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Points of No Return

Points of No Return

A lot of folks this time of year are pining for the end of winter. The thrill of earth being reborn is truly exhilarating, but for me at this time and place I’m quite happy for a snowy 20 degree day here in early March. It’s because there is so much planning and administrating yet to do before I’ll be actually ready to put seeds in the ground—and fence posts too—many, many fence posts. 

When a person wants to accomplish some goal, especially a substantial goal, the actual decision process (properly done) is long and complicated. Practical considerations and time lines notwithstanding, the decision-making path isn’t always logical and neatly sequential; especially if you have a bent for the metaphysical aspects of life. Oh how we hate the wishy washy business of intuition and discernment! At least secular society does. This is not the case for someone who takes their religion seriously—which is to say, Christian in my case. But all religions point to the world beyond the physical, measurable, and apparent. We veritably crave the simple, straight forward path! An either-or mindset dispenses with the real work of research and thought. Why trouble your mind so, with all this analysis of possibilities, consequences, and what’s appropriate for circumstances?

Religious or not, all of us have internalized the values and habits and attitudes of the society of our upbringing and that of the present, both for better and for worse. The decision to risk the entirety of my worldly estate to grow good food, build wildlife habitat, and teach people about ecology and health—probably looks akin to total foolishness among my secular minded friends and acquaintances. The financial risks are obvious. But there are exceptions too—surprisingly, many people with whom I’ve shared this story have responded with nothing short of encouraging enthusiasm. Either way, I’m not exempt from the influences of my peers. Whether encouraging or disparaging, all of it affects me more than I’m aware sometimes.

Last year’s decision to build a high tunnel, a great financial plunge though it is, was in some ways a simpler process than building a grazing system for Kiko goats. The marketing of raspberries is a bit more straight forward than establishing a reputation as a specialty goat breeder and marketer of Halal meat to ethnic communities. And yet the strange series of events that led to serious consideration of this enterprise touches on those nebulous processes of intuition and discernment. From the introduction to the idea five years ago in a farm course, to studying the trade magazines to numerous conversations with current producers and processors…I haven’t come across any compelling reasons not to try it.

That this is, in the long run, the best use for my new 7 acre pasture, there is little doubt. Hay production is too precarious in terms of weather and available equipment and labor; conventional commodity grains with their GMO seeds and toxic herbicides is a no brainer; field production of vegetable crops is quite beyond my expertise and supply of implements and labor. Cattle are a much longer investment of time and inputs, and larger, riskier animals with which to work.

I wouldn’t say that I’m past the point of no return, at least until I’ve nailed down the most likely costs in some detail. Then comes the crucial moment of major commitment. To say that I’ve already surpassed this kind of milestone before is an understatement. The farm overall, is the essence of commitments made and amazing achievements, from which I cannot now turn back without “throwing away” all that I have labored for, these many years. It is the glaring fact of this life in which I walk, day in and day out.

From a religious point of view, which is overlaid upon the practical and continuous stream of decisions and their consequences…there is a particular aspect that under girds all my doubts and fears. Every person has some kind of gift—talent, ability, aptitude, skill, resource—that lies undeveloped at the beginning or even throughout life. Whether or not that potential is realized depends to some degree on recognition of the fact. Once recognized, we can shrink back or step out in faith. Everything that is achieved in the world begins in desire, imagination, and a belief in the possible.

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