Saturday, February 28, 2009

Saturday morning in the countryside

"Catch for us the foxes,
the little foxes
that ruin the vineyards,
our vineyards that are in bloom." Song of Soloman 2:15

In an effort to live up to the preconceived notion that all farmers wives fix a gigantic and hearty breakfast every morning as they send out their strapping farmer to the field for a grueling day of driving mules, I had planned to fix store-bought bacon (the farmer won't stand for me having hogs), fresh eggs, and biscuits from my freshly ground flour. I mean, it is Saturday after all. Even the folks in Suburbia realize that Saturday morning calls for a big breakfast.

It was 715, I was getting things going in the kitchen, coffee was brewing...-warning: Tracie has not yet had her coffee. Proceed with caution- kids are watching cartoons on TV, farmer is still sleeping. I hear a big, heavy THUD at the back door. The same back door that the goats were trying to break into a few weeks back. Now, we quite frequently have birds that will fly into our back door or any of our large windows that line the back of our house. So the thud sound is not really something new, and when I heard it I knew that a bird had flown into the window. Upon turning my head slowly to the left, I see that the bird was our precious Crystal. Daughter's favorite chicken, my favorite chicken, and 1 of 2 chickens left. She is a type of feather-footed Bantam, white with a bright red comb. She is small, lays small eggs, and is a survivor. Some how, she and the other smallest chicken of the original 8 ("The Mother" is her name)are our only survivors left. Talk about survival of the fittest. These ladies fly. I mean really fly. We have seen them fly the entire length of the pasture, catching pretty good air. They make us smile, and yet I know they have witnessed the tragic deaths of their flock members and have no doubt gone to great lengths to escape death themselves. Which is exactly what Crystal was doing at the time of the THUD.

I am at the back door now, Crystal is flapping like crazy on the ground and there is a beautiful reddish-brown fluffy-tailed fox trying to kill her. There is flapping, chasing, cornering, and there is also screaming. And pounding. I am screaming at the top of my lungs "NO NO NO NO!" and I am pounding the window of the door with both hands as hard as I can. I later remembered that this is what City Mouse sister did the night a man was trying to break into her house and he was on the outside of the door and she was on the inside. I guess it is just what one does when trouble is too close for comfort. And all I could think, was that I was not going to be able to prevent this death from occuring. I knew that the end was near, all the fox had to do was grab her by the neck and run off. I just knew that was going to happen any second and that the kids would be watching. But I kept pounding and screaming anyway.

My screaming and pounding worked- 2 fold. The fox darted off a bit, and farmer came RUNNING from the bedroom (having no idea what is the matter). The whole family is now at the back door, door is opened, farmer is yelling, fox is heading for the hills, Crystal flies in the house. I catch Crystal, holding onto her for dear life (literally) and she is snuggled into me, trembling. She and I had a bonding moment. For those of you who know chickens, you know that not only do they not enjoy being held or cuddled, they aren't really capable of showing you that "unconditional love" that say, dogs do. So, that was a really special moment for me and Crystal. Farmer is outside now, fox has jumped through the small square holes in the fence (foxes are a lot smaller up close than you city slickers might think)and is heading toward the back of the pasture near the pond. I blurt out, "Where is Big Mama and the goats?" 3 year old son says with a trembling voice, "Maybe the fox got 'em". This made daughter and I chuckle. When the fox got to the clear other side of the pasture and pond, she turned and looked back at us, I suppose she was willing to give it one more chance if we had gone away.

I put Crystal down outside and get my shoes on. I wanted to go see if the Mother can be found. I also wanted to put Crystal in the coup for the day, and get the Mother in there as well, if she was still alive. At first Crystal just hid in the corner of of back door, not moving. Poor Crystal!She then got the courage to run into the woods and found a small little tent like hole that another animal had built for protection. She hunkered down and was safe. She knew now was not the time to peck the ground, now was the time for hunkering down. Farmer was scouring the woods for the fox, but we both knew she was long gone. We got Crystal out from hiding, locked her in the coup. The Mother came running from the woods, along with the other beasts. I was relieved. We caught her too and locked her up. I reminded Sweeetums that she not only had the 3 billy goats to keep up with, but the lady birds as well. She gave a low and understanding, "Mrrr." (Because cows actually say "mrrr" not "mooo")

Farmer thinks it was a mamma, needing to feed her babies, and we mothers know how important it is to feed our babies. So I don't fault her at all for merely doing what she knew she had to. It is one thing to know and accept the circle of life, yet another to watch it on the Discovery Channel, but when it is happening at your back door, there is nothing quite like it. I explained to the children that the fox is not "bad". She is doing what God created her to do. They understood, but they were so relieved that Crystal lived to see another day. I know it is her flying ability that saved her. I think she flew quite a long ways, with the fox chasing her on the ground, and then our back door stopped her.

I went back in, to return to breakfast and get my coffee. I pulled out the tray of fresh eggs from the fridge knowing they weren't our last. And then I pitied all the suburbia suckers at Starbucks this morning-they just don't know what they are missing out in the countryside.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Food Check Out Week

Last week, all across the country, county Farm Bureau organizations made a concentrated effort to educate the public on our safe, affordable, and abundant food supply that we enjoy in the United States. The reason for doing it in Feburary, specifically the 3rd week each year, is quite interesting. Here in the US, the average person spends less than 10% of our income on our food. By this time of the month, we have earned enough money from January 1st until the third week in February, to pay for our entire year's worth of food. It may seem like each time you visit the grocery store, something costs more than the previous week. But we still enjoy the most affordable food supply in the world.

Have you thanked your farmer today?

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Well Beaten Path

To say I have learned a lot from having animals as part of my family would be a complete understatement. I really don't know how to convey to you what they have taught me, explained to me, evoked in me, and showed me. As of late, the farmer and I have been most entertained by the cliches, sayings, phrases, etc that are so common to us all and yet, really not fully understood until you see where so many of them originated- in farm animals. I'm not sure if 'well beaten path' came from the farm, but I wanted to show it to you all, in its most primitive form. We have a 5 acre pasture for the jersey heifer, the 3 goats and the 2 remaining chickens. Everyone but the chickens have literally worn a path that goes along the fence line through the pasture. This is the path they take every morning as they journey down to the woods, and every afternoon as they make their way home for dinner. Sure, they wander out into the grassy area to graze and rest, but when they are walking, by golly they are on the path. Talk about 'creatures of habit'! Our Native American Brown Dog, Mallory, also has a pathway that she takes out the back door. You can't see it as well because she weighs a mere 42 lbs compared to the animals in the pasture who probably totaled together are about 750 lbs. Take a look at the well beaten path :)

This is Mallory the dog's path

I just had to put the stinker in there, she hardly would let me take these pictures!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

If you would be so kind as to...

For the few of you who enjoy reading about life in the country, would you like to follow my blog? If you look in the left side bar, you will see "Follow this Blog" - click on it, and you will be an official follower. I would like to see and keep up with those of you who read! Thanks!