Murphy’s Law is alive and well in this family, and on this farm.
Which brings me to why I could be found in a Tractor Supply store an hour from home at 6:30 last night. And if you know me, you know that TS is just not my favorite place. Or maybe it is, maybe I like it too much, and it’s me that I’m mad at about that. It is, at times, though, a necessary evil. So, occasionally, I find myself paying their light bill instead of my Visa. Yesterday, for example.
So we did a thing this week…we picked up the first of the season’s bottle lambs. A local fellow that we buy awesome round bales from to feed our spoiled equine piggies raises a gorgeous flock of Katahdins that I coo over like a big sissy when we go out there to wrestle a bale. I didn’t know until yesterday that’s what they were, and TBH, I still couldn’t tell you how to pronounce it. (Google lady and her computer voice pronunciation have steered me wrong on so many occasions that I am now the queen of the synonym just to save myself any more embarrassment.) Mostly because the knowledge came to me AFTER we’d picked him up and took place via a text exchange. I knew they were sheep.
Hey, don’t judge me! We aren’t sheep people. I can identify a cattle, goat or poultry breed with reasonable accuracy at twenty paces, but I’m a sheep racist of the most ignorant sort. All the white ones look alike. All I know is they’re cute and fuzzy and the little monotone Baaaaa-aaa that emits from the little faces (and means everything from Hi mom to I’m hungry to you suck!) is more than I can bear. They mean spring. The kids love feeding them. On the practical side, they are highly salable, the profit margin rocks as does the success rate. By that I mean that unlike bottle calves, they want to live. (Bottle calves do not wish to live, especially Jerseys. It’s an argument you will lose more often than you like. And that is always a blow.) But, I digress…
So, as he only had the one, a plan was hatched to attend our semi-local weekly livestock auction. We set out to try and buy our new charge a friend since we’re not sure Sophie the Goat will appreciate his company. (Could go either way, she has multiple personalities) At least it’s always BEEN weekly. We have taken the winter off from auction and pared back on what we intended to feed through the winter. See, if we don’t go, we can’t buy! (Meaning me. I can’t buy. Because I infallibly and often ill-advisably will, like the time I bought myself a 45 pound half dead suicide bent Holstein bull calf on my birthday. In December. For two dollars, since I was the only idiot willing to bid.) Ryan wants peeps, and there were none last week. So we unloaded the truck of tools and work supplies, unearthed crates and cages that have sat idle all winter, and off we went.
Bear in mind now, as we did this, there was a band of uncharacteristically severe, hairy storms rolling up and through the Eastern Shores of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. My daughter was calling me from her VA bathtub with her four children as tornado alarms were going off and news anchors were hollering “I repeat, take cover NOW!”. I lost my hat twice and had to chase it across the muddy pasture. I could HEAR my blood pressure. T has snappy tendencies when he’s rushed and I’m a smartass. This was not a pleasant prep session.
We arrived, more than an hour later, peace and harmony restored, with extensive “divide and conquer battle plans” having been made during the ride (as peeps, lambs and goat kids are auctioned simultaneously in different places.) The safety of my grown child’s family has been verified. I feel infinitely better. Pulled around the bend in the road, and …. What?!? No cars, no trucks, no trailers. No Amish buggies and their four legged motors tied up at the fence rail. No hay lined up for sale like this…
Sweet. Baby. Jesus. We have just spent an hour prepping in 40 mph winds, an hour’s drive, and arrived hyped for battle at a CLOSED auction. Mom fail. Honey Fail. Farm Fail. You see, neither of us had thought to call first, and not having been all winter, we did not know they had affected some dandy newfangled “winter schedule” and are now operating only every OTHER week.
There is groaning and “Oh HELL No-ing”, and kicking of selves in the rump happening at this point. You can very nearly TASTE the disappointment of the 8yo in the backseat. (Not that any 8yo is shy to let you know when you have just epically upset his apple cart.)
Ok, Mom… apologize for your oversight. Curse profusely. Apologize for that. Lecture the kid on “don’t repeat that. like ever. or until you’re 30.” …fall back and regroup. T starts frantically searching local Craigslist livestock ads. WE WILL NOT go home empty handed. I start searching for the local Tractor Supply, because I know that ‘chick days’ have begun and maybe a boxful of biddies will appease my child. A phone call is made, I’m assured they do indeed have chicks and we’re off once again. I made the mistake of asking the ‘person in charge of chicks’ what breeds they got in.
TS Chicken Expert: “Uh…I…I think, hold on…Pole-lets. And some Long Island Red Somethings. Some kind of White chicken”
ME: “You mean pullets? Mixed ones? As in, Girls?
TSCE: “Yeah, that’s what I said. Pole Lets.”
Me: “And are they RHODE Island Reds? ”
TSCE: “Uh, sure, we’ve got em.”
Obviously, this kid is to chickens what I am to sheep. I feel for him a little.
So we get there. What awaits us is 2 galvanized water tubs full of what appear to be RI Red chicks. With a smartly printed sign that says “Assorted Pullets, $2.99.” Next to it is another, full of more little reddish gold chicks and coal black ones and a few that look like possible Speckled Sussex chicks. Its sign proclaims “Heritage Rhode Island Reds, unsexed. Special $1.99”. On the other side is a matching set of tubs with one of Cornish Rocks (they can keep ’em) , one with assorted bantam chicks (again, no interest) , and one with mixed ducks in a rainbow of colors. Don’t want those either. Too early. Ducklings indoors, no bueno. They are messy and stinky.
So we wait, and eventually are greeted by the young man I suspect I spoke to. Now being a firm believer in karma, (my T calls these my “right way Sally” moments) I don’t feel it’s fair to buy the obviously mismarked chicks for a dollar less. So I speak up.
Me: “Hon, you have these here marked as the $1.99 Rhode Islands. I’m pretty sure your RI and pullet signs are switched. I want some pullets, but I don’t feel right paying the wrong price for them.”
TS Chicken Expert: “These ARE the Rhode Islands. They came in marked by the hatchery. I read the box.”
Me: “At no time in history has a Rhode Island Red chick ever been black. Just trying to do the right thing here.”
TSCE: “Ma’am, I CAN read. These are the Rhode Islands. Did you want them or not?”
This is the point where my right way Sally switch flips and I determine that if you’re going to be a self-proclaimed chicken expert even though you look like Doogie Howser with acne AND a craptastic attitude as I try to prevent you from making a mistake that costs your company money, well then, who am I to not give you your way?
Me: “Sure. Rhode Islands it is. What’s your minimum, 6? I’ll have 12. 6 of the RED Rhode Islands and 6 of the BLACK Rhode Islands. $1.99, right? Super.”
Meet our new Rhode Island Reds.
In calculating that I had probably just gotten a 12 dollar windfall from Tractor Supply and Chick Boy’s ineptitude, I elected to buy four new gallon sized waterers (also mis marked) for 4 dollars and change each for the new runs. However, I suspect the black chicks may be Black Stars, in which case two of them are roos. Either way, I win. Ryan has his babies, we got new waterers that are kid-friendly size…Thanks, Doogie! I’m probably going to hell now.
Some names have been changed or omitted to protect the innocent. And the foolish. Apologies to Doogie Howser’s character.