Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Once a Farm Girl . . .

by Linda Benson

My husband and I moved to a smaller place earlier this year. I believe it's called "downsizing." After almost half a century owning horses (and donkeys) I now had no equines, and we talked about travel and free time and sitting on the deck sipping mixed drinks. Ha!

After a lovely Spring spent admiring wildflowers and envisioning landscaping our small acreage with more native plants (a satisfying work-in-progress,) I started yammering for more animals. "I want some ducks," I pleaded. "For our canal." Since a lovely meandering irrigation ditch wanders through our place, it would only be more perfect with waterfowl, right?

After many years of marriage, my poor spouse knows that to resist is futile, so in short order we had ducks!

And more ducks!

And of course, after a duck pen, that meant we needed a duck house. And once the duck house was built, it was quite simple to put up a few roosts inside, just in case we might get some chickens.

So, of course, within one more day I found some hens!

Aren't they sweet?

I love all kinds of animals. I could sit outside all day watching the way they interact. A couple of days ago, we acquired one more Rhode Island Red hen, and just like horses (but even more immediately) they established their "pecking order."  The little Buff Orpington hen immediately ran up to the older Red hen and bowed her head, saying "Peck Me, I'm younger and subservient." After two or three pecks, it was over.  The grey hen (a Silver Gray Dorking) ran up and acted like a rooster, dragging her wing on the ground. In no uncertain terms, she established that "she" was the Boss Chicken of this outfit and no one better mess with her. The funny looking young hen in this picture (a Salmon Faverolles) is a bit clueless, and the Red Hen still pecks her from time to time, to get her out of the way at feeding time. But all-in-all, once the pecking order was quickly established, everyone became friends. I wish that humans could get along this well.

Anyway, so much for relaxation and shopping and travel. If you think horses are a lot of work, these chickens and ducks are ridiculous! They have to be let out first thing in the morning. And fed. And watered, because ducks (bless their little hearts) make a mess of their water dishes. And then the ducks have to be let out to go swimming in the canal. And checked on several times a day. And of course one must collect the eggs. And check food and water again.

And then picture me (with a rake in my outstretched arm) gently guiding my ducks up from the canal back to their predator proof pen each evening. "Go to bed, duckies! Time to go to bed!" Then of course they have to be tucked in each evening, with electric wire around them so no foxes, weasels, raccoons, owls, or coyotes will get them.

But I am supremely happy. After a lifetime spent around the demanding schedule of taking care of horses and other animals, I am programmed for this. Because that's what farm girls do. Right? And once a farm girl . . . well, always a farm girl.


RiderWriter said...

Awwww, I just love this! I think some of us humans are simply programmed to enjoy and want to take care of animals, period. I will keep doing it myself until I'm too decrepit to even feed a fish, LOL.

I personally am not a farm girl, but I am one at heart. I have almost always had at least one animal in my care. In fact, I can only remember two two-year time spans out of my almost-50 when I didn't. The first was after our family dog died when I was sixteen and my mom said, "NO MORE PETS." So what was the first thing I did when I went off to college? Got myself a guinea pig (illegal in the dorm, of course).

The pig population waxed and waned for the next 10 years, but I always had at least one. The death of the last one occurred when I was pregnant with Child 1, and it made sense to be pet-free at that crazy time (we were also moving to another state and starting a business). I think DD was about a year and a half old, though, when I got a Betta fish. After DS was born (only 20 mo. after DD), it was probably a year later when I decided it was time for a new pig. And so on!

Currently I have one dog and one pig and that is a comfortable number for in-home care. My morning chores include "mucking out" the pig cage (which I maintain exactly like a horse stall), and haying, graining and watering him. Then I feed, water and "turn out" the dog. Do you sense that perhaps I would also like to be in charge of something a bit larger and 4-legged?? ;-)

Linda Benson said...

LOL RiderWriter - sounds as if you take excellent care of your herd of two. I'm sure that non-animal people think some of us are totally nuts for the amount of time (and $$$) we invest in our critters. *Sigh* They just don't get it, do they? But I think being animal caretakers brings us closer to nature, and gives us not only a kinship with other beings, but a special insight into what life is all about. Carry on with your "mucking out." :-)

Laura Crum said...

Oh, I think all of us can relate to your post, Linda. Since I have five horses here at home, I hear you about the way life is basically organized according to the livestock chores. God forbid I should be somewhere else at 5:00 PM, because that is horse feeding time. Of course, this also ensures that I get to have my cocktail on the porch afterward--nothing wrong with that. I have chickens, too, and find them just as entertaining as you do. I haven't succumbed to ducks yet, though. But yours look very sweet. I'm like you--I LIKE having livestock chores to do every day. Makes me happy.

RiderWriter said...

Heh, just had to comment on the "totally nuts for the amount of time and $$$" part of your comment, Linda - how about three weeks ago I spent $500 getting a bladder stone removed from my piggie? ;-) I have not shared that amount with too many people because YEAH, they think I'm nuts!

The alternatives to surgery (with every expectation of a good outcome) were miserable slow death or euthanasia, so to me it wasn't even a choice... and my little boy is doing very well so far. He feels much better and is busy wheeking his head off for fruits and veggies.

Linda Benson said...

Laura - I am with you. I love the chores of feeding and taking care of animals. I find that it gives me a sense of purpose, and "grounds" me in life.

RiderWriter - thank you for your online confession, here on our little blog. *wink* I do know that our pets (as well as our livestock) often become part of the family, and they mean a lot to us. Obviously your little guy brings you a lot of joy, and for that reason alone is probably worth everything you spent on him. So glad that he is doing better, and here's wishing him a speedy recovery!

Alison said...

My son wants ducks and chickens. I need him to read your post!

Love the photos and your new home.