Our first year of the “real” farm life here has proven to be quit humorous at times. Andrew and I have been amazed by some of the questions people have asked. At times, those funny questions and comments have triggered funny memories from the past. Recently though we shared some of these bits of humor with our family when a realization hit us. While the situations were funny at the time, when you really think a moment it isn’t so funny. Why? Read on and see for yourself as we share a few different scenarios.
1. Hill Cows
I sure hope my mother will forgive me, but this one is to good not to share! My Dad told me this story one time of when he and my mother were just married. Mom was only 18 at the time, a young girl from a small town and not at all familiar with farms or livestock. While out on a drive one day they spotted a scenic hillside dotted with grazing cattle. Dad pointed them out to Mom and said, “look there at them hill cows!” The hill was quit steep, and Dad went on to tell Mom how those cows had two legs shorter than the others so they wouldn’t fall down the hill. He said those poor cows have to keep grazing around the hill because they will fall down if they turn around. Mom actually believed him up until he burst out in laughter.
2. Brown Cows Make Chocolate Milk.
While I am telling on my family we’ll add this one! Several years ago my young cousin got in trouble at school. Their class was discussing where food comes from. She was only 7 at the time when the topic of cows and milk came up. Danielle was so completely convinced that brown cows make chocolate milk, and white cows make white milk that she argued with her teacher. Not even her mother could make her believe that evening that all milk starts out white, regardless of the color of the cow!
3. “Them roosters lay eggs?”
At the end of last summer, we found ourselves with a bakers dozen of mature roosters and about that many extra week old chicks. I advertised them locally on an online sales page. The ad specified that we had six month old roosters and one week old straight run chicks. The following was perhaps one of my most memorable phone calls ever!
Man: Yes, ma’am. I saw your ad and was calling about your chickens. You still got them?
Me: Yes we do.
Man: Are any of them laying eggs?
Me: All we have are mature roosters and chicks, we don’t have any hens left for sale.
Man: Them roosters aren’t laying eggs yet?
Me: Excuse me?
Man: Are the roosters not old enough to lay eggs yet?
Me: Well, roosters don’t lay eggs. They’re boys. Only the hens lay eggs.
Man: Oh, well are the chicks laying any eggs?
Me: They are only one week old.
Man: Well when will they lay eggs?
Me: Some of these may be roosters, but the ones that are hens should lay when they’re about 5-6 months old.
Man: So what do you use roosters for if they don’t lay eggs?
Me: We use some of them for breeding stock, and the extras that don’t sell we put in the freezer.
Man: Why do you do that?
Me: So we can eat them.
Man: You EAT roosters?! What do they taste like?
Me: They taste like chicken.
Man: Well I haven’t ever had chickens before and thought me and my wife could get us a few to get some eggs.
Me: I’m sorry, but we don’t have anything for sale that is laying right now.
Man: Well I don’t want no birds that can’t lay eggs. We don’t eat roosters, just them roasters from the store. You don’t have any egg chickens for sale?
Well, as you can imagine, we didn’t make a sale that day!
4. White Rocks aren’t Jersey Giants.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try there is just pleasing some people. Nor can you change their mind when they whole-heartedly believe something to be true. Not long ago we sold a small flock of five white rock hens with one white rock rooster. He went home thrilled, and e-mailed us at least twice a week for three weeks telling us so. He went on to place an advanced order for some spring chicks this year, as well as some fertile turkey eggs. We thought that was a successful sale, until three weeks later…
Then we get an e-mail from this man accusing us of cheating him by selling him “mixed up birds” and not Jersey Giants, something he claimed to have just discovered that weekend when his six month old birds did not reach over 10 pounds. He said that we knew they weren’t Jersey Giants, and cheated him on purpose. I told him I knew they were not Jersey Giants, that we had never owned Jersey Giants. Our ad had said White Rocks, he bought White Rocks, and we delivered White Rocks. I told him all we had in that pasture was White Rocks and Barred Rocks and I sent him a description of both breeds of birds with pictures of our flock. He responded that we must be lying, because according to him I sent him pictures of Jersey Giants and Dominique’s. There was simply no convincing him otherwise, even when I gave him the name and number of the certified poultry hatchery we bought all of our foundation breeding stock from.
5. “You have any meat sheep?”
