Tag Archives: Farming

Happy If — Happy When: Why Write a Musical?

 

Here is the link to my latest blog post on Psychology Today!

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-body-knows/201705/happy-if-happy-when-why-write-musical

Why, you may ask, would a scholar of religion/ dancer/ farmer/ mother of five decide to write a MUSICAL called HAPPY IF — HAPPY WHEN?

Believe me, it has been a mystery to me too!!!

But in writing this blog,  I began to figure it out.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Ten Years of Rural Life

Ten years ago ago this week, Geoff and I were packing our belongings. We had bought a farm, sold our house, and were preparing to move to a place where we had no friends, no family, no connections, no jobs—a place where we had been only once before, two weeks earlier. I was eight months pregnant with our fourth child. It felt as if we were jumping off a cliff. We were so excited.

We wanted a place where we would be able to do our art, raise our kids, and grow our love in closer connection with the natural world. Sure, we were terrified, but that terror was tempered with intense curiosity. What would our new rural life be like?

It has been everything we wanted, more than we imagined, and far different than we anticipated. What we didn’t know would fill many books—some of which I have already written. Here are a few notes from the ten-year mark.

1. A place is not what you make; a place is what makes you.

As Geoff and I prepared to move, we had great visions of how we would make this farm our own. We would carve out a space for ourselves, put our stamp upon it, create it into the place we wanted it to be. Our home. Our center. Ours.

We quickly realized that this land and this farm had ideas of its own—existing structures, patterns of fertility and growth, vistas and views. And nothing we wanted to accomplish would succeed unless we paid attention. The garden would not grow. The water would not flow. The fence would not stand.

This place did not belong to us. We belonged to it.

We submitted. The place was too beautiful not to do so! It has made us into who it wanted and needed us to be—caretakers of its ongoing health and well-being. People who love it all the more for being so.

2. Perfection unfolds in time.

When we moved, there were so many things about the farm that were broken, run down, and just not quite right. At first we did not even think we would stay in the house for long. We would fix it up, and then build another house further up the hill, in the hayfields. We did not want to live so close to the road.

But the farm resisted. Who needs two houses? Why spoil the hayfields? Why abandon the lower part of the property? We contemplated selling this place and trying to find another piece of land in the area, but in the end, could not bear to leave this one. What were we to do?

Meanwhile, the septic system was failing, the front porch was falling off, the big barn was falling in, and suddenly, all of these glaring issues that had been nagging us for years came together in one glorious opportunity. We decided to do what we could to make the road not matter. We got some help, and took off the porch, took down the barn, built some fences, and opened up a soccer field on one side of the house and a barnyard on the other. We no longer wanted to live anywhere else.

3. The farm will provide.

Of course, once the big barn was down, the barnyard was a field of rubble. Trucking in topsoil was far too expensive to contemplate. What would we do? It was one of those moments that happens all the time: the farm provides.

While we did not have money for fine dirt, we did have cattle—to whom we feed large bales of hay cut from our fields all winter. So we put those bales on the rubble. Magic. Hay plus manure equals grass the following spring. Instead of feeling poor, we felt incredibly rich. We had what we needed.

4. We are nature when we work with it.

When we moved, we carried with us a certain romantic notion of the natural world—a back-to-the-land naiveté. I imagined walking through the fields, appreciating their beauty, feeling my connection to the earth, and then going to the grocery store for milk and cheese. I did not imagine that I’d be walking through nature while fixing a cattle fence, that I would be connecting to the earth by shoveling manure, or that I would be washing buckets and processing our own cow’s milk to meet all our dairy needs.

Humans do need to cultivate love for the earth, for themselves as earth, for sure. But humans also need to get their hands dirty, to sweat for the earth. In the daily work of taking care of particular animals and plants, and a particular patch of ground, we come to know how far from the natural world we really are so much of the time as we shop, communte, and surf the net.

