Thursday, January 16, 2020

Cycle of Farm LIfe

I'm going to be a terrible farmer.

Agnes, Meryl, and Petunia,
in whatever order you like.
I mean, I'm prepared to get up early and feed the goats and clean the coops and harvest the honey and fix the fences and irrigate the plants and solve the problems and smile at the farmers markets and go to bed early and start over again the next day.

But I'm not prepared for our animals to die.

I know this because here on our little urban farm we've lost several chickens to various causes, and I've cried over each and every one of them. Because they had names and personalities and a place in our hearts and I'm powerless not to mourn when they go.
Backstory: my wife and I are planning a move to the Big Island. We're going to buy several acres and raise goats and honey bees and chickens and whatever else makes sense as we get a handle on the craziness.

We're planning to build a hale'a (barn) to host farm-to-table events, with views to the water and sunsets and the Maui coast. It's going to be idyllic and backbreaking and nonstop and it will undoubtedly make us wonder what the hell we were thinking and how we could be so stupid.

Which is all fine, because we're willing to learn the answers to those questions and others we aren't yet smart enough to formulate.

But standing here today I know without reservation we're not ready for the hard stuff.
We lost Agnes last night, to a virus known as Marek's disease. It's one of the most common diseases in small flocks, and there's no treatment for it once a bird is symptomatic.

Agnes was my favorite, and I told her so before she went. She was the smallest of our first three chicks, but she grew up to have the biggest personality. She would follow us around the yard, carrying on a happy conversation, scratching for bugs, investigating the daily nuances of her realm. 

She had a look in her eye, and her demeanor, that bespoke intelligence, and I fully expected to be discussing the issues of the day with her for a long time. 
It's possible that we'll gradually get used to losing animals, that we'll feel this pain less often, less deeply. That we'll develop, I don't know, a professional detachment that insulates us from the loss of these fragile lives we surround ourselves with.

I hope not.

Because while grief can be heavy and lingering, indifference would be far, far worse.
There's a mini-forest at the back of our lot, a glade of oak, maple, apple, holly, and evergreen trees. Today, after days of wind, rain, and snow, we got a break. Rays of actual sunshine filtered through the canopy, lighting up the spaces between branches and holly leaves and pine needles.

Agnes is there now, beneath one of the bright spots between two evergreens.

And yeah, I cried again.

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