By Bokerah Brumley
Sometimes life seems a series of strange and twisty events. It wasn’t that long ago that we were a home-schooling family of seven, living in a rental house in small town, Texas, USA, across the brick street from the Mayor. Then a dream happened …
These days, I wake to roosters crowing before the sun crests the horizon and a flock of free-range turkeys that knock (peck) on the back door—the door nearest my bedroom—while it’s still dark out. On the odd days, when I’m coherent before coffee, I even toss a scoopful of feed to them. They have the sweetest purr-trill when they’re happy. Their enjoyment is my thank you.
I manage a 150-200 animal homestead. The numbers vary with the seasons, births, sales, and butchering. I keep tabs on the health of sheep, goats, livestock guardian dogs, turkeys, peafowl (peacocks), chickens (both broiler/meat and layer/egg), ducks, cats, and quail. We both want to work from a backyard office in our own version of a self-sustaining Eden. So far, it’s been a twenty-four month crash course of information until our eyes bulged with details.
As one would imagine, a big portion of our time is spent managing the waste of 150-200 animals. That part is not quite as glamorous as the last three paragraphs probably seem. I never post pictures of the mountains of excrement the creatures leave behind them or how we use the manure as we repair our depleted soil and “grow dirt.” I save the sharing for the tomatoes or kale we manage to grow because of it. In essence, some day, we’ll be professional poop wranglers, king and queen of a system where all waste is utilized in the production of something else, something useful.
It’s not been easy.
Through mistakes, I’ve learned that goats need copper and how to gauge parasite loads in them by how pink their eyelids are. I’ve learned the best way to tame a herd of wild, deer-like sheep is to pray twins on the ewes then take one of the babies. The whole herd now comes closer because I’m just another mama in the fold. I’ve learned how to butcher poultry, and I’ve grown confident enough in it that I know I can stock our freezer with food to eat, if our need calls for it. I’ve learned how to put chickens to work for me instead of against me. Now they scratch and prepare next year’s garden beds.
In the past two years, I’ve also learned some harsher truths that grow fruit in the other parts of our lives. I’ve held newly hatched quail babies in the palm of my hand as they’ve breathed their last. I’ve lost lambs to opportunistic coyotes, and I’ve had to make the heart-breaking choice to end the suffering of creatures in my care.
But my bottle babies still call for me when they see me trudging across the fields, hiding my weary tears from my children. Sweet Pea, Mountain Girl, and Butterscotch still follow me as though I’m the best thing they’ve seen all day.
I always watch the next sunrise. Then the goat nannies surprise me with triplets on a day that’s not circled on the calendar or the skittish ewe finally eats from my hand. Life can be unyielding, and unhappy things are often unwanted guests. Breathe through the hard. Plant again and again; something will bloom.
No matter how many times failure comes to visit, we get up, dust off, and try once more.
The big picture isn’t shattered if a “no” or a “not yet” comes around for a time. Gentle hands turn wild things into four-legged friends, and treats make a difference. Persistence always pays off.
In the end, we keep on. It’s our dream. We’ve been gifted the opportunity to build it.
Poop Wrangler Funnies
Some of the weirdest things that I’ve said…
“Do you think I could put the goat in a baby carrier? Would the organizers mind? I could pretend it’s cosplay.”
“Don’t pee on the chickens.”
About the Author:
Bokerah Brumley is a speculative fiction writer making stuff up on a trampoline in West Texas. When she’s not playing with the quirky characters in her head, she’s addicted to Twitter pitch events, writing contests, and social media in general. She lives on ten permaculture acres with five home-educated children and one husband. In her imaginary spare time, she also serves as the blue-haired President of the Cisco Writers Club.
In 2016, she was awarded first place in the FenCon Short Story Contest, third place in the Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest, fifth place in the Children’s/Young Adult category for the 85th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, and selected as a 2016 Pitch Slam! finalist. More recently, she accepted novel contracts with Clean Reads Press and Liberty Island Media. She also moonlights as an acquisitions editor for The Crossover Alliance. Follow her farm tales on Instagram.