The Learning Curve


It’s been another busy week for us here on the ranch.  Eleven more little pigs have arrived, bringing the lucky total to thirteen.  They’ll be even luckier in a few days when they get to begin learning about electric fence in preparation for moving out onto pasture.  We also acquired eight year-old laying chickens this week – and they’re laying!  Which is what they’re supposed to do (I realize that) but the miracle of egg-laying is still very much a novelty to me. 

Most of what goes on at the ranch these days is, in fact, new to me.  And, while I have a good deal of enthusiasm and respect for farm animals, experience and expertise I have not.  The wide and varied circle of support that I have around me (including, of course, my encouraging and very patient husband) has made the transition from suburban living to country life easier for me, but I still feel a wee bit intimidated and not a little alarmed some days at what we have undertaken here.  Almost every day has brought me the opportunity to do or see something that I have never experienced before, like waiting in suspense outside our henhouse, listening to the guttural grunts and clucks of my chickens, learning that these sounds mean they are hard at work in their nests, and finally entering to collect the warm, perfect orbs of their labor.  Or like building fence. 


This week I built fence by myself for the first time.  Or rather, I put up some wire fencing along the pre-existing perimeter of our new laying chickens’ yard. We’re hoping to give them free rein of the farmyard eventually but thought it might be a good idea to give them a fence for bit while they learn about their new home.  It had been a project on our list for a while, but became imperative when the eight layers actually arrived this week.  So Agustin helped me haul the wire out to the yard, gave me a pair of nippers and (mercifully) left me to the fencing. 

I say mercifully because I’m very glad no one was watching.  Handling the wire, I felt inept, clumsy, slow.  The wire was heavy and the roll kept falling over; the nippers felt too big for my hands and were hard to use.  And I didn’t have a damned idea what I was doing.  But I started – anchoring first with one tie, checking that the wire was snug to the ground before securing it with another.  Slowly, laboriously, and with a nice blister by the end of the afternoon from the nippers, I discovered that I can build fence. 

The fence I made is not a beautiful fence.  It’s not even intended to be a permanent fence, really.  But it is my fence and the fact that I did it by myself is kind of a big deal to me.  Standing up that little bit of wire made me feel more confident about the contribution I can actually make to our new adventure.  And our new layer hens seem to like their new fence too – except perhaps for the skinny white leghorn who has now twice flown over it.  My learning curve is steep and I know I have some defeats coming in the future.  But it was sure nice to end that day with a small victory. 

- Alexis