Farm living grows new ?sense?

Most people understand the idea of common sense. After all, cause-and-effect is a pretty basic concept. If you put your hand on a hot stove, it?s going to get burned.

While some things are obvious, sometimes it takes living on a farm to teach you some exciting new ones. And, me being me, I?ve learned them the hard way.

I?ve already learned to look before jabbing a pitchfork into the ground. I?ve learned that good work gloves aren?t just for show, and if yours are still clean, you?re probably not working hard enough.

Wearing red toenail polish and flip-flops out to the chicken coop is definitely not a good idea. Picking your nose while driving down a gravel road isn?t very smart. Still, these are fairly obvious lessons. Other lessons have a way of sneaking up on you.

Tractor Supply and Orscheln call themselves farm supply stores. Indeed, you can get pretty much anything there you?d need for anything from splitting logs to running fence to learning about the mating habits of Nigerian Dwarf goats (and no, I don?t own any of those).

You can even put together a reasonably spiffy outfit for a night out on the town, and find all kinds of home decor that you didn?t even know you needed. What they don?t tell you is that they have potato-chip chickens.

Yep, this special time of year is called Chick Days. We crazy chicken ladies go even crazier at this time of year.

Yours truly always begins Chick Days with the best of intentions: I?m just going to get a few to replace the ones we lost to possums. Not too many, and nothing fancy. My resolve lasts until I clear the front doors and hear the cheeping. I hone in on the chicks, still vaguely thinking ?I just need six. Six will be plenty.?

Two hours, four new friends and eight chicks later, I?m headed home. I?m actually congratulating myself on not buying those four lonely bantams in the other tank, or coming home with meat birds yet.

See, you can?t just get a few chicks. There?s always one that?s cuter, or maybe it?s a rooster (so you?d better pick up another pullet, just to even things out). And that?s if you?ve managed, somehow, to get to the feed store without small children in tow. If you take your kids, you?re going to need a bigger brooder.

The other startling lesson I?ve learned lately is about 4-H. Sure, everybody knows about 4-H. It?s an excellent program for kids (not just farm kids) to learn about an incredible variety of subjects. It?s an opportunity to develop and hone specific skills and organizational talents. And everybody knows 4-Hers and their parents are sane, level-headed types that aren?t afraid of quite a bit of hard work.

Nobody tells you though, how dangerous 4-H can be. You show up with your kids, expecting to enroll them in a subject or two (or maybe three or four). That would be plenty. You start signing up, and suddenly you realize that your kids now have a burning desire to learn about rocketry or clothes buymanship in addition to the poultry and foods projects that you had in mind.

You might also have the opportunity to volunteer as a project leader to share your knowledge with the young sprouts. In doing so, you might actually learn a few new things yourself, thus severely jeopardizing your notion that you were an expert.

You?ll watch your kids give presentations about their chosen subjects, and sometimes have to simultaneously pick your jaw up off of the floor (unfractured, hopefully) and deflate your pride-puffed chest.

You?ll find yourself going to interesting lengths with your children in tow to procure that one special breed, ingredient, or item that their project for the county fair simply must have.

Perhaps the most perilous aspect of 4-H is the human interaction. You?ll find yourself volunteering both your kids and yourself for extra tasks and community service projects, which almost always end up being quite a lot of fun for all involved.

You?ll find yourself being drawn into the company of some of the neatest people anyone could hope to meet.

Be forewarned though, as much fun as you can have in this hazardous environment, pride literally goes before a fall. As I sit here writing this, my swollen knee is propped up on a chair, a bag of ice perched regally upon the swollen and bruised joint.

Several local 4H clubs met in Salina for a roller skating party tonight. You?d think that common sense would have told me that someone my age should leave the skating to the whippersnappers. You?d be right. My common sense did tell me that. I promptly ignored it.

After a wobbly start, my body remembered the last time I skated (about 20 years ago, I think). Kids were falling all over the place, but somehow I managed to glide along without taking a spill myself.

Most of the afternoon went well until, as my hubby said, I broke my invincible. All it took was a single trip, and my lofty ?talent? went crashing to earth. I finally learned my lesson. 4-H is dangerous!

It?s all good. No matter how simple the lesson, it?s not wasted if you really take time to learn from it. Common sense may not be so common anymore, but the lack of it sure makes for some good stories!

Shana Thornhill lives on farm near Marion. She can be reached at

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