Thursday, October 15, 2009

the dead hen and the pumpkin

I lost two hens. It seems when the weather really starts to change, when the first truly cold or warm nights hit in late fall or early summer—I lose some birds. Maybe it's too much for them? They can't adapt fast enough and their bodies fail? I don't know. But I do know I found a three-year-old and a three-month-old both belly up in the coop. Another hen is starting to droop just the ones before had. I hope she kicks back into shape.

I got home from work a little later than usual tonight, around six. Because they're calling for snow showers I had a lot of farm prep to do in case the morning met me with a layer of powder. For starters, I had to unload all the feed and bales from the back of the truck. If I left them out overnight the moisture could ruin the grain and make the bedding useless. So I shoved two 65-pound compressed bales of straw off the back of the bed. I took big piles to every corner of the farm and made thick, warm, beds for every hoof, rabbits, and chicken coop. Bags of feed were then hauled to the safety of the porch. Wood was chopped. I am getting to be Hell at chopping.

It was dark when the farm chores were finally done. I had brought two large armloads of wood inside, and was starting to get big ideas about pasta. (So big I could hear and feel my insides wail.) Understandably, thanks to all that business, I was distracted from the last thing on my list. Before I headed in for the night I needed to cut and carry the last pumpkin in from the garden. The behemoth in question was wider than two volleyballs and only half-oranged. I had let it sit out in the sun, hoping it would turn in time for Hallows, but if I let it stay feral the monster would be covered in snow instead of changing into fall. It was time to bring him to the porch.

I walked out in the blue-dark and sliced the vines with my knife. I lugged him up over my shoulder and breathed heavily as I carried him out of the garden. The stew-pot of hunger, chores, and desire to be inside made him seem even larger than he was. As I walked through the garden gate I looked down at the little brown dead hen I had placed there earlier that morning. I sighed. I set down the giant pumpkin and delayed my meal a little longer. I carried her softly over to the compost pile within the garden's fence and set her among the graceful decline. I'd raised that bird, eaten her eggs, and she served this farm well. She deserved a few moments and a proper spot in the quiet of the pile. Now she'll become next year's vegetables. I said a hushed thank you, heaved the pumpkin back over my shoulder, and went inside.

17 Comments:

Blogger kauhly said...

How sad, and such a part of life. Nice reverence for the little hen that nourished your body and soul.

October 15, 2009 at 8:39 PM  
Blogger hickchick said...

Nicely written. Thank-you for sharing. kris

October 15, 2009 at 8:56 PM  
Blogger Elise said...

Sometimes it it hard to not be so incrediblily human. We want life and all things to live, but here we are forced to see what really is. Thank you for your graceful writing. Just enough reality, just enough humantiy.

October 15, 2009 at 8:58 PM  
Blogger kandy said...

you are a good buddist

October 15, 2009 at 9:04 PM  
Blogger Sylvia said...

One of my girl friends who just started raising chickens (she has 10 3 week old hens) cried to me today 'what will I do if one of them dies?'. Well, just what you did, Jenna. Thank her for her contribution even if it is only the manure at age 3 weeks and move on in the circle of life.
We are so removed from death that people don't want to eat my turkeys because they saw them alive. As if it is okay to eat them if you just didn't know that once they strutted and preened in the wet Georgia air. It is a crazy world that we live in.

October 15, 2009 at 9:12 PM  
Blogger linda said...

Thank you so much for sharing, Jenna. So sorry about the hens, Enjoy your evening with the warm fire.

October 15, 2009 at 9:22 PM  
OpenID Tamitng said...

All my life's a circle, sunrise and sundown
The moon rolls through the night time
Till the day break comes around
All my life's a circle, but I can't tell you why
The seasons spinning round again
The years keep rolling by.

It seems like I've been here before, I can't remember when
But I got this funny feeling
That we'll all be together again
There's no straight lines that make up my life
And all my roads have bends
There's no clear cut beginnings, and so far no dead ends.

I've found you a thousand times, I guess you've done the same
But then we'll lose each other
It's just like children's games
As I see you here again, the thought runs through my mind
Our friendships like a circle,
Let's go round one more time.
-Harry Chapin-

October 15, 2009 at 9:37 PM  
Blogger GrittyPretty said...

wow. your words are remarkable. plus i admire your courage and determination. rock on Jenna!

October 15, 2009 at 9:51 PM  
Blogger Vickie's Michigan Garden (my backyard) said...

So sad about the hens-
You can left a lot of weight-
I was tired just reading about it!
Be careful
vickie

October 15, 2009 at 10:18 PM  
Blogger Chelli said...

So sorry about your hen. I lost 5 last week to a raccoon (my 1st chicken loss). It is so sad. Best of luck with the rest.

October 15, 2009 at 11:16 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

I can strongly identify with this post. My days and months are a constant stream of moments just like this. While I'm acting them out, they seem perfectly normal, but when I recount them later, they seem so surreal. Thank you for sharing these bits, and therefore confirming that my reality IS reality.

October 15, 2009 at 11:22 PM  
Blogger Charlres H> said...

I have just read your blog for the first time. It really touched me and brought back memories of my teenage/early 20's years when my dream was to be self reliant.
CH

October 15, 2009 at 11:40 PM  
Blogger Dykestra's Algorithm said...

So is it snowing today? It is where I am!

October 16, 2009 at 9:47 AM  
OpenID laurablogs said...

Sorry about your hen.

Looking forward to your posts about the snow. On the news it's looking pretty promising.

October 16, 2009 at 10:17 AM  
Blogger Kimberly Ann said...

Thank for your the post. One of my chicken girls just died over the weekend and it was good to read your thoughts on this.

October 16, 2009 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger Karen Sue said...

So sorry about your hen...and I don't want to seem uncaring about it by asking the question, but did you put her in the compost to become compost?? I was under the impression that there shouldn't be 'meat' in there and I guess I never asked why...

October 16, 2009 at 12:31 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

not uncaring at all KS, and yeah. She's compost, I have eggshells and stuff like that all the time in there. It gets mixed in with so much mulch. food scraps, and manure it really is trace "meat"

October 16, 2009 at 9:15 PM  

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