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Thursday, June 21, 2012

While the Farmer is Away

Can you carry a 40kg bag of chicken feed? While getting pecked about the ankles? I can. But first I have to get the darned bag of feed open. That requires pulling on the right string - and I rarely get it on the first try. So while I'm struggling, there is always at least one feathered beast who impatiently jabs at my legs with his beak. Chickens can be so rude. Once I get the bag open, I have to carry it over to the cylinder tube feeders and pour it in, without spilling feed all over the pen. I am getting better at this.

The turkeys are much better behaved, and easier to care for. They politely sit in the corner of their pen, watching and commenting on the situation as I tend to the frantic, overly-dramatic chickens. When I pour a bowl of feed into the turkeys' feeder (for that is all these dignified creatures require during the day: just one bowlful), they gobble appreciatively in unison. One of our turkeys escaped the other day and went next door to visit the neighbours. I forgive him this one indiscretion. He was fairly easy to catch and wouldn't think of pecking me as I carried him home and plugged up the hole that had provided an escape hatch.

The quail chicks are the most ridiculous endeavour we have ever embarked on, as far as I'm concerned. They are very tiny, and can fit into any crack or crevice available. As a result, many of them manage to squeeze themselves between the logs in the chicken coop wall and under the chicken wire. I have to try to wriggle my fingers in there to scoop them back out. The biggest problem with these chicks, however, is their habit of burrowing under the layers of hay covering the chicken coop floor. I am afraid to set foot in there, because I might flatten one of them. I wish we had just kept them under the heat lamp in the basement pen for now, until they grew large enough for the coop.

Why am I feeding the fowl, you ask? Well, actually you didn't ask but I'm feeding the fowl because the Farmer is away. If you hadn't already gathered, I don't enjoy the chickens so I normally let the Farmer feed them himself. We only lost a handful of chicks this year so I figure that is a good sign that I should stay out of the coop. But when the Farmer got called away on a business trip, I had to step in. These birds don't feed themselves.

So far, everything is going well. It has only been one day as I write this. However, two skunk cages sit waiting strategically placed near the pens. I shudder to think what I will have to do if I go outside one morning and find one of the cages has a customer. It would be just my luck. Every time the Farmer goes away somewhere without me, it's as though the farm animals and wildlife alike know that he is not around.

I notice he barricaded the gate to the barnyard, instead of just latching it. That is because the last time he left, the donkey and horse flipped the latch and let themselves out on walkabout, visiting the neighbours. The cows have also misbehaved in the Farmer's absence in the past, crushing fences in pursuit of fragrant apple trees. They leave large, steaming presents in the neighbour's yard on their way back to the pasture.

The coyotes have been eerily quiet this season, and I am just waiting for the first hit. Every year we lose a few lambs to the coyotes, and I don't want it to happen while the Farmer is away. Normally he gets a few shots at the coyotes and I believe this is what scares them on their way, even if he misses. What am I going to do if a coyote takes my sheep? Run at him screaming and flailing a golf club? I'm sure that will have him heading into the bushes, his tail between his legs.

I can hold down the fort myself. I'm a competent Farmwife when it comes to chores and minor bits of troubleshooting and problem solving. It's the big problems that worry me, and have me counting the days 'til my Farmer returns.

1 comment:

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