Nature is work. Nature is always working, generating, creating. And we know ourselves as one with it when we allow it to work on us. Then we start asking questions that mean something to us. How are we spending our time? How are we spending our money? What are we planting? What are we raising? What are we creating?

5. No room for righteousness.

One of the challenges we set for ourselves after moving here was to provide as much of our own food as possible. It was fun. How far could we go? With milk from a cow, a coop full of hens, a fertile plot of land, a stove, a freezer, and some information, what could we do? We were well-trained to habits of eating branded, processed foods. So we took it slowly, food by food. We chose one and then another: what would it take to make this ourselves? Soft cheese? Hard cheese? Ice cream? Butter? Bread? Snacks? Granola?

The challenge wasn’t about adopting an ideal eating program and imposing it upon ourselves. It wasn’t about adhering to a principle or to the terms of contemporary debates over vegan, vegetarian, meat-eating, or other. It wasn’t just about the food. It was about being where we are—in this plot of a place—and learning how to participate in a workable system of production and consumption that would nourish both us and the earth.

Our cows are not just milk machines. They are living creatures who link us to the land in mutually life-enabling ways. The cows enable us to take care of the land and the land to take care of us. We move the cattle through twelve different pastures to ensure that the grass keeps growing for them. We give them year round food, shelter from storms, and lots of chin scratches, not to mention mountain views. The cows feed and fertilize. The milk they make that we take is grass we gave them, now nourishing us, so that we can keep caring for them.

In this search for earth-friendly ways, there is no formula. There is no model for all to follow. All humans are caught up in a vast cultural net that wrecks havoc on the natural world, regardless of what we individually do. People live in different places with different resources and requirements. However, we all do have experiences to share and insights to offer, as we strive to steer the trajectory of humankind in ways that will support the ongoing life of the planet.

6. Dance is everywhere.

It is not immediately obvious why someone would move to a farm in order to dance. What does pulling weeds have to do with working a plie?

For me the connection was sensory. The inspiration to dance wells fullest in me when I am moved to move by the movement of the natural world. So I sought it out. And in seeking it out, my desire to dance evolved. Soon dance was no longer about creating concert productions for performance in a black box—as valuable and rewarding as such endeavors can be. It was about tapping into a primal, kinetic creativity that funds every moment of my life—and writing about it.

On the farm, I have come to realize that dance is everywhere, in everyone. In this place, where it is impossible to ignore how everything is constantly moving, changing, evolving, the importance of dancing appears anew.

If movement is all there is, then how humans move matters. And if how humans move matters, then dance appears as something more than physical exercise or an optional art. Dance appears as a way in which humans learn to participate in the ongoing creation of what is. It appears as a way of cultivating a sensory awareness that can guide humans to create relationships with sources of wonder and sustenance in their lives. And it has always been so.

Life on the farm has helped me to appreciate, as I never could before, how fundamental dancing has been to the evolution of the human species, how important it is to the development of individual humans and communities, and how important it may be to our collective future. Dancing is human.

What will the next ten years hold? I have no idea. But at least I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow.

Kimerer L LaMothe is the author of Why We Dance: A Philosophy of Bodily Becoming

A Summer with Legs

Providence (second from the right) and friends

This summer we have faced a good chunk of challenges having to do with legs. First there was our hen—a Rhode Island Red whom we named Providence. Her troubles began in the chicken coop that night when Geoff and I were yanked out of bed by a ferocious squawking. We ran down stairs, pulled on muck boots, and ran to the coop in our nightclothes to find Providence on the coop floor. Her right thigh was torn open. The leg beneath was bent at a right angle right at the ring where the feathers end.We saw nothing else amiss, until we rotated the flashlight up to the rafters and found two glowing orbs. A raccoon—a large raccoon—was peering down at us, wondering what would happen next.

