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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Life and Death on The Farm

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Spring has sprung into full life here on the farm in the form of baby goats everywhere (ten to be exact) who are growing fast and doing great. During the last few weeks we have begun the weaning process of separating them from their mothers at night and reuniting them after the morning milking.

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Some of them will be leaving for new homes in a few weeks, which will quiet things down in the barn a little. They all have different personalities and they are all happy to see me every time I walk into the barn even though they were dam raised, not bottle fed (I'll be elaborating on this subject more in a future post).

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Life is also moving along well with the new batch of chicks for this year, who are 8 weeks old now. They are still in a pen separate so that they can grow, but will soon be introduced to the free ranging flock. They are overseen by our very patient and diligent Silkie rooster Party who, for some reason, really likes raising baby chicks.

The gardens are being prepared for planting which happens really soon. Soon it will be full of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, beans and more... some starting from seed and some from plants purchased by a nearby chemical free farm. (I personally don't have the patience to start tomatoes or peppers from seed. I admire those who do, and gladly pay them for the headaches it saves me.)

We've opted to not grow lettuce this year since it always starts off well and then bolts without fail (no matter the type) as soon as our hot summer days set in. Its always such a disappointment when we harvest the last of our lettuce since we are big salad eaters here, so this year we are learning, instead, how to grow our own microgreens. More on this in a later post.

So yes, there is life everywhere we look here on the farm. Life that keeps us very busy but very satisfied at the same time. There's not much better than sitting down to a meal that was produced, start to finish, right here at home.

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With life on the farm, just as in many other situations, there is death. I think in many instances that living on a farm with livestock gives you a different perspective of death. It is never taken for granted here, and each life is acknowledged and appreciated from start to finish. These animals work for us and in return, we work for them. It's a beneficial relationship from both sides, whether its a old farm dog that we lost due to a tragic accident (in 2013) or a chicken that we raised from an egg knowing that it would one day be on our dinner table. They are all important and respected, and all part of the life circle that is this farm.

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We lost Jacques, our Black Copper Marans rooster, a couple of weeks ago, after he had served as our senior rooster of the free ranging flock for five years. He was excellent at his job and he knew it well. He foraged for food to feed his hens relentlessly all day long, and always made sure every single bird was safely in the hen house before dark. If something flew overhead you could hear him call for everyone to take cover. If something was threatening a member of the flock, he was the first on the scene to stop it. He was a damn good rooster.

With that said, quite honestly, he was also a son-of-a-bitch that I called Crock Pot on a regular basis. He was mean as the devil and I have a scar on my leg to prove it. Over the years he and I learned to coexist, but it was usually on his terms and I just played by his rules. I knew how to work around him and he knew to remind me on the spot if I had forgotten who was in charge. I always figured he was too hateful to die.

But he did. We don't know what happened, although we suspect he choked on food. He was supervising my morning barn chores (ie. "reminding me with his stare down look and wing flapping that he's watching me") and less than an hour later he was laying in the grass lifeless.

There's a common saying in the chicken world that life is too short and there are too many good roosters to put up with a mean one, but I don't think that's true. I think there is a difference -- a BIG difference -- between a "mean" one and a "bad" one. Was Jacques mean? Yes. Spittin' nails mean, especially during breeding season. But he was probably the best rooster we've had over our flock, ever. We've had bad roosters before, he was not one of them. Even though  I had regularly threatened to toss him on the grill and call it a day, I'm still going to miss him.

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It has been interesting to see the dynamics of the flock shift. He was one of three roosters in that flock, and now our big goof of a Brahma, Crow, is in charge. He's always been one to jump up on your chair for treats and follow you around to make sure you didn't drop any pieces of apple or raisins that he might need to pick up, so hopefully he won't let his new role as boss go to his little chicken head and decide I need to be on his hit list. And although T-Rex, our big Jersey Giant rooster is still scared of his own shadow (and everyone else's, for that matter), he's starting to put some work into helping out with the flock as well.

So that's life, and death, currently on the farm. It's an ever changing world here and we have learned to just do our best, respect life completely, and take what the day brings us.

 

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