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Loss and Life at Walkabout Farm

One of the chickens is going to die. She can't get back up the ramp at night. She can't climb to the roost anymore. This morning she was going down the ramp and another chicken landed on her (flying down from the roost) and knocked her off the plank and she didn't have the strength to get back up. I went in and put her by the food dish, but she's not eating. I knew she was going to fade weeks ago. Her comb had gray edges to it. Now her head is shrunken in, a sign that the end is near. Poor old thing, she was kind of a friend, one of the chickens that would let me lift her down from the roost in the mornings.

Goliath passed away at the end of March. He died in the neighbor's yard and we think it was a heart attack, his body giving out. He was just about sixteen. He was my cat, living life with his claws fully extended. Quick to anger, but attached to us all, climbing in our laps without waiting for an invitation. We hadn't had him even five years, but he crawled inside our hearts and took up residence there, the cat that sat up on his hind legs and "begged" for attention http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ySjZTB-HCU. I fell in love with him the moment I saw him. "That's my cat," I thought. I just knew.

The farm manager for our neighbors blew his brains out at one of their other properties. I'd known Matt for almost ten years. He was what being here was all about for me. You can keep your suburbans in their huge houses, your exurbans and folks looking for breathing room. Matt was the real deal, a local kid who wanted to work on a farm all his life, work with animals. When a bull got out (as they do) and walked into our yard, Matt was there to move him back over to their property. Matt would come down in the snow to keep the generator running next door. Matt hayed our 5-acre field each year, which was a little silly considering that the farm had two 50-acre fields as well. I blogged last fall that Matt was hit on the head by a front-end loader and flown to the trauma center in Fairfax http://birdhousefrog.livejournal.com/176945.html. It's believed by many of us that the head injury led to this, whether from pain or some sort of hidden damage. His viewing in town had a line out the door, his funeral at the cemetery in tiny Hillsboro was overflowing despite some rain, and the old school's room was packed for the reception. Matt had a generous soul and he made me laugh, gave me story ideas, made us shake our heads (there was this large coyote he had shot lying in the back of his pickup...).

I realized with the chicken this morning that there was nothing I could do. Nothing in any of these three passings. Sometimes you can do something. But each one of these was/is out of my control. They're sad, and hard to get my head around, but there are good things happening in my life as well. For example, my mother, who was touch and go all winter, has improved with the coming of spring and summer. Her prognosis has gone from a matter of days or weeks, to anyone's guess, but months or longer, most likely.

Someone new will hay our field this year. There are eight cats and soon-to-be twelve chickens on Walkabout Farm. Flowers bloom, grass grows. Tax season is over and sixth grade draws to a close.

Frog Out



( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 9th, 2012 12:48 pm (UTC)
I hope something nice happens soon.
May. 9th, 2012 12:51 pm (UTC)
lots of nice things have happened! It just seemed time to post when I realized the hen was going to die, probably today.
May. 9th, 2012 12:57 pm (UTC)
Sorry to hear about all this, Oz.

Again, sorry to hear about Goliath. I'm sure he was a great cat. Thanks for sharing the vid.
May. 9th, 2012 01:03 pm (UTC)
I feel for Matt's immediate family, who have no way to support themselves now. His son is grown, but his daughter is only in kindgergarten.
May. 9th, 2012 01:10 pm (UTC)
I'm so sorry for your losses.
May. 9th, 2012 02:04 pm (UTC)
these pale in comparison to what you've been through.

I'm seeing a passage of life in the past couple of months, and I feel very lucky that Goliath's death was as close to true personal tragedy as it has gotten. My mother was on the edge all winter and rallied as winter loosened its grip.
May. 9th, 2012 03:25 pm (UTC)
Matt's story is so sad...

I'm sorry to hear about Goliath, too. He was a cool cat, the first cat I knew who would chase a laser pointer.
May. 9th, 2012 06:25 pm (UTC)
oh, how wonderful of you to remember that about Goliath. Yes, the saddest of all was Matt. Because we had no idea, here, that he was in such pain, physically and mentally.
May. 9th, 2012 08:59 pm (UTC)
As the Swedes say, losses shared are (hopefully) halved. We are going though loss here, are well, with a close friend of my husband's, co-workers, and others. It helps to have friends that love you.

Can't wait to get our own chickens, even if they might tug at my heart when gone.

Goliath looks to have been an excellent cat, and I can identify with your loss. My Toonces is nearly 20 and slowing down. She spends so many days outside under the solar dehydrator when it is warm out, sleeping in the warm shade. And lately I find myself checking to see if she is even breathing.

My elderly relatives are leasing out a field for Bermuda hay at $35 a year, to make sure another nice young man who "always wanted to go into farming" could make it pay. He was all I could think of when I read about your neighbor Matt. He has a daughter in kindergarten, too. *hugs*
May. 10th, 2012 11:26 am (UTC)
Chickens are wonderful, but messy. We only keep egg-laying hens. Roosters annoy me with all their noise and our breed is a cross that won't breed true. The biggest issue here is to protect them from predators: hawk and fox.

We basically exchange for hay. The income equals the cost of having the field cut. I'm hoping the teachers and PTA can come up with some kind of scholarship fund for his daughter.

Thanks for the thoughts!
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May. 10th, 2012 11:27 am (UTC)
It does and I meant this as something of a balance about loss and not to compare it to what you went through at all. Life has good things in it for me, yes.
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May. 10th, 2012 12:38 pm (UTC)
The chicken was dead this morning, alas. The cats are full of baloney and hassling each other out on the deck. The sun is out this morning after several days of gloom but much needed drizzling rain. I have music and pages to be edited. Among the many good things in my life is that I have this quiet and beautiful Walkabout Farm.

Liked your post about Spanish and San Antonio.
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May. 10th, 2012 11:30 am (UTC)
Good things are there, mixed in with the losses and usually all Walkabout Farm has to deal with is the death of a chicken. This was a realization of several things at varying levels. And after the touch and go, ready to take the phone call, winter, it is indeed good to know that my mother has rallied and is feisty again.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )