How does a farmer take a vacation? He asks his parents to take over the farm.
That’s how my husband and I found ourselves playing organic farmers for two weeks. Every day, at sunrise and sunset, we feed and water cows, sheep, goats, chickens, and guinea fowl. We collect, sort, and package eggs. On a balmy 30 degree day, it’s a lovely way to spend a few hours. When the temperatures dip below zero and the wind whips across the fields, it’s a challenge. The animals’ water flash-freezes, the eggs crack within an hour, and you wonder why the hell anyone would want to be a farmer in a northern climate.
What a change from sitting at a desk in a nice warm office.
But there’s a comforting rhythm to farming. Every morning, the cows stand eagerly at the fence, excited to see us bringing hay, and the sheep come stampeding like hungry children. Open the guinea doors, and the birds come flying out screeching, happy to be out and about. The chickens are already lined up inside their coop door, waiting to be released for the day. And what a pleasure it is to hold a chicken egg, still warm from just being laid. I’ve found out that I love hanging out with chickens. I’ve learned which hen leaves the flock every morning to hide out with the sheep, and which hen sneaks away to spend time with the outcast rooster. I’ve learned the secret places where those two lay their eggs. I’ve learned that the alpha rooster can be brutal with hens (and I’m going to talk to my son about turning him into coq au vin).
Farming teaches you patience, especially at sunset. You can’t rush birds into their nighttime coops. One night, we waited an hour for the last guinea hen to finally walk into the coop. Instead she decided to take an evening stroll. Leaving her out overnight meant she’d be exposed to the cold and predators, so we just had to wait until she was ready to join the rest of her flock. Only then could we close the door.
Thanks to my son, I’ve herded cows and sheep, gutted chickens, raked manure, and hauled hay bales. I’ve also been blessed with a bountiful supply of free-range eggs and chicken livers. Will all this turn up in a book some day?
Trust me, I’m thinking about it.
Check out the fabulous farm photos taken by my son and his partner Marya at Donkey Universe Farm.