Saturday, February 7, 2015
I was in the city, as I always tend to be when shit goes down at the farm. I'd say 'poor Eric' but does disposing of a bloody half eaten chicken trump a 2.5 hour site visit at a stuffy hotel in midtown? Ask yourself.
Chickens have it tough in winter - as we all do I suppose - and spend a lot of their time cooped up. When the snow is deep we shovel paths for them, and the intrepid girls will venture outside to do a few loops and then return to the coop. If a chicken flies off the path it can get stuck in the deep snow - a sort of a adorable struggle to watch - unless you're not watching in which case an onlooking hawk has an easy lunch. Eric came back from a walk with the dogs and the hawk was feasting. The dogs just can't be on watch all the time. So it goes.
Admittedly chickens are low on the totem poll of loveable farm animals, though I'm sure someone will jump to argue this with me. They are seeminly angry, mean little things (perhaps why I'm drawn to them?) with a brain-to-body weight ratio that is somewhat askew.
Our flock is an even spread of three breeds of cold hardy layers: Black Lace Wyanndotes, Araucanas and Buff Orpingtons. The Araucanas are the only chickens with names as they are easily distinguishable from one another. Boris (a female, don't ask) is by far the most clever chicken. When I cut flowers and drive the truck into the yard, she's the first to jump into the back (encouraging many NYC stowaway chicken jokes which are not really that funny) looking for grapes or amaranthus - both of which she's enjoyed in the truck post harvest and remembers. In her tiny, tiny, evil chicken brain.
Still, I'm crazy about them. I wish I had a photo to insert here of me casually holding a chicken under my arm gazing down at it in adoration, but no dice. Instead here is our dear Cruella working on a cadaver provided by the Worlds End School of Chicken Dentistry. She was the top of her class, and despite several complaints ("this school SUX") she was prized by her mentors.
Now might be a good moment to mention the fact that humor comes to die at Worlds End. Especially in the winter, we live in a black hole of bad jokes, told to each other but when taken out of context - say in a bridal consultation at Saipua - don't quite translate as funny. For example, the joke about which R Kelly song would make for the most inappropriate daddy-daughter dance at a wedding... or any mention for that matter of Eric's 'Awkward Slow Jam' mix should not leave the safety of our evening cocktail hour. There is an important escape velocity of humor which needs to be respected.
But now I'm not joking, I'm going to be serious and talk about life and death.
In the city, thinking about Cruella and imagining her one moment pecking around in the snow and the next in the clutches of a hawk I came back to the same conundrum I often get stuck on with death. Why can't you watch it happen and then turn back time and make it so it doesn't happen? Why can't you control it better?
I watch a lot of death on the farm, mostly my plants in the field, or small creatures like moles eaten by dogs. I'm not obsessed with death, despite my propensity for dark pictures and bones. I'm just struggling to understand nature - if one ever does - or at the very least feel more comfortable as a part of its grandness and its mystery.
I realize it's not unusual at all for a hawk to eat a chicken, but it is very human for us to dramatize it or try to prevent it. That is farming in a nutshell; controlling what lives and dies. And farming is how we all ended up with better brain-to-body ratios. Big brains that afford us the luxury of considering our place in it all.