Gazing out across the pasture at the flock of ewes with the sun warming my face, I felt content and full of happiness. It made me begin to think about all the things I’m grateful for in living on a farm.
As I began to compile my list, it occurred to me that it sounded very Utopian, like a Cinderella story. From the fresh eggs to the baby lambs, I could just picture myself in my flowing dress, basket in hand entering the chicken coop to collect my family’s breakfast. Later in the day, I would be sitting thoughtfully in the pasture with the sun warming my face as I gazed upon the new lambs romping around. While farm fresh eggs and baby lambs are some of my favorite things, reality it doesn’t happen this way at all!
Farm Fresh Eggs
Who doesn’t love a farm fresh egg? The bright yellow yolk, standing firmly in the pan or added to banana cream pie– the lovely color it imparts. The egg collecting process can be very different from the one I described, though. Usually, it is pretty unceremonious: walk into the coop, pick up the eggs in the nest boxes, and try to remember to take them out of your pocket when you go in the house, because there was some other chore that you had to accomplish along the way. Broody hens can make the job more challenging. They want to keep their eggs and can inflict a pretty mean peck while protecting them. I remember the kids had a coffee can that they would briefly put over the hen’s head while they pillaged the nest. We also learned that if you hand raise chicks you better plan to eat the roosters because they will go from sweet little things to crazed protectors as they age.
This is huge on our farm. Lambing time is like Christmas; you never know what color or shape you will get until the lamb is born. Cute, fuzzy little things that just beg to be cuddled. Most go just as mother nature planned and mom wanders into a corner where she can have some privacy and delivers her lamb(s). Occasionally, there is assistance that must be given. In those instances, usually in the middle of the night, I am hopefully at the ready. There are times when things are not as easy as they should be and it takes work to figure out the problem, blindly feeling your way around. Sorting out which part of the lamb you can reach, is it in the correct position, do you have legs from two different lambs? It is cases like these that when you do finally deliver the lamb successfully it is a real accomplishment, and the adrenaline really gets going. I have found, though, that no one else shares this excitement at two o’clock in the morning, so it is best not to wake them for a family sharing moment.
During the lambing season I generally drag myself out to the barn several times during the night. This has given me many opportunities to view the winter, starry skies. It reminds me of the magnificent natural world around us; all you have to do is look up. I have seen northern lights, millions of stars that look so close you can reach out and touch them, bright nights with a full moon, and occasionally shooting stars– a wonderful reward for my trip to the lambing barn. Without a reason it is unlikely that I would get out of bed in subzero weather to go outside and look at the night sky. Owl conversations are just a bonus.
Fresh Cut Hay
Fresh cut hay has an intoxicating smell. If only I could bottle it and bring it in the house for the long dark winter, what a treat that would be. Hay making is a chore. From start to finish it is one of the big events here on the farm. Farming is a gamble and trying to play the weather odds for hay making is always tough. Geriatric machinery is just an interesting addition to the process. We have had to pitch raked hay into the hay wagon to beat a storm when the baler was broken. Kids loved that because their job was to jump up and down on it to compact it. Stacking small bales is an itchy, hot job that usually occurs on the warmest days. After all is said and done though, it sure it comforting to have a shed full of hay and a hot bubble bath helps to ease the pains.
Field of Hay
Spring is in the air as I write, sort of. I am excitedly looking for the crocuses to bloom, the bluebirds to return, and blades of green grass to wake up. It is time to start planning the garden, starting seeds and dreaming of summer. It’s not just spring that evokes these feelings. I guess I am fickle, but with each change of season, there is a welcome activity to embark on. Even winter that has worn out its welcome by April brings thoughts of sitting by the woodstove sipping hot chocolate or homemade soup and bread in November. They all have their challenges and rewards. The fifth season, though–MUD– is never welcome. If you live on a farm and have any livestock, you will know what I mean. It is the time just between winter and spring when the frost is still in the ground, but the weather has warmed enough to melt snow or we have spring rain. The result is that the couple inches of soil that have warmed soak up the water, and it cannot filter down, so it becomes mud. Maybe it is an agility test, can I either keep from losing a boot in the quagmire, OR if I do lose the boot, are my reflexes fast enough to not take that next step in my stocking foot.