Growing up in NoWeare, New Hampshire, had its perks.
Our home, which sat on five acres of land, was fairly far removed from Route 114. This presented a serene place to grow up, one unobstructed by tall building facades and traffic-related noise. We had a lot of privacy thanks to the many pine trees and we didn’t need to worry about a fence other than the rock wall, which serves as property-line markers in the North.
It also meant we had a farm.
The property came with a three-story barn, and while nearly 300 years old and somewhat dilapidated, we were able to use the main floor to house goats (Hubert and Humphrey), while the basement housed two pigs (Pork and Chop; good one, Mom) and about 30 chickens (many of which did have names, but I’ll get to that later). We also housed three dogs (Maggie, Sammi, and Hannah), two cats (Jeffrey and Walter), and a pet turtle (Turtle).
The Proctor Farm was a lively place, always abuzz with after-school activity; chores never ceased, but neither did the laughs. Those 30 chickens were my chore — and the bane of my existence at the time.
As a coming-of-age prima donna, the last thing I wanted to do was don muck boots and scoop the coop poop. So, I made the best of it with as much dramatic flair as I possibly could: cheetah print rubber boots, bright pink rubber gloves, and a disposable face mask. I shooed chickens away from me with a large rake and made a point to slam the screen-porch door upon entry and exit. I cried, a lot. My family laughed, a lot.
Every morning before school I had to feed them and open the coop; at night, I was responsible for locking them in. Since our backyard light didn’t quite reach the coop, I often did this while holding my breath and sprinting; I would not fall victim to a Proctor Farm chupacabra attack.
It doesn’t help that we had a mean rooster — aptly named Tommy Lee (again, good one Mom). He would chase you, almost like he was seeking retribution because you were close to his girls, and you took their eggs. My sister, Alexe, and I would scheme ways to get back at him with elaborate booby traps; rakes that would fall after being triggered with a thrown rock … that kind of thing. It made it worse.
Eventually, as I got older, I realized the value those animals brought to my life. To start, the goats ate almost all of the poison ivy I fell victim to every year. The chickens were vigilant tick eaters. They also provided eggs for our family and the entire neighborhood; many neighbors would simply come inside, grab a dozen from the fridge, and leave a dollar on the counter.
Most importantly, our chicken flock was a constant source of entertainment, ultimately ending in some great memories. Each one of the neighborhood kids would name a chick and some of these names included: Owen, Oyster Pee, Pamela, Nomar Garciaparra (we’re a baseball household). After school, we’d paint their talons with nail polish because it gave us something to do and we could tell our girls apart.
There’s one particular memory I recall quite vividly: a fox was in the yard trying to get the girls but the Proctor family stepped to the plate with rakes, scooping up the chickens and herding them into the coop. We didn’t have a single casualty, aside from our egos because I’m sure we looked ridiculous.
I never wanted animals because of the “work.” But today I love my two cats, Clea and Rory, and loving something should never be work. I can’t wait to own my chicken flock one day — and carry on the Proctor tradition of scooping the coop poop.
All the best,