Feeling Like a Farmer


(washing off the mud and blood)

Yesterday, Milo and I had just come back from a hike on “The Missing Piece,” a 40-acre parcel of land that completes the puzzle and fills in a gap we had between our other 310 acres on Hacienda Dominguez & Chelenzo Farms and the 3,000 acres of BLM (public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management) when I received an SOS call from Olivia, via the walkie-talkie.

Earlier this week, we had completed the purchase of the missing piece and now we own it out right, so I was very excited about the excursion. Not only did it allow me to get some much-needed fresh air, after quarantining inside for the most part for the last eight days, but ironically I haven’t been hiking in months, and very little overall, since we landed here in May of last year.

Also, quite exciting to me, is that I found my first fossil on our land yesterday. Whenever I am out, I scour the hillside for any sign of dinosaur bones, ancient alien life forms and any other fossil remains. Until yesterday, not a sign of any ancient plant or animal matter could be found, just a lot of volcanic detritus.

Moreover, along with the clamshell imprinted in the millions-year old rock, upon closer examination I found a number of other pieces of evidence of animal life on the mango-sized pebble.

Milo was likewise enthused, as I let him practice driving the ATV a bit, while we were out.

Thus, upon our return, I thought I’d teach him a lesson in vehicle maintenance, by showing him how to use the air compressor to fill the tires, which were dangerously low.

We had one fill-cap off, when suddenly, I heard static and Olivia’s distressed voice over the radio.

“Pssst, pssst…Papa I need your help at the chicken coop!”

“What do you need Olivia? Milo and I are busy by The Shed.”

Considering that all my children are sometimes apt to exaggerate, I didn’t start running, but continued the lesson with her little brother.

However, that was immediately interrupted when Olivia explained a minute later, “One of the ducks is bleeding, it was attacked by a hawk, which is still flying around the coop right now.”

Now, it was time to run.

So Milo and I dropped everything, and ran to the house. Olivia had already put the duck in the dog kennel by the time we got there, and had run back out to protect the other chickens and ducks at Coop Knox.

While I attended to the bleeding bird, I told Milo to go help his sister and go lock up all the fowl back in the fully enclosed pen.

Meanwhile, I took the duck and placed it in the laundry room’s utility sink. There, I gently washed off the caked splashes of mud and blood off it’s head with warm water. Injured, it seemed a bit in shock, but at the same time it also seemed to know that I meant no further harm and that I had good intentions of helping it.

I found that it had a good number of gashes on its bill, under its eye, and under one of the wings. So, I surmised that the hawk landed one of its talons on its face, and the other near its breast.

Being that we have nurtured attacked chickens back to health a few other times, we were prepared with the right disinfectant for the job, which I applied after cleaning it throughly and applying gentle pressure to the wounds for a few minutes.

All the while, surprisingly, the duck remained rather calm. It seemed to be wheezing a little, which only massaged my sympathies even more, as I sat there for the next half hour talking to it and ensuring it received proper and humane care.

Once I felt it was in stable condition, I called Maddy and Enzo, to tell them about what happened and asking them if they wanted to be involved, in order to have the experience of caring for an injured farm animal.

However, after Chelsea arrived, the consensus was that it was time to harvest another bird. There was a good risk that this duck would get infected, and die suffering.

So, being that we’re on a farm, and we’re not vegetarian, and we already had our inaugural experience with processing a couple of them, it was decided that we knew what was on the dinner menu the next night for Super Bowl Sunday - and it wasn’t nachos.

Admittedly, and a little surprisingly, I felt bad. It was my idea to harvest ducks after all, as I do love duck meat.

However, after playing Nurse Nightingale with this one, I wanted to give it a second chance, just as we have done with all the preyed upon chickens.

Nonetheless and allthemore, I conceded and we will be doing the dirty deed this afternoon, upon our return from the little ones’ 4-H meeting at the county fairgrounds.

That all said, this whole experience over the last 24 hours, especially having to care for an injured animal of ours, has made me feel like “a farmer” more than ever.

The team - along with a potential new member, Nina, who will be flying in to visit and stay with us next weekend - has had substantial conversations this past week about our planting and land conservation plans as well.

So, a lot is happening here, and we’re seeing our dreams being built from the ground up - right before our eyes. It’s a wonderful experience, for it feels good to be un hacendero verdadero, an honest-to-God farmer.