Laura Parker Roerden writes, consults, and speaks about kids’ connection to themselves, each other, and the earth. Her favorite dress this month is the knee length dress, the rita. She directs Ocean Matters, a nonprofit that helps save threatened marine resources. She believes good food can connect us to the earth and one another and thinks today’s young people are reason to be hopeful about the environmental problems facing us. She lives on Jo-Erl Farm, a fifth generation family farm with her husband, three boys, and an assortment of fruit trees and farm animals. You can find her online at Salt from the Earth and on Twitter @LParkerRoerden
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African proverb
We’ve had a couple of challenging weeks here at Jo-Erl Farm. A weasel has been getting into the chicken coop and biting heads off of our newly-raised heritage breed Delawares. Mornings I’ll enter the coop and cringe—another headless chicken lying on the ground, already stiff.
At first, I could joke about it. “It’s either Ozzy Ozbourne or it might be a weasel.” Or “The least they could do is pluck it for me, too.” I’m not laughing now.
One of the birds killed was the smallest of the flock and my youngest child’s favorite. Most days Ben would come off the bus, go to the barn, and come back to the house with this little Delaware in his arms: he called her Lucy. He sobbed when I told him I had found her dead. Ben and I buried Lucy in a driving, cold rain. He made his own little homemade cross to put on the grave.
We’re up to about forty birds taken, despite five separate attempts by three different men at closing holes in our 18th century barn. “The place looks like Fort Knox,” my nephew Ed said just last week. That was five or ten chickens killed ago. I’m not sure. I’ve lost count.
Our handyman Keith is here again today, closing up more holes, investigating the crime scene, dusting for prints. It can feel discouraging, like playing Whack-a-Mole. Solve one problem on a farm and another surfaces.
Yesterday, I had our trusty Farm Campers here (ages 8-14), helping to close up more holes and restore order to the coop. Two of the eight-year old boys found over seventy eggs hidden among the cow’s hay bales. We laughed as the eggs in the pail mounted as more and more clutches were found: one clutch on the top of the bales; another between two bales; a third beneath the second and then a fourth in a nest of hay on the ground. I think we all have a soft spot for renegade hens, whose clutches combine and grow as if exponentially.
As we head into the holiday season, like all working mothers I feel overwhelmed with the tasks on my plate, which seemingly mount like the eggs in those clutches. And as real winter descends, the weasel problem has escalated. Three chickens killed one night; four another.
Yesterday, I texted a few friends after finding a particularly horrible array of dead chickens. “I’m becoming unraveled,” I admit to them. Offers of help come in. Someone has a critter cam, another’s husband is coming with a fancy staple gun to help cover the roof of the coop with chicken wire, two friends offer to begin converting a shed on their property to re-home the remaining 80 birds, my niece brings a homemade weasel trap and closes up yet more holes, my nephew comes time and again, analyzing what’s happening and sealing more holes. My husband picks up more chicken wire.
The cavalry has come, because I admitted I need help. This thought nearly stops me in my tracks. Surely every woman who suffers under the delusion that being a super hero is an admirable goal needs to be reminded of this key act of self-love. Simply. Ask. For. Help.
The challenges of our life might feel like a way we unravel, but they also might be the way we discover the treasure trove that friendship and fellowship with others is—like hidden eggs whose gifts would otherwise go untapped.
As the holiday season intensifies, give yourself the gift of wrapping yourself in the love and support of your friends and family. And return the favor with the rita, a knee length dress with a slightly flared skirt. Go together.
Stop in and visit us at Salt from the Earth and share how you’re taking care of yourself this holiday season and find out more about what we’re learning from the weasel and other farm challenges.
What are you wrapped in? You can find your rita at our online store!