We found the place where the racoon had pried the chicken wire loose from the window frame and slipped through. We moved Providence to a bed of hay in the corner, fixed the window, and finally managed—after failed attempts to coax, cajole, startle and scare the raccoon out of his perch—to hit the back of the coop with sticks in a rhythm catchy enough to move that raccoon out of the coop and into a nearby tree.

The next morning, in broad daylight, I took a good look at Providence’s leg. The thigh wound was already healing. We had seen worse. It looked like it could heal. But that lower leg was a bent twig. Providence could not stand up, extend the leg, or put any weight on it. When she tried, her wings would flap and flap in a desperate attempt to balance. The other hens were bothered by this obviously aggressive action and rushed to peck her into place. At this point I knew that Providence would not make it if we left her with the others. The healthy hens, unable to tolerate weakness or difference, would peck her to death.

I made a splint for Providence’s peg. I located our large cat carrier, layered it with hay, added food and water, and placed Providence carefully inside. She sat quietly. Was there hope? Could she heal? Every couple of days we would take her out, change the hay, and examine the leg. The splint failed. The leg turned black. She was not eating much, but she would eat green things—leaves and shoots—when Kai and Leif held them out to her.

Meanwhile, Daisy, our seven-year old Jersey, our first cow and matriarch of our herd, went into heat. We knew because Bright and Blaze, our 1800-pound oxen were suddenly standing sentinel, chins poised above her back, guarding the gate to her future generations. We called our “AI” guy who came with his pickup truck, carrying frozen bull sperm, and put it in place. Later that afternoon, Daisy’s right rear leg was hanging, disconnected from the ground. She was holding her hoof high. Had she been hurt by overly enthusiastic oxen? Or a hidden hole? We had no idea.

We examined the leg. Her foot was warm and sensitive. We assumed a strain or sprain or break. But what can you do? You cannot cast a cow. Bright once hurt his leg and it swelled horribly. We waited nine long weeks. Then, he put it down and began walking. Now he pulls his own weight—and sleds full of firewood—as part of a yoked team.

We put Daisy in a pasture by herself, close to the barn, so she could stay still and eat without having to compete. Cows cannot easily move on three legs like a dog or cat can. They need four on the floor. Nevertheless, within a few days, Daisy had learned to lurch herself around the pasture to preferred spots, seemingly calm and content on her three legs. She would stretch out her neck, lean her body forward, and then hop her left leg to catch up.

To milk her, one of us would carry a bucket up the hill to wherever she was, and squat down to milk her in the field, by hand, without a stanchion to hold her still, hoping she would not hop. To avoid being splashed by jostled milk, we learned to notice her thrusting chin—sign of an imminent move. We practiced pulling the bucket out from underneath her right at that moment in her heave forward when she would have kicked it.

Meanwhile, when not helping to give Providence and Daisy a leg up, Jordan decided to try out our new scythe in a far meadow. He woke at 4:30 AM, took the scythe into the field, and moved back and forth with an even rhythmic swing for four hours. In bare feet. It was a beautiful sight.

The next evening, the tops of Jordan’s feet were sore. The following morning—48 hours after he had scythed the meadow—his feet-tops were bright red and covered with clear pus-filled blisters as long as an inch and as tall as three-quarters of an inch. The culprit: poison parsnip juice lit by the sun. As Jordan had sliced through these encroaching plants, setting their stalks aside, his feet had brushed by the cut stems. Unknown to him, juice from these stems had triggered a chemical reaction in his skin, rendering him hypersensitive to the sun’s searing rays. His feet were not a pretty sight.

For the week following, Jordan could not stand, walk, or even think of wearing shoes. He spent most of the time on the couch, with his feet up. Fortunately, he had company—two young brothers, newly released from school–who couldn’t get enough time playing board games. Undeterred by his painful plant encounter, Jordan picked up Aldo Leopold’s classic call to love the wildness of the wilderness–Sand County Almanac–and read it cover to cover.

