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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Living in harmony
with the natural world
requires constant observation,
readiness for change.
Our farm community
includes—among many others—
honeybees,
Guinea Fowl,
Chickens,
domestic rabbits,
Pygmy Goats,
Alpaca,
cats,
dogs,
gardens,
orchards,
(last summer, borrowed pigs.)
Also,
coyotes,
racoons,
possums,
snakes,
skunks,
turtles,
Cottontail rabbits,
many birds.
There is food to be found;
territory to be protected.
And so,
we interfere with one another.
This week,
as the weather is warming
and growing season seems to be off to a start,
we are faced with two
related
new dilemmas.
Until this year, we have always let the chickens out of the barn
through a door at ground level
into the alpaca pen.
But now that the four rabbits run freely in the barn,
we can’t let the chickens out that door.
So, we let the chickens out the upper portion
of a Dutch door
on the south side of the barn,
giving them free access to the whole farm,
including
the garden plot that I have been preparing
for the last 18 months.
The first plants I planted in that organic-laden soil,
full of promise,
were unceremoniously nipped to death
by pecking chickens.
After some study,
we faced the reality that free-ranging chickens
and a vegetable garden
are incompatible.
A fence, perhaps?
Maybe.
But there are big gardens at the pond house too,
and chickens there.
Perhaps a better idea:
all gardens at the pond house,
all fowl at the farm house.
This will require some transitioning—
finding places for all ages of chickens and guinea fowl;
planting bigger plants in the new garden plot,
which will now become wildlife habitat instead.
A new plan.
Good.
Then, suddenly,
without warning,
Joe, one of the dogs at the farm house,
takes out on a chase toward a chicken
and captures it.
When we rescue that chicken,
he goes for another!
While he and his mom Maizey
used to chase young chickens,
they have been living side-by-side
with free-ranging mature chickens
for the last couple of years
without showing the slightest interest
in them.
Suddenly,
the allure of the excitement of chasing a chicken
came upon him,
evidently.
We put a collar around his neck,
tied him to a fence,
something he has never experienced.
We told him how upset we were with him;
we kept him tied,
watching him,
and when he broke free
(the chickens were safely in the barn by then)
we watched him hide in another barn.
Next morning,
we kept the chickens in.
The morning after that,
we put a collar on Joe
before we let the chickens out.
Collar around his neck,
he looked defeated—
like his spirit had been crushed.
We didn’t tie him up
(our plan was to catch him and pen him
if he went after a bird.)
He spent most of the day
lying on the back porch,
seemingly deflated.
The chickens
ventured out of the barn,
but,
seemingly wary,
didn’t go far,
and returned to the barn often.
Third day out,
Joe still wears a collar;
the chickens come and go,
but stay close to home base.
We know—
though we do forget—
that nothing,
nothing,
works forever.
We must pay attention
to what’s happening
with everyone in the community
all the time.
Change is constant,
unexpected.
Problems are solutions
and the creative process
is eternal.
Life is rich.
Resilience is exciting.