Total eclipse of the farm


Bonnie Tyler’s song, “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, must have gone way up the play charts when the total solar eclipse enveloped Jackson County a few weeks ago in a spectacle we have never seen, nor will ever see again, in our lifetimes in this area.

When the last total solar eclipse in the US happened in 2017, I remember thinking I had to get to the path of totality and drove 4 hours to Carbondale, Illinois. Watching people there was phenomenal – one guy completely covered himself in aluminum foil, I guess to protect himself from the “harmful” rays of the cosmic event. Another individual must have been trying to get in touch with his ancient Egyptian ancestors, as he was clad in full pharaoh regalia complete with a crook and flail (items that these ancient rulers are typically shown carrying).

When the time came for the moon to darken the sun, huge billowy clouds decided to largely obscure the event by moving right into place as the eclipse reached totality. There was a collective groan of disappointment as everyone realized that we would not be seeing the spectacle clearly in the sky.

That disappointment was not to last though, when a gorgeous 360° sunset displayed during the time of totality on the horizon.

When the 2017 eclipse ended, there was definitely a traffic jam on my way back. I remember the trip taking about 12 hours, as opposed to the 4 that it took for me to get to Carbondale.

What a difference 7 years makes.

The eclipse of 2024 was without driving, without aluminum foil and without any Egyptian royalty. This stellar event held more sentiment though as it involved around 40 chickens, 2 pot belly pigs, 4 geese, 6 ducks, a whole bunch of honey bees and some great friends to join in the festivities.

The day felt like a holiday with many businesses closed to allow their employees to enjoy the event with their families or to avoid the predicted traffic that would follow the eclipse. Everyone was holding their breath for the weather, watching as the clouds in the morning gave way to brilliantly blue skies that afternoon.

My biggest observation for this eclipse was being able to observe the animals as the light changed and it went to twilight.

Not surprising, the chickens started to go into their coop as it became darker and then, right before totality, the chickens began filing back out into their yard. When the moon completed its shadowing of the sun, the birds completely froze in place. No pecking, no bwak bwak, no sound.

The pot belly pigs also retreated into their barn to await the passing of the phenomena as well as the geese and ducks freezing in place.

The small group of humans that had gathered with me ooo’ed and awww’ed as the period of darkness continued for a few minutes and I stood, barefooted, taking in as much of the sight as I could.

When the sunlight returned, I remember feeling almost refreshed and at peace. The chickens resumed their normal poultry behavior, the geese began screech honking and the pigs moved back into their yard. The small group and I all reflected on what we had seen.

I wanted that feeling of peace to last forever, but unfortunately we humans don’t always remember how to be nice to one another. However, for that one period of about 4 minutes, things seemed right in the world. Maybe one day we’ll keep that feeling beyond a cosmic event like an eclipse.

Until next time…

Stephanie Strothmann

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