When I was in seventh or eighth grade I would try to wake up early at this time of year (late April, early May) and go outside before eating breakfast. I would head to the long barns housing the minks my dad raised, walk up and down the aisles and listen. What was I listening for? The sound of "peep, peep" that told me babies had been born in one more nest box. Each cage that housed a pregnant female had a stiff paper identification tag on it. At the sign that the mother had given birth, these tags were moved to the top of the nest box, like a flag raised in triumph. Before breakfast and before going to school, I wanted to be the one who discovered which females had given birth overnight. After supper, I also loved the ritual of going around with my dad and recording in our notebook how many litters had come in that day, and how the herd was progressing in this "whelping season." As the month of May progressed, the barns were filled with a unique spring chorus.
|Day-old mink kits--blind and virtually hairless but able to say, "peep, peep"|
Sometimes I miss these rural moments that defined my spring in days gone by. My children are farther removed from the realities of the creatures that give birth in spring time and the farmer's field going from barren brown to lush green. That's why making time for a walk in the woods, a trip to a family farm and taking the scenic route is so important to all of us.