Those of us left standing were waiting on Jordan, tending to Providence, hauling water up to Daisy, and bringing her milk back down—most of it in the bucket, and the rest on our clothes.

Meanwhile, Providence was getting stronger. One afternoon I opened the door of the cat crate and she tried to stand up. I took her out of the crate and she plopped back down again. “Come on, Providence! You can do it!” She tried again. I had the boys feed her more lettuce and spinach and grass by hand. She hopped and flapped her wings vigorously, beating for balance, while we kept the other hens away.

We started taking Providence out of the crate during the day and leaving her outside of the coop, while the others were in. Or we would leave her in the coop while the others were in the back pen. Mostly she sat. But then she began hopping around a bit more, spending more time standing on her one leg. Her hurt thigh had new skin. Her broken, black leg remained folded beneath her. I tried introducing her to the hens again. Those lower in the pecking order stood alongside her, happily enough. Only the top hens turned upon her. I separated them again.

Daisy and Maggie

Meanwhile, Daisy was not improving. Her knee started to swell. We called the Vet. He prescribed anti-inflammatory medicine and time spent even more immobile than she had been, in a stall. We could not drink her drugged milk. But Maple’s calf Magnolia could. So we put Maggie in the stall with Daisy so that Daisy could nurse her great-granddaughter. As many years as I have nursed, Daisy has me beat.

Fortunately, Jordan’s feet were finally permitting themselves to be used. So twice a day, while Jessica and Kyra were milking Maple, Jordan started going out with his scythe—wearing shoes—to gather a tarp full of grass for Daisy and Maggie. He could give have given them dried, crunchy hay, but the fresh grass is so much more delicious and nutritious.

Then one day Providence’s broken leg fell off. Claw and all. Yet rather than suffer this loss, she began standing taller still, hopping more, and asserting her place in the flock. Now, just over two months after her attack, Providence is back. She hops gracefully with no need for wild wing action. She lowers beak to grain without toppling over; tips her head up to swallow water and does not fall. Even more, none of the other hens seem to mind. Once again, she is one of them. Our one-legged hen. Providence indeed.

Providence

Last night, Jessica came in from chores: “Mom! I just saw Providence stealing food from another hen!” Ordinarily, I am don’t support stealing, but in this case, I’ll take it as a sign of unexpected, irrepressible life returning. Hooray.

So now we are all waiting on Daisy. We have one more dose of anti-inflammatory to dispense. The swelling in her knee is down; her leg still dangles. But we have hope. As long as she is healthy and not in pain, as long as her quality of life is good, we will wait to see what solutions nature has in store, and align our actions as best we can with whatever healing is happening.

Here’s to a summer with legs.

Farm Follies and Rural Realities

It is happening–the change–when summer yields to fall. Things fall down, fall away, and fall apart. Like the rate at which the grass grows. The charge on the electric fence. Our plans for trapping rats and feeding cats. And yes, the leaves on the trees.
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When the grass stops growing, the cattle don’t stop eating. Soon enough, the grass on the other side of their electric fence looks greener. And they are right. Meanwhile the fence’s charge has dropped, due to undue weed contact grounding out its pulse. Thus the fall challenge: escaping cattle.

Earlier this month, I heard a rustling at 3 AM, only to find our steers in the raspberry bushes. Within minutes, Geoff and I were out with flashlights herding them back. A few days later the phone rang at 5:30 AM—kindness of a local farmer who had just spotted our cattle in a nearby field. Geoff, Jordan, Jessica and I were on the case within minutes.

Then two weeks ago came the dreaded knock in the middle of the day. I was alone, working at my computer. The man drove a NYSEG electrical truck. “Your cows are out,” he smiled, “Down by the corner.” I thanked him, grimacing. They were about a half mile away. I couldn’t drive to get them, because I couldn’t quite fit them in the trunk of the car. I would have to herd them back on foot. Where would I put the car? I grabbed a couple of rope halters and started jogging down the road.

