Picking Up Feed, 30 Years Later
Updated: Nov 26, 2020
When I was a kid, we used to drive to an Amish farm to pick up our dog food. We had pigs and chickens and horses, and I can only assume their feed came from the same place. We’d pull up in our blue hatchback Datsun, and I’d watch as a bearded man in faded overalls loaded white stitched sacks into the back. My family didn’t “live off” the farm; we lived off of my dad’s salary as a federal employee at Patuxent River Naval Air Station. My sisters and I used the farm like a playground and my dad liked caring for animals and producing food for the family.
Now I have my own farm, albeit it tiny and urban. I am my father’s daughter, as the saying goes, and I understand the intrinsic reward in caring for animals and producing food for my family. Although I’d like to keep pigs and goats, my farm is currently limited to a dog, two chickens, a garden, eight non-producing fruit trees, and several non-producing blueberry bushes. I’m mixing edible landscaping with urban farming and have no idea what I’m doing, but it sure is a hell of a lot of fun.
I was reminded of my childhood trips to “the Amish” (that’s all we ever called them) while ordering feed components for my chickens this morning. The LA version involves ordering 105 lbs of grains, beans, and peas online from bulk suppliers so I can mix the feed here at the house and keep it in the shed. It amazes me how much feed two chickens consume (and waste). They eat some, throw some, eat some, throw some. It’s just their way, and that’s alright. They’re chickens; they don’t need manners.
I will never recoup the $350 I spent in feed today by consuming their eggs. And I won’t be consuming the chickens. On the contrary, I paid $75 to euthanize Pennyrose, who was born with a genetic defect that caused her to become egg-bound on a regular basis. That’s where the egg gets stuck inside, and it’s painful. When I realized we couldn’t help her, I took her to the vet and we said our goodbyes. “She was a really sweet chicken,” the vet told me. And yeah, she was.
My urban farm is not profitable by any measure. I spent $75 to put a $5 chicken out of her misery. And I spend hundreds of dollars on feed, which saves me $5 every two weeks on a carton of organic eggs. But what I do get, where I come out ahead, is the sheer reward of loving and caring for animals, of tending to plants. And the five eggs a week, the occasional yellow bell or cayenne pepper, or seeing a chicken who would normally be killed at the age of three in the poultry industry live to ten–those things make what’s already good even better.