The Glamorous Life of an Urban Farm Wife (and the realities of death)

I tucked my Christmas pajama bottoms into my bright purple galoshes and tightened the belt of my fuzzy bathrobe that covered my nightgown.  I sighed, mouth askew in a grimace, and pulled my work gloves on while balancing the shovel.  Poised over the dead creature I tried to hold my breath while finagling the blade underneath the hardening body of a skunk who did not see it coming.

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I love ignorance.  It’s the best.  Kind of wish I could get back to it.  Ah, the mystique of becoming a farmer.  The love of the land, the fresh air, the bright dawn, the sound of a baby goat, the feel of a newborn chick, the taste of fresh eggs with gorgeous orange yolks.  The urban farm with the front yard completely gardened.  Beds filled with corn and pumpkins, rows and rows of chilies and tomatoes, and dozens of other herbs and beans and cucumbers and other delights fill the space where a lawn ought to be.  A rooster crows from the backyard.

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I guess what I never prepared for, and what no one could really express to me, is that death and cycles of life were going to become quite apparent to me.  The emotions that one might feel day to day in the suburbs would morph into much more intense versions of joy and grief.  That becoming a farmer means becoming privy to the real natural world.

See, in a high rise apartment or other such place, one might see a fallen bird from a nest or a cat that has been hit by a car.  We sniff and pout our lip and then move on with the day.  Styrofoam cartons and air sealed packages line shelves neatly labeled.  Beef tip.  Short ribs.  Chicken breast.  (Where did the rest of the chicken go?)  Away from a farm is an easy place for Utopian ideas to thrive.

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Last night the skunk was apparently on his way to have appetizers and cocktails in the chicken coop with the ladies when he was swiftly taken out by a monstrous being, that at first sight might not be taken for a swift sort of creature at all.  But the massive bite to the spine without being sprayed proved that Gandalf was on duty and was not allowing frolicking with the chickens past curfew.  The chemical, nauseating smell permeates everything but the dog.

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Now, if the pup was not there, the skunk would have made quick work of the chickens without a smidgen of remorse.

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The Cornish chickens can barely stay alive as it is.  Since my post three days ago, another chicken’s legs are breaking and one of the hens that seemed fine died of a heart attack.  They are scheduled to meet their maker in two weeks (because it is the humane thing to do) but we will see if they even make it until then.  My own Utopian ideas of compassion and living in a world without death backfired with meat chickens that were never meant to live this long and are suffering.

Over the years I have held a screaming goat as she died.  My cat, two chickens, a robin, a sparrow, and my dear friend’s ashes are buried in my yard.  A dead skunk is in a plastic bag in the alley until I can think of something to do with it.  Death is real and it is not necessarily not compassionate.  Not necessarily unfortunate.  It just is.

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But where there is death, there is new life.  New baby chicks, and wobbling ducklings.  Baby goats taking a bottle, and finches learning to fly.  A farm- whether in the city or in the country- teaches us what working in a temperature controlled office after driving in a temperature controlled car, after picking up a quick breakfast could never teach.  That life in its whole is a natural process of birth, delight, strength, illness, sustenance, death, grief, reality.  And in every cycle, it is beautiful and sacred and real.

 

10 thoughts on “The Glamorous Life of an Urban Farm Wife (and the realities of death)

  1. Meat chickens have to be butchered in a very timely fashion. We tried it one year…the butcher couldn’t take them for several weeks and their legs were breaking so we had to do it ourselves. We tried plucking them but it was so time consuming. We ended up skinning them like game birds and it was so much faster. It also broke my heart to break their necks. If it was my job to catch and butcher the meat I would definately be a vegetarian.

  2. I so badly want to raise animal but would actually die if I had to kill anything myself. So sorry it’s painful. Do you think our ancestors dealt with these feelings when they had no choice but to hunt?

    • I would grimace when my uncle would talk about hog slaughtering time and I told him I would starve. He said if I was there, I would help, and I would eat it. Different place and time. We are all so far removed from our food but I have had more pets on this farm than anything and have loved it. Much more good than bad!

      • It truly is part of life-just fell there’s other ways to get our protein now and I wish we could stop farming and killing them just to eat. That said, my family is hooked on chicken and who am I to deny growing children?

    • The death is not as prevalent as the life! I used to have a chicken sit on my lap while I read. One sat on my lap to watch American Idol years ago. They don’t live very long lives but I adore my laying hens. I love their quirky personalities. It’s not like Country Living Magazine where they wander around the kitchen, or anything, but they make this little city plot feel like home.

      • Oh, I’ll bet! I imagine being surrounded by life brings so much fulfillment too. We have neighbors who raise goats, and it’s so heartwarming to hear their little cries everyday, reminding me that new life is popping up all around us all the time. Now that you mention it, I think I understand what you mean by saying that death is not as prevalent as the life.

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