In the country, spring evenings are magical. The air is cool but calm, the smell is divine with the damp earth and new growing things. A hint of green can be seen for miles around in the wheat pasture and in the faint beginnings of leaves on the trees. The evenings are long and luxurious and filled with outdoor activities beyond chores--Riding the horses down the road, going to the pond to look for tadpoles.
Depending on the livestock we were raising, our chores often included bottle feeding a new baby lamb or calf. Little animal babies are so adorable! The calves butt at the bottle and you have to keep a good grip on the bottle or it will be pulled from your hands. And woe to the person who doesn't get the red rubber nipple pushed firmly onto the bottle--an unplanned milk bath could be the result! Then you have to take your stinky, sticky self back to the house and start over again with the milk mixing!
Baby lambs are easier to feed. We used a glass coke bottle (back in the day) and the nipple was black and shiny and resembled a finger from a rubber glove. The trick here was to stretch it over the rim of the bottle and pull it down far enough the lamb couldn't pull it off with its butting and pushing! Their little tails swivel with glee when they are gulping down their supper. If you bottle feed a lamb, you will have one like Mary had--who followed her everywhere!
When I was a little girl, on of the many things we looked forward to in the spring was the arrival of baby chickens. I'm not sure where my parents ordered them, but they were delivered to our house on a truck (I think!) and the preparation for them was always exciting.
Our chicken house was cleaned and prepared for the new arrivals with heat lamps, a hanging feeder and those amazing galvanized waterers that held lots of water but only let a small amount out into the tray at a time.
Fresh straw was put down after the old was swept out and the only thing left was to await the arrival of the adorable fluffy little peepers.
One spring evening I distinctly remember, a large truck pulled up into our drive. It was filled with boxes and boxes of cheeping baby chickens and ducks and other sorts of poultry. The driver unloaded our boxes and off he went to deliver the rest of them to who knows where. You know of course, that the truck might have been small, it might have only had a few more boxes, or it might exist only in my mind!
We excitedly carried the boxes of chickens to their new home and gently released them under the warming beam of the heat lamp. It didn't take them long to search out the food and water. Some stayed huddled under the warm light, some took off, exploring their surroundings and falling into the waterer or the feeder. And pooping in them of course!
There were always a few that, even to our child's eyes, were puny looking and we were certain they wouldn't last long. They, of course, were the ones we wanted to claim for our own and perhaps even put them in a box in the utility room for extra food, and water and attention! Somehow, none ever made it to the utility room box. We didn't need anymore demands on our chores and chickens are in flocks because they like it (or so our parents always said)--they didn't need any alone time.
As long as the chicks were still downy balls of fluff, we spent lots of time out in the chicken house, cuddling them and catching them and watching them peck at their food. Have you ever seen a chicken drink? It dips its beak in the water, then tips its head back so it will run down its throat. It is extremely cute--in a chicken-ish sort of way!
Once the feathers started coming in, the cute baby-ness started wearing off. By then, the runty ones had either caught up with their flock mates or went to that big nest in the sky. Chickens in the adolescent stage are not so cute. They are lanky and awkward and have bumps and spots (like humans!) as their feathers grow in. The mean ones would begin to show their true colors with a swift peck at the ankle.
As spring progressed, the cute babies become everyday boring chores. It was a battle to keep the dog away from an easy chicken supper. We argued over who had to feed and carry that heavy sloshing waterer. We milk-sodden chore kids were ready for the calves to graduate to a bucket and grain so we could escape the never-ending bottle shaking to dissolve the milk replacer. By the time the lambs lost their tails (they were banded) and became gawky, leggy adolescents, the charm had worn off their demanding cries for supper.
Although I remember why chores are called chores (everyday, no matter the weather!) on long, warm spring evenings like tonight, I can't help but reminisce about spring on the farm. --Remembering the way the hair swirls on the forehead of a baby calf.
--Recalling the plaintive bleating and the way the lambs would attempt to climb the fence as we approached.
--Hearing again the soft, continual peeping in the chicken house and the croak of frogs in the pond.
--Feeling the horse sway beneath me as we clop together down the quiet rural roads.
--Watching the sun set in a glorious display of color as my mom calls us in to eat...
It is spring!
Many stories herein are subject to the faulty, and sometimes creative, memory of the blog owner and should not be taken as factual, although the names and events are real! Kind of.