Several years ago, when Jen and I started WonderTree, we started traditions. Like a lot of good traditions many of them had unintentional beginnings. Farm Day at WonderTree is perhaps the largest, most unintentional tradition of them all. What started as a more convenient way to buy meat and eggs turned into a farm party the whole community is invited to every Saturday from May to October. And, as you can imagine, there are many sub-traditions under the banner of Farm Day at WonderTree. This year, as we move closer to these bright, agricultural, community events on our farm, I thought I’d let you in on a little known tradition we observe around here every week.

Scraping the cat.

There used to be an older lady who lived in a house on adjoining land to our farm. She had around 20 cats. Ok, truth be told, no one knew how many cats she had. Even she didn’t know. The same “herd” of cats had been living, breeding, running away, and coming home again for 35 years. They were everywhere. And, on occasion, one of them fell victim to a car tire out on US 421. Four years ago on a Monday in July one of her cats lost its 9th life right in front of our driveway. I’m here to tell you, this feline couldn’t have died in a worse spot. We had to straddle it with our car in order to pull in. I won’t be painfully descriptive, but let’s just say it wasn’t a “clean” death. No, this poor fella took quite a blow there on the highway. And, he stayed on the pavement in front of our farm for the better part of a week. In the July heat. It was rough. Nothing says “Welcome To The Farm” like a steaming mound of roadkill.

I’ll be honest, normally I’m one of those people who wishes government—local, state, or federal—would just stay out of our business. However, in this particular case I was really hoping for some bureau, department, division, or agency to send out their DRCU (Domestic Roadkill Collection Unit) and “unsmear” the road in front of our place. I called. They didn’t come. They don’t exist.

So, by Thursday of that week, with hundreds of people like yourself coming to the farm in just a couple of days, we added the term “Scrape The Cat” to our official list of chores for the week. If you saw the grisly scene there on the road you might understand why “scrape” was the only adequate term for how the cat might get cleaned up. There was no other method imaginable. Scrubbing, scouring, or scooping just weren’t up to the task. As you can imagine, the task of scraping fell, with no other willing volunteers, to me. And, as you can also imagine, I procrastinated. Procrastination is ok when it comes to sweeping the barn floor, cleaning the bathroom, or organizing the meat coolers. But, it’s never an acceptable practice when it comes to cleaning up roadkill. I kept eyeing the sky, praying the buzzards would help out. Or that some benevolent coyote would see my pain and let me off the hook. Neither came. The scene just got worse. And so did the reminders.

“When is someone going to scrape the cat?”

“That cat is gross, Dad. Are you going to scrape it.”

“Really, Hunter. I know you’re busy, but that cat needs scraped.”

“If you don’t get out there and scrape the cat some poor kid is going to be emotionally scarred this Saturday.”

“That cat’s not going to scrape itself.”

So, that Saturday, in the quiet and cool of the morning—for the emotional well-being of every WonderTree-visiting family in our community—I loaded up a cluster of shovel-like hand tools.  There, in the darkness of the predawn, I headed out to the road, put on my headlamp and gloves, and scraped what was left of the cat.

(over-exaggerated melodrama of the last paragraph intended) 

From that week on the entire body of preparation for Farm Days has been affectionately dubbed “Scraping The Cat.” If Jen asks what I’ve been doing and I say “oh, just scraping the cat” she knows exactly what that means. If I tell the family we need to get up early to scrape the cat, they know we will be:

Brushing/saddling horses
Penning up ornery billy goats
Spreading straw/bedding
Feeding/watering animals
Sweeping out the barn
Restocking meat selections
Collecting eggs
Washing eggs
Packaging eggs
Swiping down cobwebs
Wiping down the sales counter 
Brushing dogs
Changing lightbulbs
Picking fun music
Packaging desserts
Pricing desserts
Displaying desserts
Setting up the cotton candy machine
Moving dangerous stuff out of the way

And much, much more.
We scrape the cat. It’s tradition. It’s farming. It’s our pleasure.

We are so excited for the start of Farm Days at WonderTree next month. As the farm awakens to the Spring we are busy here everyday scraping the cat. We want to make this year the most special, meaningful year yet for you and your families as we reconnect with traditional farming. Whether you are staying the night in our glampground, taking a farm tour, hoisting your children up for their first horse ride, or sitting down to a delicious, nutrient dense meal with WonderTree’s local pastured meats, please know we are constantly working to make our farm cleaner, stronger, more beautiful, more natural. 

All for now. I’ve got scraping to do.

Hunter Smith
April 15th 2021

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