Signs of Spring on the Farm

by Laura Parker Roerden

It’s that time again, when the hens become broody and build hidden nests that make morning egg collection a treasure hunt rivaling the White House Easter Egg Roll.

Last spring we found this nest in our calf barn.


Naturally, we left the eggs so that the mother hen could tend to them; though they did not hatch. Nature can be like that, life pressing forward always under the thumb of death, like some mad tiddlywinks game that makes progress in fits and starts.

We take our annual trip to the feed store to “pick up chicks.” This year, we went to Tractor Supply, where the chicks are kept in galvanized steel tubs that call to mind wholesome images of hand-washed clothes hanging on a line.

In no time my youngest son and I had thirty Rhode Island Red chicks settled into brooders in the barn, the chicks lounging under heat lamps like beach goers splayed on warm beach sand. In the morning, chores sound like a busy restaurant, with the clanging of scoops and grains meeting accents of chaos and urgency. Listen here.


At night peepers and chicks compete for the soundscape as the sun sets over the upper pasture, having slid north so slowly over the winter days that I am shocked to notice it no longer sets over the lower pasture.

Photo by farm intern Anja Semanco, 2012.
Photo by farm intern Anja Semanco, 2012.

My nephew Ed Parker opens the upper pasture and the cows move north, too, like some oversized sundial stamping out time with hooves.

Photo by farm intern Anja Semanco, 2012.
Photo by farm intern Anja Semanco, 2012.

Rain from the west crawls along the river valley and comes up our hill as if a legend, depositing rainbows in the eastern sky and worn clay riverlets along our road.


Swollen mud waters the fiddleheads and bluets, which will soon press forward from spongy ground.


Everywhere, life is hungrily feeding or being fed.Mama Cow

Morning Poem

Reflections on Spring’s Shoulder

by Laura Parker Roerden

Photography by Ben Roerden, age 9, 5th generation farmer.

Winter’s frozen fingers still
clutch the ground,
unwilling to yield to a muddy grave.

Some years are like that:
everything worn to the bone,
promise blunt and fragmented.

This morning has no choice
but to rise clumsily against a thick
attempt at erasure.

At best, a hole had been rubbed
into now paper
thin winter.

Rusty bits on trees
suggest disuse.
Nuggets of shriveled fruit,

now hardened
like silent stone,
do not speak of potential.

It’s easy to understand on a day like this
that what we are about to be given
is as easily (and too quickly) taken away.

Still, very soon we will forget
and be lulled into knowing
that rain,

like a child’s hand,
is the bird
upon which we fly into riotously blooming fields.

And our hearts, like leaves, will
stretch before us in a shimmering
river of dressed warmth.

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(Photography by Ben Roerden, age 9, 5th generation farmer.)
© Laura Parker Roerden 2016. All rights reserved.

Laura Parker Roerden is the founder and executive director of Ocean Matters and the former managing editor of Educators for Social Responsibility and New Designs for Youth Development. She serves on the boards of Women Working for Oceans (W20) and Earth, Ltd. and is a member of the Pleiades Network of Women in Sustainability. She is also a part-time, fourth-generation farmer.