Something You Knew Already

This story won’t come as any surprise to followers of this blog, but it’s always encouraging when the “hard” sciences provide evidence to back up what we know:

Scientists have confirmed what every urbanite has long suspected – life in the city is more stressful.

Researchers have shown that the parts of the brain dealing with stress and emotion are affected by living among the crowds.

The findings help shed light on why those who are born and raised in urban areas are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and schizophrenia than those brought up in the countryside.

The team of international scientists behind the finding are unsure why city life is so bad for the nerves.

However, past studies have shown that exposure to green space reduces stress, boosts health and makes us less vulnerable to depression. The findings come from the brain scans of 32 healthy volunteers from urban and rural areas.

Go read the whole thing.

To be fair, we’ve found that life in the country isn’t exactly stress-free, either. Livestock and gardens produce stresses of their own. Whenever you’re trying to cultivate or nurture living things, life is unpredictable and can lead to worries or difficulties: A surprise late frost wipes out your seedlings. A surprise early frost destroys the tomatoes you were going to can for a winter’s worth of sauce. The barn cat finds a way to go hunting in your poultry brooder, and feeds five baby turkeys to her kittens. (Five baby turkeys that, I might add, every hatchery is now sold out of for the year).

But would I trade these stresses for those of a city? Not on your life. I visit Chicago, DC, and NYC frequently enough on business; I certainly enjoy the change of pace, and appreciate the resources that cities can provide, but you can see in the faces of passersby the toll that day-to-day urban stress wrecks. I’m always more than happy to return home to the quiet of my farm.

I’d a million times rather deal with the stresses of livestock and a garden than with the stresses of city life. Worrying about the garden getting enough rain, or whether enough broilers will survive to maturity, is entirely different from worrying about whether your packed commuter train will get you to work on time. Because when you’ve worked through and solved the “rural stress,” you get to enjoy the wholesome and delicious fruits of your labors. But when you’ve survived the “urban stress,” all you’ve done is successfully gotten to work in a high rise in a concrete jungle.

I’ll take the literal jungle of my pasture over that any day of the week.

Gosling Initiation

We’ve been raising a batch of ducklings and goslings in the brooder for the last two weeks, and are preparing to move them to a pasture pen (as soon as I can butcher the last four broilers that are in it…hopefully this afternoon).

Given our past success with gosling adoption, I decided to take six of the new ones out to our flock of mature geese. As I approached, they backed away warily. Then, the instant I set the box of goslings down and released the little ones, the entire mature flock began honking at the top of their lungs. The goslings sprinted toward the big birds, the big birds gathered around the little ones, lowered their necks, and continued honking. And honking. And honking.

I went to the house and got a camera. They were still honking when I returned, initiating the little ones into the Fraternity of Goose. I managed to get this brief video:

A half hour later, they’ve quieted down. But it looks like we may have pulled off another successful gosling adoption. Given how much grass is out there, it’s good to have all the more beaks at work now on the ground.

Puddles Grows Up

I’ve been swamped with work (and trying to stay ahead of the grass which never seems to stop growing), but wanted to give a quick update. Puddles the Goat Kid is now nearly three months old, and thriving:

Her broken leg has completely healed, thanks to an outrageous amount of duct tape. I still bottle feed her a couple of times a day, which provides a good use for the milk that we can’t use (because goats stepped in it during milking, etc.). She bleats and comes running when I call her. But otherwise, she’s integrating well into the rest of the herd, and spends all her days with them in the pasture. Given where she started from, 95% dead on the floor of a frozen barn in mid-March, and then with a broken leg, her current condition qualifies as pretty much miraculous.

Sadly, I can’t say the same thing for Ellipsis the Lamb. We gave it everything we could for her, but she was not able to integrate with the flock (no bummer lamb we’ve had ever has been able to do it). She was more a pet than anything else, and I bottle fed her several times a day, but something wasn’t right in her little system. I’m not sure if it’s because she was eating too much stuff other than milk at too young an age. Or what. But a few weeks ago, we found her dead out in the pasture. She’d been looking a little bloated earlier that day, but had seemed to be getting around okay. And then, just as suddenly, she wasn’t.

It was very sad, particularly since she was the last of Dot’s line and we’d really wanted to keep her. But such is farm life, especially when livestock are involved. You give everything you have, as a good shepherd and steward. Sometimes they thrive. Sometimes they don’t. It’s a great mystery, and I certainly don’t claim to understand it. We just keep plugging away, and keep doing everything we can for our little flock.

Civic Pride

It’s well known that Mrs Yeoman Farmer and I much prefer country and small town life to that in even a medium sized city. But cities have their place, and can be valuable for the resources they provide and their opportunities to connect with others.

Some time back, a national magazine put our state’s second largest metro area on its list of “America’s Dying Cities.” But rather than taking the designation laying down, the people of Grand Rapids responded by putting together what may be the most remarkable production of community and civic pride we’ve ever seen:

Videos don’t embed well on my blog, because of the narrow text template. This link will let you watch it on YouTube. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure you watch it. It is truly amazing.

An NPR story supplies more of the backstory of the video, and is definitely worth reading.

Much has been written in recent years about the decline in American “social capital.” Technological changes, such as television, have led to the dissolution of traditional means (such as civic organizations) by which people used to connect with one another. That may be true, but productions such as this one demonstrate that it doesn’t always have to be. Perhaps particularly in smaller cities such as Grand Rapids, there is still a thriving base of social capital; productions like this one couldn’t be made without it.

And as closely as I watched it, I found no one in the video who was “bowling alone.”