Scottie Nicholson felt herself wake up in the early morning but kept her eyes closed. Her dreaming mind had wandered back to the days when she and her family lived in China. The memory was of a chilly afternoon on the grasslands. She and her parents, two brothers and sister were walking down slopes of tall grass. Bowen and David had spotted a gray rabbit and were trying to catch it as it bobbed up and down across the field. Though there were trash heaps at intervals around the landscape, they added to the fun of evenings such as this. Little Ellis liked to collect trinkets from the piles, with Scottie helping to move the bigger objects.
Scottie opened her eyes. Her rabbits were waiting. Throwing on a jacket, Scottie stepped out of the big white house onto Nomad Farms and made her winding way to the pasture where her rabbits were already awake and hopping.
Each of her siblings and parents had his or her own business on the Animal Farm. Scottie raised rabbits. All eight of the rabbits on pasture were huddled together in the chilly morning air. These were the rabbits she raised for meat. She was often asked what it was like to raise animals with the intent of selling them for food, and she knew it must have been her years in China that primed her for this lifestyle. It was not as though she was afraid to love the rabbits; however, she just knew what their purpose was and when the time came for them to die, it was never too difficult. After filling up their water dish and making sure they had enough natural grain, she headed to check on the breeder rabbits that were kept off of the dewy ground for the baby rabbits’ sake. The thought of China reminded her of the recent visit she had made with Bowen back to their hometown in Tibet. She had gotten to see some much missed friends and visit the sights that had defined her younger life.
She spotted Bowen in the distance lugging a pile of produce to his pigs. He had probably been awake for some time now. Bowen singlehandedly raised the pigs, in addition to chickens, with the help of Ben Bost, former family intern, now business partner. Bowen and Ben raised meat chickens in the summer, while keeping egg-laying chickens in the warm interior of their trailer-coop in the winter. March was approaching, and it was always a busy time for the two of them. Chicks would be hatched and kept indoors for two weeks and then released onto their pasture until they were fully grown, in about 6 to 8 more weeks. Finally, Processing Day would arrive. The family would invite over a whole bunch of people who know how to process the chickens and would work all day long. It was not one of Scottie’s favorite occasions.
“Bowen!” Scottie called across the field, “Class soon!” Bowen waved back in response. Scottie and her siblings are homeschooled and took classes a few times a week. On this day she and Bowen had chemistry, world literature, and AP European history. Scottie was very grateful that her business was more manageable during the winter when school became more of a burden. The animals would become high maintenance again once the summer break began. It worked out quite well.
On her way back to the house Scottie greeted David who was finishing breakfast as he walked down to his sheep. Scottie knew he was planning on moving the sheep fence to a more grassy area on the 106-acre farm. Bowen and Scottie’s dad, Mark, had welded the fence together so that David could attach it to the back of the golf cart and pull it wherever he wanted.
The farm seemed peaceful enough. Her parents’ cows were mowing down the grass in their section of the farm, and Ellis’ flowers were shaking off the morning dew. Satisfied, Scottie left the farm for school. Later that night, after Bowen had latched the door to the chicken coop, the family gathered together to light all the brush and trees that had been cleared away from the pastures into a bonfire. Scottie smiled at the flames as the sun set at the edge of her farm. With her mother’s arm comfortably around her shoulder, she remembered again the grasslands of Tibet.