Rocky Mountain High

written by

Drausin Wulsin

posted on

February 2, 2019


Despite intense polar air of recent, a welcome warm breeze is coming our way from Colorado.

It is very difficult to find partners aligned with the realities of living on a beautiful but isolated farm, who can perform the hard work of producing grassfed foods, and have capacity for the challenge of marketing. Three summers ago, a strapping, articulate young man approached me at the Hyde Park Farmers' Market on a busy day, and shared that his greater family owns a farm near Hillsboro, and that he is interested in coming back to the area to participate in the production and marketing of grassfed foods. He mentioned he was working as a soil scientist out West somewhere. By the time I finished helping yet another customer, he had disappeared back into the crowd. At the end of that day, I found myself wondering who exactly that person was. People like that don't show up very often. What did he say his name was, and exactly where is that family farm and how far would it be from ours? Wouldn't it be great to attract someone of that apparent caliber to our farm? Was that interaction real or an apparition? Why was I too busy to write down his name and contact information?

The following summer, he appeared again, and this time I was more attentive. We began corresponding, and I learned a compelling story behind the apparition. Clark Harshbarger grew up in Anderson Township, and played varsity soccer at the high school. Both his parents grew up in Hillsboro, as one set of grandparents ran a grocery market and another a farm. Clark spent weekends in the country learning about both. Since college at Montana State, he has worked for USDA for nearly 20 years as a soil scientist. In that capacity, he has lived and worked in southern Ohio, Texas, California, Mongolia, and most recently Colorado.  He has fertilized many tens of thousands of acres with his footsteps, studying land from the soil up. He has invested himself intensively in this work, and, as a result, has come to the end of that road intellectually and spiritually. He is marrried to an able and winning partner, Paula, a teacher and artist, and they have two teenage sons, Henry and Nelson, also athletes. They currently live in Boulder, Colorado, one of the garden-spots of the continent.

Susan and I have met with the Harshbargers over the past year and half, during their visits back this way to see family. We have become ever-more impressed with their quality of character and sense of purpose, as they redirect their lives. When the planets were properly aligned, we asked them with bated breath to consider joining us at our farm and in our journey. They duly considered the invitation and, in time, graciously accepted, with gratitude. 

Clark has been commuting from Colorado since October, spending two weeks here and two there, as their sons complete the school year. In June, they will move to our farm in full, occupying the house where Susan and I have spent the past fifteen years, while we move to the renovated house. It is hard for us to believe this is happening, but it is and we are deeply grateful. I have slept a lot better since knowing the Harshbargers would be joining us on this rich and demanding journey. 

The Harsbargers are showing great courage in leaving a secure course for one uncertain, but full of opportunity to make a difference. They hunger for that opportunity, as have we. The moral of the story is beware of spirit quests, for they take one from acclaimed garden-spots to those unacclaimed.  

So, what of the cold! It has been intense. When the thermometer inside the truck reads 2 degrees, and wind is howling, one steps out into temperatures of minus 20 degrees. It is hard to breath in such condition. But with scarves around faces, several changes of gloves, and a warm truck or tractor nearby, we have been able to function. We have delivered extra feed to compensate for extra calories burned by livestock to stay warm.

The biggest issue always is water. Is it flowing, and are there problems we have to address in this weather? Our new pump-house became the most important place on the farm, because if the pump freezes, then water does not flow. The pressure gauge on the pump also tells us if there is a leak somewhere. As do the floats in the water tanks. The pump house is insulated and warmed with base-board heat, so we met the first objective. The pressure gauge was holding steady at 40 lbs., which was also positive. But the float in one tank was not erect and water was obviously not refilling from below. Usually a tank that is not refilling tells of a leak beneath the tub, and is a dreaded scenario, which I had to tackle last January and shared with you in excessive detail. Because water pressure was holding, however, that suggested there wasn't a leak. So, why wasn't the tub refilling?

Yesterday, Mike and I stepped into the problem. We drained the tub, requiring the full strength of two of us to tip it up and over to remove ice. We discovered the hose beneath had frozen at the point of entry into the tub, which shouldn't happen. That was a new phenomenon. Closer inspection revealed that the cement pad upon which the tub sits had cracked and part of it had settled below the rest, by about an inch, allowing cold air to make its way beneath the tub and freeze six inches of hose. We were able to defrost the hose, with help of a thermos of hot water, and refill the tub. The one inch opening remains, which we will fix this summer. But warmer temperatures are ahead, so it is doubtful it will freeze again soon.

Bo is our right-hand man, when on good behavior, and hasn't been phased by the cold at all. 

As football occupies the weekend, we offer for the day fare such as: chili, beef barbacoa, sliders, pork ragout, meatballs, Bolognese sauce -- all easy, quick, and delicious.

Susan has made chicken stock, so we are back in supply accordingly.

With gratitude for warm breezes from the Rocky Mountains, we look forward to seeing you tomorrow at the market.


Roasted chicken-backs and vegetables prior to simmering for chicken stock for 24 hours.

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