Farm animals. Working animals. Some of them take their jobs serious.
Say the phrase “working animal” and several things may come to mind.
Dogs – they guard the house, assist the handicapped, and sniff out the criminal and the explosive.
Horses – strength and training combine to have them pull all sorts of useful and entertaining vehicles. Buggies. Wagons. Farm implements. Parade floats. And many of them hold their head taking pride in their work.
Cats – urban residents may not want to admit it — but felines (when allowed to roam) cut down on the rodent population. Often they are aided in this task by large birds. Yum, yum, mouse supper.
And then we have today’s featured guest. Definitely guard duty. And a creature I don’t want to anger or do battle with.
Autumn. Fall. Harvest. A time to gather together the bounty of the earth and store it for the bleak winter to come.
Growing up on a farm, this was one of the busiest times of the year. The oats were threshed (later combined), a final crop of hay gathered, and then the corn. These days there’s a soybean harvest also. Long, busy days full of dust and noise and satisfaction.
The final vegetables from the garden were picked. Or dug. Some ended up preserved in jars. Some, like potatoes or squash, in a wooden box to story in a cool, dry, dark place. Onions were pulled, the long tops braided together and hung on a nail in a cool, dry place.
It’s different when living in the city. Items we considered useful but messy are used for decoration. Cornstalks at the grocery store? One straw bale set out where the weather could attack from all sides?
My thumbs are pale, pale green. This is especially true with my attempts at a vegetable garden.
Now don’t get me wrong. Aside from a possible drowning if we get too much spring rain, the plants start out great. My tomato plants are both tall and bushy. One eggplant reached for the sky and challenges my own height.
The problem is thieves. In gray coats (some may be brown). They arrive when I’m not watching and steal the produce before it is ripe. Do green tomatoes have a nutrient lacking in the normal squirrel diet?
So far, these have survived. My friends the rabbits – in league with the squirrels – have not dined on the tops. My hope is that when I dig these up in the next couple of weeks I’ll have enough carrot to roast with some meat.
The mention of this farm animal is an insult to some. And yes, it can be used in that manner. Like many words — English has given it many connotations through the years.
Our neighbor called them “mortgage lifters” for their ability in a good year to bring the farmer cash in a relatively short amount of time.
The market is strong for them. Americans do love their bacon, ham, and pork chops. Six months from birth to market at 200 pounds is what my father aimed for. Yes, the cash was welcome. And paid bills — for farmers have plenty of those.
On a hot September day, a nice roll in the mud helps prevent sunburn.
The water slides past in silence. Millions and billions of drops, collected into depressions and moved by gravity. The small units merge until they are measured not by pints or buckets or barrels, but by cubic feet per minute as they hurry on their way.
Downstream. Always seeking the lower elevation. They would go deep into the earth if a hole opened.
They don’t appear to rush as I stand high on the shore. And I let my thoughts drift. Where are they bound? Will they be diverted into the water system of a town or city? Or evaporate, defying gravity until they form a cloud? It’s pleasing to think of them having an adventure, passing new places, until they join the mighty waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the ocean beyond.
The season of harvest. And giving thanks for the harvest.
This little fellow appeared to be hard at work feasting and harvesting.
When I spied him at the local botanical garden, he impressed as a creature come to life from the pages of a children’s story book. And in case you can’t tell from the photo — he’s agile with a good sense of balance. The flowers he’s among vary in height from one to two feet. And they are on the edge of a lily pond.
One false step and he’s swimming next to a taro plant.
Nibble. Nibble. Stuff. Stuff. He samples the new flower fruits and pushes them into cheek pouches for transport to his burrow.