10 Things I Learned About Country Living, The Hard Way
Life is full of clichés! “Life turns on a dime” is one of them. It will always turn sharpest when you least expect it, and if you are not holding on tight, it is guaranteed you will end up in a pile of horse puckey! The good news is that soap and water will get things back to normal … or at least acceptable.
Wonderful neighbors can help, but some lessons of country living must be learned the hard way. Here are just a few I have learned in less than a year:
1. Do not back into an electric fence while working on the siding of a garage. The resulting “ZAP” to the backside will propel you head first into the solid wall with amazing force. They do not call it seeing stars for nothing.
2. Speaking of electric fences, are you aware the human body is a perfect conductor of electricity? DO NOT lean over the electric fence to try and feed your horse a piece of apple. When you connect with the fence, just as she is taking the apple from your hand, she gets a jolt too. The end result: a 16-hand-high mare that runs like crazy when she sees an apple.
3. Broody hens are well known, but cannot hold a candle to a broody 18-pound hen turkey. My suggestion, unless you feel like facing a right down angry 23-pound tom to boot: Let her be.
Blue Slate tom turkey
4. It really doesn’t matter how many nice roosting areas you put up in the coop; most turkeys will head to the rafters, where they are free to deposit copious amounts of fertilizer the length of your barn, usually on the seat of your riding mower with uncanny aim.
5. When purchasing chicks marked as “pullets” from a local feed store, be prepared for the fact that the chicken sexer may have had an off day or need glasses. 12 Black Jersey Giant pullets turned into 12 crowing roosters, making sleep after 5 am a distant memory. By the way, as long as there is daylight, roosters crow, loudly. I now dream of fried chicken and tell myself: Come fall, I will have a freezer full of chicken and sleep past 5 am!
6. Pot bellied pigs are stubborn. If they feel entitled to some back scratching and you feel you do not have the time to accommodate them, they are perfectly capable of grabbing onto the hem of your jeans and dragging you across the pen, usually through their wallow, to make their point!
Miss Mimi a rescued pot bellied pig
7. As eager as you are for that first ripe tomato, or perfectly formed ear of corn from your garden, there are less patient diners equally as eager and happy to avail themselves under cover of darkness to the buffet.
8. Nothing, I repeat, nothing on the farm will grow faster than a weed, especially if it is in a flower bed or garden. Use mulch, often and thickly, otherwise you risk never seeing your flowers again.
9. You are not the only one with a garden. No one else around wants any more zucchini, tomatoes or cucumbers. Learn to can your own produce. Learn the proper way to freeze the excess, and no, you just can’t throw those extra beans in the freezer without blanching them first – at least not if you expect them to be edible. How bad is it if even the pig won’t touch it?
10. Last but not least, nothing on the farm is as stupid as they would like you to believe. They are just waiting for your ignorance to surface so they can reap the rewards. A perfect example: I am putting 19, one-day-old Guinea hens into a brooder, and unbeknownst to me, I have left a tiny gap open in the cardboard surrounding them. Before I can fix it, 19 extremely small, unbelievably fast, little chicks with hypersensitive prey avoidance skills are loose in the barn. When threatened in the wild, they freeze stiff and don’t make a sound. My barn is 60’ x 30’ with many, as yet unexplored, mountains of barn stuff left to me by the former owner. There are four differently colored groups of chicks. The white ones were pretty easy; the brown striped ones with white wings, not too bad. The grey striped ones – OK, this is getting to be work. The brown, tan and black striped ones – heaven help me, I have been looking for the last two of this motley crew for the better part of an hour. I am covered in dirt, cobwebs and since it is 90 degrees outside, I smell like a goat. I know they are huddled together under some mountain of junk, laughing their little Guinea butts off at me. To abandon the search would be signing their death warrant. In desperation, I bring my 8-pound Mini Daschund to the barn. In short order she flushes out five mice, a rat snake and one ticked off mama rat. I am calling this one; I cannot find them anywhere. I go to get my straw cowboy hat, taken off while I was hanging upside down looking for the kiddies. Lo and behold, there, snuggled together on the brim, two baby Guinea hens, fast asleep and using each other as a pillow. If I wasn’t so hot, dehydrated and smelly, I might have laughed. Into the now securely reinforced brooder they go.
I love farm living!
Next lesson: A city slicker learns about ticks, chiggers and how to make wasps really angry!!
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