Future farmers

Every September, growing up, we looked forward to the Guilford Agricultural Fair. We loved the rides, the games of “skill”, the foods we never ate anywhere else. Most of all though, we loved the animals: cows, horses, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens. Kids our own age would lead their animals around for judging, and I envied them. Living in an apartment in New York City precluded the possibility of having any livestock…and in truth I was perfectly happy with my life. Except for Fair weekend, when I wished I was a farmer.

Today, for the first time, I had the charge of two cows, a horse, a goose and more than 40 chickens. Our neighbor asked us to take care of them for the weekend. The two cows have grain in big flat bowls in their stall, and the horse gets his feed in a bucket. After we put the food in place, Cherisse and I opened the pasture gate and they eagerly filed into the barn, into their respective stalls. Once they were locked up and munching, we tossed in hay. The cows’ bowls had to be fished out when they finished eating (so they didn’t get mucky overnight, and so we could fill them with breakfast in the morning). Somehow one of the bowls got nudged to the back, out of reach. Cherisse eventually worked her way behind the stall and hooked it with a rake. The goose has her own stall, and went in to escape us. When I brought her food, she hissed at me (I had read about geese hissing, but the reality is quite surprising).

I thought I would be an old hand with the chickens, but entering a coop with 40+ hens is a little unnerving. Like ours, they crowded around to get the feed and cracked corn we’d brought, which meant they were underfoot. Some of them flew in the rather close quarters, so I was happy when we’d collected a tin of eggs and made our escape. The dog, Jake, accompanied us on the rounds.

Tomorrow morning we’ll give everyone breakfast and then let the large animals back into the pasture. The cows go on their own, but I will have to lead the horse—just like those kids at the Guilford Fair.

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