Now, I will be the first to admit that I’ve been more than willing to overload my plate in the past, but my desire to drop the wannabe from my writer moniker has helped me clear some space lately. After all, to call myself a writer, I actually have to sit down and bang out something on the keyboard.
So the only explanation for my sudden urge to add a little mutton to the mix the other day had to be that the slow leak in my head had grown large enough to let the rain in. Did I mention we were standing in the rain? We’d gone to a potluck where, naturally, the kids had decided that the only way to get truly wet enough was to swim in the river in the rain.
Between rounds of ‘bumper cars with boats’ and ‘try the mud muffins, they’re great’ the kids took turns visiting the 13-year-old hostesses’s sheep. The particular farm we were visiting a perfect piece of pastoral bliss, and the sheep made me feel like I was standing in a nineteenth-century British watercolor, so I was prepared when my kids expressed a renewed interest in acquiring sheep of their own (and because one of them is now a Jon Katz reader this revived want also meant acquiring a border collie to herd them).
I’m now a champion at ignoring the regular requests for more animals. However, as I listened to the mother of the shepherdess talk about all the things her kids (and the other kids in 4H) were learning, I started to think about those benefits. We’ve recently bumped into a number of friends who are exposing their kids to the pleasures and – often heartbreaking – pitfalls of animal husbandry. And, as much as I need a bigger to-do list like I need to gain another 5 pounds, I privately had to admit that the responsibility, the understanding of where food comes from, and the comfort with animals of all shapes and sizes are incredible gifts for these kids, regardless of the path they choose later in life.
I could spin my own yarn, I thought. My husband must have sensed the slow leak growing because as we drove away he mentioned his own sheep conversation.
“I was talking with our host about the 4H project in the field over there,” he said.
“Yeah, he said they were mostly just cute pets.” Thank goodness Dad still heard the voice of reason. But then he added, “But the kids are really getting a lot out of it.”
“He also said he dreams about having them with mint jelly.” Sarcasm – always a sign one of us was keeping our wits about us.
We were both quiet for a bit, and I can’t remember who brought up the field just past the forest the forms the border of our property. Both of us covet our neighbor’s field, and we each envision multiple overlapping purposes for it (assuming we win the lottery someday). But as we drove home we began thinking about the animals we might raise there.
It wasn’t the first time we’d contemplated horses; that was the reason we picked a place in the country. But for so many years, schedules and common sense (and finances) overruled that desire. Now, however, as we thought about the memories and skills these parents were building for their kids, the idea of a few farm animals seemed less insane.
We indulged in the ‘what-if’ game for a few miles, and, as we crossed the border back into to Vermont, we both looked at the road ahead of us and said, “What if we fixed the chicken coop?”