Monthly Archives: June 2014

Death and the Hen

So, Angel, unfortunately, did not make it. Her death is not really a shock, I suppose. Chickens are fragile creatures.

A couple of years back, I remember a man and his son stopped at the farm. Frantic.

“Do you know anything about chickens?” The father had pleaded. “We bought a bunch, and they are dying.” He opened his trunk to reveal about fifty chicks, half of which were dead. I watched as each minute a chick would stop and die. I had no answer for him then, and I have no answer now.

Things get sick.

Things die.

“It’s O.K.” Kitt said when I told her about Angel.

Her reaction is also not shocking. As we live on a farm, death is a natural part of the landscape. Last year’s pig? She’s in the freezer. That steer you named? The steak you ate for dinner.

I am not sure, however, of what her actual four-year-old concept of death is. Honestly, I am not even sure what my forty-one-year-old concept of death is. Most days, I believe that we are so much more than these suits of flesh that connect us to this plane. Others, I wonder if death is the end. If that last breath we take is our last connection to anything.

“I could never live on a farm,” my mother told me as she tried to nurse the chicken back to health. “All of these animals have little souls. I don’t know how you do it.”

I have thought a lot about this living on the farm. I think about it when I watch our herd leave an older cow to babysit while the rest go to graze. I think about it when I look into the lamb’s eyes as I feed him hay and pet him. I think about it when I have to knee one of our bucket fed calves back because she thinks my vagina is food.

And then I think of Kitt.

I am jealous of her, really. My first taste of death came the summer after my 7th grade year when a classmate was killed in a car accident. Having been at our camp on Moosehead Lake for the week, I had been incomminucado. I learned about her death only after the funeral. I spent the next week or so expecting everyone I knew to die. If death could happen to her, it could happen to anyone, at any time.  I started imagining the horrific demises of all of my loved ones. My father died being electrocuted while trying to fix a paper machine in the mill. My mother died driving home a little too fast on the highway. My sister died crossing the street. Everyone I looked at faded, and I was left with how each would leave me.

Kitt will realize, as she grows, that we all live. We all serve our purpose. And we all die. This idea will become a thread woven into her concept of life, as it is an integral part of my husband’s concept. While he and I may disagree about what happens after this life, I have to admire him for how he lives this one.

I told Kitt this morning that it is time to let the other chickens out of the coop, as they were big enough to start grazing. “Maybe we can get a cat cage so that the cats won’t kill the chickens,” she said. “We can put food and water in it so that they will be all right, too.”

Today I realize that we are all as fragile as that young hen we lost, and while some days force us to realize that death just happens, others have us holding it back in a small wire cage. Leaving it food and water, of course, because we wouldn’t want it to have to look elsewhere to be fed.

 

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Nah, Poisonous Things Taste Bad

Spring has finally…well, you know the cliché, and I thought that it would be nice to update everyone as to what is happening here at LongMeadows Farm. So earlier this evening, I took my camera and ventured around the farm to see what I could find.

I first passed my husband Xandy who, even as I write this, is busy installing a new deck, which I have to add is his idea of relaxing on this Father’s Day.

Xandy working diligently on our new deck. I'll post photos when it is done.

Xandy working diligently on our new deck. I’ll post photos when it is done.

I walked to check on our three raised beds that we put in last year to give our larger garden a break (more on that later).

One 12' bed is entirely for tomatoes. Another is the home of broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.

One 12′ bed is entirely for tomatoes. Another is the home of broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.

 

We have caged some of the tomatoes, and have left others to grow freely. This happy plant loved yesterday's rain, and today's (albeit  windy) sunshine.

We have caged some of the tomatoes, and have left others to grow freely. This happy plant loved yesterday’s rain, and today’s (albeit windy) sunshine.

 

I then walked up by the pool to check on our third bed.

This bed is the home of everything from peppers, to zucchini, to carrots, to beets and other greens.

This bed is the home of everything from peppers, to zucchini, to carrots, to beets and other greens.

The radishes are finally coming to an end, but oh how they have served us over the past couple of weeks.

The radishes are finally coming to an end, but oh how they have served us over the past couple of weeks.

We also have a 1/6 acre garden plot that had been planted by the Browns for over a decade. After a couple of years of pleading, Xandy finally assented to DO SOMETHING about the noxious weeds that had overtaken the plot.

The newly tamed garden plot.

The newly tamed garden plot.

He planted winter rye which we left last year to grow. Earlier this spring we grazed the rye and then Xandy tilled the land twice. What was left is the most amazingly rich soil that I have ever seen. Although, I have to admit that is not saying much considering I have only been gardening for five years.

We have decided to plant half of this plot each year on a rotational schedule. Today I planted crimson clover on the left side, along with in between rows of the rest of the garden.

Here is a tender corn chute that has just emerged. In this plot we have planted onions, potatoes, squash, green beens, and the rest of the tomato, broccoli, and cabbage seedlings that we (I mean Xandy) didn't have the heart to kill.  Funny how that works, he saves the plants and I have to put them in the ground. But I digress...

Here is a tender corn chute that has just emerged. In this plot we have planted onions, potatoes, squash, green beans, corn and the rest of the tomato, broccoli, and cabbage seedlings that we (I mean Xandy) didn’t have the heart to kill. Funny how that works, he saves the plants and I have to put them in the ground. But I digress…

I then walked back by Xandy, out front to check on our garlic. I found my dog relaxing on the front lawn.

This is her favorite spot in both the early evening and early morning.

This is her favorite spot in both the early evening and early morning.

Our garlic, I noticed, is doing fabulously.

The tasty garlic scapes, seed pods that shoot up from the middle of the plant, are starting to grow. I cannot wait to snap them off for cooking.

The tasty garlic scapes, seed pods that shoot up from the middle of the plant, are starting to grow. I cannot wait to snap them off for cooking.

It was while I was picking a few weeds out of the garlic, that I found an interesting purple flowered vine with a hard, round pod that I  wondered if Xandy could identify. I walked back to the deck and asked if he knew what it was.

“No idea,” he said and proceeded to pull apart the pod.

It was hard, and almost felt like a nut.

“It’s wild cucumber, I think,” he said, and then took a bite out of the pod.

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?” I yelled back at him, “That thing could be poisonous.”

“Nah, poisonous stuff tastes bad.” He said, and took another bite. “Hey, this tastes good. I think we should cultivate it.”

I went inside and frantically searched Google and our Audubon Field Guide for answers. I kept listening outside to be sure that I still heard noises from him, and I wondered where we had put the poison control number. Then I found this:

Glecoma hederacea -- Ground Ivy Not poisonous. Surprisingly he was right. It has actually been used for medicinal uses for centuries.

Glecoma hederacea — Ground Ivy
Not poisonous. Shocking. It has actually been used for medicinal purposes for centuries.

The plant could be toxic for these guys, however:

IMG_2205

So I don’t think that we’ll cultivate it just yet.

That’s if from the farm for this evening. Haying starts tomorrow. Xandy mowed a swathe tonight to be wrapped for silage tomorrow. I guess I won’t see him until September. Hopefully, he won’t eat random plants until then…

 

 

 

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