just ponderin'

… on the acquisition of live poultry and being a dog

fisher-price-farm

This is not my photo. I stole it. Off of e-bay.

I want a freakin’ chicken.

No, I’m not kidding. I want a chicken. I want several. A gaggle or a flock or a peck or whatever it is you have when you have chickens. Mine would make all the pretty, calming clucky sounds and wander all over my yard and I will become a very serene, farmer type person who has great, deep thoughts.

But my deep thoughts would probably be about cow patties. Because just the term, ‘cow patty’ is funny. So even though true farmers take cow patties in stride, I could not. They would distract me from running my farm efficiently.

I have never been a farmer, even though that is what my childhood dreams were all about.  Just ask my Aunt P. She remembers everything. If you ask her what I was all about as a child, she will tell you that it was down to two things: Pretending I was a dog, and that I was going to be a farmer.

Let’s start with the dog thing.

I spent years as a child, with my best friend cousin Billy, pretending I was a dog. Seriously, I can’t imagine how we could have been more irritating children. While our poor parents and grandparents were busy relaxing after church, they would have to put up with us whining and barking and panting and begging at their feet, for what seemed like at least, like, three minutes before we were angrily ordered from the room, out into the front yard, right next to the busy street. I’m not kidding. It was so busy, it had yellow lines in the center. And we were maybe 5 years old.  Clearly, exactly zero adults in my family suffered from a tendency toward over protection.  But it was the ’70s. Child survival rates were like 40%. Most of us died either forgotten on the top bunk of the car (crammed in sleeping on the ‘shelf’ under the rear window) during a long ride, or tumbling out of the back door of the station wagon, from which we were just motioning to a big rig truck driver to blow their air horns seconds before.

So, really, having five children under the age of 8 running around like crazed monkeys within 10 feet of a death highway was fairly risk-averse, if you think about it.

So there was the dog thing, and the farmer thing.

My first exposure to farming was the Fisher Price Little People Family Barn….with the silo.

Yessssss.

This toy was fantastic. When you took over the management of this farm, you not only got a serious looking farmer, a farmer’s wife (who looked suspiciously like the teacher in my Fisher Price schoolhouse – perhaps they were related), a happy little boy farmer, and a psycho farm girl. Seriously, the girl just looked nasty. She had no joy and had a weird spray of freckles on her face. I was really excited to have a farm girl, and thought I would identify with her and we would have great adventures together. But, no. She was a mean, nasty, conniving and miserable wooden being.

We were not close.

But in addition to the people, you got livestock. Growing up in Tewksbury, Massachusetts (the south side, and all that entails), we didn’t have much access to true farm life. We did, amazingly, have a pig farm at the very end of my road, which was Pringle Street (yes, my last name is Dingle. And, yes, I grew up on Pringle Street).  But the pig farm was a total “no go” area for us kids. First, someone said it was haunted and we all went with that. But second, it was said that if you walked beyond the no trespassing signs, you could be killed. By a guard pig. With tusks.

So we didn’t go there.

Ever.

So my farming experience was severely limited by what I read in my Little Golden Books and what I saw on TV. But since mostly my TV viewing was limited to Lassie and drawing with Captain Bob (I can still draw that shark from that show. I still draw it just as I was taught), I didn’t have much useful farming experience, other than how valuable a collie in full show coat is when your child passes out in a neighbor’s burning house after trying to save the lady inside.  Or he is threatened by a bear. Or falls into a lake, or gets hurt playing football, or eats deadly berries.  The collie would not be useful if your child falls into a well. Because the ‘Timmy falls into a well’ thing never happened. It is a Lassie urban legend. And I am telling you the truth.

So anyway, I had no farming experience and should probably not have accepted the offer to run the farm.

Firstly, I was highly uncomfortable with a black pig.  I wasn’t a pig racist. I’d just never come across one and considered the Fisher Price people ignorant and lazy (because they didn’t look up the fact that a pig should be pink).  I actually thought I got a defect pig for a really long time, but my best friend Jacky Sharkey also had a Fisher Price farm and her pig was black too. When I discovered that fact, I reverted back to my theory of lazy toy manufacturers.

