Life cycle is most apparent on farm

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To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

– Ecclesiastes 3

By JUDITH SUTHERLAND

Farm and Dairy columnist

To everything there is a season, and on a farm, that season can be mighty short.

Swallows built a sturdy little nest on the southern entry wall of our barn as winter faded to spring, protected by a peak overhead. I watched the process, then cheered on the gathering of bugs.

Soon it was clear there were eggs in the nest by the simple fact that one swallow stayed put while the other flew about in the evening, threatening to bombardier anyone entering or leaving the barn.

Soon we saw swallows peering out over the top of the nest, and in no time, they stepped out of the nest on to the ledge to examine this new world. The parent swallows would take short flights, allowing the hatchlings to sit on the ledge alone for a brief time.

Leaving the nest

When I saw one of the little ones trying to preen his feathers a few nights ago, I knew it likely was the last time I would see any of them. I was right.

Our fainting goats, born on my Easter birthday, are also signaling it is time to find a new home, away from mama. They still come to me, happy for the attention, but they are growing their own style of wings of independence.

My beautiful litter of English Shepherd puppies, just 6 weeks old, look at me as their leader now, ignoring their mama, Channing, as though she is old news to be sent away. I am teaching them manners, gentleness and patience.

My heart is heavy with the realization this will be our final litter, as Channing has earned her retirement at age 5 after having produced two large litters in the last two years.

Savoring last moments

Just the knowing makes me want to spend more time watching the pups tumble and play, lifting a paw in that lovely little slow-motion way when I come near.

Our tiny mules become more and more independent from their mama ponies with each passing day, and I see the pair of pony mares commiserating, their heads hung low, as their offspring dart in every possible direction, ignoring those maternal signals which once kept them near.

Our Haflinger colt and fillies have filled out and grown in to the beautiful look of yearlings in no time flat. Barn kittens arrive, grow up and away, the sweet purring replaced by hissing and posturing. Newborn calves quickly become young bulls, steers or heifers.

Saying goodbye

Bluebird hatchlings take flight, reminding me of an old Winnie the Pooh classic I once watched with my kids. Rabbit wanted to hold tight to the orphaned baby owl named Cassie, fretting mournfully while Cassie tested her wings.

At that time, my children just slightly beyond the toddler stage, cheered for Cassie as she flew from a very high tree, but my heart was with Rabbit, who went back home alone as those tender tears turned to heart-wrenching sobs.

It is the cycle of life, our exuberant youth eventually tempered by the perspective of age, our concerns fueled by the often cruel world. A farm mirrors this with every growing season, as every joy is followed by some type of parting.

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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