In the last ten days 300 baby chicks arrived two days early and three new apprentices arrived on Thursday and we at the farm became parents again.
Our Chicken Man, Eric, his wife our Tour Director, Lauren, and our newest Marketeer Evan, came to the early bird rescue and brooded the babies. It ain’t no easy task to set the lamps, water, food, line the brooder with shavings and clean 300 bottoms, especially when you are in the middle of moving from one apartment to another. But they did and it was done well. Well done.
The newest flock was named The Traveling Wilburys by Eric because like the band they are made up of poultry’s greatest making the flock a super group.
The Peeps have been with us ten days and already they are teenagers. Their brooder is set within one of our shade structures, making it doubly warm and cozy. In a deed of intelligence and engineering, the design includes a south-facing, hinging roof that opens to let in fresh air.
The grander space, the access to more sun and warmth seems to have speeded up their maturity rate. A few of the Peeps have already been pecked much to Inez, Eric, Robin and my chagrin. Inez wants to take the henpecked Peeps home. She calls them all Petey and is worried about their bloody bums. Eric, sick with womb envy, wonders – Have I not done enough for my babies? This afternoon we agreed to move the pecked Peteys to another smaller brooder to give them a chance. Hen pecking is the flock’s way of eliminating weak birds. It is the flock’s way of saying, “You are small and puny and don’t deserve to eat any food so back off!” Intellectually we recognize them as livestock not pets. Regardless, it is distressing.
Perhaps we will have to come up with another 80s band name for the smaller henpecked flock.
Sylvie and Inez love seeing the Peeps. Last year upon meeting the Peeps, the girls were quiet and cautious. Now with age and energy, they greet the girls with stomps and screams and stumbles. At first they were too nervous to even attempt holding a Peep. They have gotten braver, snatching and grabbing at the babies. All 300 Peeps pour into the furthest corners of the brooder, climbing over each other to escape Godzil-nez and Zilla-vie. I encourage the girls to use quiet voices and soft hands. Five years old in 9 days, they do their best.
It is hot in the brooder. Sylvie wipes her forehead and says “Woo Boy” a lot. The blue gloves we wear wear while handling the birds make Sylvie’s hands sweaty. She hates wearing them. Inez loves them and instructs everyone on how to don them. She likes to keep a few spare for super hero gloves. They busy themselves cleaning shavings from the water dishes and kissing soft chick heads. They love the Peeps.
Today, we brought our friend along to meet the Peeps. Claire was with us last year when we met the turkey Peeps. She enjoyed that experience so much, she’s been eager to meet our newest set of Peeps. But before meeting The Wilburys, I wanted to meet our other Peeps, the newest round of apprentices.
The apprentices have earned the team name Good Mojo. Kenzie, Catherine and Amrita have all farmed before. Robin is excited because the previous farm experience is an asset to our farm. Some say that we should not apprentice farmers who already have experience. We disagree. Each farm is a microsm. The landscape, the climate, the soil, the angle of light, the planting techniques, and the experience of the farmers is unique. They bring all of that knowledge, familiarity and fluency. They bring hands rough from the soil. Skin lined from squinting in the sun. They carry understanding and awareness of the life and death in every furrow. We will learn as much from them as they will from us.
After their first day of field planting, they earned the approval and respect of our current team. I asked Ellie if they were strong. They are. The fact that they have already worked on a farm and want to again proves their strength. We are glad. They will need strength, flexibility and endurance to flourish on the farm.
Today they were plug planting with Sara the Mermaid – tomatoes, tomatillos, basil – incredulous that so much life can spring forth from such small seeds.
And so it is with our apprentices and our Peeps, both groups arriving on the cusp of Spring Equinox 2012. Each being that enters the sphere of the farm bears abundant life from joyful spirits.
Welcome, Peeps, to Suzie’s Farm.