Farm to Farm
by Spec MacQuayde, February 3, 2010
Maybe a ton of carrots are still soaking in the moist soil. The water on the higher part of the field has abated, but the next wave of heavy rain will probably do the carrots in, turning them to something like carrot juice that has been on the shelf for years. When you pull the rotten ones it looks like you drank the outdated carrot juice and somebody told you a funny one and you laughed through your nose.
It's been difficult to motivate anyone to help dig the rest of the crop. I think my boys and I are tired of harvesting carrots after doing it two or three times a week for four months.
“Let's do something else,” they tell me.
I don't argue. The first carrots we managed to pile in the field in order to save them from rotting have pretty much all been gnawed on by jackrabbits. I'd always thought it was a myth that Bugs Bunny preferred carrots, but Bugs and Brer Rabbit must have had a convention out there around the carrot pile by the looks of it. With all the clover pastures they had to cross to reach the carrot patch I'd have to say rabbits certainly are drawn to carrots like cats to catnip or stoners to a smoking joint, which gave me an idea.
“You know, I could use carrots to trap them,” I said to a friend who leans towards vegetarianism but is also interested in the carrot crop because he likes to juice them.
“But I like seeing the rabbits alive,” he said.
“I like rabbits, too,” I said, realizing it must have sounded like I'd said, “I like rabbit stew.”
“I like rabbits, also,” I had to add. “I just think it's funny they actually do go for carrots.”
Three quarters of the crop has been harvested, and I'm pretty happy with how they turned out. They were planted way back in May. In some ways I don't really give a shit if the rest of the crop rots, but then it would be nice to load them in a bin and feed them to the cows in the milking stall, as the rest of our best hay has been depleted. We're down to our last bale of the green stuff, and anyway most of the carrots have split or been gnawed on by gophers, or started to rot.
A big portion of the food produced at our farm goes to feeding the animals. This portion is greater than it would be in a more natural economy. I mean if we really had to produce most of our own grub, carrots would be worth more. The way things are, currently, most of my neighbors shop for groceries in Ukiah or Santa Rosa, so it is logistically difficult for them to take the extra time to get carrots, beets, or whatever vegetables are in season from our farm. By the time they drove to the farm and got themselves cornered into a conversation about the recent death of J.D. Salinger or something at the farm they could have driven to San Francisco.
Most of my neighbors purchase their milk in Ukiah, as well. If you've ever studied grocery store economics they told you that the milk usually is placed in the furthest corner at the back of the store because milk is what people go to the store for. Everything else — except maybe for coffee, cigarettes, and beer — is incidental. This is why it is illegal for farmers to sell fresh milk direct to consumers. It's the biggest reason, anyway. If people were getting their milk directly from farmers, dropped off on their doorsteps, they might not be so motivated to drive to Safeway. Housewives are nearly extinct, but once upon a time many of them appreciated the milkmen, whereas now they never meet the guy who is backing the big rig up to the loading dock at the back of the supermarket. Maybe they'd go ahead and plant potatoes in the backyard instead of fescue, they'd can tomatoes, they'd invite their neighbors over for barbecues and beer on Saturday nights, if only they could meet the milkman.
I can barely sell carrots, and I can't legally sell milk or meat for human consumption, but I can sell the stuff for pet food. Quite a few local dogs show up daily at our barn to drink fresh milk from the buckets that are perpetually full, and some neighbors buy milk or ground beef to feed their pets. I feed the rest to our dogs, cats, or chickens, so none of it goes to waste. At least I don't have to buy dog food. Our pups eat better than most people.
Our resident veterinarian, Dr. Larry Chaulk, has been observing the effects of commercial dog food for decades. “Inevitably it results in kidney failure,” he says. “I call it, '4D Meat.' Diseased, Dying, Dead, and Destroyed.” I lost the notes I took in our conversation on the subject, but I think Dr. Chaulk stated that pet food is an unregulated industry. Not even the USDA has any nominal authority, and the ingredients are not listed on the labels. Except for Wysong and a few other brands, the majority use coal or petroleum byproducts high in nitrates to raise the “crude protein” levels to 25%, since nitrogen is technically a protein.
Most people didn't keep dogs on the road where I grew up because it was paved and cars routinely buzzed by at 80mph, getting airborn on the rolling hills. So I never had a dog as a kid, and never purchased dog food until my junior year of college.
I was living in an apartment and had a roommate, Dennis Yolkhoff, who had grown up behind the Iron Curtain and only recently emigrated to the States. He was penniless. My friends and I felt sorry for him, initially, and took him in, instantly regretting our momentary generosity. He had no qualms about mooching. He always wanted a ride, drank all your beer, ate up the spaghetti you were saving for later. He was no poster child for Soviet Communism. One time I was going to a movie with a girl. She was driving. Dennis asked if he could go along and then declared “Shotgun.” It was my date, yet I ended up riding in the back and cracking up at his audacity the whole night. Then he proceeded to ask out every girl in our circle of friends, beginning with the ones all the guys thought were the hottest and drooled on at parties, working his way from the most desirable down the ladder with no scruples.
Finally this girl who had what you might call a slim, hot figure and long, blonde hair with pretty bad acne and horse teeth agreed to go on a double date with Dennis and my girlfriend and I. I drove her car that night, with Dennis riding in the backseat and telling his date all about how much he was bench pressing in the weight room. It was the only time in my life I ever drank motor oil. We had no booze, and I got so sick of hearing him boast vainly that I grabbed this fresh quart that was mostly empty that I'd used to top off the motor and was leaning against the emergency brake lever between the bucket seats. I chugged motor oil. It grossed my date out and made me puke, but it caused Dennis to shut up for a minute.
I got more evil after that. I purchased a can of dog food along with the pasta sauce and noodles at the supermarket. The dog food can listed no ingredients except, CRUDE PROTEIN 25%, CRUDE FAT 25%, OTHER 50%. That night I made spaghetti and meatballs, tasting the sauce to make sure it was palatable. When dinner was done I stuck it all in a tupperware container in the refrigerator.
Later that night I saw Dennis helping himself to the leftovers.
I showed him the empty dog food can.