So far this year I’ve wacked my hand and nearly broken my fingers, had a little heat-stroke episode, almost stepped on a copperhead, been attacked by anything and everything with a stinger, and have found new and outlandish ways to injure myself on a near daily basis. And it’s only July!
I’m constantly nagging the kids about safety on the farm. Unfortunately, I am terrible at following directions myself. Maybe it’s time I start to practice what I preach. Here are a few of my standard "Mom Lectures.”
1. Safety in Numbers
Don’t go in the woods alone has always been one of my No. 1 rules around the homestead. Yet not heeding my own advice is why I ended up tangled in briars with a copperhead at my feet. As it turns out, my feathered crew (aka the chickens) have been following this rule, as well,and formed their own type of community watch in the chicken yard.
The week after I lost most of my hens to a predator, probably a fox, I started keeping all the birds locked in the chicken yard. A broody hen refused to be moved from the chicken house and into the "nursery” we have for hatching and grow out. Deciding to move her at night on day 16 or 17, I somehow managed to get the hatch date off by five or six days.
Unbeknownst me, sixed little babies hatched one night in the big coop. When we unlocked the door the next morning there was no indication we had extra crew members. Big Blue, a roo, and two of his remaining ladies promptly jumped down from their roost and began their quest for bugs within the confines of the yard of course.
Several hours later I heard an awful racket coming from the coop area. Racing out, dogs in tow, I reached the yard gate to see two hens, one rooster and five ducks in a circle around a momma hen and some chicks. Thinking they were harassing poor mom, I went in to break up the posse. As I approached I realized a cat was perched atop a fence post and this mob was protecting mom, as well as the newest yard members. One of the ducks was even rounding up a curious chick and nudging it back towards this ring of safety. It was a total awe moment in every sense of the word.
2. Stay Hydrated
Water, water, water! I cannot stress the importance of drinking plenty of it on a hot day. Whether you choose to take a bottle of water outside with you or simply drink from the hose is up to you—just drink and drink often!
3. Wear Sun Protection
In addition to keeping your fluid intake up, protect the rest of your body from the harsh rays of the sun. My favorite $15 investment this year has been my garden granny floppy hat. The extra-wide brim not only helps keep me cooler during the heat of the day, but it also provides additional protection from those premature signs of aging. (I’d wear a clown hat if it meant fewer wrinkles!)
4. Be Prepared
Friend or foe? We ask ourselves this as we look at tiny green sprouts in our flower beds. We look it up when we find an unusual bug on our fruit trees. Still, sometimes we react first and question later when a snake slithers into our territory.
While we cannot know every detail of every species of plant, insect or (gag) snake, we should become familiar with the ones in our area. When my dear husband asks me stupid questions like "Are the snakes’ eyes round or slit?” my initial response is "Chop his damn head off and find out yourself!” But this is not always the right answer. (Again, GAG!) Sometimes we need these belly crawlers to keep the rodent population down and the bigger badder serpents away. Like the black snake that lives right past my front yard. As long as he stays away the house, my garden, my kids and me, he gets all the mice and moles he wants, and I won’t toss cats on him, again. (Don’t judge too harshly. I didn’t have a stick or anything and the cat was just there, rubbing against my leg!)
Put up a big poster board with color pictures of the various poisonous plants and creepers in your area, and educate your family on identification. Hang it over a spot filled with garden gloves, sunscreen, bug spray, first-aid supplies, big floppy hats, water bottles and maybe a big stick you can use to distract or deter an unwanted guest. The point is to be prepared, be careful, but have fun doing it! Country living can be educational, at times a wee bit dangerous, but rarely dull!
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