I've never lived on a farm and I'm not quite sure where or how my interest in farm life and country living developed. I am from the South and from a very "southern" family, so that explains some of it. I know that the life of a farmer and his family wasn't easy but there was a certain simplicity to it all, it seems...beauty and closeness to the earth. How I do love reading about farm life and country folks and ways! Eventually when we're finished with our cottage, I'd like to try my hand at growing a bit of food for the table, but until then I just live vicariously through books. As I mentioned in my last post, I'm currently reading Once There Was a Farm, A Country Childhood Remembered. This book particularly interested me because it is a memoir written by a 71 year old woman by the name of Virginia Bell Dabney. In 1917, her mother left her husband in Chicago and moved her father and two young daughters to a 160 acre farm without plumbing or electricity in Virginia. Her mother was extremely hardworking and smart and so far it has been a delight to read about how efficiently she ran her farm and cared for her family.
I read the following paragraph and just loved it. I'll never think of eggs or hens the same way again:)
Once There Was a Farm, A Country Childhood Remembered
by Virginia Bell Dabney
Our hens were happy. I awoke on summer mornings to their singing. Hen song is not musical but it is expressive - of food to eat, soft dirt to take dust baths in, private nests for laying, a sunny place to scratch for worms and bugs and a chance to roam in the grass. Perhaps the greatest difference between raising chickens then and now is that today commercial growers can't afford to care if hens are happy or not. The 1980's hen is an egg machine. She spends her productive life in a cage with all the artificially enriched food and water she can consume, and what she eats makes eggs so that she cannot help but lay. The egg drops onto a conveyor belt and she has none of the satisfaction of feeling it under her, of cackling, "See the lovely egg I laid, perfect, perfect!" Hen brains are preprinted with intelligence about hawk shapes and how to warn and scatter, and not about much else, but they do have the capacity for joy. It is slavery to keep laying hens commercially these days. The layer endures perhaps twenty-four months of caged living, making an egg a day, and after that the guillotine. No lovely cool green grass like ours were turned out on about an hour before sunset so they would not roam too far. No dirt to scratch in, the immemorial right of gallinaceous birds. No soft nest to settle into. Our chicken houses were dusty with the busyness of hens, but the nests were kept clean, free of mites and with clean wood shavings for comfort. When a hen wished to lay, she jumped up into a nest box that was curtained in burlap so it was dim and private. Some other hen might argue for possession of the box, and once in a while a nest would be occupied by two determined layers. When her egg was produced she told everybody it was the best egg in the house and went back to sunning or joined her sisters in pursuit of a grasshopper. Though our hens were also shipped out to meet the ax when they were no longer productive, they at least enjoyed a good life up to the end.