HOMEGROWN Life: Parenting Lessons from the Barnyard
It’s hard to find better examples of parenting than in the barnyard.
For months now, I’ve been enjoying the lessons all the animals have been teaching me about unconditional love, sacrifice and patience, the basics of parenting. I’ve watched when a sudden storm brews up and a cold rain starts pelting down as my tiny Bantam hen Mama huddles down to accommodate 7 bits of fluff under her, protecting them from the wet and chill. When one scoots out prematurely, before the rains are over, she’d rearrange her entire body, adjusting to a reordering of the fluff balls beneath her.
One of my Royal Palm turkey hens created a nest of 21 eggs, nestled in the catnip bed. Each day I watched as she added yet another egg until she was satisfied with the number. She then sat, with breast feathers fluffed and wings stretched over the brood, keeping them safe and warm. When she’d take a short break to stretch her legs or get a drink from the pond, she’d return to the nest, lower herself over the eggs, turning them as needed to spread her warmth evenly over their ever thinning shells. At day 28, on my birthday, they began to hatch. 15 brand new turkeys now occupied this Mama’s every waking moment.
I moved the family into the coop and immediately Daddy came to assist in the raising of the young. At times, he would chase Mom away, as if to say, go take a rest, I’ve got them. The poults would transfer from under Mom to snuggling under and around Dad. When Mom needed a dust bath in the herb garden, she’d take the little ones with her and Dad would sit nestled in the nearby grass, watching.
One of my does, Sea Princess, became a Mom this year. Her babe, named Piper, after a bagpiping friend came to visit, has grown up nursing. This is a first for the farm as usually babes are bottle raised to better supervise their intake. For months now, I’ve watched Sea Princess and Piper form a Mother and son bond. They share a subtle language, sometimes vocal sometimes through a look. From Mom, it seems to say, I’m never far away, I’ll keep you safe. From Piper, it’s all about trusting that she means it. I’ve been blessed in that he’s extended that trust to me. He and I are embarking on a new journey together as he is beginning to train as a draft animal. That means, when he’s big enough, he and I will be taking trips together with him pulling me along in a cart and in the winter, plans are for a sleigh. It’s another form of trust in learning his commands, standing still while we put on his gear, listening to what I say. I listen too.
Sometimes, Piper just wants to play. At 16 weeks, I hear him when he seems to say I just still want to be a babe. At those times, we forget about gear and just head to the pasture where he runs through my legs and then eventually finds Mom who is happy to provide him with a big of nursing before a nap in the sun. Being a parent. It’s a delicate juggling act. I’m just thankful I have so many good parents to enjoy and blessed that they share their little ones with me here on the farm.
MORE FROM DYAN:
- A Tiny Life, Remembered
- Dyan’s Springtime To-Dos
- Raising Romeo, a Love Story
- Farmer Dyan Gets a Four-Legged Valentine
- A Bittersweet Month on the Farm
Dyan Redick calls herself “an accidental farmer with a purpose.” Bittersweet Heritage Farm, located on the St. George peninsula of Maine, is a certified Maine State Dairy offering cheeses made with milk from a registered Saanen goat herd, a seasonal farm stand full of wool from a Romney cross ﬂock, goat milk soap, lavender woolens, and whatever else strikes Dyan’s fancy. Her farm is also an extension of her belief that we should all gain a better understanding of our food sources, our connection to where we live, and to the animals with whom we share the earth.
PHOTOS: DYAN REDICK