Tonight’s dinner consisted of popping handfuls of raspberries. It was drizzling while picking/eating so technically they were washed. After “dinner” I grabbed eggs from the coop for tomorrow’s breakfast. I’m getting at least 2 eggs a day, typically from the Aracunas who have just started laying in the last 3 weeks. The Dixie Chixs (Buckeyes) are about 1-1/2 years old and may only lay sporadically for the rest of their lives. But they are still the friendliest chickens – willing to tolerate holding and loving by anyone – especially if they are rewarded with some scratch.
So that means that 2 meals a day for at least 4 days the last week have technically cost me nothing. Now how awesome is that! Of course, as my parents always told me – nothing is free. This reference was most frequently used regarding animals advertised on cardboard signs.
Raspberries definitely make you pay for every berry with thorns. Most people maintain well manicured gardens, I try for a while, but it doesn’t take long for it to get ahead of me. There is the time invested to initially plant vines and patience required awaiting the initial crop. Late fall or early spring it’s a good idea to prune back old vines and clean out the patch in preparation for the next year’s abundance. So there is work as part of your payment.
Chickens require feed. It amazes me how little my free-range chickens eat. Five chickens rarely go through 50 pounds of crumbles during the summer. In the winter, November to March, they might go through 100 lbs of crumbles. They would be thrilled to go through 50 pounds of scratch every month, but I am careful to minimize what they get and mix it with their crumbles. They know it’s a treat because I put little piles of it in the same area where all the neighbors leave scraps for them.
There was the expense of building a chicken coop, $390. Majority of the supplies were re-purposed. It took a lot of time, but was entertaining. It was also the first major building project I did without my Dad’s guidance and supervision. This gave me a great sense of accomplishment. Hmmm . . . so it cost me a little financially, but it felt like I got a lot more out of that project than I put into it.
There is of course the work that goes with live animals. The horse, dog, and cat get the same effort but provide only companionship in return. Providing water, a clean living area, roaming space, medical care, and attention takes time out of each day. And while companionship doesn’t seem like much, I’m surrounded by adoring fur children. When I pull in the driveway the chickens run to meet me, the cat greets me at the door, the dog rolls over for a belly rub once his crate is opened, and the horse nickers. Pretty certain the commitment of my time has been paid in excess. So while nothing in life may be free, there is also the adage that effort is rewarded.