Growing up on the farm, there were two things I swore I would never do when, and if, I ever became an adult.
As a youngster, my parents always had a huge vegetable garden. Out of necessity, we grew almost everything we needed to survive. For most people, garden work is both enjoyable and rewarding. Heck, some people even find it soothing and cathartic. I, on the other hand, always despised garden work.
You see, after a full day of farm work that included milking cows, feeding hogs, making hay, tending to cattle, and all the other things that I found enjoyable and rewarding, Mom and Dad would have me go to the garden with them, if there was any daylight left, to hoe, prune, harvest, store, process and otherwise toil in the garden till past sundown. Deep down, I knew we had to do this in order to have all those good, home-cooked meals year ‘round, but I hated doing it. And, as if that end-of-day stuff wasn’t bad enough, we often had to get up extra early to go “dust” the plants with a crude insecticide powder “while the dew was still on” in order to keep the pests at bay. Whether it was early morning or late evening, it interfered with my normal day.
I did it without too much grumbling (not that it would have done any good), but I made a promise to myself that if I ever got to the point in life that I could afford to go to a grocery store and purchase food, I would never, ever, have a garden. Oh, sure, home-grown vegetables always tasted better out of a garden, but that was a trade-off I was willing to make.
This past spring, my cousins lived on one of my places for a couple of months and put out a nice garden while they were here. After they left to go back home, and not wanting to see their efforts go to waste, I hoed, tilled, picked and processed the fruits of their labor and yes, the home-grown tomatoes, beans, peas, squash, peppers and corn were delicious. My wife reminded me that I had done something I swore I’d never do. But, unless the cousins come back next spring, it was a one-time deal.
The other thing I despised doing was caring for the chickens. As a kid, it never failed that after the garden work was done, and we’d come in and enjoyed a big supper after which I was ready to collapse in bed, Mom would say, “Oh, Jerry, I forgot to put the chickens up and gather eggs. Could you run and do that for me?” Tired and aggravated from garden work, I’d trudge up to the chicken house and run the birds into the coop for the night so they would be safe from foxes and other varmints. As I’d gather eggs into an old lard bucket, I’d have to receive a flogging from and angry hen and hope, beyond all hope, that a snake wasn’t curled up in the nest as I felt for eggs in the dark. Again, I promised myself that if I could ever afford “bought” eggs, I’d never do that again.
Early one morning last week, I was sitting at the computer when I noticed a vehicle pull into our lane from the main road. “Judy,” I hollered, “someone is lost because there is a truck coming down the lane with some sort of building on it.”
“Oh, that must be the chicken house I ordered. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier, but we’re going to be raising chickens now. Won’t fresh eggs be a treat?”
I am a cattleman. I hate chickens. I had to put my foot down.
“That’s it,” I yelled, “we are NOT going to have chickens on this farm!” I quickly related the stories of my childhood and my disdain for the feathered fowl. “I hate to be this way, but that’s how it’s going to be.”
The truck unloaded the “poultry barn” south of the house and I should have the outdoor run completed in another couple of days.
Never say never.
 Jerry Crownover farms in Lawrence County. He is a former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University, and is an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry, go to and click on 'Contact Us.'


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