Two weeks ago was the first time I was ready to throw in the towel on farming. I’ve been broken down before, as farming has a way of doing that to a person, but I had never been so fully committed to the idea of quitting like I was when I wrote my last blog post. My garden isn’t growing, my goat is a disaster and I’m over run with roosters. How in the world did I end up here?
But then my favorite hen, Loretta, got very sick and nothing else mattered. I’ve been away from blogging for a while mainly because I was spending time hand feeding my hen and forcing her to drink. I didn’t think she was going to make it and had prepared myself for the worst. At one point she got so bad I prayed that the good Lord just take her quickly because I couldn’t hardly stand to see her like that. Hubby and I also talked about how the ax would need to be sharpened if she didn’t pass on her own and continued to suffer.
If you follow me on Instagram or have been around this here blog for awhile you have probably heard of Loretta. She is my rogue hen who won’t stay in the paddock where she’s supposed to be, but because of that she always comes running across the yard to greet me when she sees me coming out the door. She is also very outspoken and talks away to us about her day. Her feathers are really puffy on her back and we call it her bouffant. (You can read all about Loretta here.)
On Tuesday she was egg bound. On Wednesday she was egg bound again. On Tuesday a bath, some calcium and time under a heat lamp was enough to get the egg to pass within a half hour. The egg that was stuck on Wednesday was way up inside of her. I could feel the lump just behind her left leg. This time it wasn’t coming out.
And all of sudden it didn’t matter if my goat kicked on the stand. I was frantically milking Phoebe because Loretta was only drinking goats’ milk. It didn’t matter that my roosters were crowing because I, quite frankly, couldn’t care any less. I kept Loretta alive for 3 days on apples and goats milk. That was all I could get down her, until Friday when she stopped eating altogether. She just sat in her little dog crate and slept. It looked like we had some weird exotic bird in our living room. We prepared ourselves for what was coming. To most farmers she is just a chicken. For us she is a valuable contributor to our farm, as well as the most spoiled chicken we have. She is the one who sits on my shoulder, and the one who likes to sit beside Hubby when he’s splitting wood so she can get any grubs that happen to be inside the logs; she has no fear of the ax. She likes to terrify my dogs by chasing them through the yard with her feathers all puffed up ready to peck if she can catch one. Maybe I lied when I wrote this post. Maybe I am more of a glorified pet owner than I thought I was.
And then something happened. Our prayers were answered. Just before going to bed Friday night, Loretta passed that horrible (and huge!) egg. And then she started eating all on her own for the first time since Tuesday.
Loretta is back outside with her sisters now after an exhausting week. The chances of her getting egg bound again are pretty high since she has been twice now, but I am so beyond glad to see her acting like normal again.
As stressful as it all was though, I was reminded about why I’m here. There is something wonderful about nursing a sick animal back to health, even if at the time you’re pretty sure the animal isn’t going to make it. There is rewards for our time, labor, blood, sweat and tears in the small things. Like a chicken running to greet you at the door, or a glass of milk that you hand squeezed from your very own animal. There is rewards in watching the sun come up in the morning and watching it go down at night. There are rewards in fresh eggs, in fresh bread, and even in seeing your strawberry plants doing so well – even when you don’t get a single strawberry because the rogue chicken eats them all.
And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.
God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” So God made a farmer.
“I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon — and mean it.” So God made a farmer.
God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours.” So God made a farmer.
God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer.
God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church.
“Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.'” So God made a farmer.
– Paul Harvey 1978
Nothing on the farm ever goes as planned, but I’m blessed to be here.
And also Hubby won’t let me sell the milk goats.