I got to the corner. No cattle. I kept going over a small rise. No cattle. Finally I saw them, a couple hundred yards in front of me, standing right in the middle of the road: Bright, a two-thousand pound steer; Dragonfly, his one year old Jersey pal; and Dandelion, one of our milkers. Bright, at least, has been trained—by Jordan. But would he listen to me?

“Stand!” I bellowed, huffing and puffing along. “Stand!”

Bright, to my surprise, stopped and turned his head. The other two did too, following his good example. They looked like frozen statues—right in the middle of this county route road. “Stand!” I kept yelling as I kept jogging, hoping to hold them in place with sheer force of will. But I needn’t have worried. I could tell what they were thinking: “What is that crazy creature waving and bellowing and flapping along?”

I drew near—but not too close. I didn’t want them to bolt. I circled them and started to walk from behind. “Time to go home now.” Luckily, cattle prefer a path. The road counts as a path. Unluckily, they do not recognize a double yellow line as a sign not to pass. Luckily, there weren’t any cars. Unluckily, any cars that would come would be traveling 50 miles an hour. I jogged along, up and down the line, keeping the three close to the shoulder, feeling somewhat like a sheep dog.

When I finally got them back into the fence (the halters came in handy for that), I realized that I would have to walk the pasture perimeter to find out where they had escaped. They had been in the uppermost field. I strided for ten minutes straight up hill and walked the perimeter, eyes hooked on the wire. When I got back to the beginning, having found no breaks or popped insulators, I took a deep breath. My gaze, released from the fence, floated up and then fell into one of the most gorgeous views on earth. Red, yellow, orange leaves, floating and falling, with blue mountains behind. I sat down. I savored it. I thanked the cattle. Bright stood there watching me.

The next day, Jordan took two hours to walk around all of our pastures with a machete, chopping any plant that touched the wire. The charge came back, and the cattle are now staying in, dreaming of greener pastures. They will come.
*
Speaking of furry creatures. Fall is a time when the rats scurry about looking for winter homes. They seem to prefer ours. Every October we hear a tell-tail scratch coming through the walls, a scrambling overhead, and a rustle in the basement.

We tried ignoring the rats, until they began to chew holes in our new PEX plumbing. We have tried traps, but the rats manage to steal every chunk of cheese, peanut butter, or potato without so much as a snap. We have tried cats outside of the house and inside of the house—we now have five. But we need cats that go between inner and outer house.

When all else fails, we resort to “feeding” the rats bright green poison pellets, until the pitter-patter pats stop. Inevitably, however, we suffer rat revenge. Inevitably, one of them gets stuck in the wall, and reeks for a week.
*
Speaking of furry and fragrant creatures, we seem to have attracted a family of skunks. They like cat food. Who knew?

The other night, our cat Zelsha came to sit on my pillow at 3 AM. If I have forgotten to put her out, she does so, asking for food. I got up to get her some food—she will sit on my pillow purring loudly until I do—and then went to put her and the food outside.

I cracked the side door. There, on the stoop was a skunk. I closed the door. I looked again through the window. There were actually two skunks, parent and baby, trying to drink from a milk bucket we had left out there that had a few inches of milk in the bottom. I almost thought, “Cute!”

I decided to put Zelsha and her food out the front door, and then went back to the side door to see about the skunks. They were gone. I paused, and then went again to the front door. There they were, eating the cat food, with Zelsha looking on helplessly.

How did they get there so quickly?! How do you chase away a skunk? I didn’t want to provoke it!

I decided to rely on musician-farmer Geoff’s proven method: the trumpet. I, however, am not the one who usually blows it. I cracked the door and blew as hard as I can. Where is that big blast? All that came out was a long, low, flat whoosh. Great. The skunk didn’t move. It was inches away from me. I closed the door and reassessed my options. I decided to try again. Once, twice, blowing a trumpet at a skunk at 3 AM in the morning. Finally, I got a small toot, and then another. I was panting. The skunk waddled away. Slowly.

