We Find Our Farm

An aerial photo which a super-imposed elevation of our old farm with picture of the house, a barn, and some cattle.
Tay Ridge Angus Aerial Photo

While we were still working on our old farm house the winter of 1973-74, we were also trying to find a place to move where we could have more success farming. When I look back on it, I am amazed that we found a place which was forgiving enough for us to take what little we knew about farming and have a run at being successful. Still I wanted to work the soil.
We looked in several places in Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island without much success. We took a trip to New Brunswick from St. Croix Cove to deliver Sophie, the goat, and to lend a hand moving to my college roommate and his wife. Mostly my job was to upgrade the electrical panel in the old house that they had purchased.
The trip there was quite an adventure, the Saint John River was flooding and as I have said many times, the only way we made it through the flooded roads was staying in the wake of a tractor trailer that was in front of us on the Trans Canada highway.
This was well before cellphones and the Internet so you might say that we were flying blind but we got there, delivered Sophie, and on the first weekend in May after surviving a night in my roommate’s newly purchased and almost flooded old house, we had a look at a nearby farm that would become Tay Ridge Angus.
It was a spur of the moment decision to look at farm near where my college roommate had found his old farm. It was the first weekend in May. There was still snow on the ground. A rational person would have said snow in May, no way.
My wife and I have talked about it a number of times, but we were hardly on the farm when it was clear that it was love at first sight. The farm had a lot of sheltered areas where cattle could be kept in the woods during the winter. There were plenty of streams and brooks for water, and the land matched the soils that I hoped to farm.
We finally came to an agreement with owner that carved off a couple of acres on the front of the farm so he could build a new house and have a garden spot.
It would take a few years, but Harvey, the previous owner, would become the main help on my farm which he had farmed mostly with horse-drawn equipment. He would transition from raking with a converted horse-drawn rake to a double one that was over twenty feet wide. It made the Vermeer round baler that I built the farm around very happy.
After one winter with a few cows housed in an old barn, I transitioned to cattle running in the woods and calves born on the snow. It turned out to be a wise decision. In the seven years that we farmed there, we never had the vet on the farm. Even Harvey came to believe that cattle were healthier outside and that in spite of what the Dept. of Agriculture said, round bale hay worked for them.
In hind sight, there are a lot of things I might have done differently, the first being to have kept our herd smaller. A lot of things and cows are one of them, you have to learn the hard way, having just a few cows is a hard lesson to learn. We eventually got to two hundred head. It was too much work and required too much equipment. However, that was the dynamics of farming then, get big or get out. The second is that I would have tried harder to get a government-backed 2% loan. We tried once and were turned down.
The twenty per cent interest rates on our operating loan killed us while our neighbors with 2% loans did just fine. We could have built a third bard to store our hay and save a lot of waste. However, with no government loans, we crunched the numbers, weighed the options and decided going to work in town was the better of the two. We had a very successful dispersal sale. We sold our cattle in the fall of 1981. I went to work helping people market their cattle but quickly moved to selling computers in the fall of 1982 and by the fall of 1984, I was working for Apple which turned out to be a career of nearly twenty years which came with a good dose of magic before my wings melted.
Still, I would love to relive those years on the farm with the knowledge and skills that I have gotten since then. However, I doubt the old body would hold up to all the work that a farm, even a modern one, requires.

Author: ocracokewaves

An escapee from the world of selling technology, now living on North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks where life revolves around sun, sand, and water. I work at WideOpen Networks helping communities get fiber to their homes. In my spare time I am a photographer, writer, boater, fisherman, kayaker, swimmer, and walker of the beaches.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: