Things Coming 'Round Full Circle

Do you have a NAMING THEME going on with your flock? Like some people choose only flower names, names that start with B, people names, or names that come from the chickens' behavior/attributes.

I have one name for one of my original flock, the rooster: “’Roo”. (His original name was Dynamite for Napoleon Dynamite).

I named my first hen chick after a dearly departed dog because she was tiny and black and cute like the dog. I've avoided naming them all because I would never actually ‘call’ them…. Besides, I can't decide on a theme! Maybe I have OCD, as I’d even want their names to be 'organized'!

As ‘empty nest syndrome’ loomed over my life larger than life itself (it felt), I began trying to stem the sense of loss with redefining (re: finding) myself as a person – who I was other than ‘mom’.

Mom is not only a title, but comes with a built-in life purpose and work that never ends – a job never done-- until suddenly the last child in line turns 18. The sense of loss and of aimlessness and a growing lack of usefulness becomes emotionally overwhelming!  As the fledgling sparrows leave the nest and the apron strings hang limply at your sides, I became tangled up in a kind of realization that I no longer felt certain of who I was.

Worse, there you are, for all practical purposes, not only laid off forever without a chance of employment, but left with skills that are meaningless to apply to an empty home. You are left having to repurpose those skills into a useful application toward something else!

Discovering meaningful purpose in life becomes ever more urgently needed as an anchor to who you are- or who you wish to be (now that you’re all grown up, right?). 

Now, I’m in a situation where I have about a 1 year break between raising kids and beginning the journey of elder care in my home (bringing my parents home to live). Talk about things coming round full circle, eh?

These past 2+ years has been filled up with the hard journey of keeping ownership of our home. Staying sane in that fight, staying hopeful or motivated or even cheerful in such a situation almost ruins the whole reason behind successfully keeping the roof over head.

The battle at times becomes embroiled in massive financial sacrifices severely limiting your options and ability to seek relief –it’s necessary some form of mental escape –even if just for your physical health & from the emotional toll it takes, and you strain not to become embittered. It nags at your problem-solving skills, and pulls out all your inner strengths, and exposes your vulnerabilities in new ways.

The struggle remains the focus and purpose of our lifestyle in a very real sense even now, but it isn’t enough to create a meaningful life. I will be who I am wherever I am, so the house itself is not important enough to become the sole provider of purpose in life.
Being a housewife isn’t enough to fulfill me.

I don’t know about others, but I began to look back to childhood at all those things I was going to be and do when I grew up…

I began to look at who I was BEFORE kids came into my life, before I became “mom”… and what I had held in my heart for myself when I was young. What did I do with my time and daydream about (besides prince charming)? What did I view as my ideal lifestyle & what did I wish to attain? What were my dreams for myself, my ideal OF myself, or for my life paths?

How could I resist despair? Well, I didn’t - it came all right! But I discovered the best remedy for  that was in taking action.  I could lose so much of my hopes and dreams, but as long as I had the future in mind, it didn’t hurt as badly.

I began creating a plan, a strategy for resilience, for bucking up against a time when we might face larger and possibly crushing realities. I want a plan and a backup plan! I never again want to be so vulnerable, so dependent.

How could any of my childhood dreams be useful to me today, when the problem of the day is always: what is happening in the larger world – the state of the economy, the growing sense that this struggle is for the long haul?

Oh yes, I wanted to be “a Farm Wife” like the 1972 Ecyclopedia Britanica described! They had a picture of the ideal farm wife,  and everything! I used to gaze upon that page and wonder what such a life would entail. Oh yes, they described it: The Farm Wife gets up at 5:30 and picks blackberries and then bakes biscuits or makes pancakes for the Farmer/men who have been working since 4:30 in the fields… cue the Farmer on his tractor picking up a sack lunch from a little boy about 50 feet from the farm back porch where she is waving from, in her apron. LOL
White fences. Friendly smiles. Oh yeah, I want to be in that life! That’s the life for me!

And so my dream took off.
I spent long hours with pencils and paper designing my dream farm layouts. Of course I always included a dozen horses! I never thought one moment about WHY I would have what I placed on the farm maps- or what any purpose any of it served. It was just fun to imagine ‘having it all’.

In a nutshell, I then became a teenager with a pinto pony and I forgot about that stuff for a few long years. [For the next 25 years I was busy raising kids. Life was about giving THEM the experiences, striving to efficiently maintain everything that life brings around... ]
It became such a full-time job that I quit dreaming for myself.

Then we moved from city life back to the country, to a long-time dream of my husband to live in Colorado. We chose a rural life in SW Colorado, outside a tourist town with a river running through it, at the edge of a high desert valley full of hay farms, surrounded by mountain vistas.

We have had so many dreams for this place but keeping it is iffy, and the dreams have become all about self-reliance.
With the way things are going lately, I am thinking an economic collapse, or an electric grid outage from some rogue sun explosion (CME).  I’ve been trying to prep for the last few months but have little to show for it so far. 
But that’s where I am now, not where I’ll stay.

Keeping chickens is my first line of defense against hard times, (whether they truly help at this point is beside the point)! LOL

Here is how that little black chick turned out:
I had a scare this morning when opening up the coop. I couldn't see my big roo chick anywhere, and I panicked, kicking myself for not having that last look with the flashlight last night as I usually do! (He has quit his response-clucking at night; you know how teenagers are…) Not only do we have a wandering coyote pack around here but thinking I’d locked him out of the coop without even checking!

Thankfully he reappeared when I began calling the "food is here- bauk-bauk" call. For a moment I was out in their yard looking for feathers or some other 'sign' where they forage during the day (all around), and was so relieved to see him in the coop – I THINK he was sleeping behind the nest boxes. Whew.

Small thing, I know... but dang it, raising animals changes everything about your day!
Long ago I had 5 sweet angora rabbits torn to bits by dogs, so I KNOW the devastation of that kind of loss- of that kind of personal failure! It still gives me a shudder to recall picking up their white bodies, strewn around all over before the kids would see them, crying so hard I could hardly see to do it (thank God it was a literal blur).

I used to shop for after-school snacks for the kids, now I make sure to look out for chicken snacks, sunflower seeds or grapes when it’s hot, to cool them off.

I used to plan the flowers I wanted for landscaping, now I consider only deer-proof things that will propagate themselves for bees.
I gather the wild timothy grasses growing in shade over the septic leach field and line the coop with it. I think about sowing the seeds for adequate ‘straw’ to overwinter the coop floor.
I scatter the coop litter (straw and some wood shavings) out in the yard for mulch and because of their feed mixed into it, am getting some feed corn in the grass- great for future goats to forage on. Future goats.
I am planning to raise worms (3 kinds), just for supplement chicken feed.

I obsessed about getting pictures of each member of the flock so that I could ‘learn’ their individual combs and be able to tell them apart.
I obsessively took photos as my first hen went broody and successful hatched chicks. Each chick became beautiful, with their particular metallic sheen feathers and patterns.

I obsessed about getting shots of the coop in different weather and lighting, and arranging all the different (and growing) number of accoutrements it actually takes to raise and care for a flock. (You know, roost bar, nesting boxes, feed dishes, etc…) Each needs to be placed right. It takes time to figure it all out! 

Rearranging their stuff and perfecting things in the yard will always be an ongoing process. On one hand, I feel like a little girl in her playhouse. On another hand, I have a limited amount of time to get everything running smoothly.
Next spring, getting a dozen hen chicks - not sure yet what breed (debating between Austalorp (great layers but ugly), more cochins (docile, but not great layers!), and laced Wyandottes (pretty!)
My husband asked me yesterday: What are you going to do with all those 'turkey-looking' birds? Yes, the cochins are huge as turkeys and only 3 of 7 hens are laying (and that is a bit sporadic to say the least). But they have been my teachers and I am attached....
Questions remain to be answered, such as what priorities matters most - what needs must be met, etc. 

Hopefully next summer getting 50 meat birds to harvest in late fall (before my parents arrival) so I will have a stocked freezer for about 1 chicken per week for the household. I need to do the economics of that - though there are some unknowns such as the price of feed by then. 
Also, how would I house 50 birds- even temporarily?

As well as starting some experiments in feed supplements. 

I have an agenda, something that matters, purpose, even entertainment and delight in these ‘little’ things, but most of all, a reason to get up in the morning.

Animal husbandry can change your life, and it might just change you, too.


Leigh said...

Big hugs to you as your youngest leaves the nest! I cried so when my oldest when off to college. When the youngest went, it was just as bad except we had another family crisis going on so I didn't have time to grieve.

Great post. Your reflections and insight into yourself are a key I think. Once you allow the emotions to resolve themselves, I know you'll emerge stronger for it.

BTW, I had to chuckle about the Farm Wife picking blackberries at 5:30 am. Who picks blackberries in the dark! LOL

Illoura said...

Maybe her berry bushes were outside her kitchen under a floodlight. LOL

In all honesty I am 50 now and I was reading that page almost 40 years ago, so maybe she was making pancakes and biscuits at 5:30 and THEN going out to pick berries... but the drift I got from it was that she had a full day of activities that seemed so wholesome and purposeful. It portrayed a well-ordered & rewarding self-sustaining life with basic need-fulfilling meaning - and ways of nurturing built into it too.

I didn't mention this but that page didn't say she enjoyed riding a horse or anything else fun. You had to have imagination to see that the picnic table under the big oak must have been the kind of 'fun' a farmwife might get- that and church bazaars & potlucks, or perhaps a sewing circle.