In which life on real farms isn't like what you read about in most books

"Where's Papa going with that axe?" said Fern to her mother
as they were setting the table for breakfast.

The line above is taken directly from one of the most popular children's books in the English language:

Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White
If you haven't read it recently, it's time to read it again.

Most people remember the end of the book.  

But how many people remember the beginning?

"Where's Papa going with that axe?" said Fern to her mother
as they were setting the table for breakfast.

The ends of things aren't necessarily the happiest bit of farm life, but author E.B.White was a real farmer, and he wrote Charlotte's Web partly inspired by the irony of nursing a sickly runt piglet into health in the hope that he would be able take an axe to the very same piglet a few months down the line.

On Haiku Farm, Spring is a time of beginnings.

Monica's latest acquisition:  baby chicks

The chicks are slightly sweeter (momentarily) than the new poults.

Fiddle's favorite farrier visits the young Turkey Sammies.

The garden is planted and sprouting.  Pea plants are already ankle high, potato plants are knee deep, and we've been eating radishes already for a week.  The weather has been so crazy warm here recently that I even planted pumpkins last weekend!

But within every beginning

Gladys, a Speckled Sussex chick.  We hope she's a she.
We suspect she's a he.

is, eventually, an end.

2014 Turkeys, named "Xmas" and "Thanksgiving."
Photo by M. Bretherton

We take some heat for this, usually from city people.  "How can you do that?" they ask us on Facebook, when we post amusing pictures of turkeys.  

They don't mean "How can you make fun of turkeys?"  I challenge anybody to watch domestic turkeys in action for more than a few minutes without finding something silly.

They mean, "How can you KILL them?"

Honestly, sometimes it isn't us that does the killing.  Already there's been a poacher in the turkey poult pen.

Jim upgraded the apple box to a medium
security facility after the disappearance of
one of the inmates--we suspect Random Raccoon.
We have 3 poults remaining.

Sometimes it IS us.

We had to dispatch 2 hens recently when the old girls became painfully egg-bound.  There are, apparently, some treatments for egg-bound hens, but we've never had success with those.  In fact, we've found that the treatments prolong the pain and traumatize the chicken.  

Instead of that, then, Jim and I act promptly to end the pain.  We don't enjoy this.  We don't even eat the chook after (egg-boundedness can be associated with infection...not something that you want to cook up and serve for dinner).  Our old ladies are put down fast, and as painlessly as possible, and their little bodies are left in the blackberry bushes for the local scavengers.

We do what we can to keep everybody healthy and happy.  

We hope that all of Monica's new chicks will turn out to be hens...but statistically, it's likely that there are a couple of roosters in the bunch.  We will eat those.  We will also eat the turkeys when it's time.

And as for the garden...

Winter is coming.
Photo by M. Bretherton

...there will always be another Spring.


  1. Most books lie, then. And city folks...well.
    You have a perfectly natural and right order of life going on. Health and happiness and good eating all around. Lucky you!

  2. Farming: You are Doing It Right.


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