Monday, February 28, 2011

Extreme Sadness....Extreme Happiness

I have found that living on a farm and ranch amplifies the circle of life and death. At first, it's easy to see the negative aspect of that statement. As I reach deeper to find meaning in what I'm about to write, my emotions get the best of me and tears fall, not just in sorrow, but in happiness too. I have found that those two emotions go hand in hand. You truly cannot feel one, without feeling the other.

Last Monday was one of the saddest I have experienced here on the farm, another death, and this time it was murder. Two years ago, I brought home a bunch of day old chicks from the local tractor supply store. I picked out two of each kind they had, so I ended up with a hodge podge breeds. I will confess, I was never a chicken lover. I suffered salmonella poisoning not one, not two, but three times due to chicken. So I can honestly say, I had no idea that I would fall head over heels for these little fluffs of feathers.

One hen, more than any other, stood out from the flock as they grew up happy and healthy running around the barn, pasture and garden. It was not just her striking black and white plumage, or her Polish wig feathers, it was her personality. We fondly named her Cruella Deville, the character from one of my favorite childhood Disney movies due to her crazy looking head dress.

Cruella thought she was more of a dog than a chicken, I'm sure of it. She would come to us when we called her. She would vocalize happily when she heard or saw us , and would want to be picked up and carried around for a free ride from one place to another. She was the queen of the coop. The roosters were even put in their place by her. She was smart, and for those who have had chickens, you know that "smart" is not always a word that best describes them. She is the first and only chicken, I had ever kissed.

Our flock only go into a coop at night for their safety, otherwise, they are free to roam during the day. They love their freedom. You can see them from the back porch and the side porch busily going back and forth, one minute out by the barn, the next up by the cows in the front pasture and then ending their day nearby the coop in the organic garden area. It is not idyllic as we have lost a few of them to everyday tragedy, a drowning in a trough, a raid by a neighbors dog, 2 stray cat attacks and the various mysterious attack from time to time. In the very beginning we even lost a few to an attack in the coop, but we had modified it over the years to make it more secure, but alas nothing is forever.

The murders began last Friday, I came home to find two of my Guineas dead, one near the coop and one in the pasture. We trapped a raccoon in our live trap and thought we had caught the culprit. That night our coop was raided again (we didn't know how) and a few of my hens were killed. Andy worked on the coop the next morning and thought he had found an area of wire mesh where something might have gotten in, he quickly fixed it. We awoke in the middle of the night on Saturday to the sound of our dogs barking...went outside and found another raccoon in the coop. This time Andy watched him run to the back of the coop and pop out the back. He had been gaining entry through the top, where he had managed to undo a wired shut latch.

After securing the coop one more time, we were sure that all was well. We even delivered several dozen of our eggs to friends in the city that Sunday evening, as they are coveted by our foodie city dwelling friends.  But alas, Monday morning turned out to be the saddest day of all. Our mare Star came to us with a newborn foal and a surprise pregnancy from her previous home. Our yearling Skully was born last year in February, so I knew the new foal would be here any day. Every morning I would go out and check on her to see when we would need to place her in the barn by herself for the impending birth. I was thinking about the horses on this very windy morning and had no idea what I was about to encounter.

As I walked past the coop on the way to the barn, I saw that there was a cat in the live trap. It was a Persian that we had seen roaming around on our property. I suspected she had been dumped by her city family, as countless other domestic house pets get dumped out in the country. It's a sad situation for all involved. Most farmers shoot stray animals that come onto their property. Lucky for this cat, we have enough compassion to know that this was once someones pet. Instead of shooting her, we were taking her to the local feed store. The owner there would give her a new home to help with mice control in the feed warehouse. I was so glad we had caught her, because now I felt like we had possibly solved the flock murders (both inside the coop and out). People should NEVER dump their animals out in the country, their chances of survival are slim and they can cause heartache to others. More free range chickens are killed by dogs and cats than any wild animal.

I took the trap with the cat in it and moved it out of the wind, Andy could transport her later to the feed store. I then opened the coop and my heart hurt. Cruella was in the bottom of the coop, not much was left of her, but I recognized her beautiful feathers. I never thought I could cry so much for a chicken, but to me she was my pet. I loved her so and she was the life of the flock.  Oh how guilty I felt, as we had not protected her enough. How could the coop still be unsafe? It's still so hard to talk about that I'm sobbing trying to write about this coherently. Cruella, you will always have a special place in my heart. You changed my mind about chickens and I thank you for that.

But wait, this entry was about extreme sadness but also extreme happiness. After four days of sadness, a bright spot of happiness emerged on the farm. She came in the form of all legs and long ears. Star had a real surprise for us in the wee hours of Thursday, February 24th. She delivered a beautiful paint filly. My heart once again was filled with love. Love for a newborn, born healthy and full of spirit. Star is a beautiful chestnut paint and so is Skully, her first colt. This newborn completely surprised us as she is a beautiful dark silver and white (possibly turning to black & white), reminding me of another pet that we just laid to rest. The world really does work in mysterious ways.

Welcome Yoshimi translation "Beautiful Reason" in Japanese. We named you for our love of music, an homage to The Flaming Lips for uniting us, for better or for worse. This past week we have experienced both. Extreme sadness, extreme happiness for better or worse and so life and death continues here on the farm.

happy hour @ FMF

happy hour @ FMF
party till the cows come home