I went back to the side door, ready to get the milk bucket. The baby skunk was still there, perched on the bucket’s edge, trying to get the milk its snout could not reach. As I watched, the baby fell into the bucket. Great! I thought. Baby skunk drowns in milk pail! As I worried about how to rescue a splashing skunk, I watched as it made its way out of the bucket and waddled down the walkway, painting a long wiggly white trail with its milk-soaked brush of a tail.

I gave Zelsha her food and went back to bed.
*
Garden production has surely fallen. We are now harvesting three crops: broccoli, chard, and kale. It doesn’t take long every evening to snip a few greens. We waited all summer for that broccoli, wanting some for our salads. And now we have salads with nothing but. Call it the broccoli balance.

The kale, meanwhile, is the best ever. When it was growing so quickly, we picked the largest leaves, leaving the smaller ones to grow larger. Now, every night, the leaves we cut get smaller and greener and tastier. Even the kids love it.

Last week, our three-year old son, who happens to be called Leif, and whose favorite color happens to be green, gave himself a new nickname. “I am a kale boy!” he announced proudly.

Really, I thought, it could be much worse.

Birth of B.B. (Baby Bull)!

I am trying to draft this week’s blog entry while playing legos with Kai when I hear the cry. Jessica has just returned from her garden where she went to thin the plant-threatening weeds. “Daisy! She’s up in the field, licking something small and brown on the grass!”

I leap into action. We have been waiting for this moment. I slip Leif into the sling, grab Kai’s hand, and with Kyra and Jessica, stride up the hill. Of course, Daisy picked the farthest and most remote corner of our hillside pasture.

I see them from a far, mother and babe! It is here! I had checked a couple of hours earlier. Daisy is fast! Lucky her.

We draw near. Daisy hovers protectively. Our other cows circle with interest. The steers graze calmly further down the hill. While Daisy is usually as sweet as her name, we don’t want to risk a charging cow. We stop yards away and gaze. You know how new mothers can be. Dasiy doesn’t need us, obviously. However, we do want to make sure the young one gets Daisy’s colostrum during those first vital hours when its stomachs (yes, plural) are extra able to absorb the early milk’s rich nutrients.

I send Jessica close. Bull or heifer? Can you tell? We want to know.

It’s a bull. A pang shoots through my heart. Ah well. Who knows what will happen to him. Breeder, ox, or meat? At this point we focus on his cuteness. He is so cute!

We watch as he struggles to his legs. Daisy circles him, placing her head between him and the electrified wires that bound their pasture. Good mom. Then, just as the calf starts heading for her udder, Auntie Precious comes along to give him a friendly nudge, and the calf goes sprawling to the ground.

Daisy steps daintily and firmly between her calf and Precious. A few minutes later, he is up again, and this time an eager Dandelion, Daisy’s first child, swoops in from the side to see, and again he is tumbling, legs like tossed pick up sticks. The steers are now approaching, sniffing with curiosity. Daisy moos persistently. Her udder is so full that her teats are sticking out sideways. I am sure she can’t wait for him to nurse.

I decide that we have to help. Jessica hikes back to the barn for a lead rope, bucket and bottle. We loop the rope over Precious and tie her to a nearby tree. I hand the Leif-laden sling to Jessica and take the bucket. Daisy is sensitive at first. Every time I touch her udder she swats me with her hind leg. I finally hold her leg back with my left shoulder while pulling on one front teat with my right hand. Slowly slowly the stream begins, so golden that it is practically orange! (Someone has to explain to me how the beta carotene in bright green grass makes milk peach-y.)

Daisy settles down and lets me pull. She obviously feels the relief. Meanwhile the calf is nibbling at my side. Not me, little one! I want to be the missing link.

The bucket begins to fill. When I have more than I want to lose, I stop, grab the bottle, and begin pouring from bucket to bottle. Colostrum spills over the edges and every which way, thick and sticky.

