August 12, 2005

tales of farm school

first off, i've had a lot of inquiries as to how bad that one comment was that i deleted it on the last post. for the record, it was a spam comment with a link to who knows what, so i deleted it because i don't want people contracting viruses and accidentally getting on spam servers from my blog. no matter how jackholey ol' anon e mouse gets, i won't delete him. maybe. probably. :-)

so. today, internet friends, i'm going to tell you about my grammar school, referred to affectionately as "farm school." it's actually called "waldorf," or a "rudolph steiner school," but when i started telling stories about it when i moved down to dc, my friends all dubbed it "farm school" and that's what stuck.

see, it's a small, private school. that happened to be in a farmhouse. with barns and stuff. on a bunch of land. and we had sheep, and chickens, and a goat. and rabbits and cats.

we also had no grades, no tests, and no textbooks. the whole philanthropy of the school is very holistic - they're raising the whole child, encouraging self-expression and individuality, not defining you with a grade, etc - and you have the same main teacher every year, who moves up the grades with you. we learned greek mythology on equal footing with the old testament, alongside physics, botany, biology, human physiology, roman history, mesopotamian history, math, algebra, english and writing, chemistry, american history, nj geography, world geography, egyptian culture, theater, etc... all from the same teacher, who was our "main lesson" teacher. main lesson blocks would change every couple of weeks. for example, we'd study the human body for 3 weeks, then the french revolution the next block. and without textbooks, our teacher would essentially give us a lecture every morning, which we would then write into an essay in our own words as homework that night, and then transcribe it into a big, blank "main lesson book" the next day, which we would also illustrate fully. (actually interested?
this is the princeton waldorf webpage.)

i have a bottomless supply of farm school stories. like how we had those sheep, and had a guy come shear them one time, then we washed the wool, carded it, spun it, dyed it (with natural stuff like black walnuts we harvested from our property) and then ultimately knitted things with it. since, after all, one of our classes was "handwork," where we learned to knit and crochet and stuff. other actual classes were woodworking, sports & games, and gardening. one time we tapped the maple trees on campus and made our own maple syrup. but anyway, i'll get into all that some other time... today i want to tell the story about how i was attacked by a chicken.

so. we had a chicken coop (i actually helped build it.. that was during summer camp/intensive labor camp one year, also another post) with a bunch of hens, and one rooster. the kids would collect the eggs every day, and i think donate them to the trenton soup kitchen, or maybe give them to various school families who requested them. in any event, the younger kids usually took care of the chickens, and we didn't get them until i was in about 6th grade, so i had never really done much with them. aside from build the coop, i mean.

the boys at school started taunting the rooster through the chickenwire early on, since they learned they could actually rile the bird up to the point where it would fluff its feathers all out, start squawking, and finally fly at the cage, talons first, in an attempt to attack its tormentors. essentially, they trained it to be a fighting cock.

so. alice at age 12 was quite a sight to see. i was about 4'10" and weighed maybe 80 pounds. no joke. people used to assume i was bulimic, because i could put away food with the best of them, but you could still practically count my ribs through my shirt. i also had massive, massive glasses (which my mom swears were "in fashion" and "stylish" at the time when i berate her for ever letting me adorn my face with rims that were several inches wider than my head). so. this skinny, awkward, bespectacled gal is now on her way to feed the chickens. i'd been instructed to shoo the chickens back into the rear part of the coop - there were two "rooms" - and shut them in there so i could go about my feeding and egg collecting business without being harassed by the fowl. sounds simple enough, right?

i opened the first cage door, the chickens swarmed and clucked like mad, and i started gently shooing them back towards the second door with my foot. the hens placidly meandered to the back room, still clucking up a storm... but the rooster stayed put. picked its head up. proudly. challengingly, if you will.

i'd seen the rooster fly at the cage before, trying to attack the boys. he was pretty vicious. beak snapping, talons aiming for the jugular.. i'd always been more than happy to have that fence in between me and the old boy. oh, how i now longed for that fence...

