I have a confession. Our farm is not just a tranquil, charming home in the country. It’s our nest. And I’m doing anything I can to keep it from becoming empty.
I’ve decided that is the primary reason I’m accumulating so many animals: our kids are leaving.
At first I was not conscious I was doing it. It started when we lived in town, about the time our oldest left for college. On a lark, I bought a puppy at a charity auction. We already had two dogs at home, so we were not on the market. But this little guy – a black lab with a royal blue bow around his neck – fell asleep on my shoulder as I held him in my fancy cocktail dress. I suddenly felt he needed me. It was intoxicating. Or maybe it was the champagne that was. In any case, that puppy came home with us that night, and I joked that I bought him to replace our oldest daughter. I was kidding. But the truth is, it did make me a little less focused on our emptying nest.
Puppies are a pain. They pee everywhere and they chew on expensive things. But they are snuggly and cute and they need you. And I need that. Our kids are either away at college or making their own PB&Js and running out the door rattling off their schedules (if I’m lucky). They’re wonderful kids and we love having them around, but (right on schedule) they need us less and less. And somehow giving a kid a twenty doesn’t give me as warm and fuzzy a feeling as wiping up a warm pee puddle. Especially when the pee-er is chewing on my arm with his needle-sharp teeth and making cute little growly sounds. Wiping up the pee is more rewarding. And cheaper, too.
We only have four kids to coax out of the nest, but it turns out it takes me a lot of animals to make up for the absence of each one.
First the puppy. Spontaneous and wonderful. Then another child left. So I got three goats. And a llama. Then 37 chickens. Three cats. Another goat. A miniature horse. Another llama. Good thing we got ourselves a farm after the first two kids left or we might have been condemned..
And still two kids at home. They’re busy, independent kids who prefer their friends’ company to ours most days, so the animals’ demands are a helpful distraction for me. I just have to nurture something. I need to be a food source and a comfort to living things.
My husband doesn’t seem to have the same needs. Thankfully, he doesn’t protest my animal therapy. When I suggest another addition to the menagerie, he cheerfully plans its housing, shaking his head and chuckling along the way. Such a good sport.
So my naturally emerging strategy for our empty nest is this: keep feathering it. And keep it full of cheeping, whining, bleeting, purring, snuggly beings who look forward to my coming home and who greet me at the door.
They seem to like my plan.