Wednesday, January 1, 2014


     Chickens have brains the size of a pea, so I shouldn't have been surprised when one of my hens went to visit my dog.  He found her delicious.  I found her back leg and some feathers.  
     You cannot ignore death if you live on a farm.  It surprises you at lambing time, when you reach inside a straining ewe to help bring a lamb into the world and bring instead a leg; the rest of the lamb still curled in utero having died yesterday. It breathes over your shoulder as you hold the halter so the vet can administer a lethal dose to a dying horse. It greets you with the news that your dog played too hard with the kitten and watches you nurse orphaned calves who die of pneumonia in spite of your tender care. 
     I have looked cattle in the face knowing that they would be a meal one day and worked up a deer who played in my meadow yesterday.  Death feeds my family.
     There’s a graveyard out in the pasture in front of my house.  One stone is inscribed to Lillie E., a beloved daughter who died in 1884 of diphtheria.  Gravestones all over the county tell the story of pioneer children who died young, sometimes whole families of them.  Of pioneers who faced more than the death of livestock or the uncomfortable knowledge that the chicken in the pot recently crowed up the sun.
    I grew up in the city where death was an abstract concept.  It visited rarely, in tragedies like the heroic death of a teenage friend as he tried to save his brother from a fire, or in hospitals where grandparents walked in and were carried out.   I did not know that death was just as much a part of life as joy and dancing and laughter.  Here on the family farm, I have learned what the pioneers knew.  We are here for a short time, and the living is sweeter because of the dying.


  1. Yes, indeed, it is so. And the longer I live the more I understand. A good "food for thought" post!

  2. I also grew up in the city and now live on the outskirts of one. We're enough in the country that coyotes took a family pet of a neighbor, but chickens are against the covenants. I'm happy with that but recognize the illusion it gives that death is other. It's not.

  3. Amen, my girl, and this, I think, is as it should be, as one makes room for the other, each in its own turn . . .

  4. It is a good thought to ponder. Living in Alaska, death was a little closer than down here, but it is the way of things. One of the young people I mentor(Well, he is 25, which I consider "Young" now) asked me why I wouldn't want to live forever. Life, I told him, has little meaning if it is not short and sweet. Even in 50 plus years you can have a tremendous life before going on to what awaits us.
    Thanks, as always, for your sharing your thoughts, Ginny