We got back from my sheep shearing classes to find what was left after a neighbor's dog paid a little visit to the farm.
After parking the truck, we stepped out to find our beloved FaFa duck's cold, stiff, lifeless body on the driveway. We were stunned but there was more to come. FF's first thought was to the babies, so he hurried to the barn to check on them. We've had freezing temperatures here for the past two days, so the younger ones were penned in the barn with a heater to keep them nice and warm. Luckily, all baby duckies and one chick were accounted for and in good health.
The same could not be said for the rest of our flock. Dead chickens behind the barn, under the carport, behind the grill. Ducks with broken wings, pitifully limping. It was just too much.
FF immediately started repairing the fence while I bundled the kids and got them into the house (all while marching them blindly past FaFa duck's body). Thankfully, it was already dark and cold, so the kids never saw her and I got them safely inside the house. Then the task began to unload the rental car, get the kids to bed, check on the rest of the flock and do what we could in the dark and cold. 27 degrees, y'all.
The next morning, we went out to assess the situation in the realness that only daylight brings. Let's just say the situation looked a lot better in the dark. We salvaged what was left and did what we could for our flock, but in the end, I suspect we will have to lose our more seriously injured farm companions.
Honestly, I'm at a loss for words, which if you know me, is rare. Homesteading teaches us so many things each day. Each day's lesson, painful or not, brings me ever closer to certainty on the lifestyle we've chosen.
We try to make sure all of the animals live a stress-free, happy life and have a pain-free but inevitable death. But I couldn't help but feel as if we failed poor Fafa duck.
We told the kids over breakfast what happened. FF Boy's response was silence, a tinge of sadness crossed his brow, and then that beautiful, sweet, doughnut sugar-covered face suddenly lit up. "Maybe we can hatch another Fafa duck again?"
There will never be another Fafa, or Thelma and Louise, or the Conductor, or Carl. But our farm, and what they contributed to it, will last with us forever.
Well ... so much for our pumpkins.
The ducks and chickens have demolished our blueberry bushes, made dirt baths out of our potted sage and thyme, and happily ate their fill of our beans. And now, just to make sure they've got all of the major food groups represented (or at least the ones they like), they've eaten all of the leaves off the fairytale pumpkins.
We've tried everything: fencing, replacing, sitting potted plants up high, putting them in hard to reach places, threatening the ducks with no dinner and a time out. Free-ranging can be a royal pain in the ass.
Now it looks like FF is hard at work to try and get more fencing so that, just maybe we can move the incredible, edible egg layers to another part of the farmette - far away from any growing things that we might actually - you know - want to eat.
About a week and a half ago, I applied for a position in the Texas A&M Agrilife sheep shearing school. Do we have sheep? No. Have we ever owned sheep? None. Have I ever sheared a sheep? Nope. How many animals have I sheared? Nada. Have I even shaved anyone's head? Sort of.
We awoke on Thanksgiving Day morning to something that was definitely not worth celebrating. One of the Aylesbury males was limping around the back, last one in the line of his peers and just trying to keep up. Although we usually spend a good 15 minutes trying to catch a bird, this one was easy as he couldn't shuffle away from us fast enough. A quick look at his left leg and we could see it was swollen and warm to the touch.
So that title isn't exactly accurate. There will be, in fact, some "try" involved in this year's feast. Just not as much as I have in years past. We had a few late cancelations, so we won't have as many people to cook for, so that cuts back on a lot. But most of the pressure to "do it big" comes from within.
When it comes to farming (or homesteading or large-scale gardening or whatever your chosen designation), seed is king. Starting with the proper seeds and taking care of the proper seeds can mean the difference between a beautifully healthy crop, and a very pissed off, angry shopper in the produce department at Kroger. Believe me, I've been there.
The aftereffect of a full day of processing chickens and ducks.
It's ugly and dirty work, but seeing a deep freezer full of meat for weeks to come is incredibly satisfying.
It's just before dinner on a Tuesday night and the house is calm. FF is watching a cartoon with FF Boy, FF Girl is getting some beauty rest, and I sit here typing a blog entry, reflecting on the day and feeling the whole "farm mom" vibe.
Today's activities included making sourdough biscuits and sausage for breakfast with the help of FF Girl; guiding FF Boy through the quirks of the English language (we're learning to read ee and ea words, such as see and lean); coaxing our Bearded Dragon, Kevin, to eat more than just mealworms; and arguing with FF Girl over whether she should wear denim cowboy boots EVERYWHERE. She won, by the way, as I think she looks pretty cute even if the aforementioned boots are often caked in mud and chicken shit.
When you move out to the country, you don't always realize how much the little things will change. We certainly didn't. We knew about the obvious - a longer drive to get to the nearest grocery store, an obvious lack of movie theaters, craft beer not even existing within 20 miles.
But here's a few tips to the things that we didn't expect. Hope they help you a little before (or maybe even during) your move to rural life.
I'm the wife of a Fledgling Farmer(FF) and mom to Fledgling Farmer Boy(FFB) and Fledgling Farmer Girl(FFG).