November 16, 2011

'Farm Anatomy' brought back memories of early life

A variety of books come across the editors' desks at the Press-Republican. One demanded a second look.

"Farm Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of Country Life" by Julia Rothman (Storey Publishing) at first glance seemed like a useless book of facts.

Illustrated with simple drawings, great color and a unique layout, one would think it was created for children only, more like a book for story time. However, serious information is contained in chapters such as "Breaking Ground," about crop rotation and composting; "Raised in a Barn," barn styles and construction methods; "Separating the Sheep from the Goats," including information on ducks, geese, turkeys, chickens and pigs; and "Spinning a Yarn," everything you ever wanted to know about carding, spinning, natural dyes and more.

Each chapter brought back memories of my own childhood on the family farm in Westville, wonderful memories of egg collecting, playing in the hay mow and riding the tractor. I also remember, with a bit more horror, days when my father would cut the chickens' heads off and let them fly around the yard like possessed orbs. After they came to rest, he would hang them upside down on a line. I'd slowly creep up for a closer look, thinking all the time, "What if they come back to life and fly at me in revenge?"

Rothman's book surprised me with how many breeds of chickens there are. "Farm Anatomy" names Ancona (large white eggs), leghorn (one of the most popular breeds), Minorca (lays extra-large, chalky white eggs), Austral (Australia's national breed), Cornish (developed in Cornwall, England), New Hampshire (great meat), Plymouth Rock (docile disposition), Rhode Island Red (large, brown eggs) and Orrington (great disposition).

Guess which breed you choose to raise depends on if you want great omelets or a friendly chicken.

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