So, in addition to my aversion to psycho farmer girls and black pigs, I didn’t seem to be able to handle the chores required to keep all the animals in good health.  There was the issue of losing the feeding trough soon after I took over ownership of my farm. I was nearly inconsolable and blamed my little sister. Okay, she wasn’t even crawling but I was pretty sure she took it. And no matter how many things my mother offered me to use as a substitute feeding trough, it would never be the same.

Plus she offered me a spoon.

A spoon.

Who feeds a cow, a horse, a sheep, two chickens, and a black pig with a spoon?

She knew absolutely nothing about running a farm.

So the main issue, and I didn’t know it at the time, was not that I required a good feeding trough to feed my animals, but that I actually had to give them food. I was constantly bugging my parents for hay, but there was no hay to be found on Pringle Street, and even though my father said to just use grass, grass was green and didn’t work for me. So then I read that horses ate oats.

Oats.

I could work with that. So I didn’t really know what a silo was used for, other than storing plastic farm people and animals (not the fences, they wouldn’t fit so they went in the barn for a while. For a while only because when you opened one door of the barn, the barn “moo’d”. This was not a problem during the day, but if you wanted to play with your barn, under your covers, at night after your parents sent you to bed – and you didn’t want to get caught, the thought of which was terrifying – you didn’t want the barn to moo and call attention to you. So I stored the fence parts under my mattress and the barn animals and people in the silo.

Until the silo had to hold the oats.

Which were Planters Cocktail Peanuts.

Dad’s special Planters Cocktail Peanuts.

So I filled my silo with Planters Cocktail Peanuts in order to keep my farm animals from starving to death.

And when my father got home that night, he went to get a snack and all hell broke loose. My father asked my mother where his Planters Cocktail Peanuts were and my mother said “In the cabinet” and my father said no they were not in the cabinet and I completely panicked. I didn’t know what to do and I was supposed to be in the bathtub!

So, completely naked, I ran to my Fisher Price Family Farm and grabbed the silo and grabbed the lid off and looked around and, having no trash can in my room, did the only thing I could think of. I hopped up on my bed, threw open the window, and dumped my father’s special Planters Cocktail Peanuts right out onto the lawn. My hope was that the squirrels would eat every single Planters Cocktail Peanut. Like, right away.

But.

When I looked back into my silo, there was a bunch of salt and little peanut pieces and no matter how I tried, I couldn’t get the pieces and the salt all the way out of the silo. And my mother was calling me to get in the tub and my father was stomping around and cabinet doors were still slamming shut. So I mashed the top of the silo back on and I took a deep breath and opened my bedroom door. And my mother was right there.

And I nonchalantly walked past her, buck naked with my silo in my hand, straight into the bathroom. She followed and saw me get into the tub with my silo an asked me what I was doing. I sat down on my end of the tub (near the faucet, because it was a little deeper and always a little warmer) and I started playing with my silo in the tub. And when she asked me what I was doing again, I looked up at her with complete confidence.

And told her I was playing with my submarine.

And she acknowledged my incredible imaginative capabilities and left the bathroom (again, child survival rates were in the 40 percent range back then. Everyone left their little children, collie-less, in slippery bathtubs.).

Which gave me just enough time to pop the top off of the silo and clean the inside out with the tub water. The only issue was that the tub suddenly developed a little oil slick and there were peanut bits here and there.

But as I was not the neatest or cleanest of children, I was a pretty good bet to shed anything from leaves to stick bits into the tub on any given night. So the peanut pieces, because they were not expected to be peanut pieces, went pretty much unnoticed. And the massive amount of soap I used that night completely obliterated the oil slick.

Boy was that close.

So. Now that I think about it, regardless of the fact that my early childhood aspirations were to be either a dog or a farmer, neither may be the best idea during this particular lifetime. Clearly, I’m an irritating dog. And my childhood farming experience certainly doesn’t give me the confidence to have dozens of animals, let alone crops, depending on me daily to keep them alive.

Plus I don’t even know how to use a grain silo. Other than for peanut storage.

And underwater wartime maneuvers.

You know, now that I’ve relived all of that childhood trauma, I don’t even want a freakin’ chicken any more.

Well, maybe just one.

Or two.

 Thanks for readin.

Elena Peters

midlife blogger & pinterest master

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