It’s May! Yay! Those April showers certainly have brought the flowers and with them the blackberry bushes. I have a love/hate relationship with those vines. Yes, they do provide the most wonderful berries in which I will gather and devour along my morning walk in the next few weeks. Those same vines are viciously cruel, leaving me looking as if I was dropped into a pit of wet and angry feral cats. It does not matter how careful you are, those beastly thorns will find the most vulnerable unprotected patch of skin to torture.
When we purchased our property two years ago it was wildly overgrown, there are still areas on our five acres that we have yet to set foot on. It’s been a battle with hedge clippers and a lawn mower but I am gaining ground. I am using all the tools I possess to claim my land and my future. Along with the multitude of scratches, cuts, and painful thorns embedded in my tender flesh are the lovely hidden surprises uncovered as I subdue my little plot of earth. Yesterday my prize was a tiny purple flower standing defiantly lovely in contrast to it’s prickly confinement. This kind of beauty is what compels me forward despite the pain I might endure.
Farmlife, as in all life is, is full of these moments where joy and pain walk hand in hand. Last month we watched as one egg out of twenty miraculously hatched after 46 days of not so patient watching on my behalf. I had finally given up and decided to discard the last two eggs from the nest when I heard peeping coming from one of the eggs. I rushed to replace the egg to the nest before it’s mama returned and the next morning I was rewarded with the smallest little fluff of yellow I had ever seen. Joy! My hope fulfilled! I made the decision to leave the duckling and entrust it to the faithful duck who had set there so long for this little lone survivor to hatch. I returned to find it’s tiny form cold and lifeless on the ground, it appeared to unsuccessfully follow it’s mother outside the shelter. Death and loss is always painful, even a tiny duckling not fully one day old can have an impact on one’s heart. Life can be brutal as well as beautiful.
It wasn’t even a full week later that another lone survivor duckling hatched , this time from our incubator. We had started with ten eggs but only four started developing. I had begun to lose hope when a mistake on our sensor placement caused the temperature to rise higher than it should. Against the odds, this little one made it and the joy of this triumph was made just a little sweeter in contrast to the dismay I felt earlier in the week. Trials, pain, disappointments and such are the black lines in a painting that define and enhance the colors of our life. Hope and patience to wait for beauty in the midst of pain and loss is the intrinsic nature of a farmer. It takes faith to place those costly, diligently thought out seeds in the ground and wait for the fruit of their labor. So many factors are out of our control and yet there is no victory in life without taking risk and doing the hard work. Our labor may be painful and the risk come with a cost but we will not gain anything of true value without it.
I may be tenderly typing this entry with sore, berry bush thrashed hands but; I do have a renewed passion and gratitude for my life and that my friends is worth it.
The last four weeks of my life has centered around ducks. I really didn’t mean to go from 7 ducks to 28 in less than a month but “hey, things happen right?”. We were on nest watch 2018, (as our Call Ducks hens were sitting on their eggs) when the brilliant idea to take home 6 ducklings from our local Tractor Supply popped into my head. We were actually at the store to purchase an incubator for some of our fertile Pekin eggs but 28 days was just too long for me to wait for ducklings to hatch. To be honest we weren’t even sure if the Call Ducks would be successful. So, little peeping box in hand I arrived home with my first batch of ducklings and set them up in our bathtub.
It was just a couple days later that I realized I needed some additional females for our adult Pekin duck males. My poor girls were just overwhelmed with the overabundant ardor directed at them and needed some relief from those two Don Juans. We got up early last Saturday and took the hour drive to a poultry auction with the task of finding our guys some new ladies. There was only one cage of females and they were dirty and definitely needed some care. The compassionate and competitive part of my nature squashed any of the practical aspect in my decision making process, I knew without a doubt that lot #3134 would be coming home with me. With a steely no-nonsense expression I raised my wrinkled index card with number 143 written on it and battled another bidder until for $7 a piece those 4 scraggly ducks were mine. In addition, I also took home 6 more ducklings and a Welsh Harlequin drake to solidify my status as a crazy duck lady.
In farming as in all endeavors it is best to be practical and think things through before acting. There are, as in all decisions made, the consequences of those actions. From the beginning of this Smith Farmhouse experiment I have brought home animals before we were fully prepared for them. These choices have contributed to some crazy, pull it together moments I won’t soon forget. I am learning to slow down and plan more thoughtfully through the details. It is best to do your homework before the you take the test if you know what I mean. Doing so makes the process less stressful for everyone. Farming has taught me to plan wisely with the future in mind and not entirely with my emotions in haste.
With that said, there are those special times where you have to listen to your heart and take a chance on a long shot. If you do, you might find yourself a lucky duck.. or four or even more!
I recently pulled into my driveway to find my four Pekin ducks napping in a perfectly spaced out row. For a person such as myself who likes things orderly, I was first delighted and then equally dismayed. I had the realization I would definitely not get a close up without at least one duck head popping up and ruining my shot. Knowing time was of the essence, I quickly grabbed my phone (with the still shattered screen) and snapped two fast shots before the ducks became aware of my surveillance and decided to move on to their next activity.
Farmlife is amazing, so far it is all I ever dreamed it would be and more, it is also a constant battle to stay focused and organized. There is always a new problem to solve, a mess to clean and something that needs my attention. It is not much different from the days of homeschooling my three kids when they were children. I remember the feelings of inadequacy and unpreparedness I had then. They often rose up within and had the capability of sending me into a spiral of excessive activity and frenzy in an attempt to overcome the fear of failure that always seemed to be chasing after me. I admit it…I struggle with wanting to be perfect, but I know I am not. I hate making mistakes… but I have made many and I still do… a lot. I wish I could tell my younger self to relax and breathe; to not worry so much about perfection but to embrace and enjoy the process.
The lessons I have learned from my many failures, mistakes and blunders have been so valuable in my journey to get to where I am today. I no longer allow fear to restrain me, I am taking risks and pursuing the endeavors I have put off for so long. I can’t take back the time wasted in mindless worry and regret but I can look forward to what is ahead : being a grandparent for the first time, finishing my first children’s book , growing our farm and whatever other new and exciting adventure comes our way.
I may have ducklings in my bathtub, a farm dog sleeping in my bed and straw showing up in the strangest places but; I finally got all my ducks in a row.
I got the picture to prove it!