Weaning lambs

Our spring crop of five lambs are all at least a month old so we decided it is time to wean them. Today Hannah separated the lambs from their moms. She’s been reading up on sheep nutrition and learned that it is good not to feed ewes too much when you want them to go dry, so they are in the pen attached to the sheep barn, with the ram, Bentley. The lambs and our youngest ewe, Caitlin, who is pregnant, are in the area behind the regular barn. This will allow us to give them more grain than we give the others. 

We also moved the bottle-fed lamb in with the other lambs – he’s been living in our downstairs bathroom and in the backyard. We are going to bring his bottles out to the pen for a while, tapering him off rather than cutting him off cold turkey. Today’s soundtrack has had a lot of annoyed baaing in it from both pens.

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Poem about Robert by Ed Kerman

Robert, today

You weren’t born yesterday,                                                                                                        but near enough it seems

to run                                                                                                                                            shamelessly with the new-born lambs,

to root                                                                                                                              thoughtlessly with the new-born piglets,

Nessie the piglet

to hold                                                                                                                                                    gently the newly hatched ducklings                                                                                        cupped in your careless, capable, five-year-old hands.

May 18, 2011

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Holistic Goal, continued – processes and systems

Once you have written down some value statements, the next question is “What processes and systems do you need to have in place to achieve these values? The Holistic Management terminology for this is “Forms of production.” This is not the nitty-gritty how-to section. This is still looking at the whole from a very general viewpoint. Here is a partial list of what these processes and systems might be:
> A good communication system
> A record keeping system for farm activities
> An accounting system
> A way to produce income from meaningful work
> A time management system
> Professional development
> A way to resolve conflicts

In terms of planning, these “forms of production” are a way of keeping track of what needs to be planned. They are not the plan itself. Take the communication system. The plan could be “we are going to have notebooks in each area of the farm to jot down notes about things we have done, number of eggs collected, etc” or it could be “we will have a management team meeting once a month”. Or it could be both, with other provisions for ways to communicate on a daily basis.
The first form of production we have in our holistic plan is “Profit from work we find meaningful, engaging, consistent with our values, and including elements of farming as well as our other areas of expertise and passion.” Most of the rest of our list involves time management and good communication.
During my first year of contact with Holistic Management I realized that we absolutely had to start keeping records in order to see where we had been and where we wanted to go, even if our main goal remained to raise our own meat and eggs. It needed to be a really easy system in order to have us actually start using it. So we decided to write our egg collection stats on the calendar. “8 C (chicken) 2 D (duck)” When slaughter time came around, I wrote down the weights of each bird on the same calendar. It hangs in our kitchen, our main center of operations. Now I will be able to total these things up as part of our financial planning for next year. We have integrated this much record keeping into our daily habits and may now be ready to tackle some of the more complex records such as notes on health issues.

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Phoenix Farm Draft Holistic Goal

Temporary Holistic Goal for Phoenix Farm Learning Center
September 20, 2010 Revised February 5, 2011

Whole under management: the community of people, animals and earth at Phoenix Farm

Decision makers

Kate and Ed Kerman, property owners
Ada and Hannah Kerman (resident daughters)
Laura Williams (age 6) and Robert Kerman (age 4), resident grandchildren

Statement of purpose:
Phoenix Farm Learning Center’s vision is of restoring connections… to the earth and how food is grown and processed, to each other, to our own inner wisdom, to a greater spirit, through democratic, peaceful, sustainable practices. We work with people of all ages because we believe it is natural to learn from and support each other in multi-generational communities.

Quality of life statement: The adults on the farm have meaningful, grounded work that leads us to feeling connected to the earth, the landscape and animals under our care, to our inner wisdom, to Spirit and family, friends and the wider community. The farm has healthy mineral and water cycles and doesn’t use fossil fuels. We are able collectively to provide not only the necessities of life but to donate money to others and to enjoy some luxuries in terms of travel, entertainment and eating out. We are strong and healthy and working towards sustainable health habits. Our environment is in reasonable order. Our family and our wider community are healthy and excited about life. The area has
a good infrastructure to support local food producers and buyers and to incubate new farmers
an excellent educational system including many publicly funded alternative approaches
a thriving local economy, including banking
a wide variety of ways for people to connect with and help each other, including a thriving mediation community
many forms of healthy entertainment for people of all ages.

