Home is Where the Critters Roam

“Animal swap meets are places where people buy, sell or trade animals in an open-air, flea-market-style setting.”

Zoe Friedland, A Brief Summary of Swap Meet Laws

The ability to work remotely is a huge blessing in my life.  My dogs are less neurotic because I’m around to give them attention.  Without a commute and the time suck of making myself look professional, I have significantly more free time.  I can take yoga breaks or spend my lunch break at the pool.  But the biggest up-side is being able to visit with my family.

My parents live on the plains near Colorado Springs, in an earth ship.  (If you’re interested, my brother made a great video about it). From March 2020 till now, I’ve been able to spend a cumulative 9 weeks working remotely from their house. It’s been a priceless opportunity to spend quality family time together.

Each time I arrive at my parents’ house I feel like I’ve stepped back in time to my teenage years.  The family still abides by the same habits and traditions: my dad cutting up a splendidly colorful fruit plate each morning; my mom throwing extra treats to the dogs when no one’s looking.  The compost piling up and my dad walking in with a basket full of fresh veggies from the garden.  Listening to 70’s music via the old record player.  Negotiating whose turn it is to make dinner and who’s responsible for the dishes afterward.  For someone who has lived on her own for many years in a big city far away, it’s splendid to return to my childhood version of comfortable family life.

Then again, my family didn’t have hundreds of chickens when I was a kid. That’s a recent hobby my mom has taken up during retirement.  She breeds and raises rare species – heritage breeds that are dying out (mostly because of the meat industry’s preference for specific types).  Their yard contains a rambling line of homemade coops, each housing a different breed of chicken.  My mom is an artist, so her coops are pretty cool-looking.

In addition to the chickens, there are turkeys, ducks, guinea hens, rabbits, guinea pigs, and a dog.  My mom also took up bee keeping this year, which resulted in lots of beautiful wildflowers and 50 liters of home-grown honey.  

My mom is pretty well-known out there for being the “chicken lady”.  That means people sometimes come by to drop off chickens they don’t want, including roosters.  While I was visiting, someone dropped off a silkie rooster.  She hasn’t had silkies for a while, so this little guy immediately caught my attention.  He looked like a miniature fluffy alpaca.  I approached him to get a better look, and shockingly he let me pet him!  Most of the chickens are scared of me and run away (even though they trust my mom because they associate her with food).  

As soon as I realized I could pet this chicken, I started spending all kinds of time with him.  I would go out on all my breaks to say hello.  He appeared to like me too, and followed me around like a dog… to the point where I almost accidentally tripped on him a couple times!  I started calling him Fluffy.  He is the sweetest chicken I’ve ever met.  He has an adorable little voice and coos like a pigeon rather than clucking.

Mom said if she was going to keep Fluffy then he would need a mate.  So we headed to the Falcon critter swap to see if we could find a female silkie.

A critter swap is just what it sounds like.  A bunch of breeders show up with their various types of animals to sell, and all kinds of people come shopping.  It takes place once a month in a field next to a farming store called Big R.  It’s supposed to be just animals, but people always show up to sell soap & decor as well – so it turns into a mini fair.  It’s always a fun time to walk around and see the different animals.

My mom brought some laying hens and a turkey to sell, and we took turns watching them and roaming around.  She didn’t have a cage big enough for the tom (male turkey), and had to shove him in a chicken cage.  As soon as we arrived at the swap, I turned the cage on the side and opened the top so he could stretch his neck out.  He sat there nice and calm and allowed passersby to pet him.

Then a dog walked by and scared him, and he leapt out of the cage in a panicked flurry.  He ran in circles, squawking.  Luckily the other sellers all jumped to my rescue and helped me catch him. The tom didn’t sell, so we took him back home where his bestie was waiting, relieved to see him again. Here they are, looking majestic together.

We were unable to find a female silkie, sadly. But my mom returned from her walkabout with something unexpected… a goat!  She’d been talking about getting them for years, but my dad wasn’t a fan.  Well, he wasn’t around to say no this time. 

The goat was not particularly happy about his adoption.  He had apparently grown up with a brother who was his best friend and this was the first time they were separated.  He cried like a loud human baby, and no matter how much I petted and cooed at him, he wouldn’t stop.  It was pretty disruptive to everybody else, so we decided to pack up.

Not having planned on purchasing a goat, we didn’t have anywhere to put him in the car except for my lap.  As I held him, his cries gradually died down and he fell asleep.  Again, just like a human baby.  On the drive, we brainstormed what to name him and decided on Rumplestiltskin.

“Don’t tell your dad,” Mom said.

“He’s gonna figure it out in a couple days when he gets home!”  I exclaimed.  “You may as well tell him now so he’s mad at you from a distance.”

When she told him, he hung up on her. 

Then my mom decided to seize the opportunity. My dad was already mad, so she may as well get more goats.  So now there are three: Rumplestiltskin, Clover, and Cleopatra.  Man, are they cute.  

3 thoughts on “Home is Where the Critters Roam

  1. In the US we had 170 acres of desert complete with a retaining pond, livestock, and even wild animals frequenting the property. Unfortunately, waking up during travels for work and discovering I no longer exist and am effectively stateless in a developing nation has made it challenging to rebuild anything remotely close to what I had. I would also argue that many of these people who rant against high capacity magazines have never had to protect free-range livestock from large packs of coyotes marking across the property on a moonless night.

    All that being said, being forced as I have been, to begin focusing on building a life entirely focused on my home has not only been a challenge, but also rewarding in many ways, including the ability to provide for my wife and daughter, and home schooling as well.


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