May 9th, 2012


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 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 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