Years ago I lived in a little country house that did not have heat or air conditioning. One part of the year it was like living in a freezer and the other part of the year it was like living in your own private sauna. We had four rooms and a bathroom. There was only one closet and a pantry for storage. Fortunately I had not been married too long, was fairly poor and didn’t own much. A lot of people would say this was the simple life. Simple included having to build a fire in two wood stoves for basic warmth. One stove was long and rectangular and it was easy to burn your fingers while adding more wood. The other one was a little pot belly stove with a design that made it impossible to start a fire. One advantage was that you could heat water on top of the stoves to provide humidity in the air. That was a good thing since the smoke plumbs could choke a horse.
The stoves only heated the rooms where they we located. We heated other rooms with portable space heaters. One stayed in the bathroom permanently, I’ll just leave it to your imagination as to why. The other one was moved around to where it was needed. There were times during the winter you could see your breath in the bedroom. We had an electric blanket on the bed that was always on a setting of 10. Little good that did when it was 28 below in the room and icicles hung from the light fixture. The curtains swayed when the wind blew year round.
When it was time to get up in the mornings I had to go turn on the space heater in the bathroom so it could warm up enough to take a bath. I would turn on the water in the tub, there was no shower hook up, and jump back in the bed for exactly 10 minutes while the tub slowly filled up. I wore a robe made of gorilla hair and lined with seal blubber. Sexy was an understatement.
During the winter the field mice moved in. They took up occupancy in the pantry. I knew it was bad when they started getting their own mail delivered to the house. I had to move all the food products to a metal cabinet so the only other storage space in the house was a four story house for the mice. They built a playground out of cereal boxes and I watched the babies climb up the box and then slide down the interior wax paper like a slide. I knew we had to dispose of them when they started watching TV with us and called in pizza deliveries.
We moved into the house during the summer. It was so hot my dog crawled into the upright freezer to cool off. The layout of the house prevented proper air circulation so we prayed for winter. The year we decided to plant a garden we had a drought. A small half acre was cleared for planting however, my husband, who had a tendency to go overboard on projects, planted 5 rows of corn, 18 hills of squash and 48 tomato plants. All of this effort went into feeding only the two of us. Fortunately the beans and the corn never came into fruition. The tomatoes and squash however, were a bumper crop. I had never seen so much red and yellow in my life. I was calling people in the phone book to see if they wanted free vegetables. In addition to taking on this project it was decided that we should also raise chickens and sell the eggs. The barn was cleaned out and we hauled home 40 laying hens. Raised as a city girl I had never had dealings with chickens. They laid approximately every other day so I was washing poop off of 20 eggs a day. My husband miraculously disappeared when it was time to wash eggs. There is truly only one word to describe chicken excrement, but this is a family blog. I would haul cartons of eggs to work to sell and give away or toss at unsuspecting citizens. Once we had a chicken thief in the neighborhood that left the barn door open one morning. The chickens were all out in the yard and it looked like it had snowed. I coaxed in all but 13 of them. I decided my husband would have to find the others when he got home from work. I wasn’t going to climb any trees to save a chicken. I have my pride.
We also had a little cocker spaniel named Duke. One day some friends needed to give up their little female cocker named Chancy. She was a bit shy, but Duke was an Italian Casanova and had his way with her all night. I had never seen a dog so happy. A few months later we were blessed with nine puppies. Of course, it wasn’t two or three puppies, but nine. When I carried all of them to the vet I had to make two trips in the door. One trip included a laundry basket full of puppies to sit inside the vet office for everyone to play with and then a second trip to haul in the proud mom and pop. Chancy was always slightly nervous and never failed to leave a treasure for the techs to clean up. A friend’s dad was a vet and he gave me a group discount. I certainly felt I deserved it with 11 dogs. I was almost his entire clientele. I cried when they had their tails nipped. New to the puppy business I didn’t know they weren’t born with the cute little cropped tails. Our brood included three white pups with little brown patches, four buff colored babies and two chocolate brown angels that were twins. Ultimately it was fairly easy to sell or give away our little cuties. Chancy even went to live with my Aunt and Uncle in Kentucky. I would tell you their adventure getting her home, but you would think it was fiction.
One night my husband was not home and there was a ruckus in the hen house. I looked out and a possum had invaded the barn. The chickens were screaming at the top of their lungs. I went and got a little .22 rifle, not that I knew how to use it, and ran out to the barn. I opened the door and raced in. The door slammed behind me and the latch flipped around and basically locked me in. Okay, it was 10:00 p.m. and I am in a barn with 40 hysterical chickens, an ugly possum and a rifle I don’t know how to use. My cocker spaniel stared at me from the kitchen door. You know, there is only one word to describe chicken…. oh, well. After about 15 minutes I finally managed to use the butt end of the rifle to work the door open and free myself. It's a wonder I didn't shoot myself! It seemed like an eternity. You can only imagine my relief for fresh air and a bathroom.
After a season of chickens we decided to sell them and see if we made a profit. Considering the original purchase, cost of feed, what we made on selling eggs and the money from the sale we calculated that we had broken even. Of course, that didn’t include the cost of time to water, feed, decorate the barn and sew all the cute bonnets for their heads!
These days I once again live in the country. I have a lovely home, heat and air and a different husband. But, some things don’t change…. I now have 10 chickens, 3 goats, 3 dogs and a cat. Seventeen critters is way down from about 51, and you might call me crazy, but I guess I still like the simple life.