An opportunity for growth and to grow


It is hard to believe it is the dawn of the fourth season out on the farm.

I can always tell if it’s an even or odd year from the fields that surround the homestead. Corn in the field, it’s an odd year. Soybeans, it’s an even year. There will be soybeans this year.

Even more difficult to believe is that all of this started with a crazy idea to get a small flock of four chickens, watch them grow, learn how to build a coop from scratch (trust me, that thing will never be moved again after its harrowing transport from Columbus to the farm), celebrate the first eggs and then onto the almost made-for-TV saga about whether I would get to keep the birds or not, the move back to Seymour, making the connection with a local brewer, building a large chicken run and converting a hog barn to a coop, developing dog treats. Whew! It has been a whirlwind.

I know that through all of this, I have done some tremendous growing both physically and emotionally. When I first started with the farm, I remember telling people, when asked how things were going on the developing farm, that I needed to shrug the “city” that I had on me.

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I’m sure those folks had no idea of what I was speaking about.

I can’t really explain it, either, except that I knew that my arms were not in any shape to cart around 50-pound bags of feed, carry 5 gallon waterers to the coops or truck the 150 feet or so each day to walk from house to barn and back again.

Emotional growth happened with the first animal that died on the farm, a black cat from the city life named Blackie. His death by speeding car on a country road devastated me as did the first chicken that needed to be put down. I will forever be grateful to one of the neighbors who so gently came over and eased the animal out of its suffering, protecting my inexperienced eyes from viewing something that I would eventually learn to understand is a way of farm life.

These days, 50-pound bags of feed are still very heavy, but I don’t strain under their weight as I did (probably something that helped with the Seymour Oktoberfest stein hoist contest last year — haha).

I don’t particularly love carrying the heavy waterers from faucet to the barn, but I can do so without needing to set the contraption down to rest for a moment on its way to thirsty birds.

How about the inevitable death of animals on the farm?

Well, I wouldn’t say that I’m used to it, but I have learned that things are always in balance. To gain life, a lot of times, life is taken away. There are some animals that I am definitely more attached to than others.

The first chicken hatched on the farm, Shamrock; the first chicken from the original flock, Gertrude; the lavender Orpington rooster named Sgt. Stedenko (yes, named for the beer of the same name at the local brewpub) — all of these will be permitted to live out their lives for as long as they can as well as others who have gained more of a pet status than livestock.

One thing I have definitely learned in this new life as a small farmer is that other farmers, like myself, have a soft spot for these creatures who give us so much. I actually heard a friend say to me sometime back that I needed to find someone really mean to help me process the meat birds that will be coming late spring. I used to feel this way, as well, and now know that this would be last type of person I would want to have help process.

It takes a compassionate heart, a realistic attitude and a very strong back to survive and honor the animal for its life on Earth as well as the finished product.

Stephanie Strothmann owns Purple Shamrock Farm LLC in rural Seymour. Read her blog at Send comments to [email protected].

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