Lessons to be Learned

Pipestone Flyer

Life wasn't always easy on my eighty acres.  It took a lot of work to build a farm here. This had been a bare piece of land with a north rise and a spring. The land had never been plowed and Labrador Tea, mint, nettles, rose hips and spruce buds provided all the tea you could want. Routinely,  I'd see coyotes, deer, moose, and sometimes feel the presence of cougar and bear, later evidenced by scat or tracks. Least weasels and tiny shrews hunted small unwary prey.  Bald and golden eagles skimmed through the trees navigating sideways barely  missing the thick growth while barred and great grey owls occupied the "between times" to hunt their favorite diet of voles.

    The spring that sprung from the roots of an ancient spruce  evidenced  an older time; a burnt down cabin near the source and  a scraping tool from the " Water People" as my Cree friend called them.

    I have made my home amongst the past and present on this land,  paying careful respect and tribute . I have paid my rent many times with favorite chickens or ducks to  my feathered and furred neighbors,  but nothing like the rent I paid. this early rainy morning.

    The yard was eerily quiet when I went outside to do my chores. I raise turkeys, broiler chicks and laying hens as well as four pet ducks, one rabbit and one guinea pig. The morning cacophony and enthusiasm of hungry birds, all within pens topped with bird netting was missing. All  are normally protected by a very diligent  and ever present Great Pyrenees.  Last night when I neglected to lock up my five favorite young hens (raised from eggs set under an old clucky hen last summer) I wasn't too worried….  My mistake!

    I went out and read the story as if it were a book. Feathers here, feathers there, drop of blood here,  signs of struggle there.

    I was devastated. I had wanted to start a new flock with this young group of five Americana/ lace- winged cochons.  This seed flock was going to be the shining star of my years of raising chickens! How could I be so careless! 

    My Pyrenees had been accidentally locked in the barn when the large sliding door had been shut and he couldn't get out to protect his charges.

    As with everything in life, we can wallow in our disappointments and failures or learn from it and move on. From the difficulties ( third setting) of getting a hen to hatch my " golden" eggs to the raising of five babies through an Alberta, Canada winter in a chicken coop separate from the main flock;  to the time I spent admiring and getting to know each young hen;  and finally to the morning of the loss;  the journey is one of learning.  Life is a cruel but efficient teacher,  teaching us many things we'd rather not learn.  This lesson broke my heart but in the long run or the big picture helped propel my animal husbandry practices into the Twenty-first century.   

       I have lived  on farms and confidently raised chickens all  of my life.  I will never lose a beautiful flock of five young hens again.  This journey really is one of learning from your mistakes and then moving on . In farming, there are  a lot of lessons  to be learned  but luckily there's also a lot of teachers.

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