i started tentatively shooing the rooster with my foot. he smelled my fear. he didn't budge. instead, he started puffing up. this was extremely ominous, as i don't know about you, but i've never seen a rooster inflate to the size of a soccer ball if he wasn't planning on attacking something. i shrunk back.

at this point, i stopped and thought about the situation. i was in a CHICKEN COOP. surrounded by small, fluffy CHICKENS. this was silly. i was, like, 12 times as tall as this stupid rooster. and easily 40 pounds heavier. i just needed to show this damn rooster who was boss.

bad idea. the rooster puffed to full capacity, turned on me, and attacked. we're talking creepy rooster-shriek, flew up to eye level, and came at my face, claws first, beak snapping.

i dropped the feed pail and ran.

the chicken coop was built right across from the sheep pen, which bordered the woods. so i ran alongside the sheep pen, on the small path between the fence and the solid undergrowth, panicked, all the way down the hill. when i got to the bottom i stopped, a little out of breath, and started to feel sheepish. a freaking rooster had just scared the crap out of me, and caused me to actually run away. i had just fled from a chicken. that was embarrassing. i turned back up the hill.

and saw the rooster, SPRINTING DOWN THE HILL AFTER ME.

this thing was MOVING. i had no idea roosters could run so damn fast. like, almost as fast as my 12 year old self. legs pumping, beady chicken eyes locked on me, shooting daggers.

this time, i screamed before continuing to flee. from a chicken. an evil, beady-eyed, violent chicken; but still a damn chicken.

i have not attempted to feed any poultry since the incident.

ps - amber, i'd be more than happy to post any stick drawing of this incident you'd care to provide ;-)


  1. I'm glad you didn't lose an eye. Those thick glasses probably protected you from the talons of that neurotic bird. My uncle use to raise roosters for cock fights and they can be outright mean and nasty. Did this make eating chicken drumsticks hard for you as a child?

  2. Ok Alice -- it's on -- I feel the picture brewing as we speak...

  3. LMAO - My mum got chased by a hen when she was very young. To this day, when I watch her make anything chicken...all I can think of is "REVENGE"


  4. Funny-I've net Waldorf school instructors, and parents who sent their kids to waldorf schools...but I've never actually met a Waldorf student. Maybe because the livestock ate them all?

  5. i'm totally scared of farm animals. once i got chased by a cow with one eye. eww bad memories...

  6. I've noticed a strange abundance of those spam comments lately. I keep deleting them from my blog too. How annoying.

  7. Oh my! That is scary. I would have run away screaming too. And, yes, if you would be so kind as to provide a stick figure drawing of this incident, I would be most appreciative. :) hee hee

    I'm all about the visuals.

  8. that school sounds so COOL!!! however, if I had been a student, I think running poultry would be yet another thing that I would have an irrational fear of. ha.

  9. could you perhaps make a symbolic drawing of the incident? I would be most appreciative!

  10. ROTFL!!!! and how do you feel about fried chicken these days?

  11. I'm sorry but I must tell you that YOU can never get over this and be a whole human being untill you have faced down another Rooster and kicked it's ass.
    Grasshopper, you must seek out a foul foe and do it in.

  12. and you wonder why i am deathly afraid of birds!!! happened to me as a baby- just learned how to walk...mother hen attacked..
    maybe a hypnotist would help???

  13. First of all, were you Amish or something? lol,,.

    Second: I too had "the bigger than your freaking face" glasses. Only my lenses were tinted blue on top and pink on the bottom, so it was to appear as though I was wearing makeup! lmao. I swear one day I'm going to have to scan some of those "awkward days" pictures and post them. HILARIOUS!!!! I also had big hair and a perm!

    Loved the story about you being more chicken than the chicken!

  14. That is funny and scary at the same time. Glad you survived.

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