For the last year we have raised hair sheep. We started with some Barbados, and now raise mostly registered katahdin with a few Barbados and painted deserts. This past fall we advertised a pair of hair sheep for sale. We had more than one phone call asking us if we had any meat sheep available. I was amazed at the number of people who were confused about this. Many thought that wool sheep make wool, hair sheep make hair, and meat sheep make meat. They seemed shocked that you could eat both wool sheep and hair sheep, and that a “meat sheep” was simply one or the other of those. Then we also had people call and ask what do you do with a hair sheep, which my typical reply is we raise ewe’s for breeding and send most of the rams to slaughter. I lost count of how many times I heard “people EAT sheep?!” Apparently many believe that “lamb chops” and “rack of lamb” are just names, and not actual descriptions of the meat!
6. “I don’t want any White Chickens.”
While advertising hens for sale this past summer, I encountered one woman who was quit comical in her animated description of exactly what she was looking for in a chicken. We were at the farmers market one weekend selling chicks and she had asked about hens. I told her I had a few white rock hens for sale. She proceeded to tell me that she did not want any of those white birds, she wanted brown eggs. Well, this was what triggered the brown cow/white milk memory!
I explained to this woman that we had white hens that laid brown eggs. She looked at me in surprise, shook her head and said “what will they think of next!” Then she asked if I was joking her. I told her no, that I was quit serious. Every bird in our flock lays brown eggs, although many of them at the time were solid white and some were solid red and others were black and white. She took my phone number, but never called back. I truly believe she left still thinking I was joking her.
7. “How can you tell if it’s fertile?”
Recently we had a farm visit with a couple interested in raising sheep. While they were here we went on a tour and they got a big thrill out of collecting the eggs from the nesting boxes. When we came inside, they saw our incubator set up with this seasons first run of eggs. This brought a whole round of questions.
Woman: What’s in that?
Me: Chicken eggs, and a few turkey eggs.
Woman: What’s it for?
Me: We put fertile eggs inside, and it hatches chicks.
Woman: Where do you get fertile eggs?
Me: You just did. We use our own eggs from the barn.
Woman: How do you know they are fertile?
Me: We have six roosters.
Woman: How do they get fertile?
Me: Um, well the roosters breed the hens.
Woman: Are they ok to eat?
Me: Yes. Nearly all of our eggs are fertile, but we only hatch in the spring and summer time.
Woman: What does a fertile egg taste like?
Me: Well, it just tastes like an egg.
8. Bacon isn’t Hickory Smoked.
During another recent conversation with a potential customer we were discussing cuts of pork. She had never had a pig butchered before and was wanting to know about the different cuts available. I asked what she usually liked purchasing from the store and as she gave me her list she mentioned how much her family likes hickory smoked bacon. I told her that she could get bacon cut with her purchase, but it wouldn’t be flavored. She expressed concern that our pigs had a different flavor, and thought that maybe she should look for another one that would have that hickory taste. I explained that no pig naturally makes hickory smoked bacon, that this is something that is done after slaughter. She had no idea that the taste of store bought bacon was not how it naturally comes straight from the hog.
We have heard similar stories from others involved in agriculture. Not only in regards to animals, but produce as well. One woman recently commented on our facebook that she knew some children who wouldn’t eat “dirty vegetables” from the garden. They only eat those clean vegetables from the store. Now while this and the chocolate milk episode above can be attributed to children who simply don’t know any better, what about the rest of those? All other above scenarios were grown adults ranging in age from mid-twenties to past retirement age. Some were college educated teachers, business women, and even a doctor. Is it really funny that these grown adults do not know more about their food supply?
Andrew and I were joking at first about these things, but as we thought more about it we were struck by how little the general non-farming public knows. Remember those Hill Cows? While my poor mother may have given my Dad a good laugh those many years ago, she evidently wasn’t the only one to fall for that line. At www.urbandictionary.com you can actually find the definition of a Hill Cow. Hill Cow: “A species of cow that live on hills. The legs on one side are shorter, so they can never turn around or they will roll down the hill.” Wow.
Our oldest children are only six and four years old, yet they can tell you which animal what kinds of meat come from. They know that chicks come from chicken eggs, roosters don’t lay eggs, and white chickens can lay brown eggs. While they may not know the breeds of all the animals we have here, they can tell you everything else about them from their eating habits to how many babies they have at a time. How sad it is to think that our culture today does not teach these lessons to all of our nations youth! To many children now think that food simply comes from the grocery store. Then those children grow into oblivious adults totally out of touch with the reality of what they eat. Seems like our country may need a lesson in Barn Yard 101.