So, perhaps that title is a bit deceiving. I don't have a farming life, not as such, not yet. But slowly, slowly, I'm collecting skills. The past two weeks, I've been on blog sabbatical, taking care of a friend's farm.
Five goats, a plethora of chickens, a field of winter greens, and one border collie named Pepper. (I don't know if the other animals had names but, of course, I named them). So let me tell you a little story about a dog and two chickens. We'll call the first one Flo.
Flo had looked pretty droopy for a few days, and I knew about SCD (Sudden Chicken Death--they just sort of decide on it one day...not a bad way to go, honestly), so I'd had an eye on her. Anyway, that morning, she was in her nesting box, having very obviously passed on in the night. Now, dead and dying beings don't bother me much, as a rule. I mean, they do, of course, but I can handle it. But still. I gave her a little moment of silence; I wished her great grubbing in her next life.
And then I went to get the pitchfork, the bag--everything one needs for a sky burial.
Of course, no sooner had I turned, then a flash of white *outside* the pen caught my eye. A chicken. An escaped chicken.
We'll call her Bitsy.
Well, my first thought was, "Pepper! At last! You can live your herding destiny!" (She very brazenly and bravely herded everyone every morning, but she was on the other side of the fence, as it were). I didn't know what the magic herding words would be, so I just told her: "Go get it!" (You know. Universal dog for "bring me that thing!"). My idea was that each of us would corner her and I'd scoop her up a fly her over the coop.
Ha! Oh, cruel world..Pepper was scared shitless of this bird. So now, of course, it looked like a track and field event--me chasing a chicken around and around a coop, Pepper cowering in the grass.
I looked up, laughing, at the sky, and said (out loud, mind you), "Really??"
In all honesty? It was awesome.
It was awesome until poor Bits tried to shove her head through the coop in order to get to her sisters. Two dead chickens? Not on my watch. That's when I grabbed the rake.
No worries--it was a big plastic leaf rake. My plan was to block off one end of her path (since Pepper was all but useless) while I closed in on the other. Well. Best laid plans.
But, you know, miracles happen. Apparently Gaia had had her fun, and Pepper finally, finally got the idea. Her herding instincts kicked in and she blocked Bitsy off at the pass, I came at her from the other end, scooped her up, and over she went. Gossiping to this day, no doubt, about the disastrous excuse for a dog and a farmer to all of her twittering sisters. But, whatever. I survived middle school; I can handle a sassy chicken.
I put the rake away, got the pitchfork, gently lifted Flo from her box, placed her in a bag, and carried her out to the woods where she could complete this whole spark-to-ash cycle. Pepper accompanied me, which I thought was rather nice. Maybe she was finally seeing this whole cosmic cycle herself.
Or, maybe she was just looking for something else to herd because, let me tell you, there was no living with her after that... But you know? That's okay. I learned a lot from Pepper that day--our instincts will override our fear, if we give them the chance. I'm taking that example and running with it.
Or herding with it. At any rate, I'm ready to step inside the coop and see what I'm made of.