It has been over three months now since the hens and rooster joined us in the little house in Guatemala. Then came the turkeys and geese, and at the beginning, I was treating them like babies. Once or twice a day you give them food (or more, if we are talking about babies, don’t feed your infant once a day because you read it on RFI), water, a roof over their head, and you wait for a few months until they start being interesting, make cute giggles and have a conversation.
But after a few days of close observation, I realized they do have many things to teach us.
Life is simple
Life is simple if you let it be. They wake up with the sun, go out and exercise, play with each other, go to bed at sunset. Rinse, repeat for the rest of their life.
We get pressured all the time, to do this and that, to attend an event, to be like our peers want us to be… Life is much simpler than you give it credit for, nothing terrible will happen because you didn’t make your bed this morning or did not attend the twelfth wedding of the summer.
When I think something is so important worrying about it keeps me up at night, I ask myself: ”will I remember this in a year? In 10 years? Will I laugh about it or still be sad/worried/annoyed/angry”. Generally, the answer is the world will still be the same and I am preoccupied for nothing.
Social bonds and family are important
When I throw food at them (still on a zero food waste challenge, but they love our veggie peels and the rare leftover!), the rooster makes a specific noise to warn the other hens that there is food to eat. Without it, some may miss dinner time and get hungry. One hen takes care of a few chicks, whether they are hers or not, and teaches them patiently how to eat and survive.
The social capital you build around you is very important, you may not need it but having people who care is always a plus. And according to many old people, it helps you live longer too. It gets lonely on your own, when you have to fight each and every battle.
Whatever happens, life goes on.
One day, the lady goose didn’t wake up. She had been low for a few days, and we suspect some of the fishermen threw her a stone in the head and knocked her out. On that morning, mister goose was screaming to the top of his lungs, and his poor lady was being washed by the lake, inert. Mr goose was upset until his mate was out of sight, and a couple of hours later, the handyman brought another female goose, and he was happy again, going on with his life.
However tragic the life event, even death and permanent illness, complaining will not help. We all need to grieve, have a good cry, be angry even at our situation, but we are also the only persons able to improve our lives.
Routines are powerful
One thing that is really impressive with the animals is that they don’t know who I am, they don’t particularly appreciate me, but they know that around 4pm, when I get down to the beach where their cage is, it is time to eat. They hastily return to the cage, and start begging for food if I am too slow, or just down to the beach for a swim. They know I am the food provider, and the end of the afternoon is a time to eat.
Other little ones were too frail to live on their own once their mother abandoned them, so I put them in my bathroom for a while. After one night, they were already used to going back to the house instead of the cage, and patiently waiting for me to open the door and let them in. They are incredibly resilient and will settle into a new routine in no time.
For us, it is a bit harder, but routines can make your life so much easier. Remember the first time you drove a car? You had to think about what your feet were doing, and if you had the chance to drive a manual, about the gear change, and so on. Now you drive routinely and can even listen to a great podcast on the way.
Protecting is not helping
The frail chicks I have protected in my bathroom were the first ones born on the property. A couple of weeks later, 5 more chicks were born and left in the cage, in spite of older animals bothering them. The weak died and the strong survived to be much bigger and healthier than their protected older brothers.
It has been the same in my family. I was left alone to explore and grow, and my sister was always more protected. “Because she is smaller she can’t do that”, “she is a slow learner”, “she doesn’t have amazing grades but she did her best”. those were sentences you would hear my parents say almost every day and in front of her. And she came to believe it. Now she laments that I am an independent woman and she is unable to do things as basic as checking tire pressure on her car because she always had someone doing things for her.
I am not a parent and I know it is really hard to fine tune your parenting skills so you help without limiting your kid, but I believe with the same encouragements from my parents she would have had much better grades and street smarts.
Has your pet ever taught you a valuable life lesson?
This post was featured in The Frugal Farmer, thank you!