Who Invited Michael?
We always enjoy having visitors to Glendower Farms. I like to say there are two types of tours to choose from: the petting zoo, and the real deal. The petting zoo feels like Charlotte’s Web. Guests enjoy seeing the different groups of pigs we raise. They learn about the non-GMO feeds that each group is fed, why they get different rations, and how the feed affects the flavor of the pork. They open gates as we approach the pens and enjoy watching us feed the pigs. If they feel adventurous, they will go into the pen and help take buckets of feed to the pigs, interacting with and touching the pigs as they go by. They have a nice gentle experience on a family farm that gives a warm and fuzzy feeling.
While the petting zoo is a nice experience, most people say they want to see the real deal. In this case, we invite them out for a work day. Guests come when we are weighing and vaccinating a group of pigs, castrating piglets, ear tagging piglets, weaning, moving groups to different pastures, or any number of jobs on the family farm. They are invited to participate if they’re up for it, or they’re welcome to watch our family accomplish the necessary tasks. We enjoy watching their faces as they learn about the up-close and personal activities on a working farm.
Last week, however, we had an unwelcome guest. Hurricane Michael came without much warning. He didn’t come for a tour, offer to help, or leave a warm and fuzzy feeling with anyone. Before a hurricane comes through the farm there are preparations to make. We have to make sure the animals are protected. If we have piglets in huts, the huts have to be anchored down to the ground. The men drive stakes deep into the ground, and strap the huts to them to insure they won’t shift with a gust of wind and crush our little piggies. We make sure each hut has plenty of hay to keep pigs warm and dry. Thankfully, the pigs have natural instincts to help them stay safe from harm. Mamas know how to protect their babies and where to go for safe shelter. After preparations have been made, we wait and pray.
Growing up in North Florida, we have seen our share of hurricanes. We expect the wind to roar, the rain to pelt, and the trees to sway, bend, and sometimes crack. In 2016, Hurricane Hermine came to visit. The eye passed right over our house. We felt the eerie silence, and sensed our breathing and heart rate change with the pressure. Last week when Hurricane Michael took our electricity, there was no alarm. We have a generator. However, when we are depending on electric fences in our pastures to keep our pigs in, and predators out, we will forgo electricity in our home and opt to use the generator for the electric fence every time.
When the wind dies down, my sweet sacrificial husband puts on his rain gear, and goes to investigate the damage. In the rain, he walks the perimeter fencing, making sure the herd is secure. He cuts any limbs that have fallen on fences, and repairs the fences as quickly as possible. Thankfully, Michael didn’t harm any of our herd. There was actually very minimal damage done. After two full days of cleaning up debris, (and stocking our woodpile for winter) our farm lives went on as usual, feeding, managing, marketing our pork. Farm meetings continued and we looked to the near future for the next steps of our business. We realize this isn’t the case for some people. We recognize that some people, some close friends of ours, have lost so much. We sympathize with them, pray for them, give our time and resources to ease their burden, and if we are honest, we feel a little guilty for coming through it unscathed.
Our family has been in North Florida for 8 generations. We have seen hurricanes come and go. I doubt this will be the last storm we weather. It is never fun, but it does help to put things into perspective. Lives matter, possessions don’t. While the next storm may not be invited or welcome, our family will stick together, protect the lives of our people and our animals, prepare for the worst, and pray for the best.