Wednesday, December 1st, 2010
Not adhering to the old adage “early to bed and early to rise” etc, can lead to interesting adventures for the non conformist farmer.
Some weeks back and suffering from insomnia, I decided to go and hang out in the pasture until sleep seemed more promising. Now, those of you with dogs will know that they tend to zonk out early, and snore, dream, and fart through the night. I’m here to tell you this is not the case with farm animals, at least not the zonking out part. It’s veritable party out there at 2 am.
That night, for a short while I sat on the ground with a few sheep who were chewing their cud. But the earth was hard, cold, and covered in little stones and hardened sheep pellets making sitting on it a bit like the princess in the pea story. I don’t know if the sheep were satisfied with this uncomfortable environment, or just being their typical stoic selves.
I, a weak and not terribly stoic human, moved over to the large hay bale. Sat myself right on top of it, nestled in just a bit with some hay to support my back, wrapped myself in a blanket, and stared up at the stars. Now this, I thought, was a lovely bed. In the olden days, in fact, they used to make mattresses out of straw, so it’s not surprising that an 800 pound hay bale was quite comfy. I closed my eyes, trying to beckon some zz’s, but the loud sounds of horses and goats crunching on hay inches away from me was a tad unsettling. I was not quite up to having to trust in their ability to distinguish between edible dried grasses and human flesh…
I’ve noticed on several occasions that given the choice of lying on the ground or bedding down on top of uneaten hay, the hay always wins. The 2000 pound steers Rocky and Bullwinkle love to sleep in their food. Tetsuro the pig builds elaborate and well padded nests for himself. There is an old water trough filled with hay that the three goats fight over to sleep in. I don’t know why it should be an odd concept that animals like comfort, too, but do I think it’s something we often forget.
We see cats stretched out on the ground, dogs lying on hard wood floors, and we think well, gee, they must not mind it. They mind it. Notwithstanding G.B. Shaw’s comment “Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.”, I’d like to venture the notion that we take a closer look at others’ needs by putting ourselves in their shoes. I, personally, learned a lot from that sleepless night and have now invested in large quantities of straw to make thick bedding materials in the shelters for all of the animals. And it’s heartwarming to see that every time I put down a new layer of fresh straw, the entire flock of sheep immediately go and settle themselves down on top of it.
So when I climb into my own soft bed at night, I not only am comforted by knowing that the outside creatures are warm and at ease, I find that sleep comes more easily, too.
Till next time,
Star Gazing Farm 501(c)3
A haven for retired farm animals and wayward goats