It’s A Wonderful Life!
Country Life from the Perspective of a Country Girl
By Allegra Tschappler
A life-long city man, tired of the rat race, decided he was going to give up the city life, move to the country, and become a chicken farmer. He bought a nice, used chicken farm and moved in. As it turned out, his next door neighbor was also a chicken farmer. The neighbor came for a visit one day and said, "Chicken farming isn’t easy. Tell you what. To help you get started, I’ll give you 100 chickens."
The new chicken farmer was thrilled. Two weeks later the neighbor dropped by to see how things were going. The new farmer said, "Not too well. All 100 chickens died." The neighbor said, "Oh, I can’t believe that. I’ve never had any trouble with my chickens. I’ll give you 100 more." Another two weeks went by and the neighbor stopped by again. The new farmer said, "You’re not going to believe this, but the second 100 chickens died too."
I believe the country is the best place to live. This conclusion comes from a life-long observation of the many moods it can create, as well as the endless opportunities it provides at home in Falcon, Colorado.
As we think about the country, three parts stand out distinctly in my mind that should be delved into. First of all, the country is a place where feelings you never knew you had are discovered. Secondly, the country allows people to have farm animals that zoning restrictions in town would not permit. Third, people that live out in the country usually have lots of land and the opportunity to own a recreational vehicle such as a dirtbike or 4-wheeler.
The country allows all kinds of feelings to be set free. Have you ever driven along a lonely dirt road and seen cattle grazing? It is without a doubt one of the most peaceful sights you can witness. Or you can sit on your front porch in the cool evening breeze and watch a truly spectacular sunset. No houses block your view, and you feel all alone, yet strangely sheltered. There is a delightful feeling of contentment when you reach the country. There is no hustle and bustle as you walk among the prairie grasses or the freshly-fallen snow. A sort of quiet easily steals your soul.
But country living is by no means without excitement. Saturday finds volunteer firemen donning their uniforms and polishing up the trucks, as farmers go to the feed stores to get their weekly supply of grain and hay. Some folks have old cars that they get out, shine up and drive around. Others start up their motorcycles and go noisily careening along the roads. It is generally a very busy place on Saturdays, and you can almost always see someone you know going about their errands in Falcon.
In addition to the country creating various moods, it also provides the opportunity to have farm animals and other unique creatures not often found in the town. For example, whenever it rains heavily for several days, amphibians are close at hand. Last year, it was tadpoles in our water reserve tank. We weren’t using it, so the frogs came and laid eggs in it. We caught the tadpoles by climbing down in the tank with a ladder, and after we put them in jars, we sold several. The ones we didn’t sell, we raised for our own. Unfortunately, most of the frogs died after they had developed because we didn’t know how to take care of them.
We’ve also had the chance to learn how to raise, feed and butcher rabbits. It was always hard butchering the soft, furry rabbits, but the stew they made was absolutely delicious.
If you think that we only kill animals, please think again! We’ve found lizards hiding under rocks. These long, snake-like fellows are a lot of fun to hold, but they prefer the rocks to our hands. Other times we’ve found fully-developed frogs. We would take them inside to show to Mommy, and then let them go again (mostly because of her encouragement—we really wanted to keep them as pets)! The most common reptile around our place that we are able to catch easily and on a regular basis, however, is the horned lizard. This last year, we probably found about twenty or more babies! They are so tiny you could probably hold five in your hand quite comfortably.
We’ve also been able to raise a baby ground squirrel. Those animals are fast, and the only reason we were able to catch him is that he was a baby and our cat got to him first. We rescued the little guy just as he was about to become a kitty meal, and put him in a spare terrarium we had. He was so fun to watch, especially when he burrowed. He had the most amazing, complicated tunnels, and you could see his activity through the glass of the terrarium. He would hide down there when our cat was reminded that he was there, and he would wait until she got fed up and left. When he was old enough, we let him go back into the wild.
Besides wild animals such as the ground squirrel, reptiles and amphibians, we’ve had quite a few animals such as the rabbits previously mentioned, goats, cows, chickens and even guinea birds.
