In a previous blog I told you that my husband and I have two, twenty thousand bird, pastured, certified humane, poultry laying houses.
My husband and I are the only “English” family in the producer group in our area. There used to be more of us but currently there are three Amish families and one Mennonite family and us.
We take turns every summer hosting a Producer Picnic. This past summer it was Mr. and Mrs. Glick’s turn.
Mr. Glick and I have a bit of history. Embarrassing on my part. Actually, embarrassing on his part, too, probably, even though it was my fault. He’s really nice, and kind of shy. (Mrs. Glick is outgoing, super-nice and can arrange flowers like you wouldn’t believe. Beautiful bouquets using zinnias, lilies, Pixie dust and a Mason jar. My husband takes her kids candy when he picks up their eggs, he hauls our skid loader over and cleans their barn when they flip their flock, and she gives us vegetables, baked goods and beautiful flower arrangements in season.)
When we flip our flocks, we all go to each other’s farms and help. We carry the birds out after dark (since chickens are kind of hard, although not impossible, to catch during the day, but they don’t really move in the dark). Makes it easier to catch them, but you can’t see that great. Anyway, everyone was at our barn, and I think we were loading about 10K birds. Which is a lot. : )
After a couple of hours, you just kind of put one foot in front of the other, try not to trip on anything in the pitch dark and think about how happy you’ll be when it’s over, right? (It took us about seven hours that night, starting around five and finishing after midnight. I saw one little Amish boy, out way past his bedtime, sleeping, sitting up with his back against the side of the barn.)
So, to get the birds on the trucks, the guys make steps out of the crates, and we walk up about five steps to hand the birds to the guys on the trucks. They put them in crates on the truck, while we step back down and go for more. Well, we were filling two trucks that night, and I think I had about the last five birds for the first truck. I handed them off, then turned around – did I mention I was tired, and it was dark?
They were moving things around so they could move the truck and had moved the crates that made the steps. So, I stepped down about two steps, then the steps disappeared. But I didn’t realize it until my foot didn’t hit anything and I started to fall forward.
Mr. Glick was standing right at the bottom. My hands were windmilling – you know how that goes; you just try to grab onto anything, right? Well, I grabbed Mr. Glick. Well, not actually grabbed. It was more like my hands and cheek knocked his hat off, ran through his beard, slapped into his chest and shoulders and then slid down his front until I was basically face-planted at his feet. Maybe he was trying to catch me, but, I think, if he could have reacted fast enough, he would have run away. Trust me, if I could have reacted fast enough, I would have run away too, and fallen down somewhere else. Actually, I mentioned it was dark, and I didn’t even know who it was at first, other than it wasn’t my husband. : ) Take my word for it when I tell you he didn’t smell right.
So, anyway, we’re at the Glick’s house this past July, with a whole pile of kids running around. (Between our five families we have over thirty kids.) It’s dusk, and Mr. Glick is being careful to keep Mrs. Glick between him and I and making sure he’s well away from me if I look like I’m going down any steps. Kidding.
When the Amish eat in a group, the men eat first. My husband loves that, and I’m okay with it, since the Bible says the last shall be first and I’d rather eat first in Heaven. My daughters on the other hand…lol. So, the ladies had our chairs in a circle and were eating together and the men were sitting around the fire.
Julia isn’t Amish, and I’m boring, so she was sitting with her dad in the men’s group.
By the time it was dark, my youngest daughter was running around with a whole pack of kids. Seriously, they’d run by us, bonnet strings and black skirts flying (except my daughter who wasn’t wearing a bonnet – and God help the person who tries to make her – and had a jean skirt on), up the walk, in the summer kitchen door, past that window, into the kitchen, past the kitchen window and into the living room (right there, they would pass the printer and scanner that were set on a stand – not kidding, I was in the kitchen helping before everyone got there, and I admit to doing a double take when I saw their electronics hooked up. These are a different sect of Amish, not the Sinking Valley Amish, and they ARE allowed batteries.) From the living room window they’d run to the front door.
About that time the pack of boys – none of these were mine, thank God, or I wouldn’t have been nearly so relaxed – would run up the walk and into the summer kitchen, taking the same path through the house, but bursting out of the front door with slightly more force and velocity, taking the front porch steps in one leap, the pack splitting into two lines as they ran around the men’s circle and off into the darkness after the girls.
Kinda funny that kids are pretty much the same regardless of their culture.
My daughter told me later they were playing “Cowboys and Indians.” Which, I believe, is a politically incorrect way of saying they were playing “The Boys are Chasing the Girls.” : )
So, things quieted down for a little bit. (I found out later they were out behind the barn trying to ride an unbroken colt.)
The ladies were talking about the little five-year-old boy in their community who had drowned in the pond two months earlier. He was the nephew of our good friends who were at the picnic. He and his brothers had been fishing in the morning, then they’d gone to do some work. Before lunch sometime, he’d told his dad he was going to check his rod, see if he caught anything. When they sat down to eat lunch, his place was empty.
The police shut the road down for the funeral and we didn’t pick up eggs that day. But the ladies were saying the mother was expecting and with those hormones and everything was having a really hard time doing anything except sitting in her chair and rocking.
Death can happen at any time, of course. Maybe because we live on the farm, but I feel like we’re closer to it than most Americans. It’s a part of life. I suppose those of you who have read Boone’s book know how I feel about it. But again, as I sat there in the dark listening, it struck me how a mother’s heart for her children is the same in any culture.
Contemplating those more somber thoughts, I looked beyond the circle of ladies. The light from the half moon was strong enough for me to see the outline of two bodies, one that looked suspiciously like my daughter, crawling along the ridgepole of the two-story greenhouse between the shed and the house.
Thankfully my daughter was in the back, which made me believe that she was not the leader, but following someone who surely knew whether or not they were allowed to do whatever it was they were doing. (I found out later they were really NOT allowed to do any of the things they’d done that night. I also found out later that they were playing hide-and-seek and they were “hiding” on the ridgepole. That game has gotten a little more sophisticated since I was a kid.)
I also found out later that, among other things, the men were talking about making wine. (My husband came back with all these ideas about how to make good wine, and I’m kinda like, but we don’t drink wine – and I didn’t think the Amish did, either. I have a few stories about that conversation the Amishmen had that night with my husband, but this is already longer than I was expecting it to be.)
I’m not sure if it was before the wine conversation or after it, but it was one of the times after the pack of kids flew by and things were quiet for about thirty seconds when I heard my oldest daughter scream from where the men were. Then laughter.
The oldest son of our good friends is about nineteen. He’s a great kid. He’s taken us for buggy rides and when we’re cleaning the barns out, no one works harder than he does. Apparently, he found a frog. And, the male chromosome does not allow a boy to hold a frog in his hand when there is a girl he can throw it on, right?
Julia is a girly-girl. Yeah, she does everything we ask her to, but she hates dirt, bugs, spiders, reptiles, amphibians, you get the picture, and would never go outside if she didn’t have to. Her reaction was even better than expected, I think. Later, we teased her that it was probably an Amish dating ritual: throwing the frog on the lap is basically like saying, would you like to get married? Picking it carefully up and shaking your head as you set it down, would be a “no.” Jumping up, screaming and waving your hands around looks like a pretty excited “yes.”
So, maybe our daughter is engaged; we’re not sure. : )
Kidding. That boy is a great guy, but Julia is a little high-maintenance (her words) and she’s not the slightest bit interested in living without electricity. Or any modern convenience, to be honest.
Thanks so much for spending time with me today!