By now there isn't a ton that surprises me around the farm anymore. Not because I've seen it all by any stretch of the imagination, but rather farming will force you to be flexible whether you are naturally that way or not. After enough 'what the heck' kind of moment like waking up to floods, sheep running through your neighbors yard and the pig that just won't stay in a wise farmer lightens up the rigid schedule and goes with the flow. Last week however was a different story. I had been running chain saw clearing some brush for an hour or two and like a good boy was wearing my helmet and ear protection. After a pass with the saw I grabbed a newly cut branch to drag it out of the way and over the idling engine I heard a pig squealing. Now pigs are very vocal and make all kinds of noises. I've heard pigs squealing over marshmallows and pig squealing during castration. They are very different pig words. This squeal was closer to the castration kind of squeal. I ditched my helmet and turned off the saw and headed cross the farm at a brisk trot. And to my surprise I found a pig stuck in the mud. The sun was hot and it hadn't rained for a little while and our Texas Clay soil was like mostly dry concrete. You see we don't separate little pigs from big pigs and they will all jump into a muddy spot to cool off. Apparently the smaller pig was on the bottom of the hog pile and got pressed down in like tobacco into your grandpa's pipe. He was squealing at the top of his lungs but couldn't budge an inch. I hopped right into the wallow with him and fished his front legs out to the muck thinking that would be enough to get him going. Nope, still stuck. So I plunged my hands under his belly and lifted him up out of the sloppy mess and thought he would take right off, but he just stood there caked in muck now on top of the wallow. By now we are both "stuck" in the mud and not very happy about it. Nothing left to do but pick him up and haul us both out of the pit. Now for those that don't know when you pick up pigs.....they don't like it. They twist and kick and rub all over you so any inch of me not covered with mud from the initial plunge into the pig wallow was now painted thoroughly. I set him on all fours, though a few bad words to say to him but only mustered an primal ahhhhh!!! The nerve of the little pig to look at me cross without out even a stitch of gratitude. I grabbed the water hose and remedied my situation and his spraying us both off out there in the pasture. The only way that story gets worse would have been to commit the ultimate farm husband faux pas and to present myself on the back stoop of our home with pig "mud" all over me. Trust me fellas you don't need that kind of hurt.
After a little water has gone under the bridge, I thought more about the irony of that afternoon. I've made it a priority during my farm journey to faithfully seek to wring out the meaning in every curve ball the farm throws at me. At times it is a knock down drag out fist fight of my will versus this farms and the lessons learned are through discomfort or pain. Sometimes though the lessons are soft and gentle and worn into me like the way a river carves through stone. Both end up refining both the farm and the farmer and each revelation knits our identities closer and closer. This is what makes The Barry Farm different from others that on the surface may appear to be in the same business as we are. There is an enormous gap between food business and actual farms, and at times it seems wiser and a whole lot easier to be in the business of selling farm like products instead of the painstaking process of connecting eaters to a community and an actual place. But that is not the lesson of rescuing pigs from the mud.
Isn't it ironic that the mud the pig was stuck in is typically a good thing and one that it enjoys. Pigs and mud are inseparable and the only way they cool down effectively is cooling their skin. When it gets warm at all, they will lay in the mud most of the day and be in hog heaven. So how does a good thing also have potential to be sheer horror. Just like the pig in my story I seek good things and also choose the path of least resistance to gain those good things. Ever dare to risk thinking about all the good things in life that may be keeping us from the great things we were called to do? Ask most men like me and we can give you a very short list of the things we say are most important to us in life. Goes like this right? God, Family, Job....or some version there of. But what about all the other things in life that keep us so stinkin' busy that are not bad for us and on the surface others would say are good things. Would we dare say no to those good things in order to create the space in our lives for great things. I am a firm believer in creating dead space in our lives when we desire or want change. One of the most frequent mistakes I have made in both farming and in my life was succumbing to the pressure to stay busy. As if some kind of ego stroking mechanism that I tell my self just how important I must be because my schedule is just so jammed packed. We hear this complaint from a lot of directions right? Sorry...I'm just too busy I can't make it. Yes we decline invitations that way, but if we are honest we are busy with things we don't even really want to do and saying 'we are too busy' conveys to the person extending the invite that we are highly in demand. A simultaneous defensive and offensive strategy to maintain a life full of 'good' things that drive us bonkers. My solution, BUILD DEAD SPACE INTO YOUR LIFE. I dare you to have a regular spot in your day or week that there is absolutely nothing requiring your attention. Scrap some of the good things in your life to make that space available and only let great things fill it back up. Ditch the sitcom that you time your week to in exchange for taking your wife for ice cream. Turn off the video game, that unfortunately to my generation is a big deal, and instead teach your son to fish. Why not take a walk with your wife instead of the hobby that only you do. In the dead space only let back in the great things that make your short list of priorities and actively resist re engaging in 'good' things. It is my prayer that I share what's in my heart to convict you a little but also to motivate you to be the best version of you. I don't really mean to meddle, but as I was covered in mud and fightin' mad at a little pig, what keeps your favorite farmer from losing his mind is the privilege of writing to you. I'm so grateful that this community that loves the Barry Farm has never settled our mission just on food. Yes we are in the business of putting food on your table. If you don't purchase meat regularly that there will be no Barry Farm, so shameless plug here, click over to the Order Meat page and grill some pork chops with your friends. If you have been with Geoffrey , Renee Layla and Seamus for any amount of time you know by now that we feel appointed to this farm to do the real work of building community, and making a stronger version of Houston. See you at the farm.