Have you ever wondered how people could butcher chickens? It is a long, smelly and bloody process, and it’s sad to see a favorite animal die. Fortunately for us, we don’t typically become emotionally attached to any of our chickens, and the mean ones aren’t hard to kill. This comes from having a bad first experience with roosters…
Once we raised a batch of 12 or so chickens, with four roosters thrown in. When they grew up, they competed for the hens’ attention and tried to show who was king of the pen. One, who had probably won every battle for dominance, was particularly malicious. I think he lived just to make humans miserable. Whenever we would go out to throw scraps for them, he would try to peck us on our legs. We quickly learned to tread softly and carry a big stick whenever we were taking out the scraps. Unfortunately, our mother hadn’t learned this rule of thumb, and, on a visit out there, was pecked so hard that her leg turned a bruised blue from the rooster’s attack. A few days later, we wondered where the rooster had gone, but we really enjoyed the fried chicken for Sunday dinner…
Another time we had a 250-pound bull named Joey. Now Joey was a friendly fellow because he had been bottle-fed when he was a calf. He just loved to be around people, even when they were scared of him and didn’t really want to be around him. If our neighbors were working on the house and he wanted to be with them, he would lean on our weak fence until it broke and then go crashing through to join in the fun. Needless to say, we got a few rather anxious phone calls about our bovine pest…
Once after Joey had broken the fence, he was loose, and Dad was fixing the fence so we could imprison him again…(in the four acres designated for his use!) Mom was working on the laundry after putting the kids to bed. The door was open to let the summer evening air fill the house with its fragrance, and all was quiet. All of the sudden, she heard stomping noises in the living room. Hoping that Dad wasn’t mad after working long and hard the entire day, first at the office then on the fence, she left the laundry room to see what was the matter. As she came into the dining room, what should she see but a tail sticking out from under the table! Joey had decided to check up on us while he was enjoying his freedom. Mom got scared and tried to shoo him out the door, to which Joey responded by carelessly sauntering out the door, past a crystal lamp, which he broke. It gave her new perspective to the phrase, “Like a bull in a china shop”!
Other farm animals, such as goats, have been quite fun and exciting to own. Our neighbors had two goats they wanted to sell, and I wanted to try milking, so I bought them. When we thought we were ready to handle a baby goat, we bred Peppermint, the female, with a buck in the next county. It was exciting waiting for the new little creature to arrive. One night, we went to a talent show, and when we got home, we went straight to bed. The next morning, Dad told me to go outside and look at Peppermint. There she was, with a brand spanking-new little daughter, who we named Frieda. We started milking Peppermint, and I enjoyed getting to know how to do it. However, we didn’t pasteurize the milk, so it tasted sour every time we tried it. So we let Peppermint dry up, and haven’t tried it since.
The country also provides the opportunity to do things on your property that people in town really couldn’t. Since people in the country usually have lots of land and few restrictions, many buy some sort of recreational vehicle such as 4-wheelers or dirtbikes to get around the property as well as just for fun. We had the opportunity a few years ago to save up enough money in a big jar to buy ourselves a dirtbike. It is a small one, but we have gotten ourselves into remarkable scrapes by riding it.
The first “scrape” occurred not long after we had gotten it… My little brother, Sam, was out puttering around on the dirtbike, trying to go as fast as he could while staying on. As he was turning the corner, he accelerated unconsciously. He lost control of the dirtbike and went through the barbed wire fence between our property and our neighbor’s land. Dad had to go ask our neighbor for our dirtbike back, and Sam has scars on his chest to this day as a reminder that dirtbikes need to be driven with care, especially when you are going around a corner!
Mom was the second victim of the dirtbike’s wiles, but she had it rougher than Sam did (which is saying a lot). Mom had watched Dad take some of our new jumps, and decided that it looked like a lot of fun (which it really is). She had always been the most daring girl of her family when she was growing up, so she decided to take the dirtbike for a spin. She took our biggest jump, and landed on her shoulder, breaking her collar bone. Fortunately, she was wearing a helmet and didn’t hurt her head. The awesome thing is, even though she really hurt herself and felt rather foolish for being the only one so far to REALLY hurt herself on the dirtbike, the little kids thought she was the most awesome mom anyone could have because she was so audacious. We agree with them, and as a result, we are the wildest kids of either side of the family.
Now you can hopefully understand a little more the reason for my bias about living in the country. Not only does it provide for awesome opportunities to do fascinating things and have farm animals, but it is extremely exciting, as well as breathtakingly beautiful. You should come out to our house in Falcon, Colorado, and see for yourself.
After hearing the news that the 200 chickens the neighbor had given the new farmer had all died, he asked with perplexity, "What went wrong?" The new farmer said, "Well, I’m not sure whether I’m planting them too deep or too close together."