Trip to the Small Farmers Journal Auction

Our second week on the job, and we get to take a vacation! We all headed down to Madras, OR for four days to attend an event I would have never known existed: the Small Farmers Journal Horsedrawn Auction and Swap. Betsey gets sooo excited about this event! It’s a special thing she does every year and I think it’s awesome of her to share it with us. She really throws herself in and helps out with the auction and everybody there knows her, so we were known by extension, as “Betsey’s brood.” It was a totally new experience, listening to the auctioneer’s chant and watching people bid. I learned some about harness types and “single tree” vs “double tree” hitches and different types of implements that horses can pull and the difference between driving “four up” and “four abreast”. We got to help on the auction floor by doing the Vanna White and pushing wagons around. There was a fantastic bluegrass/folk band and dancing on Friday night.

The range of people there was really interesting. Mainly older men with big mustaches and cowboy hats and lots of horse knowledge they were eager to share with me. Then there was a small group of excited young farmers. It was an interesting dichotomy. The young folks of course are very idealistic and talking about how important small farming is and the changes that need to happen in society to give farming the credit it deserves. The old guys have been doing this a long time and have seen back-to-the-land movements come and go so they are understandably a bit more reserved. But I felt like they weren’t critical of us young upstarts. Instead they seemed willing to take our questions seriously and talk about their experiences. I surprised myself with the emotion I felt when a gentleman to whom I’d been chatting about my apprenticeship looked me in the eye and said “I’m proud of you. It takes courage to do what you’re doing.” My eyes welled up at the genuine validation of a choice I’m still uncertain about. I don’t think I’m doing anything courageous, but I have been worrying that I’m not taking this seriously enough and no one would ever take me seriously. Am I just playing at being a farmer because of some romantic notions I had? Making a living farming is hard work – who do I think I am to waltz in and think I can do it? These doubts have been dancing around in my head, and I am grateful to Larry for that little bit of support. It made me feel like it’s ok for me to be exploring and doing what I’m doing.

My horse passion also got a lot of rekindling on this trip. Betsey’s horse mentor, John Erskine, and another horseman named Doc Hamill gave a little clinic on Thursday morning and the deeply thoughtful horse stuff gave me chills the way it always does. I’m realizing that what I have always loved and craved about working with horses can be gotten in ways other than riding. All the same communication happens when driving horses in harness, and it’s even up a level if you are working multiple horses at a time. Using horses for farm work is really starting to intrigue and attract me. It seems like an art and it is easier on the land (less soil compaction). More importantly, it seems like you’re more intimate with your land when you work it with horses instead of tractors, in much the same way as I feel a connection to city neighborhoods I’ve biked more than the ones I’ve only driven in. So there I go getting all romantical — certainly it doesn’t seem particularly practical to farm only with horses. But if I have a passion for both horses and farming it seems awfully wondeful to be able to combine the two.

Pics from the auction are on Flickr at
http://www.flickr.com/photos/warnerbecky/sets/72157623767076685/

Here are a couple to whet your appetite. Go check out the rest!

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4 Responses

  1. Hey Becky,
    I hope you’re proud of yourself, too. It takes guts and gumption to do what you’ve done – to think that it was just about a year ago (or so) that you were

    sitting behind a desk at a computer,
    living in a house you were part-owner in,
    with a potential spouse,
    in the city,
    with a high-needs pet,
    on your way to ‘stability’
    or whatever.

    What a heart-felt path you are taking!
    You’re living your dream, girl – go forth and kick butt!

  2. I’m so proud of the choices you’ve made. Sure, what you’re doing is idealistic: but how many people take that leap? It’s something most people never have the gumption to do.

    And so what if this isn’t your “chosen path”? Who says this has to be the thing you do the rest of your life? Maybe it will be, and this will be a fascinating and fun introduction to your future lifelong career. But if it turns out that it isn’t, well, so what? It’s part of your story, part of a great adventure that you went on, and the things you learn – from the technical to the bigger picture – will be carried with you for the rest of your life.

    You’re making decisions based on passion and purpose, figuring things out by actually giving them a try, making sure you never wonder “what if”?

    I hope you’re proud of the choices you’ve made. I sure am!

    • Ditto to you my dear. You’re right there with me on the search for meaningful lifes work. We can thank K College for our need for “lifelong learning” I guess huh?

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