Natalia and Willow's Crew hanging out with the chickens (Buff Orpingtons).
If my heart were a plant, its sun would be a healthy little chicken--small, warm, and tucked under my arm for safekeeping. Because when I hold any of our chickens, and feel their gentle clucking, I swear my heart grows a little. There's a sense of care and protection that comes when you carefully pick up an adorable chicken, and stroke the soft feathers on its tiny head that cocks to the side with question or surprise. The only gross part of a chicken to look at are the scaly dinosaur feet that sprout out the bottom of each of their plump legs, but the Silky Bantams make even a foot look cute. Their white tufty feathers fluff over their toes, which is a good look for a rooster sprinting towards food. Besides the Silky Bantam variety, the Youth Farmers are proud caretakers of Barred Rock, Silver Laced Wyandotte, Speckled Sussex, and Buff Orpington chickens.
Each morning, a crew whose chore it is that week, will make its way across the street from our cultivated fields, to the bright pink chicken coop. They lug a bucket of water across the treacherous country road, clean and fill the water dishes, change the bedding, feed the eager hens, and collect the smooth, brown eggs. It's safe to say that this is my crew's favorite chore. Even crew members who were initially hesitant about picking up a flapping bird have grown confident, and will scoop up a squawking hen and gently pet her feathers. It would be impossible to not love our flock.
Of course, chicken duty is not our only job, and a task that is not so instantly gratifying is weeding. Unfortunately, the summer heat and constant rain create perfect conditions for weeds to shoot up, faster than should be possible. While the crew is less enthusiastic about yanking endless plants from the pathways and beds, we try to make that fun, too. We make conversations about the British humor in Monty Python sketches, or play word games for as long as they can still be fun, but these discussions inevitably taper away. Truthfully, weeding is a lengthy and monotonous job. But we do it anyway, and I'm immensely proud of the way my crew can motivate each other. We have begun referring to weeds as the bullies on a playground, picking on our poor, innocent vegetables, and we are determined to protect our plants so they can grow. The work we do results in incomparable satisfaction.
This satisfaction comes at the end of the day, when we see freshly cleared pathways and newly exposed vegetables stretching their leaves to the sun, or take a look at the vast pile of discarded plants that used to be crowding our fields. Our job is special in this way; there are few other types of employment that require manual labor for hot, sunny hours outside, but end in such a unified sense of pride. Some of my crew members will never farm again, and maybe some will pursue it as a lifelong career. Either way, we get the privilege of spending our summer together, bonding with chickens, weeding weeds, and feeling the sweet satisfaction that comes with some good hard work.