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"Chicks are Peeping Aroundthe Nicest Little World in There"

Fri, Jul 6th, 2001
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Monday, July 9, 2001

The Art of Farming is a project of the Collaborative for Watershed Sustainability to gather stories about farm life in southeastern Minnesota before World War II. Stories have been gathered from individuals near Harmony, Lake City and Wells Creek near Red Wing.

I remember the smells on the farm. I think you can smell rain coming. A foul smelling animal manure indicates some kind of illness. Real foul smelling manure. I know my dad would talk about that. I never realized it, but there were different smells in the morning and evening, the different smells of all livestock, we just were so used to that. Every herd smells differently. I go to different farms, smell different herds, they all smell different. You bring a new cow in to your herd, you can smell that one cow over all the others. The whole environment (They must really tell each other then.) Oh they can tell thats why they fight.

All of us know the smells of harvest. The grains. Newly cut ripe grain has a distinctive smell. When you thrash it, it has a smell. Animals, cattle will know immediately by smell, for instance if you have four round bales, the cattle will choose one by smelling the best hay. They eat by smell. (Usually the one they pick isnt the one youd pick. )

Im not so sure we even thought of the farm smells. It was just so much a part of our life. Youre saturated, you dont even think of it. Its a big part of your life that goes unnoticed. Hurrying about.

The barn full of hay-- that smell is good and it feels like everything is done and put away. And you get a bunch of little chicks, and put them under a brooder lamp and its warm and they kinda smell good. Its just a really nice wholesome smell- feeling. I feel like crawling in and laying down in there. It is. Yeah, theyre just cute as a bug.

It does something to you too. It triggers something, doesnt it? You go in there and you feel different. Its calming. You can sit there, you know, and theyre peeping around, they got the nicest little world in there.

We used to get those chicks in the boxes, and then theyd make a smaller place under a brooder and wed have straw around. I must have been 12 or 14, I used to go in the brooder house and lay there. / I used to do the same thing. I did it even when I was grown up! Theres something about it. My dogs even like it. When I get new chickens, my dogs will go in there with me right away (I usually let the dogs smell them) and my dogs climb right in there with them. Theyre as excited as we are.

First time I got chickens about ten years ago, I was in the house after doing chores, and the TV commercial had a bluck bluck bluck bluck. Later I said to my wife, I can still hear that chicken from TV! And then I saw in the garage, my dog had rounded up all the new chickens (we used to have a herding dog.) She had herded them up right by the back door. I took them back and hollered to the dog, "You leave those chickens alone!" And it wasnt an hour later, she had them all rounded up by the back door again. She kept doing it; I finally had to take her, and I said "Well, you want to be a chicken?" And I tied her up with the chickens all night. She never touched the chickens again.

One thing about smell-- the farmer can tell by the smell of loose hay if it is good or not. Theres that farmer that can inherently tell if the hay is right to cut, followed by the computerized sensor right behind him. "I told you its too wet!"

These stories where gathered from Lake City natives on December 14, 1999 at the kitchen table of Ralph Lentz with help from Ralph Lentz, Art Thicke, Dennis Rabe, Larry Gates, and Gary Holthaus. They are edited by Beth Waterhouse. She can be reached at 952-401-0591.

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