Wednesday, August 1, 2012
The real deal
We were with new friends. A woman in my Bible study had taken me up on my invitation to ride with us to the beach. After managing to fit all 4 of our collective car seats in the car, along with sand toys, lounge chairs, blankets, diapers, ice chests, etc. we were ready to go. Her newborn was sleeping peacefully while her 2 year-old raptly absorbed my sons' tales of how wonderful it is to live on a farm. All was smiles and innocent fun. Until my kids got a little too real. I heard it happen - it went something like this:
"And then we play ultimate frisbee with my Uncle Michael on the HUGE lawn and run around and gather eggs, and one of our chickens, the crazy red one, she sat on a bunch of eggs and she hatched out SIX BABY CHICKS in the lavender bush and then we moved them to a safe place so the owls wouldn't eat them and then my mom put a container of water in there for them and three of the baby chicks jumped into it and drowned. My papa found them dead in there and threw them in the garbage." Wah-wah...
That was kind of a mood killer. It made me realize one of the ultimate truths to living on a farm that I have neglected to teach my kids: We don't tell people what it is REALLY like up here.
If you live on a farm you know what I mean. It isn't that you are trying to be deceitful, or that you are trying to make other people jealous by painting a rosy picture of your life, and it isn't that you are embarrassed about what happens on the farm. It is just that most people don't quite have the stomach for the reality of what happens when you put a bunch of animals together in one spot and let them live their lives.
Unfortunately for my friends (and my pride), these "natural animal happenings" always seem to occur when we have guests. There was the time my dad's dog somehow knocked out one of his teeth while chasing a squirrel and left a trail of blood across the entire driveway just as my friend and her two little boys arrived in their nice clean minivan. Not content with grossing them out a little bit, the dog then proceeded to rub his injured mouth all over the side of my dad's white house, leaving a grizzly blood-painting on the siding as our friends stood there gaping in horror. Then there was the time my husband's BOSS came up for dinner. While he was receiving the tour of the property, our dog snatched a gopher straight out of the ground in front of the poor man and crunched down the entire juicy thing, bones and all. And our poor babysitter came up for the first time on the day we discovered a dismembered chicken carcass in the yard, courtesy of the neighboring coyote pack. I've tried various responses to these occurrences in an attempt to ease people's shock and make them see that we are not heathens. None of it works, so I usually end up silently getting the shovel and disposing of whatever has died (while my kids explain to them that no, we do not burry the dead animals: if we did that there would be no room to plant a garden), hosing the rest of the evidence off the driveway, and offering them some cookies or something.
Terrible animal deaths don't happen all the time, and we are not callused to our animals dying. I am actually STILL sad about those poor baby chicks (lesson learned: don't put an open-topped waterer in with baby chicks) and my boys and I have been known to cry together over every lost hen. But the reality is that one gets used to these types of things when living on a farm. We just have to remember that our friends (all of whom live in the suburbs) aren't used to it. I try to ease them into our reality by saying things like "Yes, we used to have six chicks but now we have three. The other three are in heaven." Or "Wow, that rooster sure likes to wrestle with the hens!" or "Hm... I wonder what all that red stuff is? Oh well!" And to be honest, I'm still trying to decide which strategy to take here on this blog. Should I only tell you the cute cuddly stories, or can you stomach the real ones? I promise not to take any pictures of dead animals, but I think it would be good to show what it is really like up here. What do you think? .