Country Love

I feel like all I post on this blog is deep reflective stuff about myself and the meaning of life. I wanted this to be the place where I could share anecdotes from my daily colorful adventures. It’s probably because I’m learning so much lately as we adjust to Gram’s presence in our home. Soon, hopefully, I can get past baring my soul and on to how I spend my time.

They say that the first third of a book is usually dedicated to introducing the characters and the situation, so I guess I’m justified.

Yeah, we’ll go with that.

This post is still introductory, but it also is a little more light-hearted than what I’ve offered thus far. If you would rather I stick to the meaning of life, let me know.

I’m a country girl through-and-through. I simply love the outdoors: spending days hiking along dunes and through forests and up mountains; racing along the beach; trail riding; going barefoot; soaking up sunshine; and gardening, even though I can’t guarantee everything will live.

I did not protest when we rented the house in which we currently live. Not only was it the biggest house I had ever called home, but it was a solid 10 minutes outside the city limits. Sure, the neighbors took getting used to: we have some sort of unspoken peace treaty with the hillbillies on one side and those on the other are relentless in their attempts to bring the city to their backyard. All the same, I would only trade it for a house even deeper in the country.

Mom soon made herself at home and started experimenting with her new-found freedom in the form of chickens.

I used to swear against chickens. I wasn’t even a big fan of eggs. This came out of a deep-seated fear of roosters instilled in me during a visit to Dad’s parents’, when their big black rooster took one look at me and decided I was his next victim.

All he did was charge at me, but I screamed louder than I ever had to that point and ran crying from the chicken yard, and was traumatized for years to come.

When Mom announced her plans to get our own flock, I made my displeasure clear. The news came as a shock even to Dad. Evidently Mom had experience with chickens in the past and it wasn’t good. Most of the stories involve preparing supper. Her solution: send the chickens to the Amish when it was butchering time. That was all it took to win her over to back yard chickens.

Mom thrives on being self-sufficient. She is my role model in that way, and I brag on her incessantly. If she doesn’t know how to do something, she’ll learn. She and Dad built a coop (and replaced it for something more practical after one winter); she read up on different breeds and started building up her flock in pieces, going for the most color and variety possible; she has three regular egg customers at church; and she has hatched her own eggs twice and made spoiled pets out of the survivors. Our chickens adore us (for the most part) and the rooster knows to keep his distance or risk a hula hoop to his head.

I’ve overcome my aversion to poultry and actually enjoy most of our hens now. We all get along fairly well, and I love to see visitors’ faces when we call the flock up to show off.

The most shocking turn in our ongoing chicken saga was when Mom decided to try “meat birds” this year. These are chickens specially bred to grow quickly and heavily. They are lazy and wide-legged and spend most of their time collapsed on the ground in front of the feeder. Mom warned us to keep them fed because apparently they will do anything to eat, including trying out your toes (she also warned us to never wear flip-flops around them) and resorting to cannibalism, as we once witnessed.

They make good eating, though.

I never thought I would be such an expert on chickens. I know which hens are flighty but good layers, which tend to be broody, which ones are best for families with small children, and what color eggs most of them lay. I know how to heal bumble foot and stop broodiness. I even know what their different sounds mean.

More, I actually enjoy them most of the time. One of the “girls” from our first batch of chicks (that we bought, not hatched) is my particular favorite. She comes by whenever I’m gardening and helps me dig up worms and other bugs. She has a special voice she uses when I’m around to ask politely for treats. She even allows me to pick her up with no contest unless she’s molting.

Mom’s pet is a fluffy-cheeked mix she hatched in her first group of eggs. The hen is temperamental and prone to sneezing (she has a high voice in general) but when she’s in a good mood she will leap onto people’s shoulders and she is not usually opposed to strangers holding her.

I have now included chickens in the list of things I need when I get my own house. Yeah, I’ve been converted.

I was this way when we got our first garden several years ago. Growing up, Dad always had a garden, and the one he set up for me to tend to at our last house was not even a quarter of the size that he was used to. But I loved it. I had never done much in the way of gardening before (flowers and ornamental plants don’t much care for my ministrations) but I found my niche in tomatoes and squash.

There’s something satisfying about being able to step outside in the morning and snatch breakfast from a pear tree or one of the nesting boxes. I enjoy being able to put my dog outside without worrying about some nosy neighbor reporting my on a whim; or having the chance to grab my bow and work on my archery whenever I please.

Blame it on The Secret Garden, which is a classic favorite of mine. Like Mary, I love coming inside after racing against a gusting wind, my cheeks flushed and my breath heavy. I long for spring and seeing the first green shoots poking up out of the dirt. I like smelling the dirt, as well as the tomato plants and the sun-warmed cornfields across the road.

The country is my element. It features heavily in the stories I like most to tell about myself. I loathe the thought of moving  back into any sort of city setting, no matter how small that city may be, and having to hear traffic and people instead of wind and chickens outside. (Granted, our neighbors on one side can get pretty rowdy on a summer weekend, but it doesn’t last long.) I’ve been to Nashville and Lincoln and Denver and Chicago and I cringe at the thought of living in any of those places. I have no desire to see New York City or San Francisco or Seattle, but give me a field of sunflowers or the view from a cliff any day.

And now you know a little more about me. Who knows? It might explain some of my quirkier habits. Call me a hopeless romantic or idealist, but I won’t apologize for that.

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