My children are probably tired of hearing me say Farming Teaches Flexibility, but I keep saying it because it is the truth.
When things go wrong or are very difficult, we can get bitter or we can get better. When challenges seem insurmountable, we can give up, or we can get creative.
I must admit, there have been times over the past 6 years when we have said, at the end of a long day, "We give up. We can't do this anymore. We are too old for this. Let's just head to the store and purchase our food!"
But in the morning the Lord reminds us of all the reasons He brought us here to this land. And He gives us enough grace for the day ahead. And we remember the health benefits of us being here and the food provided on this land, which is miles ahead of any food we can get at a grocery store. In many cases what we grow here is miles ahead of other farms, those who don't use organic practices. And so we press on!
Yesterday was one of those "press on" days. We had ordered 100 Freedom Ranger meat chickens for our first batch of the year, with 200 more coming later in the season. We need to start early in order to have enough chicken in our freezer for the year, as well as enough for one other family we serve. We have started early every year in spite of the cold weather and always done well. Freedom Ranger chickens are very hardy and can make the trip from the Amish farm in Pennsylvania easily. We rarely lose even one bird on the 2-day trip the birds make via the postal service.
SIDE NOTE: For those of you who may not be familiar with these birds, or with chickens in general, it is important to note that God designed the chicken to be able to live it's first two days of life without food or water. This is to provide all eggs a chance to hatch before the mama bird leaves the nest. So travelling for 2 days might be a little rough but it is in no way out of the means of what these birds are made to handle. And a healthy, well-bred bird typically handles the travel very well.
However, we had weather this year that is rare for Missouri. Several days of below zero temps and no end was in sight. When we called the hatchery in PA, it was a nice 40-degrees there and they had already shipped the birds. Our temps in MO were not getting out of the teens during the day and dropping below zero at night. How would these birds every make it?? We didn't know.
The day came that we were supposed to get the call from the post office in our town but we never heard. After calling them, we learned that the birds did not arrive and no one could tell us where they were. This is the first time we had ever had the post office delay our birds and not even know where they were! We lost hope at the end of the day. There was no way that these poor birds could take an extra day on the road in th
ese freezing temps. Even though they are meat chickens, we have soft hearts and hated to think of them suffering and dying. What a terrible waste as well! And our supply of food... also gone. But we know that God is in charge of all things and these birds did not really belong to us anyway, but to the Lord.
For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. -Pslam 50:10
And so we carried on with our day considering our options and making adjustments to our plans for raising meat this spring/summer.
The following morning at 7am, we received a call from the post office. They announced that our chicks had arrived. We assumed we would be picking up a box of dead chicks. But to our great surprise.... we could hear the chicks peeping in the background! It was exactly 3 degrees outside when we got the call. This is unbelievable! So Keith hopped in the truck and headed to the post office to get our chicks home. It turns out, all but 14 chicks survived the trip and are thriving!
But in this weather, we certainly could not move them into their typical barn brooder. No matter how many heat lamps we have out there, they would not be enough to keep these chicks at 95 degrees, or keep the temperature from having wide swings from day to night. Chicks at this age can't regulate their heat so they require constant assistance getting themselves warmed up and getting cooled down as needed. Outdoor weather currently isn't conducive to this.
And so, this is where a farm wife's flexibility comes in yet again. We set up a brooder in Keith's basement office. It is now an office/seed starter room/chick brooder. Yes, this is a little crazy and I am not crazy about it. And it will be a tad smelly. But I'm thankful we are able to keep these chicks alive in our little set up, at least for a few days until the weather becomes more normal for our area.
The folks at the post office told us that a large box store had 18 boxes of chicks come in as well and that 12 of the 18 boxes full were all dead upon arrival. Terribly sad and wasteful, but no one could have predicted this extreme weather here in Missouri. But yet, our chicks were mostly still chirping away and ready to get out of the box. Another reason why we choose Freedom Ranger chickens over all other meat chickens - they are some very hardy birds.
We are grateful.