All the Little Live Things

The title of this week’s post comes from one of the shorter works by Wallace Stegner, an author who wrote a number of books that have lodged themselves individually into my memory. Among other themes in All the Little Live Things, there’s a clash of outlooks between an embittered gardener fighting diseases, insects, gophers, and occasional roaming horses that ravage his plants, contrasted with his young neighbor, an idealistic and ultimately doomed nature lover who tries to embrace all of life, even the cruelest experiences.

Depending on the situation of the moment you find me on the farm, I might be cast into the role of either of those archetypes. I’d like to imagine that I can be the lover of all life, but sometimes I’m narrowly focused on fighting what I perceive to be the forces of chaos. I don’t suppose anyone actually could farm without at least a little of each perspective, but surely there’s more joy in loving our way into our work rather than taking each day as a struggle against an unrelenting opposition.

I won’t bog this down with further introspection into my struggles for equanimity. Rather I’ll just share some encounters I’ve had this week with some “little live things” on the farm. I try, whenever I can, to make the time to observe something about the farm each day. Here are a few of my findings over the recent days.

Tiny frog perched on a garden hose valve in the pasture.
Micro frog

On Wednesday I found a miniature frog, perched on the shutoff valve on a garden hose in the pasture. The hose valve in the picture is less than an inch long, so that gives some perspective on just how tiny this frog is. I believe this is some variety of tree frog, but I have no expertise in frog taxonomy. I spend so much of my time looking at animals at the scale of cattle, turkeys, and chickens that there’s a delightful moment of wonder in finding a perfectly-formed frog the size of a blueberry.

Baby cottontail rabbit on the pasture at Wrong Direction Farm with chickens in background.
Catch and release

On Thursday AJ and I were moving the chickens when I heard one group of chickens erupting in fright. A young rabbit hopped in among them but couldn’t find its way out, so it was running in a panic and spreading further panic among the birds. I was able to catch the rabbit and to release it nearby so it could go on without troubling itself or the chickens.

A large toad in among the tall grasses on a pasture at Wrong Direction Farm
Fat toad

On Friday I was working on the solar pump for the livestock watering system (broken again!), when I spied this fat toad squatting in the grass near my feet. A big toad, the size of my hand, tells me that we’ve got a well-functioning ecosystem, with plenty of bugs and habitat for predators like toads.

One more thing in parting… Returning to the previously mentioned book for a quote, there is a line early in the book that I’ve long prized for its insight into the influence we exert on the others in our lives. “There is a sense in which we are all each other’s consequences, but I am more her consequence than she knew.”

I wish you all the joy of finding some little live things too!

6 thoughts on “All the Little Live Things”

  1. I totally understand. I have a rescue dog that is clearly some type of hunter. I struggle every day with allowing him to be what he is, yet not wanting any creature to be harmed…thanks for the insight.

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