Developing roots

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I’ve lived here for about a year now and to me it seems like I’ve lived here longer. It didn’t take long for me to consider this my home. That is probably because as soon as I got here I started working on the land. It is important to develop roots to your home. But I have moved so often that it is been hard to develop those roots for each place that I’ve lived. It did not take long for me to feel at home and develop those roots. My real challenge was for my wife to feel the same way.

I am sure that many of you know what I mean about getting your significant other to enjoy something as much as you do. I know that when I started riding Harley-Davidson’s motorcycles I wanted my wife to enjoy it too. And so we went thru a time of buying motorcycles for her to ride. After three attempts of riding new bikes it soon became apparent that she did not enjoy the ride is much as I did. Same goes for the cars we have bought. I wanted her to be as excited about the vehicle as I was. And she brought several vehicles that she wanted me to enjoy as well. But that did not always work out. As I might have mentioned before, since moving to Texas in 1993 we have moved into a new home nine times. Three of those times we lived either next to or close to my wife’s sister. My wife is very close to her family and while living in those homes she seemed to be very happy.

So when I proposed this last move to a small rural area about four hours away from any family, I was concerned that she would not grow roots for the house and property. I feared that after a while she would want to move back closer to the city and her family. The challenge was to find a way to get her to feel that this is her home and for her to grow the roots that make a house a home. So in this first year she did her best to enjoy the house and property. I was not sure what it would take, or even if it could happen, that she would feel that this is her home and she would grow the roots that would make her want to stay.

Well, surprise- surprise it has happened. And the way it  happened makes me smile. About a month ago, after going to the store buying some eggs, my wife thought that she’d like to have her own chickens. Now right off the bat that made me smile. She is a city girl and until we met she never even had a pet. Soon after being married we had a couple small dogs that she treats more like children. But the thought of her raising chickens just made me smile. But I did not want to stifle the idea and so we began asking people about how to raise chickens. The first thing that we had to do was build a chicken coop. So I went online and looked up and read the many articles about chickens. To be honest it was a little bit overwhelming. So we called our son and daughter-in-law who had lived in Texas and raised chickens. Not only were they helpful with information, they were so excited about our raising chickens they made a visit to our house from their home in Arkansas. As the word got out I found out that my youngest son also was raising chickens in California. So before long it seemed that we had the whole family giving us information how to raise chickens. So I built a chicken coop by using part of an old existing shed and then fencing off a good sized yard. I used chicken wire for the fencing and covered it with a lightweight plastic fencing to keep the predator owls out. I then went so far as to paint the wooden parts of the fencing to make it look nice. Inside the shed I made three levels containing 15 roosting nest areas. This took a week or so but soon we were ready for the big event buying chickens.

We began searching the local papers and visiting the local feed stores to ask about chickens. After visiting one feed store we got the name of a man who lived fairly close by, who had some chickens for sale. Since we began our search in February there were not a lot of people who had chickens for sale. So we called the guy and after following the rather sketchy directions we pulled up upon a farm and noticed several buildings and coups. As we called the man before we got there, he walked out of his house as we pulled up. He looked like something out of a farm movie. I would guess he was well over 60 years old with gray hair wearing a John Deere green baseball cap and blue jeans style overhauls. The bid overhauls looked well-worn with several pens and pencils sticking out of the front.  His voice and the way he spoke made him seem very disarming. And from the very beginning you could see that he loved raising his bantam chickens. He must’ve had 20+ small chicken coups and one large building where he kept the newborn chicks and incubated the eggs. He was so much into his chickens that he had to show us every one of them and give us their history and their breed. My wife was just so excited about buying chickens she would tell him that we would buy whatever he suggested. But he was such a nice guy he wanted to make sure we knew all he could tell us about each of the chickens. We ended up buying six hens and one rooster, all bantam chickens. My wife was not familiar with the word bantam but she was so excited about how pretty the birds were we quickly bought the birds and took them to their new home, our chicken coop. We were not sure when they would produce their first egg, We were told they were still pretty young. But after a short time the first egg was laid. My wife was surprised at the size of the egg. Bantam chickens are a very small breed of chicken and they lay some very small eggs. But the excitement of the first egg was as if we found some gold on the property. It didn’t take long for my wife to name each one of the chickens. When I even joked about eating one the chickens for dinner she would adamantly denie that that would ever happened. So I was sure that if one the chickens were to die I would have to take care of the issue. She enjoyed the chicken so much that we placed chairs outside the chicken coop just to watch the chickens run around. Within the next week we were getting almost 2 eggs a day. We became familiar with the people at the feed store as they advised us on the different foods for the chickens.

