Our three year old farm girl was very upset this summer when one of Grandma’s little kitties had an injured eye. She cried to her grandparents and she cried when she told me about it late that day.
Visiting the kitties on Grandma’s doorstep is a highlight of her day – multiples times. She knows when new ones are born and who the momma cats are.
No one knew how the kitten’s eye got hurt but our little farm girl gave it extra care and reported to her grandma all about it.
But eventually, that little kitten died. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was that kitten’s turn to go.
All our farm kids experience moments that teach them that when animals die, they don’t come back… but it’s ok. And it’s okay to be sad. That’s an important thing to know.
But they also know that new animals are born – quite often, in fact. And that is so exciting. It’s fun to visit the baby animals and see how they grow so quickly. Their antics are entertaining as they jump and run and push each other around.
It’s Real so Pay Attention
Life and death are realities. On a farm you have to pay attention to those realities daily and sometimes hourly.
Are there tender seedlings in the greenhouse? Let’s make sure the greenhouse won’t freeze overnight.
Is it bright and sunny? Let’s make sure the greenhouse doors are open and the fans are on so it doesn’t get too hot and bake the plants.
Oh, and those seedlings have to be watered 2 – 4 x per day depending on the weather.
Is it cold, snowy and below freezing? Let’s make sure the pigs and cows have water to drink. Liquid water. They can’t drink ice.
Farmer Reuben is doing all the chores by himself this week and he just told me about a problem with the pig waterer that I wanted to check out. I wasn’t sure if the pigs would come near me to try the snack I brought them.
Life is Full of Hope
But let’s talk about new life.
♣ Planting seeds for a garden is an act of faith and hope. You don’t control what happens exactly but you rely on providing the right conditions for those seeds to sprout under the damp, warm potting soil until the first curled stem emerges filled with the bright green chlorophyl it needs to grow more leaves.
Ω Newborn calves are expected this spring because only momma cows give milk. They give milk so generously that they can feed a calf for months and still give extra to the farmer.
⊥ New blades of grass emerging from the cold, brown earth are a signal the farmer anxiously awaits so that the cows can begin grazing on nutrient rich, fresh grass and stop feeding dry hay. That’s when the cow’s milk increases in quantity and is full of yellow butter fat.
⊗ We’ll hear the cows mooing in the barnyard as they smell the new tender grass in the pasture but the farmer can’t let them graze until that grass is several inches high. So the cows and farmer will wait. And wait. Waiting for the sun, the rain and the earth to do their work.
Θ Piglets are born to sows and wiggle through the first weeks of life until they start exploring. Soon they’ll need to be contained by fences so they don’t devour the newly planted lettuce and kale in the vegetable fields.
ℑ And those farm cats always have their litters of kittens in Grandpa’s shed or on Grandma’s stoop on Mother’s Day weekend.
All this excitement of new life happens under our noses here on the farm.
It’s Your Turn to Pay Attention to Life
But what about you? What will you see?
If you pay attention you’ll see new buds on the trees in your yard and along the road. Your lawn beginning to turn green. Your garden seedlings in the window sill growing taller. Your crocus and daffodils putting up the their green leaves.
But what if you could be a farmer for a day or a week and take care of new baby animal?
Wouldn’t that make you feel connected to spring and to life in a whole new way?
Take an egg out of the refrigerator and hold it. What’s inside?
In our chicken coop, the eggs we collect are full of potential. Most of the time they are meant to be collected everyday, put in a carton and used to make delicious omelettes, scrambles, quiches, creamy pies and fluffly cakes.
But given the right conditions, that egg will hatch into a chick.
Every spring though, we order newly hatched chicks from a hatchery farm to increase our aging flock of hens. The hatchery is in charge of getting the genetics and hatching conditions just right for the healthiest chickens to send to farms all over the region.
I can’t imagine being in a hatchery. Can you imagine a place where baby chickens, ducklings, goslings, guinea keats, turkey poults, peafowl are hatching every day, all day long? If you view this short hatchery tour video, you’ll see that it looks more like a warehouse than a farm.
We are one of the farms that receives our chicks through the mail from the post office. We usually get two boxes of one hundred loudly peeping chicks and then it’s our turn to make sure they are well taken care of.
Life is a Great Teacher
Or it’s your turn! Did you know you can help us raise our day old chicks for a couple weeks?
As soon as our chicks arrive there will be about one hundred local families that line up to pick out their special pair to take home.
They’ll learn that they have to pay attention to the details to keep their chicks warm, watered and well fed.
- Don’t let them get too warm.
- Don’t let them get too cold.
- Don’t let them spill their water and get too thirsty.
But don’t worry. Just like all babies, they will cry loudly to let you know something is wrong.
That’s what the loud peeping is meant to do. To remind you to check on the baby farm friends that you are fostering for Farmer Reuben.
Winter is Waiting for Spring
Peep! Peep! Baby farm animals don’t care if there is snow on the ground or flowers budding on the trees.
When they are hatched or born they just need to be fed and kept warm.
While we are getting ready for the seedlings and baby animals that will be arriving in the coming weeks, you can get ready for fostering chicks with your family, classroom, community group or senior home.
We support your desire to have a good, healthy way of life and food on your table that supports that goal.
We’ll keep farming for you!
Reuben and Tessa DeMaster