Veto power to aspects of what we do
Client decisions, including individuals, families and institutions who might choose to hire us or buy our farm products; bank; town of Marlborough, neighbors

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Whole Under Management and Whole Life Goal

The first step in Holistic Management is to decide what is the “whole” you are managing. As we have learned the hard way in the past decades, making decisions for parts of nature has a way of misfiring because everything is connected. On the other hand, we can’t make decisions for everything in the world so we need to draw a circle around the part of it that we do have under our stewardship. I have two whole life goals (which Holistic Management terms “holisticgoals”), one for my paid and volunteer work, and one for the farm where I live with my husband, two adult daughters and two grandchildren.
The second step is to take an inventory of this whole you are managing:
Who are the decision-makers, typically those who make day-to-day management choices?
What is your resource base 1) in terms of people who influence or are influenced by our decisions and in terms of things we can use for our enterprises (this can include networks of people who might want to buy our products or services,) 2) in terms of your knowledge and skills, and 3) in terms of your physical assets?
What is the resource base in terms of monetary assets we can access for our enterprises?

Next, it is time for the decision-makers together to take a big step back from the specifics of what you are planning and think about what you value. If you are already farming, you can ask yourself what really energizes you about this work and that would lead to some values (being outdoors, raising your own food, working with animals) and what really enervates you about it which could lead to values by taking the opposite (maybe the farmers market drives you crazy because you are an introvert, so a value would be working in a way that gives you lots of time to yourself). If members of your decision-making team have different values, you can have a value of appreciating and working with the different strengths in your group.
For Phoenix Farm, which is at this point essentially a homesteading operation in terms of meat, we felt clear that the adults on the farm were all decision-makers, since we all work with the animals we have. We simply asked the two kids (young as they are – 4 and 6) if they would like to be at our first meeting. They did join us for our general discussion. We valued this because we wanted them to hear what we had to say and we wanted their input. They do make decisions about their connection to what we do, for instance when we had our meeting they had rather recently helped us on chicken slaughtering day. Their requests don’t bear the same weight as ours until they can pull their weight to help them happen – i.e. no horse until they are old enough to take care of it!
From our discussion, I took notes and drafted a statement of values which I took back to the adults for comment and revision. Something that helps me tremendously in the process is to put DRAFT at the top. There is no need to get this honed to perfection in one sitting. It should be a dynamic part of your planning as you go forward and it can be revised at any time something else occurs to you, or when your situation changes. For our holistic goal, see the next posting.

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Phoenix Farm Whole Farm Planning Blog  Introduction

Phoenix Farm
Whole Farm Planning Blog – by Kate Kerman

In October of 2009 I became the state coordinator for a federal grant designed to teach women theprincipals of Holistic Management, a process originally developed to
help farmers and ranchers challenge the old stereotype of impoverished and overworked farmers
help farmers and ranchers work on improving their land and being good stewards
encourage families to work together on their farms and ranches, and to make these places that the upcoming generations want to work on and with.

I was in charge of recruiting women farmers with ten or less years of experience and finding a place to meet, food to serve and generally making sure things ran smoothly. One of the perks of this position was that I sat in on the classes. The series is set up with ten sessions, 6 that are more book learning, throughout the winter, with four farm visits with some class learning in the spring and/or summer.
I got a taste of Holistic Management during these classes. I found it interesting, confusing and hopeful. It asked for a number of changes in thinking. I skimmed through the classes with my mind on serving lunch and cleaning up after others left, but I began to absorb the ideas. I was intrigued and interested in learning more, so when a call went out for people wanting to take a Certified Educator course in Holistic Management, I consulted my family and applied.
The materials arrived in August 2010 along with a daunting list of requirements for getting through a slew of Holistic Management practices before we started meeting almost every other weekend from late October to mid December. I attempted to plunge in to this work. It was a difficult and perfect time to be doing this, because (partly because I had some income from being state coordinator and some perspective from looking at my holistic goal) I had quit a job that was becoming very unsatisfactory and was launching a new business at the same time.
I began reading the book Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision-Making by Alan Savory and Jody Butterfield (Island Press, 1999) and found it to be a fascinating story of Alan’s developing realization that our environmental issues, including desertification throughout the world, are attributable to human management systems. Not just one management system or another, but by the fact that people make decisions which do not take the health of the planet and their own personal happiness into consideration. For me, it is always helpful to understand where a system came from, and this book gave me that grounding, along with a DVD of a lecture by Alan Savory.

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