So I take time before the crush of the day at 4am to reflect on these stories because we celebrate our birthdays this week. Mom celebrated her 89 years on the 15th of March and I reached 65 on the March 19th today. I have very little time for reflection as high season of milking and goat chills increase with the improving spring weather. Yet I feel called to give tribute the heritage of my mother's farm background that has led to the development of this city farm.
A decade ago, I began to keep chickens and goats, with an interest in honey bees. Mom had no experience in beekeeping, yet she had plenty of chickens and goat experience while growing up on a farm near Utica, Kansas. In 2008, I obtained my first three chickens and was so excited to get eggs that I took a photo and sent it to her.
I began asking my questions to Mom, who has quietly maintain a careful life in a humble Christian faith. Raised during the depression. she has always lived frugally. She has invested in her children and carefully organizes finances understanding the hard lesson of not depending on economic stability. She took on computers as they have developed since Microsoft's first personal computer in 1986. To this day she manages her finances using the ever changing QuickBooks.
Mom talked about chicken illnesses and nesting boxes with me. We discussed deep litter and cleaning the coop once or twice a year, which is what I do by the seasons. Her family raised chickens for meat and eggs. Chicks were bought (as today happens) from a hatchery and raised separating the roosters for meat and hens for eggs. After a time, the hens went into the pot as well. Mom knows how to kill, clean a chicken. To this day she makes the best chicken broth for soups.
My mother was a sickly child, and those days buying vitamins was expensive. The doctor told my Grandpa Charlie Castor to buy a nanny goat. So my uncle Charles Lee milked the goat so Janet would drink fresh goat milk every day. It helped her health and God gave her a strong spirit of will that carried her for a lifetime. While I do not credit the goat with the strong spirit of will, it helped her begin to carry a body that has had complications to this day. It also gave me a story to tell customers about the wonders of fresh goat milk.
Mom knew a thing or two about milking goats as well. She was visiting one summer in 2012, when I had to milk one of our goats in the field. My learning curve as usual was through the roof, working to establish a herd in the city. We moved the goats to graze at Garfield Park, and for some reason I was concerned that one was too full of milk. Mom came with me to the field, watching my attempts to milk a goat without a milk stand in the middle of the Park. "You have to soften up the udder to get the milk to drop." she said. Say what? I never heard of that on Youtube. She was right. Massaging the udder and pumping the teats reduced the pressure to allow the milk to drop. She also noted that the mommy goat holds back milk for the babies. It was my introduction to the world of managing goat udders, which has been my challenge over the years.
Farm life conversation came up recently as David and I analyzed our retirement in these next few years. After a bit of research we decided to purchase (!) a rat terrier puppy. I have never had a puppy to raise, ad all of our past dogs were rescued adults. We were excited to get Sophie, our pension puppy. We hope that she will be our traveling companion till we are 80 years old, as rat terriers live over 15 years. Sophie comes from a breeder who maintained this breed with traditional genetics for hunting. Sophie will be trained to be a working dog as we battle rats, which I call my own personal war on zombies, cause these vermin always re appear.
When I sent photos of Sophie, Mom mentioned Bob. Historically rat terriers were the main farm dog breed in her days in the 1940s. Small and strong, rat terriers would hunt rats and predators of the chickens. They could even herd larger animals. Only about 20 pounds, they were easy to feed and very pleasant companions. The Castor family received Bob from Charles Lee's then girlfriend when Mom started elementary school. Bob was a busy dog, hunting rats and rabbits. Mom loved Bob. Bob also chased cars (!) and got injured a lot. Bob ended up using three legs towards the end. He also liked to ride in trucks. So Bob jumped into the truck with a hired worker driving grain to Beeler grain elevator instead of Utica, a place unfamiliar to Bob. He was about 15 years old when he jumped out of the truck and was lost. Mom said the family made a special trip back to Beeler looking for him. It hurt to lose Bob. Soon after, Mom left for college and began another phase of her life. But that was a different story.
Pieces of my life fit into my mother's past and her story, and more. Janet Castor Huskey has memories that I cherish in connecting her past with my present. These details fill my own farm heritage for teaching the next generation. Thank you Mom.