The dinner bell at our livestock pens goes unused. But don’t worry; the animals at Purdon Groves aren’t going hungry. It’s just that they are so attuned to the sound of Houston walking toward the feed bins that they start trotting, running, waddling or flying in that direction without the need for a bell.
In addition to our household pets, we currently have two livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) - our beloved Samson, a Great Pyrenees rescue and Roe, our son and daughter-in-law’s Border Collie / Leonberger mix. Then there are three donkeys - Daphne, Ollie and Effie. Pru is our sheep that thinks she’s a donkey. Three Kunekune pigs - Nigel, Lucy and Nikki - call our farm home. Tom the turkey, six ducks, two geese and nine chickens round out our livestock.
Samson and Roe are the first animals fed each day. They’re both nocturnal and are just coming off the night shift when we humans start stirring. As I feed Sammy, I always thank him for taking such good care of us overnight.
Later, Houston feeds the other animals. You can imagine how loud it gets at mealtime. (If you can’t, I’m happy to send you the audio.) The pigs are the loudest, making a guttural sound that doesn’t sound at all like the oink-oink described by Old MacDonald, when they see Houston heading their way with the bucket of feed. Still, they don’t seem to mind when Tom hops over the fence to join them for meals. If you stop by their pen during the day, they’ll lift up their heads and smile at you, hoping for a tasty treat of kitchen scraps such as apple cores and carrot and banana peels.
If the donkeys and Pru aren’t already at the pens, they make their way there, with Pru in the lead. Our newest donkey, Effie, is still getting acclimated to all the activity and stands back a little. We’re making sure to give her some apples or carrots at other times of the day.
The geese are the most insistent and funniest of our animals at mealtime. They honk and peck at the ground as if to say, feed me - put it right THERE. Not wanting to be outdone, the duck chorus is quite loud as well. The chickens, except for the three new hatchlings that still consider the coop home base, all gather around the feed bins too. Houston throws out some scratch for all of the fowl, but they get most of their nutrition from eating bugs and such all over the property’s 21 acres.
As we prepare to welcome guests at tonight’s farm to table dinner, I have to smile, grateful that none of them are likely to stampede the chef and the area where he’s cooking. I do expect all of us to enjoy a delicious meal - one that we’ve been anticipating for a while - and engaging conversation. In that way, maybe we’re not so different from the animals on our farm.
This piece first appeared in Sherry’s column, Finding Myself in a Small Town, in the September 24, 2022 online site of the Corsicana Daily Sun.