I woke to the gentle sound of rain this morning. I had slept in, exhausted from weeks worth of work, struggles, and all the obligations that come with being an adult working through mid-life. Not a crisis. I’m done with that. Rather putting the pieces back together after I’d realized they’d been falling apart for years. There’s a certain joy in that, like a voyage of discovery.
I made the coffee. Italian roast in a French press. If you need to be a snob about something, coffee’s not a bad place to let it rest. A quick text chat with my daughter, a short conversation with a farming friend (raining there, too) and I ventured out to my Sunday on the farm.
Quiet. I can usually hear road noises, even though I’m over a mile from the main road. But not today, not on a Sunday. I was greeted by a group of laying hens that have decided they’d rather take their chances with the foxes at night than go up into the safety of the henhouse. These girls came to the farm a couple weeks back. I purchased 300 hens from John Y. as part of my effort to meet this season’s egg demands. For financial reasons, I’d not gotten in a batch of new pullets this spring and was relying on my 450 older hens to carry me thru. It was no surprise when the warm weather knocked their egg production. I brought the new hens home and integrated them into one of my flocks.
Chickens have incredible homing instincts, provided, of course, that they know where “home” is. I kept these hens up in the henhouse for several days before letting them venture out to forage. And then it happened. I was late getting home one evening. The henhouse door had blown shut. The chickens were huddled outside the door. It took a good half-hour to get everyone back inside. In the meantime, about 75 decided they could do just fine staying outside, hanging around the barns. I’ve yet to find where they lay their eggs…
The recent rains have made a mess of the farm roads. Actually, they’re not roads anymore. More like slopes and gullies with frequent ponds and moats. I made my way out to check on the feeder hogs in the field. Sleeping in – just like I was. I watered them and checked their self-feeder (it will hold 2 tons). The broiler chickens are a few yards away from them, so I walked over. They are ready to be butchered, but not today. I’ve solved their recent predator problem with the application of judicious shot placement. A decent marksman has no need of an assault rifle.
I’ve a sow nearly ready to farrow, so I gave her some extra attention. Birthing in hot weather is particularly problematic for a hog. They have no way of cooling themselves except by bathing in mud (they don’t sweat). A 700lb. sow is a lot to cool off. I’ve lost them this time of year; it’s a tricky business full of the unexpected. There are days when one’s humor is sorely tried.
The piglets from the two sows that gave birth in May followed me around the barns. They usually roam free until the neighbors call to complain about their impromptu landscaping adventures. They are destructive little things. They kept trying to nibble at me. Taste testing, I assume.
Blessings. The whole time I’m walking/driving around, taking care of what needs to be taken care of and planning for the coming week, I’m counting my blessings. There was a time I believed that one had to be busy with church stuff on Sunday. What I’ve found now is that Sunday is a great time to wander about, rest, relax, count the blessings, be thankful.
I’m thankful for the Creator, the Almighty. I’m thankful for this incredible gift of life, my own and the lives of my animals. I’m thankful for the lives of the people in my life, especially those who’ve shown up and have been present in my life this past year.
I said “goodbye” to two long-time customers/friends yesterday. They’ve been with me since the beginning of my farmers market venture in Alexandria – 16 years ago. Chip and Diana are moving to Hawaii for work. They needed a home for their fig tree. I wanted another fig tree. Friendship.
I am incredibly blessed. I live on an amazing piece of land that my family has owned for over 300 years. I was raised by decent parents who worked hard and taught me to “put my back into it.” I have work that is fulfilling, friends who are dear, and an optimism about the future. I have decent children who were raised well – their future is now in their hands. And no matter the severity of the storm, a rainbow always follows. That is the perspective that mid-life will give you, if you let it.
From my writing perch, I see the sheep have made it out of the shed and into the pasture. They slept in, too.