Finally the bottle is half full—a quart. I begin feeding the calf as Daisy noses the empty bucket. He is sucking! I hand the bottle to Kyra, take the sling from Jessica, who then takes the bottle from Kyra, to feed the (still unnamed) baby bull (hereafter “B.B.”) the last few drops. Bottle empty, we begin again. I give the Leif-filled sling to Jessica, take the bucket and start milking.

I laugh. How is it I am here?

We give B.B. a second quart. He is getting the hang of the bottle.

We hear a car in the driveway. Geoff and Jordan are finally home from school (the rest of us are home schooling this year). Jordan! Daisy is his cow. I stride down to greet them. Daisy needs water; she is thirsty. Jordan fills two large buckets and we walk together back up the hill. He is walking with those heavy buckets as quickly as I am. “It’s what you call love,” he says.

A moment later I watch as Jordan’s face explodes into a smile at the sight of his calf. He scratches B.B. under the chin, and then goes to work. He is the milking expert. Minutes later he has another bottle going. Lucky calf!

I return to the house, smiling. Time to finish my blog.

Today B.B. is steady on those peg legs. His large brown eyes gaze expectantly, waiting for all the sticky sweet things life has in store for him. We are waiting too!

By next week, we’ll be “in the milk” again, and I’ll post what I was writing earlier.

Animal Update

So how are the animals, anyway?

As with most matters of life, there is good news and bad news, and the two are intextricably entwined.

Beginning with the bad news: our birds. A couple of weeks ago, one of our hens mysteriously disappeared. We could find no signs of struggle or disease, and assumed she was safely nesting somewhere. A couple of days later, the rooster was gone, and our duck, Pikey. Then we knew. A fox had found our feathered friends.

Pikey was the saddest loss. She was our oldest bird. She had already endured the trauma of losing her partner (after quacking for 12 hours straight), and survived an earlier weasel attack. She could not outfox the fox.

Good news for the fox family.

Several days later, further down the road, someone’s car found the fox. Good news for our remaining birds.

Also in the good news category, our neighbor had an extra rooster. Too many roosters in close quarters and you have a problem, and he did, penned as the birds were to protect them from the fox. So he brought his extra rooster over in a grain bag. When the rooster emerged, a blast of shiny orange, Kyra instantly named him Sunset.

“Don’t you want to name him Sunrise?” I asked. No, she was sure. That orange was the color of sunset. The artist knows. The irony is that of all the roosters we have had, Sunset is the only one who crows when roosters should: first thing in the morning and then only.

We like this rooster, so do our orange-red hens. Good news for us all, though we wonder why. Our hens wanted nothing to do with Brewster, our white rooster. They would scatter as he approached. Sunset seems to have the touch. Or the right color. Or maybe it’s that the hens’ fear of the fox is working in his long-taloned, big-breasted favor. Good news for him.

Other news in the (mostly) good column is that we are expecting again–our cows that is. Precious, our Houdini heifer, is now finally and indeed pregnant! The Vet told us so. She is due in February, around Geoff’s birthday. It will be a great gift for him–a night spent in a cold dark barn, waiting for Precious’s calf to drop.

Daisy, our two year old, is also pregnant and for the second time. Good news, yes. However, in preparation for her approaching September due date, we have dried her up. No more milking. No more milk.

We are going through serious withdrawal. We miss the milk of course–the gallons of life-enabling elixir a day. We miss the butter, cream, ice cream and cheese we made with it. We miss the rhythms of milking that paced our days. And though I am reluctant to admit it, we even miss washing all of those buckets. Remind me in February, when we are milking Precious too.

Meanwhile our youngest human animal is growing like a weed. Seven weeks and a day, he is smiling left and right, up and down, beloved by all. Before we know it he’ll be chasing the chickens, milking the cow, and maybe even washing buckets.