Small farmers usually don’t have one area of expertise. They have their hands in many dirt piles. From compost bins and gardening to livestock and manure control, and full circle back to the compost pile.
It All Started Innocently Enough
My friends Johnny and Audi are a typical example. They have livestock, gardens, and raise bees. They are the go-to people for swarm removals and extractions. Their young children are actively involved, which means there is year-round learning processes. The latest learning process is meat birds. Thanks to this project, I managed to get in on the meat bird order.
The Work Begins
As I arrived, Audi pulled in behind me. You could hear a chorus of cheeping even over the motor running. She had well over 500 chicks in her van. I helped her and Johnny unload the babies, and typical of farmers anywhere, they immediately went through the process of making sure all those balls of fluff were comfortable – not too hot, not too cold.
From there, I got a hands-on lesson on sexing chicks. To sex chickens, you give a gentle pull on the wings and double check by hanging the fluff balls from their feet. We placed the hens in a brooder and roos in a separate one. The brooders were stocked with water, and it was a good sign the chicks immediately headed for a drink.
Time for a Good Visit – (It’s a Southern Thing)
Once we finished sorting, Audi gave me a tour of their new place. Honestly, I don’t know who was prouder – Johnny and Audi, or me. The hardwood paneled walls and remodeling projects were impressive. And I confess to a twinge of jealousy with Audi’s acquisition of her grandmother’s old wood burning stove.
Outside was as impressive as the inside. I saw the coops, the barn, Joe’s garden and the Orchard’s future spot. I met Wilson and Betty Boop, two of the four or five turkeys, and Juliette, their guard dog.
Johnny offered me two five-gallon buckets of pears. Okay, well, the pears are really more for Johnny, as I traded Carrot Cake Jam for bee services. Getting Johnny to share his jam is going to be Audi’s problem, though!
A Rough Ride
It was on the ride home that I first heard the tiny cheeping coming from the back of my car. At first I didn’t really listen because I was concentrating on the curvy and bumpy road. And I do mean curvy and bumpy. It is an old highway, originally built for farm trucks, a hay wagon and an old Ford Super A or C tractor. It definitely wasn’t built for today’s traffic.
More than likely, the road was built to avoid cutting Farmer Brown’s pasture in two, and to prevent taking out part of Farmer Smith’s wife’s garden. (I hear tell she could have stripped the skin off a trembling copperhead with her voice and words). More than likely, the repairs were done back in the 50’s, and the road was really rough. If you had seen me, you would have thought I had just tied one or two on at the hole-in-the-wall bar down the road.
I realized what I was hearing after I got comfortable negotiating the road. It wasn’t, “cheep, cheep, cheep”, it was “we need Dramamine!”, and emphasized with a chorus or two of coughing and heaving. Not a good sign with baby chicks!
Home Sweet Home
The babies are safe, and tucked into their new home. Fortunately, I didn’t have a big mess to clean up in the car. One escapee braved the movements to help me navigate the road. I corralled him and put him in the coop with his brothers and sisters.
As a small farmer, you really do need to have a broad understanding of all aspect of farming. From compost piles and gardens, to livestock and a basic understanding of chicks. It seems I need to find a form of Dramamine which is safe to give chicks if I plan on getting any more from Johnny and Audi. Maybe I just need to deal with it and go get my DVM. Or at the very least, drive a little slower on the trip home.