I mentioned to my friend the other day that not only can I tell what species is being noisy, but to a good extent just exactly WHO it is. That's right, from my kitchen I know which cow is mooing, which rooster is crowing, which horse is whinnying. And if it's normal. Gobbles the turkey, well, gobbles a lot this time of year...but when he really carries on it generally means there is someone in my driveway, like a long-range doorbell alert. A chicken makes different noises depending on if she's just laid an egg or found something tasty. This is helpful in tracking down a secret nest if they aren't using the nest box...I can figure out about where the egg in question is hidden.
But with this power comes responsibility. If you hear something out of the ordinary, you have to make sure your critters are OK. I've heard alarmed birds and come out of the farm stand to find kids throwing pinecones like fastballs at them. It's sometimes up to me to make that a teachable moment on how to treat animals when you visit a farm and protect my poultry. Unusual amounts of noise can also mean loose animals- and often, it's not the loose ones, but the ones left behind inside the fence that tattle!
Last night, just as we were going to bed after another busy day, there was mooing. Most of the time it's pretty quiet after dark. I said it sounded like Pixie, and Dan agreed she'd been pretty vocal lately, mostly for no reason. But the moos continued, and seemed a little too close to the bedroom window to be normal. And sure enough, there were cows loose. Which means getting dressed, getting your boots and a flashlight and going back out into the night to make sure the animals are safely put away and the fence is at least temporarily repaired before getting some shuteye. Dan volunteered and let me stay inside- forget the flowers, that's how you know romance is still alive on the farm! The escapees were put back, and the rest of the night was thankfully peaceful.
And beyond noise, a farmer just knows his or her critters. If one is missing, they may be in trouble, whether caught in a fence or going through a difficult birth where they may need help. Acting just a bit "off" may mean they are sick. Paying attention, even unconsciously, every single day, can be the difference between life and death for the animals we care for. I worry every time I leave the farm overnight that someone won't know my critters like I do. Because although yes, a good part of our livelihood is made by raising animals for meat, that does not mean we don't love and care for them and want them to be healthy and protected inside our fences.
As I was mulling this post over in my head, and also thinking about Easter just a few days away, it just made me think of the Biblical description of Jesus as a shepherd, who knows his flock as they know him. I feel that image was much more powerful years ago when folks still had agrarian roots. To steward animals is a constant act, not just morning or evening at chore time. Not just at birth or death but every minute in between. And in a very real way, it's an act of constant love. Not that I in any way am claiming to be a savior, just that the image is so much more powerful when you have the actual experience of shepherding (or cowgirling or chicken herding or...), and I wanted to share that with folks getting ready to celebrate Easter.
So Happy Easter to those who celebrate it, and for those that don't, Happy Passover, or Vernal Equinox, or Spring or whatever other spring holiday I may have missed! May your day include some sunshine and well-behaved critters!