you up for pennies. As a global society our "new normal" is slowing down, learning what's important, learning to rely on ourselves, but also to take care of each other. And maybe that's not a bad thing. 

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 11:03 am   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
Comments:
Thanks for your insights and photos. I'm puzzled by people that aren't taking this virus seriously. My sister was moved to tears by the NYC firefighters that were calling nurses hero's. I shared it with her because she is a hero, working with patients with COVID-19. She reported yesterday a co worker had died from it. It makes me angry when people get sick when doing stupid nonessential stuff, then put nurses at risk and overload the hospital system.
Posted by Sharon on 04/04/2020 - 10:29 AM
I am so sorry that your sister is having to deal with this pandemic. I'm sure she is overwhelmed by it all. And yes, she is a true hero.
Posted by Forensicfarmgirl on 04/04/2020 - 01:56 PM

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Red Feather Ranch, Failte Gate Farm
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