When I moved to the farm after 13 years of living in the city, my grandmother suggested I start small. You know, small garden, only a few chickens, don’t bite off more than you can chew…I didn’t really listen. Maybe I should have. But now, almost three years into my prairie farm life, I think it might be too late to heed her wise advice…
Spill the beans is a weekly column chronicling my attempts at a self-sufficient life on this small prairie farm.
When you live in the country, you rely on your neighbours. You text them when the power goes out, wondering if their power is out too. You ask them how much rain they got when your rain gauge shows more than you think is appropriate, you know, just to confirm. And in the winter, you call them to clear your driveway when you have to get to work and your tractor won’t start. Or to pull you out of the snowdrift you optimistically thought you could drive through no problem, because you’re were sure the snow was as soft as it looked.
And good neighbours text you back to let you know their power is out too and that they’ve already called Hydro to let them know; tell you exactly how much rain their gauge shows; and will have the tractor warm and ready, just in case someone might need help. And you’ll do the same when they text, call or ask for help in a moment of need. That’s just how country life works.
Otherwise, you’d feel stranded and isolated living out here.
Last weekend, our neighbours asked us to chore their animals while they were away. This is another thing that neighbours do. We’ll be away this summer and we’ll need someone to check up on, feed and water our chickens. And likely, it will be one of our neighbours either repaying a favour or hoping that we’ll help them out somewhere down the road.
So of course, we agreed.
We hopped on our ATV and headed off across the creek. (Now imagine I wrote “horse” instead of “ATV” and you’d think this was Little House on the Prairie or something, am I right?)
It’s a short ride, but insanely picturesque. It’s basically a tall grass prairie reserve mixed with some oak and maple forest along the creek. No one mows it. It’s full of butterflies, dragonflies and frogs. Deer, foxes, skunks and raccoons all reside somewhere in the forest. And thousands of birds call it home, if the bird songs coming through my window before 5:00 am are any indication.
Now to be clear, the neighbours have ten chickens and two pigs. The chores were neither onerous, nor time-consuming.
The pigs were thrilled to see us and paced around their pen, following our every move, knowing that we were there to do the only thing that humans are good for in a pig’s mind: feed them.
The rooster was making his presence known by crowing and protecting his hens. He was magnificent. And also hungry.
And our reward for making sure that all was right on the neighbour’s yard, as if we needed one, were a few eggs that we couldn’t leave behind, knowing that our neighbours likely wouldn’t mind.
Jamie Dyck is avoiding the weeds in her garden. Follow her on twitter, @jndyck.