Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ode to Mother's Day.......Farm style

I am not a mother to children. God did not have that in His plans for me, and I am at peace with His choice. However,I am a mother and caregiver to many many many of His creations, most of whom were rescued from their former unloved and uncared for lives. If only people would stop and watch.....I mean really watch..... animals around them, they would learn so much and perhaps even grow to love and appreciate what they see. But this blog entry isn't about that. It is a look at Mother's Day.....Farm style!

Every mom has a different style of mothering. This holds true regardless if the mom is a person or an animal. There is the overprotective mom, the adoptive mom who doesn't differentiate between blood and choice, the nurturing mom, the laid back mom, the mom who is still in mothering mode even tho her kids are grown.....well, the list could go on and on.

I will start with ZaZa, our little white silky banty hen. She sat on her eggs last year and successfully hatched 2 chicks. Truthfully, they weren't even her eggs, they belonged to a couple of much larger hens, but she didn't care, and she loved those eggs and loved her subsequent chicks. It didn't take long for them to grow up, and become twice as large as their mama. Even after the chicks developed feathers and could fly up to the roosts at night, ZaZa would choose the nesting box instead, and carefully attempt to cover her teenagers with her wings. Finally, one of them left on her own, and decided that roosting was a less crowded sleeping option. Fast forward a year......Would you believe that ZaZa still sleeps in a nesting box with her one chick (who is now huge!) almost every night. Both mom and baby are in denial that the inevitable "growing up" has happened I think.

Oprah, our fluffy, talkative black Americauna hen, got broody earlier this year, and we decided to let her sit on a clutch of eggs. 4 of them hatched. There just isn't anything much cuter than a baby, any baby, don't you think? We put them in their heated "nursery" with mom, and she proceeded to teach them about life.....what to eat, how to eat it, danger signals, how to drink water, etc. Yes, a baby chick will eventually learn most of this on its own, but Oprah was shooting for the Mother Hen of the Year Award. When I would give her favorite treats of strawberries, she would hold them in her beak and simultaneously call to her chicks, and then hold the strawberry while they pecked at it. Only when the chicks were done would she eat the leftovers (sound familiar, moms?). We watched as she led her little chickadees through the first 6 weeks of life, and when we finally returned them all to our chicken coop, she continued to teach them more life lessons, returning to the nesting box each night to tuck in the babies under her wings. Then.....one night.....it happened. Oprah must have decided that she had had enough of motherhood, so she flew the coop (so to speak), and spent the night with her girlfriends on the roost. I was in the yard and heard a terrible ruckus coming from the coop and went over to investigate. All four chicks were sitting in the nesting box looking at mom and peeping up a storm. They were furious for being left alone, and were giving mom an awful tongue lashing.
Oprah was ignoring them, and had already started to go to sleep. It was so comical, but I also felt sorry for the babies. Oprah had done her job, and it was time to really grow up.

I posted an entry back in February about our loss of Dooley, an almost 2 year old gelding. In it, I mentioned his mom, Waco. Waco is perhaps the most attentive horse mom I have known. Each foal she has given birth to has had the ultimate "mom" experience. Waco is always aware of where her babies are, she talks to them constantly, and clearly just revels in being a mom. She is such "a mom" that she will try to adopt other foals in the pasture. I have witnessed her standing, making every attempt to get a foal that wasn't hers to nurse (this is not common in the horse world). Waco mourned Dooley's death, and would look for him, calling for him frequently. This went on for about 2 weeks. It was oddly comforting to know that I was not mourning alone, and we shared our tears. I was describing Waco's version of mothering to my own mother a couple of years ago, and finished my description by saying ".....so Mom, if you were a horse, I'd have to say you'd be Waco" . After a brief silence, my mom replied, "I think that is one of the nicest things you've ever said about me". Not all people would see the compliment in my statement, but my mom did. She knows how much I love and respect "my kids" and understands the animal lingo and analogies that frequently enter into conversation. My mom is most definitely a "Waco", with a little "ZaZa" thrown in the mix.

Finally, on Mother's Day on the farm, who could forget The Queen? The saying, "if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" most definitely holds true in bee hives. The queen does set the mood of her hive. If she is moody or irritable, you will definitely have an emotionally unstable hive. Likewise, if you have a gentle queen, you will have a calm hive. Beyond emotions, the queen also sets the style and layout of the comb (messy or organized?). She must be a strong leader for the sake of her family. If she is not, the worker bees will eventually lose their strong work ethic and the hive will become weaker because of it. I think the queen has set a high standard for all moms everywhere.

So, kudos to all you moms out there, and Happy Mother's Day from me and all of "my moms" at Ararat Acres. We hope you have a wonderful day!