Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Kicking It on the farm

With Easter just over, I am reminded of spring on the Kansas farm.

Each season brought a new job. For instance, springtime meant my folks would buy 500 baby chicks from the feed store. And because there was still snow on the ground, they had to live under a heat lamp in the corner of our kitchen.

Weeks later, when the air warmed, we would add inches of fresh straw to the hen house floor. Watering cans were scrubbed and feeding trays were filled in preparation for relocating 500 of the now much larger chicks. It took three of us a full morning to gently lower them into lid-covered cardboard boxes and transport them out the back door and across the yard to their new home.

Feeding the chickens was my primary farm job. As chicks, they’d go through 50 pounds of feed a day. By the end of summer, though, this enormous clutch would peck through 100 pounds of feed seven days a week until, as the pullets grew, we’d discover who was going to lay and who would become lunch.

In case you didn’t know, it’s impossible to separate roosters out until they start sprouting feathers and waddles. Occasionally, you might hear that unmistakable croak that would later transform into a crow but know this, young roosters were never destined to have a long life. Either they were served for lunch or the barnyard Leghorn king would do them in.

Once the hens started laying, they ate 200 pounds of food every day and required their eggs to be collected twice each day. Even though hens do not lay an egg every day, nests are shared so it’s hard to determine who is working and who isn’t. My folks worked every day. Besides the chickens, we also had a dozen Holstein cows in the dairy, a white-faced Hereford for my 4-H project, and a few pigs for ham and bacon.

The local dairy bought the eggs and milk and in turn we collected the whey to feed the piglets. It wasn’t called a “movement” back then – it was and is a way of living in sync with the earth. Farmers take great care of their livestock, their fields and their gardens. Sustainable living is nothing new to the families that live in rural America. Without their endless days of toil 365 days a year, year in and year out, grocery store shelves would be empty.

Looking back, I remember Kansas has more than four seasons. Actually, it is closer to six or seven. How you wonder? In addition to spring, summer, winter, and fall, there are two tornado seasons, plus the windy season. Oh, stop. The wind howls regardless of the month.

I still remember hearing these parting words hollered from the kitchen, “Don’t let the screen door slam.”

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal can be reached at [email protected].


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