July 22, 2020–My remaining role in life is to feed things.
A wise man told me if you want to know who controls you, figure out who buys your groceries. For my menagerie of critters, that person now is me.
How did I become a zookeeper?
I mean, there was a time I only worried about feeding myself. It is alarming how many things teenage boys can stuff in their bodies. Mountains of burgers, gallons of whole milk, sheets of cake. When they came out with the Big Mac, it was manna from McDonalds for teenage boys. The Patties we dreamed of were two all-beef.
Breakfast was eggs fried in hot bacon grease, with thick slices of homemade bread slathered with homemade jelly.
School lunches were carb and meat orgies. Those large trays laden with pizza, Salisbury steak, double portions of mashed potatoes and gravy (if the lunch lady liked you), two cartons of chocolate milk and a peanut butter sandwich in case you felt peckish in 5th period English.
Peanut butter toast was an afterschool snack to tide me over to a supper of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and noodles, and beans from our garden. Followed by homemade pie buried in homemade ice cream.
After homework it was a roaster pan of homegrown popcorn, popped in lard.
Then I had kids. Instantly all our energy and money went to feeding four children. First it was formula, then jars of baby food in unholy combinations of flavors. Banana Eggplant?
But the kids have gone on to their own culinary adventures. I am left to serve my animals. Every morning and evening I feed 30 head of sheep and 20 hens. One of the chickens got into a scrape with a varmint, so I have her sequestered in a separate cage where she gets special feed and treatment.
A friend brought a pair of turkey poults because of a casual comment on my affinity for the animals, so yet another pen with yet another type of feed. Each night I carry them in to keep them safe from predators who have a taste for small tender poultry.
Our dog, left behind by a daughter off to college, gets two meals a day, according to her strict instructions. Plus table scraps, when my daughter isn’t here.
I bought a betta fish for our small aquarium. He seemed lonely, so I added a companion, which I must keep separated or they will fight. Two more tiny mouths to feed.
We noticed we were unintentionally feeding a growing colony of barn mice, so we decided it was time to get a kitten. After an altercation with our dog and an expensive trip to the vet, we now have a “special needs” kitten that requires feeding from a syringe every few hours.
Two dairy calves are on the way, which, yes, must be bottle fed morning and night for too many weeks.
How did I let this happen? It’s rational behavior, right? Caring for all God’s creatures?
Last summer after writing about raising mealworms, I set up my own mealworm farm. I change out their cornmeal and serve them up tidbits of carrots and melons to keep their life cycling. My wife, annoyed that they sit on a table next to our laundry area, asked me why I still have a mealworm farm.
I started to tell her I was raising them as treats for the chickens to enjoy… someday.
But I had to go fill the hummingbird feeder.