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.


Laura said...

I have had a death by a hawk, so I created a fort for my chickens. I am not sure how big your space is but ropes do a great job at keeping hawks away from chicken runs. She was a beautiful chicken sorry she is gone.

The Glitter Dragonfly said...

I live on a semi-rural piece of property in Mo. With my crew of chickens and family. I DQ understand the wirdness of telling, say, a chicken poo joke while in my shop. Likewise I probably won't mention chicken disasters and the heartache that comes with them. As a transplanted San Dieagan this was all unfamiliar to me until about 3 years ago. So totally get the adjustments you have to make living with one foot in the city and another in the country because the city is still in my head somewhat. Even though it is rough, free ranging the birds is so much healthier until the stubborn little buggers call a committee meeting and decide that the white stuff outside is not to be trusted and may kill them. So more chicken poo to clean up and cranky roosters are the result. Oh well, just another thing to learn about how much we are not in control. Written to you from a country florist.

The Glitter Dragonfly said...

I meant to say I do understand the weird jokes ugh bad typing.

Deborah Silver said...

Beautifully written post-thanks for this.

Jo said...

As someone who grew up in the country, witnessing the death of farm animals and wild animals alike, I think that it never really gets any less uncomfortable. But you do learn to accept it for what it is. Have you ever watched the Incredible Dr. Pol on Nat Geo Wild? I was really impressed with how they refuse to sugar-coat the realities of raising (and often losing) animals on that show.

On any level, I'm sorry about your chick. I have thought of you and your farm brood often throughout this crazy winter weather.

Anonymous said...

I lost a rooster named Chicken Pot Pie - Pie for short - a big puppy got him. I love him and miss him still. I know just how you feel. Sad, crazy love.

Anonymous said...

I remember when you and Eric first got Cruella when she was just a little peep and she was very fond of fond that she would INSIST that he hold her all the time!

Little peep with a BIG personality.


Kate said...

I'm sorry about Cruella. I wish you and Eric and the other critters on the farm long life.

I have absolutely no experience with chickens, but I'm currently considering the purchase of my first dog, and figuring out where my responsibility for a living, breathing creature fits in with my life.

I totally get what you say about humour, though. Common Frame of Reference jokes make no sense outside of the safety of the frame. Not only do you have to be there, you have to speak the right dialect of crazy. Me and my colleagues sometimes forget that.

Storefronts said...

Lovely pictures, could I use one or to on my website?

Anonymous said...

Hannah Arendt theorizes that lies are more easy to digest because factual truths - truths as things we experience with our own senses that are not open to interpretation - are necessarily contingent. They could be otherwise. Lies, fiction, stories, feel good because they make sense against themselves. They seem coherent. They can be made to seem inevitable.

Death is one of those stubborn true facts that refuses to be pushed aside. It is frustrating to our reason seeking, narrative making brains because it could have been otherwise.

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