Gone Broody*

By: Axie Barclay

(From: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/broody. BROODY: 1. being in a state of readiness to brood eggs that is characterized by cessation of laying and by marked changes in behavior and physiology <a broody hen> 2. given or conducive to introspection: contemplative, moody)


Too many eggs in one basket.

When Dad waved the Offspring and I over to the chicken coop, I knew it had to be good. Actually, it was technically the turkey coop, since Dad had moved the chickens down the road to his house so they wouldn’t muss Grandma’s fresh mulch. From the turkeys he’d raised for Thanksgiving dinner last year, he’d kept back four, three hens and a tom, to incubate their eggs and make more turkeys of his own. Dad’s got a knack for hatching poultry.

Dad lifted the lid on the turkey box, an old dog house he’d converted into a nest box for the turkeys, to reveal a very disgruntled hen turkey, perched high on a clutch of at least three dozen eggs. Turkey eggs and guinea eggs spilled out from underneath her as Dad lifted her, to better show the Offspring and me the veritable tower of eggs this hen had gone broody on some weeks prior. Not only had she lain eggs in the nest, but the two other hen turkeys and the guinea hens had been lying in there as well, doing so even after this hen refused to leave the box, so the nest overflowed with eggs. As Dad set her back on the nest, she spread her body as thin as she could, struggling, straining, to cover all the eggs, but failing.

We all know the old adage about not putting all your eggs in one basket. But what about trying to hatch too many eggs at once?


We’re all multi-taskers.

Last night my Spousal-Type Creature was away for work, and after getting the Dairy Low-Tolerant Offspring to bed, working out, shutting the turkeys in, weeding in the garden, clearing my work truck out and rolling up the windows, putting the strollers away, feeding the dog and starting the laundry, I was attempting to take a shower, cook caramelized onions, shave my legs, pump milk for the baby, clean/tidy the house, and watch “The Big Bang Theory” all on my own. The STC pointed out that I was attempting to do all the work that usually takes both him and me to get done. As a result, my onions sucked and my legs were bleeding.

Did I get all my eggs covered? Yes.

Did any of them hatch? That’s another story.

The same is true of the hen. While she sat on those eggs (is still sitting, I might add), only a couple hatched, the chicks died, and the others went rotten. Arguably, compared to the dinners the STC and I make, my dinner was pretty rotten. The onions weren’t bad, but the asparagus was undercooked and over-seasoned and the leftover brisket went with nothing. It was food, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it. And the enjoyment I usually get from cooking evaporated as I attempted to perform other tasks at the same time, getting nothing done to the quality I’d have liked. In the end, I would have been farther ahead to do one thing at a time, go to bed a little bit later, end up a slightly less bloodied, and sat down in the middle to enjoy a nice glass of iced down red wine.


Life is too short not to enjoy what you do.

I enjoy all of those projects (aside from the shaving of legs and pumping), but not simultaneously. I’m sure the broody hen, while seemingly pretty sour, after a fashion enjoys sitting on the nest. But that many eggs, each an individual life and project, the sheer numbers confounded her and made what’s supposed to be a pleasurable task (or at least not a reprehensible one) into something far less than enjoyable.

From reading various sources and also by watching my son, I’ve learned that we’re all born pleasure-seeking hedonists. We learn to be unhappy by wanting more things, comparing ourselves to a perfect picture we have in our minds that is typically unachievable. While that might have been adaptable for humans in earlier times, this penchant for seeing only the bad and not the good, and aided in our survival as a species, now it leads to greater levels of unhappiness, malaise, and depression. Too many choices, an overabundance of options, leads us to feeling that we’re missing out on something better and instead of being able to enjoy what’s in front of us, we concentrate instead on what we can’t have.


Let me accept what I cannot change…

As long as we live in a consumerist culture, the multitude of options is not likely to change. The only thing that can change is our reaction to the world around us. We can appreciate what we have, enjoy what we do, reprimand ourselves for pining over things, such as better jobs, a better office space, a better boss, and find the things we enjoy about all those. And if there’s nothing, then take advantage of all the options and find a job you genuinely enjoy. No one can make a hen go broody. No one can make you like your job. As my STC’s sister told one of her nieces, “You are the only one making it so you’re having a bad day.” It’s all about attitude, and discipline. It’s easy to take on too many things at once. And just as easy to let things snowball out of control. It takes discipline to learn to both manage the snowball and second, learn to not let it turn into a yeti in the first place. By being present and staying aware, and learning when to turn eggs out of the nest, throwing out the rotten eggs instead of persistently trying to hatch what will never be hatched, we can all live a little lighter and a little better.

Until next month, stay broody.


Book Recommendations:

I realized too late last month that I forgot to include a book list. Got my poop back in a group this month. Offspring must be sleeping more or something. So without further ado…

  1. Easy Love by Heidi Furseth. I’m not even halfway through this one yet but Furseth had me at the first page. From the start I’m right there with her, setting fence posts in the rain with a grumpy old fart of a father, the love of a horse-crazy eleven-year-old girl swelling up in my heart. Look for the review soon to follow. More on the author and novel at: http://www.easylovehorses.com/.
  2. My World by Margaret Wise Brown. Set in the same world as Goodnight, Moon and The Runaway Bunny, My World is called the companion book to Goodnight, Moon. I really like this less well-known classic because there are so many books out there that end with trying to get the kid to fall asleep and while I enjoy the heck out of it when my bouncing little bundle of need succumbs to the nap gods, sometimes I want to read him something that doesn’t come with a shot glass of Nyquil. This is a great book for that; lively and positive, in the same storytelling vein we all love from Margaret Wise Brown. (And if you think you know all there is to know about “Brownie,” here’s an article that dispels the myth of a “quiet, maternal presence.” http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/roiphe/2012/03/the_restless_life_of_margaret_wise_brown_author_of_goodnight_moon_.html)
  3. The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. “The war tried to kill us in the spring.” And that’s just the first line. A National Book Award finalist, this author has been called the Tim O’Brian of the Iraq War. As a poet, Powers brings a beautiful tightness of prose to his first novel. More info at: http://www.nationalbook.org/nba2012_f_powers.html#.UbqAjZwtX8c.




Axie Barclay is a Michigan writer with a cow-habit. Having discovered the joys and potential for growth inalternative agriculture, she quests ever longer and harder for ways to combine farming and writing into a business. When not milking cows, making disgruntled noises at the latest disgusting thing the heeler dogs dredge up, riding horses, or keeping the fence up around her small beef herd, she’s holed up reading an eclectic array of books or tapping out pages. When not working, she enjoys kicking back with her honey, family, and friends at a bonfire with some beers. Chat her up on Twitter and Facebook, /axieb, or http://barclayfarmsandlit.blogspot.com where she delves into literature and agriculture with a relish… and occasionally ketchup. Soon to be homemade.