Growing Up on a Farm
(Original post date August 8th, 2012)
No two farms are alike. No matter how many farms you go to, things are going to be done differently.
I was about 10, when we went from a small town to the countryside. For the first couple of years we had nothing but our little dog and cats (as well as cats that came with the house. You always have cats come with a house.)
I can't remember anything exactly, but eventually we got a couple of cows. They were bottle fed. If you've never bottle-fed an animal you're really missing out on something. Your hands get all sticky, and you're not sure if it's drool, milk, or a gross combination of the two.
Eventually, we got some pigs. Luckily, they were weaned, so we didn't have to deal with feeding them. Everything a pig sees, it wants to eat: birds, grass, roots, slop. I've seen them dig up and eat pieces of coal, I've seen feathers leftover from a bird snacking on their pellets and was too slow to get away. Pigs are kind of scary, really. The only thing that outweighs their scariness is their deliciousness.
|We named him Kevin.|
There isn't a lot to chickens except that every time you think they've set the bar for stupidity, they not only raise that bar higher, they get stuck on it, hang upside down for a hot summer day until their head turns purple, and then when you try to rescue them they beat you across the face with their wings and scream at you until everyone else is in an uproar. I've seen chickens die in ways that would make the creators of the Darwin Awards sputter. But they're delicious.
If you're trying to get a vegan friend to eat meat, get them a chicken. By the time that thing is ready to dress out and cook, you'll have to fight your friend off to keep them from eating the chicken's raw heart out of spite.
That's not to say chickens are all bad, they're quite a source of entertainment. They like to make a racket when they run, which causes a ripple effect and sets the rest of them off cackling. Seeing their interactions with the cats is like seeing a small, furry and feathered adorable war going on.
|I've got a Buff Orpington in my sights, repeat, a Buff Orpington.|
Goats could almost be an entire thing of their own. Let me start by saying they test everything: your fences, your patience, your sanity, your car's hood. Our first goat managed to jump out of the bed of a pickup truck and run around, avoiding three people, for an entire day, while its front and back feet were hobbled together. After that we've had goats press through spaces smaller than you'd expect a goat to be, squeeze through every little imperfection in your fence, and be sneaky enough that sometimes you're not even sure if they're getting out or not. I remember one conversation in particular:
"Uhm, is Garrett supposed to be in with the girls?"
Goats are magic, and I don't mean the good kind of magic either. They're warlocks, and they know it. They're incredibly smart, too, and twice as stubborn. I've seen goats save up their poop so they can drop their smelly little marbles for you to watch them roll off the milking stand, just because you put her up there, or they try to poop in the milk you're collecting. They'll put their foot right on the edge of a milk bucket and tip that thing right over, otherwise. I've had goats step on my feet, and it took me a couple of years to finally realize they were doing it on purpose.
|They're kind of jerks.|
What is good-magic about goats, is when they have kids.
Usually it's late February to early March when they give birth on our farm. There's still snow on the ground, and the cold has a kind of silencing effect with the world, so it's just you and a goat in labor. Unless they're a new mom they usually do fine, and it's almost like Christmas to see how many she will have and what they will look like. We've had some real anomalies for fur color thrown at us sometimes, we've also had moms that we didn't think were pregnant, then had a couple of kids, somehow. Doesn't matter what happens, there's always a "wow" moment every year.
Sometimes, you have losses. Idaho winters are pretty harsh and cold, and sometimes we don't get to the kids in time. But we have had some kids you'd think were brought back from the dead. I've seen kid goats, their bodies stiff and cold, be revived and grow up completely normal and healthy. Our method to warm them up involves floating them in a warm sink full of water.
You ever have one of those moments where you just sort of wonder "What in the world am I doing?" but it's in a weird, good way? Yeah. Goats float. So you're trying to keep their body in the water and their head above it. There is a tiny goat, floating like a pool toy, in your kitchen sink.
You're never bored on a farm, nor are you really rushed. It's slow and peaceful in a lot of ways. Sometimes I can just pull up a chair and watch the animals as the sun sets, and it's pretty zen.
Until I see Slash eating the lilacs.