The rooster frantically gathered the gang of hens, wrangling them up toward the backyard pasture.
Sitting on the wooden fence, a hawk watched and waited for the opportune moment to strike. It never arrived. The black rooster had successfully ushered the hens to safety.
Afterward, the hawk, perhaps more curious and contemplative than hungry, spread out its wings and flew away – up into the old pine tree across the street.
An old folklore:
If a hawk is flying above, throw a horseshoe into the fire and leave it there until hot; and the bird’s claws will become so clinched that it will be unable to capture your chickens.
“Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: “Love. They must do it for love.” Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide. I have an idea that a lot of farmers have gone to a lot of trouble merely to be self-employed to live at least a part of their lives without a boss.”
― Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food
A black rooster spends its days in our backyard, watching over the queen hens like a young vaquero with a red buckaroo hat. And when he dances, his wing feathers point downward, and he circles around a hen on the tips of his claws – rooster pirouettes, and the faint sound of Castanets or the cockerel waltz, as they sometimes call it.
The homestead feels, almost tastes, like a farm – four goats, three llamas, three cats, two hens, and the black rooster. This past weekend, we rescued six more chickens, a handful of eggs, and a peafowl egg that we hope will hatch in the next few days. Hints of a harvest in the orchard emerge – fresh lemons and grapefruit in the coming months. Most of the 26 nearly dead pomegranate trees lover planted and cared for have shown life – green leaves and red flowers (…perhaps, we’ll get a pomegranate or two before the first desert frost).
Every morning, blue work gloves are pulled lean and tight around my hands, and old red clogs tip tap across the packed earth, leaping across a mud patch left behind from irrigation day and into the barn, scooping up the morning hay. Occasionally, I tango with a llama while the wild birds call, the chickens cluck, and the rooster belts out his manly crow. A young doeling named Pearl makes a dash to eat the leaf that has just fallen from the tree. Three little girls wake, wild-haired and gangly, the oldest holds her baby sister. They look out into the pasture from the sliding glass doors – they’re waiting for the okay to join the morning dance.
image: A Navajo woman holding a rooster. Photograph by Loomis Dean. USA, May 1951.
p.s. “Linguists have speculated that the words “buckaroo” and “vaquero” may derive from Arabic words related to cattle, transliterated by some as bakara or bakhara, and suggests the words may have entered Spanish during the centuries of Islamic rule. The word for cattle in Arabic is Arabic: بقر baqar, and the Arabic word بقار baqqār means “cowherd.”
What were your sister’s dreams like?
She wanted to live like a member of The Swiss Family Robinson, with impossibly friendly animals in impossibly congenial isolation. Her oldest son, Jim, has been a goat farmer on a mountaintop in Jamaica for the past eight years. No telephone. No electricity.
image: A mother and daughter plant a garden in DeKalb County in the 1940’s
(TN State Library and Archives)
kurt vonnegut interview: here
“When it is understood that one loses joy and happiness in the attempt to possess them, the essence of natural farming will be realized. The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”
Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution