Being a farmer carries with it daily chores and tasks. A few of mine look something like this:
Wash out the water pans the ducks have made a mess of, feed the chickens, gather the eggs, clean out the nest boxes the juvenile roosters have trashed, weed at least some small bit of the garden to keep things from looking totally abandoned, and feed the sheep.
The temptation sometimes is to get in a hurry to do these things and move right on to the next thing. Recently though I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort not to miss the magic.
Just in case anyone was wondering, the sheep were his idea.
I wanted horses, chickens and a couple of cats. That was it. We bought a modest sized piece of property and built a barn and fenced it for my lifelong passion. Well, I should say the hubs masterminded and did most of the work building it and I helped some. I was pretty happy with the status quo and my two horses.
And then it happened. The hubs began to take notice of a neighboring sheep farm. “Let’s get some sheep,” he suggested one day. “Why do you want sheep?” I asked incredulously. I had no desire to get sheep and was suspicious of the upkeep of additional animals. “’Cause I can eat them!” He replied. Of course. “Why do you always want to eat everything?!” I groaned. (This man. I’m telling you. I see a cute animal, and he sees a nice juicy cut of meat!) “They eat the weeds in the field that the horses won’t eat, and then I can eat them!” came his reply. “Well if the ram smells anything like a billy goat, then you can forget it!” I retorted.
I found this little gem on the trunk of a pine tree the other day. It is the remaining casing, shining in the golden rays of the morning sun like a delicate carving of amber, and perfectly embodying the memory of a cicada. Funny how something like this can trigger a cascade of memories and flood the senses with the sights and smells and sounds of something that happened decades ago, and bring it back as clearly as I see this cicada shell before my eyes at present.
A wizened old woodcarver- a mentor and a teacher, his young turkeys out behind his home, a couple of old plastic milk jugs, two excited kids, and a 17 year cicada cycle in the full glory of its 17th year...
We lost a friend. Aimee was only 14 years old. She was vibrant and full of life and character.
I love my birds. Each one has its own specific character and its own unique traits. Gertrude is definitely unique. Gertrude is a guinea. Guineas aren't known for being especially tame or cuddly. I wouldn't say that Gertrude is really tame, she is just familiar with me and she trusts me. That being said, here is a glimpse into how I ended up with a guinea bird for a pet, and how she and her fellow compadres fit into our little farm and my heart.
I love my horse. She is quirky, spunky, and full of character. She comes when I call, lets me pull her backwards by her tail, and understands me when I tell her, "stay." She will even pose for the camera upon request! Sometimes our animal friends present us with special challenges though...
A mother hen is fun to watch. She clucks to her babies to follow her and then watches to make sure they are with her. She will double back if necessary to find the lost chick calling for her. She teaches them, showing them where they can find food and water. She gathers them under her wings at night and keeps them warm in the midst of her feathers. She protects them. She puffs up her feathers and dares anyone get near her babies. I've seen a mother hen go all ninja chicken and kick a horse in the face for sniffing too close to her babies. (Think Angry Birds.) The horse backed up and walked off too, snorting a "whatever," as she turned around. Yeah a mother hen is fun to watch.
Greta is a good mother hen. She sat on several eggs, but through circumstances that were beyond her control, was only able to hatch two live chicks. Then, about 10 days or so after her chicks hatched, a single egg I had stashed in an incubator hatched a lone baby chick. (This compliments of a guinea that had commandeered one of the chicken nest boxes that had a chicken egg in it whilst we were on vacation and did not follow through with taking care of it properly.) I kept the chick in the house for about a week in a box under a heat lamp. It was lonely and cried. Raising one orphan chick all by itself seemed an even sadder thought the more it chirped in that box for the mother it never had. Then I had an idea. What if Greta would take it? I grabbed the chirping chick and headed outside.
A good rooster is an important and integral part of a backyard flock. Although the girls can get along fine without a man and still lay you plenty of delicious eggs, having a rooster can add good looks and character to your bunch. In addition to his winsome charm, he provides extra protection for the ladies, placing himself between them and anything threatening their safety. Many a good rooster has sacrificed his own life in an attempt to shield his hens from predators. Besides all that, there is the idyllic crow, the hallmark song of farms all across the world.
I always knew Juan Carlos was a good rooster. I got to see him in action again the other day though, and in the process witnessed something truly beautiful and amazing.
My dear friend convinced me to attend a fitness class with her at a local gym. The class was called barre. Barre, as it was explained to me, is like an amalgam of ballet, yoga, and pilates. I never would have gotten up the guts or the motivation to go by myself. Since she invited me though, I figured I'd give it a go. After almost getting lost in a maze of buildings that all looked the same to me, and having to call her to verify directions, I finally arrived. It had been raining steadily hard all day. I was very happy about this because the grass had been getting crispy and was almost starting to turn brown. (Now as I look outside it's a lovely shade of bright green.) I splashed happily through the puddles in the rain and waltzed through the front door of the gym. Then I almost stopped short. Had I landed in the wrong place? A room full of well-muscled guys and big, intimidating weight machines greeted me. Thankfully, one of the men noticed the deer-in-the-headlights expression on my face and asked if I was looking for the class. He pointed me towards a room in the back, where I was relieved to find my friend. She introduced me to the other ladies and soon we were getting started.
Barre gets its name from from it's foundations in ballet. The handrail on the wall is called a barre. Thankfully, these classes do not require a background in dance, or yours truly would not have qualified. The instructor was personable and excellent, modeling graceful and seamless moves. She made it look easy. At first, I thought I'd be able to keep up without too much trouble. I had been working out at home to some extent. I was enjoying learning new things and appreciating the new challenge. About halfway through though, I began to really feel it. Meanwhile, our instructor kept up the pace, talking calmly and easily without getting out of breath in the least. (That is one tough chick!) I was still keeping up, but talking would have definitely been out of the question! By the end of the hour, I was shaking. My muscles were burning. I'm pretty sure I had "newbie" written all over my flushed face. When we finally made it onto the floor for the cool down, I was just hoping to be able to make it back up again! It was then that I noticed a quote on the wall that said, "Don't worry, you'll pass out before you die." Well that's reassuring.
An after-workout high is a real thing. Upon making it back to the farm truck, I had a huge sense of accomplishment and a major dose of endorphins surging through my blood. I felt like a million dollars. Nonetheless, on the drive through the now gently falling rain, my leg was shaking in the seat over the foot petals. I gulped my water and contemplated how I was going to unwind once I got home. My plans of relaxing were instantly ruined however, as I rounded the corner home and caught a glimpse of what my sheep were up to...
I'm Debbie. I love listening to chickens cackle and sing. I love Lindt chocolate truffles, a good cup of coffee, and a good book.