Just Another Day On Green Hill Farm
On Green Hill Farm, we have a menagerie of sheep, chickens, cats, and dogs, and it’s my goal to make sure that everyone is healthy and happy. That includes our injured hen, a Buff Orpington called Honey. When she became lame, we started putting her outside everyday to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. In addition to Honey Chicken, we also have a few cats. A couple of years ago, we rescued two feral kittens that were born in our old barn–Finn and Olive. Once they were more docile, we attempted an introduction with our house cat, a calico named Clementine–A.K.A. Diva Kitty. And all I can say is…she wasn’t having it! So, back to the barn for the newcomers. Although Finn and Olive live in the barn, they’re actually inside cats; they’re both a bit nervous, and don’t really enjoy the noises and commotion of living outdoors. When I say they’re barn cats, I use the term loosely. Their home in the barn is actually more like a Ritz Carlton for cats: spacious, lots of windows, cushy beds and complete with air conditioning, heat, and plenty of playthings.
Anyway, I never quite know how a day on Green Hill Farm will unfold. One afternoon last week, I decided to check on Honey Hen to make sure she had enough shade and to give her some scratch–a corn treat for chickens. As I walked toward her, I noticed that she had moved to the opposite side of the corn crib, near the walnut tree. When I got closer, I started to panic. She was lying on her side, feet straight out, eye wide open and not moving. My heart jumped. “Is she dead?,” I held my breath. Just as the thought crossed my mind, I saw her eye move. With a sigh of relief, I rushed over and helped her upright. “You’re okay,” I cooed at her. Once I realized that she was engaged in a modified version of sunning herself, I walked to the tractor shed to get some scratch. While heading across the yard, I glanced at the barn and noticed the outline of a cat in the window. It was Finn, my yellow and white Tabby. He had heard me talking to Honey and was now pressing his face against a small section of the window screen. “Hey, Kitty Finn,” I affectionately called to him.
As I walked back with the scratch, the wind started to pick-up, and walnuts began raining down everywhere. Feeling alarmed, I quickly hurried toward the corn crib to move my little hen to a safer place. When suddenly, I saw a yellow and white blur out of the corner of my eye. I looked. It was Finn chasing a leaf beside the barn. “HOW IS HE OUT?” I puzzled. And then it clicked–the SCREEN. Panicked, I dropped the scoop of scratch and sprinted to the sheep paddock. On the edge of the paddock is dense woods. I hoped he wouldn’t run in that direction, because if he did, I wouldn’t be able to retrieve him. The wind started to blow again. As Finn began stalking a dancing leaf near the sheep waterer, I began stalking him. I moved slowly and carefully, sweetly calling, “Hey, Kitty Finn–come to Mama.” Just as he looked as if he might comply, Hamish, a bottle-fed lamb that’s now five-years-old, and completely spoiled rotten for grain, spotted me. With a loud BAAAAAH, he lead a stampede of bleating sheep down the hill toward us. I let out a sigh of frustration and maybe even an expletive or two, as I watched a startled Finn take off in the direction of the barn.
First, he raced to the side of the building, stopping at its stone foundation, desperately searching for the gap that existed before the renovation. I could see the wheels turning inside his little head, “I used to be able to get under here.” The sheep were getting closer. Finn changed direction, heading toward the wooded area outside the paddock. My heart sank. But with a sudden change of thought, he darted inside the sheep entrance to the barn. As he disappeared, I hoped this might be my chance to catch him. But before I could move, I saw my other barn cat, Olive, perched in the same window as Finn had been in earlier. She sat there, peering out at the ensuing mayhem. “Great!” I cringed. “She’s going to get out, too, and then I’ll never catch either of them.” I hastened inside the barn, burst into her room, slammed the windows shut and grabbed a container of cat food. Running toward the sheep shed, I opened the door just in time to see a glimpse of Finn running away. With cat food in hand, I ran to see where he’d gone. I stood outside the barn for what felt like ages, desperately scanning the field for my yellow and white Tabby cat. Out of nowhere, I spied him rounding the corner of the barn. Thankfully, he had not gone into the woods. I began calling, pleading for him to come to me. He made his way through the fence and moved in my direction. I slowly knelt on the ground, opening the container of food and scooping a portion onto the lid. Because it was getting close to his dinner time, I hoped this tactic would work in my favor. I didn’t want to scare him with any sudden movements. Therefore, I waited patiently, heart pounding in my chest, until he was close enough; and then, I GRABBED him. I held him tightly in my arms, kissing his furry, little head. He didn’t even squirm. I think he was as happy as I was that he was safely in my arms. After our reunion, I settled him back into the Kitty Ritz, serving up a little extra dinner for his recent exertions.
Once Finn and Olive were safely squared away, my thoughts turned to Honey Hen. I hoped she hadn’t been knocked unconscious by a flying walnut while I was on my search and rescue mission to secure Finn. Fortunately, I found her tucked away under a leafy plant by the post of the corn crib. She was fine, but she still needed scratch. YES, THE SCRATCH–the main reason I came outside this afternoon! The clouds were dark, and it was becoming windier. I decided to return Honey to the coop and feed her there. I gently scooped her up into my arms, petting her soft feathers, as I tried to decompress after my overly stimulating afternoon.
The sheep, who had been watching this drama unfold the whole time, stood, still expecting THEIR scoop of grain. “Good grief, y’all!” I exclaimed. All at once, there was a cacophony of bleating and baaahing. Startled, Honey jumped in my arms, and then I smelled a familiar scent. It was the odor of a fouled chicken coop. I raised my sweet, little hen into the air to examine her bottom. It looked relatively clean, but THAT SMELL! “Where was it coming from?” I wondered. Then, I looked down. I was wearing an old, green windbreaker that belonged to my husband. It had chicken poo ALL down the front of it! “UGHH,” I grimaced. I quickly put Honey back into the coop—the scratch would have to wait. As I surveyed the nastiness, I was grateful for one thing—that it was my husband’s coat and NOT mine; nevertheless, I was the one wearing it. I felt mighty tempted to just throw it away; after all, it was a REALLY old coat! But, alas, I didn’t. It wasn’t mine to throw away, and it still had wear in it. Instead, I changed out of my chicken shoes (it’s a biohazard thing) and into my farm shoes, and while holding my breath, I scurried to the barn. I could tell this was going to be a multi-step process; first, I would need paper towels and disinfectant to clean the coat, and then I would wash it. I tried to decide which would be easier–cleaning the coat with it on or off. I quickly decided that off was best, especially since I was holding my breath, and didn’t want to pass out in this state! When I finished my unsavory task, I thought to myself, “I-am-SO-DONE!” But then I remembered…I STILL had not given Honey her scratch. Changing my shoes, again, I walked back to the coop to give my little hen her long awaited treat, and THEN, I was done.
Here’s the thing: I just never know what a day on Green Hill Farm will bring. This day brought lots of excitement among other things; but in the end, it all turned out okay. And I’m grateful. I had my dear, little Finn back in the safety of the Kitty Ritz, Honey had escaped concussion by walnut and my husband’s coat would see another day. I actually felt like celebrating! A hot bath sounded good, and maybe even a “cocktail”…or two–the non-chicken variety, of course!
Categories: Reflections on Farm Life