“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”  The opening line of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities often comes to my mind when things get tight, as my way of keeping perspective.  This past week was one of those times.

It started with our visit to the Capital in Lansing and Mark’s testimony to the Senate Ag Commission.  Because of this issue and the strength of Mark’s testimony, we got to see the legislative process in action from the inside.  It was a major roller coaster ride.  We had the inside scoop as we spent the day with a lobbyist (and learned how that whole facet of government works) and two legislative staffers (for Sen. Booher and Sen. Casperson).  In the end, we decided that government is a strange and wonderful entity that tries to operate with ties to reality.  It’s like a labyrith of truth for legislators to discern what is true and good when so many divergent interests have their own inputs.  I gained a great deal of respect for Senators and Representatives who attempt the maze.  We were glad to pull into the driveway on Brinks Rd. and see our big white dogs greet us.

All last week we’d been told by our lawyer that the Attorney General had ordered that there was to be no enforcement on farms that were involved in litigation over the pig issue.  However, on Friday a reliable source told Mark that the DNR (an officer was quoted to us) had a plan to “depopulate” our farm on April first.  (Note: the penalties Mark’s identified are listed in the Federal Invasive Species Act, which was the platform for the Invasive Species Order.)  While the statement was made before the A.G.’s order, it created a lot of stir.  Mark felt the better part of wisdom was to  prepare for the worst and expect the best.  You can read Tim’s account of Sunday in the previous blog.  Sunday was a beautiful day that we spent in the company of good friends.  It was the best of times.  It was rather quiet here, though, as our children were mostly elsewhere for the day.  It was the worst of times.

Monday was quiet.  Tuesday the DNR began inspecting farms they believed may be “harboring an invasive species.” One farmer they visited in Cheboygan was absent, so they contacted him by phone for permission to inspect.  He informed them they needed a warrent to be on his property, so they simply asked if he had any pigs.  He responded that he had “pure Mangalitsa and farm pigs.”  Those have both been declared OK without visual affirmation (ah, the irony!), so everyone was off the hook.  The good news is that the rule of law–the Attorney General’s word–is prevailing in this case.  We hope that common sense continues to prevail in this situation (see above, and note that government agencies aren’t always known for that even when they try).

THANK-YOU to everyone who has e-mailed, called, and/or helped finance the fight.  If we don’t return a call or e-mail it isn’t because we don’t want to.  I know we’ve missed some of you just because we are human beings limited by time and energy.  But we’ve been encouraged by your response.  You have made this possible and are enabling us to do the legal activities required for this kind of battle.  The funds are  very carefully being used strictly for “hog defense.”

So we try to balance the overwhelming activity surrounding the pigs (“it was the worst of times”) with the needs of a farm in spring and a lively family of seven children (“it was the best of times”).  To that end, we set a farm record for getting chickens on grass.  We officially put chickens into tractors in the pasture on April 3.  This group will spend two to three weeks on the grass, getting fresh pasture everyday.  Recently I pulled two chickens out for dinner, a pastured one and a “cage free” one.  They were roasted side by side.  The pastured one had so much more flavor.  We do our best with the winter birds, but fresh green grass makes such a quality difference.  More on pasture raised birds to come.  We have enjoyed having my sister and her kids around the last couple of days.  Ann loves to garden, so she excavated about half our 300 ft. row of garlic and we re-mulched it.  Hopefully the layer hens won’t scratch all the straw off the poor little garlic shoots!  Those hens are busy little ladies.  We’ve got three roosters.  Each of them sets out every morning with his harem to rake all over the barnyard, recently plowed fields, and garden.  Until we begin planting, it’s great!  The cooler weather has made it easier to keep the children at their desks finishing their schoolwork.  We’re trying hard to get it all done before May, with it’s tantilizingly warm days.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”  Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities