Saturday, December 24, 2016

All Creatures Great and Small

Caring for a homestead has its ups and downs.

There are no made-up Hollywood scenes on the homestead, instead the harsh realities of blissful moments mixed with the grit of true work; the real deal.

  • Moments of pure delight as you watch a baby chick pipe its way out of a brown egg under the watchful eye of a broody hen. 
  • Elements of the unknown and despair when you come out to the coop to realize a beautiful hen is motionless in a small heap in the corner.  
  • The shocking surprise (and shrek!) when a rat jumps up as you are gingerly talking to your goats. 
  • And yet, other times on harvest day as hold and thank each animal as you carefully complete the circle of life on the prize-winning turkeys.

This is my life.

I have always been drawn to this of wonder and awe caring for all creatures great and small.

As a child, I dreamed of being a veterinary. I remember reading all of James Herriot stories wishfully re-living each line of books knowing that one day I would follow in his foot steps. Sadly, I recall the day our local librarian said I read all of his books; how puzzled and lost I felt. Thankfully for me, my family soon moved to the country and I began my own small "collection" of rabbits, barn cats, dairy goats and a retired show horse. I was in my element, reliving my childhood stories out in real life.

Though homesteading is often romanticized by the movie industry, caring for animals also means you become your own veterinarian. And soon you find yourself de-worming, cleaning and bandaging wounds, clipping hooves, dusting birds and dealing with whatever needs arise to cut down on possible veterinarian bills. This also means you make life and death decisions of the animals in your care. Can I nurse it back to health? Do I end its suffering? What are my best options? Sometimes there are famous come-backs and other times disappointment that despite best efforts, the life has ended.

These are hard decisions.

This Christmas Eve, I find myself at a cross road for a particular, prized show bird. I am unclear why it is injured or where, but knowing I need to step in and become James Herriot for a moment. As the bird rests quietly in the comfort of a pet taxi in my laundry room I need to make a choice, of which I'm unclear. These are the tough moments at The Britten Roost, our homestead, but I am truly honored to care for all creatures great and small.

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