A few days ago as I was driving into town I noticed a man at the edge of the road selling full-grown chickens. As cute as the bantam chickens were I was looking at getting full-size chickens that would produce full-size eggs. So I called my wife to tell her about the man on the side of the road selling chickens. She quickly responded that after visiting the grocery store I should come back to the house and pick her up so that we can go look at the chickens. So that is what I did and we drove back to the man on the side of the road selling chickens. When we  got out of our truck my wife noticed how large those chickens were. I noticed that they look like roosters. When we asked the man he confirmed that he had four roosters and three ducks for sale. As it happens we were doing this on Valentine’s Day and I joked this is what happens out in the country on Valentine’s Day, you buy your wife a chicken or a duck. What I didn’t notice earlier is that the man had a cage filled with some very small chicks. My wife quickly gravitated towards the small chicks and asked about their breed. This man who was also dressed in a bib overall with a plaid shirt and a rather beat up baseball cap; stated they were barnyard chickens. I questioned him about what a barnyard chicken was. He said that they are a little bit of every breed and that he was not sure what breed each one of them were. I asked him how many chicks were in the cage he said 15, but he had 125 that he was ready to sell. When we asked the price for the chicks it was so small that we bought all 15 chicks. I had already put some cages in the back of my truck with the thought of buying chickens, so we transferred the chicks into that cage. As the man was standing in front of a feed store, we went back to the feed store and got the appropriate feed and advice on the chicks. As soon as I got home we both realized that I was going have to build a separate area or container for these chicks, as they were so young. And I walked around and suggested several items but none of them would be able to keep the chicks warm. So after referring to a couple of chicken books again, that were given to us by my son and his wife, I realized that we need some large box with a way to warm the chickens by light. That is when my wife spotted an old speaker box that was set up on a high shelf in my shop. I had probably moved that speaker box over 15 times with all the moves I’ve made. And up until recently I would have connected to a receiver and play music though the speaker. But it is been setting on that shelf for over six months and I really didn’t have any plans on using it. So I took out the speakers themselves, and placed them in a see-through container. I hate to throw anything away that works. So I was able to buy a light, I attached it to the top of the box and drilled holes along the side of the box for the new chicks. There is already a large hole in the box that the big speaker fit in, so I just made a door over it so you can open it up and look af the chicks and take them in and out as needed. I don’t know if it’s just a mothering instinct but my wife immediately fell in love with those chicks. And so after about an hour or so of making the new chick box the chicks were put in their new home. As a very young man I lived on a farm that raises a lot of chickens. And it was my experience that not all checks would make it through the first week. So I mentioned this to my wife and she immediately said no, they all have to live. I smiled and said okay, but there was my underlying fear that one of those chicks would not make it.

Everything looked as if the was working and so my wife went out on an hourly basis the first night to make sure the chicks are okay. Then about three in the morning she was awake and then so was I and she asked if I go out and check on the chicks. Being half asleep I said no they will be all right until the morning.

I usually wake up early in the morning and to my surprise so did my wife that morning. And she asked me if I would go out and take a look at the chicks, as she was afraid to because she didn’t want to find a dead chick. So I walked out into the chicken coop where the chick box was and with a little anticipation opened the lid only to find all the chicks up and walking around doing just fine. So I turned around and started to walk back towards the house. In doing so I thought I would walk to the back yard and pet my big dogs as since the weather has gotten warmer I do not allow them to sleep in the house rather they sleep in the garage. What I didn’t realize was that my wife was watching me from our bathroom window that allowed her to look at the chicken coup and my path back to the house. What I also didn’t realize is that my path was going to take me right by our trash can. As I approached the back yard near the trash can I looked up to see my wife watching me with much anticipation. I smiled and gave her thumbs up and went to pet my dogs. When I got into my house my wife came to me with tears still in her eyes and told me that she thought I was headed to the trash can to dispose of a dead chick. It was a touching moment that we both laughed at, even though I felt very bad that I didn’t realize what just happened. We both went to the chicken coop and she reached in the chick box and held and petted each one of the chicks. This is the moment that the roots began to grow. For the next several days she would regularly go out to the chicken coup and reach into the chick box and pet one of the chicks. She then told me that she loved living here and didn’t think she could leave as she is found so much fun and love in raising the chickens.

The next thing I knew we were making plans on how to make the chicken coup bigger and how to separate the new chicks from the old chicks as the new chicks would soon be too big for the chick box. Now that the weather is nice we have two chairs sitting just outside the chicken coop. And many times we sit together and view the chickens. We narrate their actions as if we were sports announcers and we had hidden microphones on the chicks. The one rooster (big Jim) keeps busy fertilizing the hens. Sometimes all the hens are running around my wife narrates or acts like an announcer at a ballgame. It is sometimes hilarious and almost always fun.

It was the action of buying the chickens and building the chicken coup that caused the roots to grow for my wife and making this house her home. It’s just amazing. And I am thrilled, I did not know how to or if this would happen. So I imagine we  will be buying more chickens and I will be building bigger coupes and larger yards. If amongst these 15 chicks there a lot of roosters, they will be allowed to free range as it is wise to  have one rooster for every 15 to 20 chicks. Who would’ve thought this would’ve ever been an issue in my life. All I know is that it’s fun and I’m really happy that my wife now wants to live here.

So my thought for the day, is to never give up and keep an open mind. Something that senior citizens have a hard time doing, that is in keeping an open mind. But by keeping an open mind and opening up to a new adventure I have gained something that I had no idea how to get. That is that my wife now has grown some roots to this house and has now made it a home.

Pops

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