You wouldn’t call it a farm in the vernacular of yesteryear. But in today’s world, in some areas at least, it is a farm. Maybe five acres. A cow and a calf. Two goats. A scattering of chickens. And caring for them a whole family: father, mother, and two children. They had lost one cow who ate too much of the wrong feed so when their second one showed similar signs they called a vet. I was glad I was able to go with Charles on that “farm” visit.
I didn’t ask permission to use the names of these wonderful young folks so I will rename them to protect their privacy. We’ll call the young man Barth. He’s burly and strong, impulsive, eager, and very compassionate. Her name will be Cali. She is small of stature but obviously quite capable. She shows characteristics of a nurturer, an enthusiastic learner, and one who does not easily give up.
The children were away in school so we didn’t get to meet them. But we heard about them. They were a major reason the family had moved to this rural community. They like the school very much. But, even more importantly, the parents wanted their children to have a farm experience growing up, to pay far less attention to electronic games and social media, and more to growing things and to caring for animals. They had watched for a good opportunity to buy a few acres and were elated when this one became available, barn and all. It didn’t hurt that it is near grandparents too!
“We don’t know anything about farming, and neither do our parents, but we’re learning,” said Barth.
“And so are our children and their friends. Sometimes there’s a whole cluster of children out here petting the goats, following the chickens around, or giving a bottle to the new calf,” said Cali.
The new calf was not an offspring of either of their cows. No, Cali found the calf by word of mouth, drove several miles in her van to a neighboring farm, picked up the leggy calf, and brought her home. “All by myself,” she said, her eyes sparkling. “Barth was at work.”
Barth works nights as a fulltime mechanic for UPS.
Charles passed a tube down the cow’s throat and pumped in antacid and mineral oil. She was lying in a stall, not offering to get up, but did show some resistance to this treatment. Both Barth and Cali were very remorseful about the cow’s pain, talking to her along and along as they watched Charles come forth with a couple of syringes, giving shots to lessen the pain and give her bloated stomach some relief. Barth seemed ready to cuddle the 400 pound heifer in his arms if he could have.
All this time the new calf “hung out” in the same stall causing no problem except to be in the way a few times. The cow and calf seemed to have bonded.
I asked Cali if she had any laying hens. “Only one right now, that sassy white one,” she said and then giggled. “See that nice big chicken coop? We built it, put nine babies in it and went to bed believing they were safe. Well, we hadn’t secured the coop well enough, and a fox got all those babies. We did better with the next batch but we missed it on the genders. Instead of six hens and one rooster we have three hens and four roosters. I know we have to make this place at least help with the cost but so far we haven’t worked up the nerve to make chicken’n’dumplings. So–we hear a lot of crowing!”
Charles and Barth released the cow from her rope and she did stand up. “You think she’ll make it, Doc?” asked Barth as the two walked out of the stall.
“She has a chance,” was Charles’ cautious answer. “Forty-eight hours and you should know. She’s in good flesh so we can hope.”
Barth wiped his sweaty face on his sleeve. “I’d like to get a young bull if I could find one for less than an arm and a leg. I really want to grow a small herd. Sure hope she makes it.”
We asked about the goats. “Just the two you see, wandering around with the chickens. We plan to get more. Those are miniatures, they’re not as young as they look. When we first got them they wouldn’t let us touch them but now they love playing with the children. They’ll let us do most anything.”
As we walked out the gate toward the truck and Cali’s electric “mule,” Barth pointed to a shelter and said, “Let me show you another one of my special toys.”
He moved nuts and bolts and wrenches around so he could get to the starter of his ancient gray and rust red tractor. A little tinkering and she fired right up. He glowed with pride. “I’m restoring her all the way,” he said.
As we climbed into Charles’ truck Barth called after us to notice their sorghum patch. “We’re going to make syrup in November. We plan to have a Big Day and invite everyone to come. Ya’ll come too, please! We’re excited. Guess you can tell, we like old fashioned stuff!”
Yes, we could tell. And we were delighted. This family is preserving the good part of the “Good Old Days.”