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Friday, July 4, 2014

Anyone need a sweet calico cat or snappy sheepdog?

Over the last month, every time I opened the spare door to the room that housed the new cat family, the mama looked at me as if to say, “WHEN. When are you taking these kittens that bite my tail with their sharp little kitten teeth and nurse for hours every day?”
I found homes for the three kittens born to the calico cat that was dropped off at our farm by her previous owner. I waited ‘til they were eight weeks old and comfortable with solid food (climbing into the food bowl and growling as they ate). I let her sniff and lick each one on the head as I put them in the carrier to leave. I spoke to them and they seemed to understand. But now that they are gone, she is pacing back and forth in the basement, crying.
She is calling for them, looking for them, and complaining. She doesn’t know what she wants. Now that they are gone, she is for the first time since she arrived, venturing out of the spare room to explore the rest of the basement. I have to keep her locked up for her own safety. We don’t want her getting outside and getting impregnated again by a roving tomcat. Next weekend she will be checked over by a vet, and given shots and any treatments she might need. In a week to ten days her milk will be dried up and it will be time to get her spayed.
By the end of June we will have a lovely, pleasant-natured, diminutive calico ready for adoption. I can’t keep her because we already have two cats that have claimed the house as their own (much to the Farmer’s chagrin) and that is plenty. She doesn’t want to live in the barn – she openly displays her distaste for the smell and the wet mud under her feet in there. She is someone’s housecat.
At the other end of the farm, we have an unemployed sheepdog. Chelsea, our purebred Border Collie is, like many of that breed, high-strung. She likes people but she doesn’t trust us so she looks all smiley and tail-waggy but if you linger just a moment too long when you pat her on the head, she will snap. She needs another sheep farm. Our sheep are gone, so she has nothing to do. She spends her days notifying us of every hourly activity of the dogs next door. Every vehicle’s arrival to and departure from the farm. Every bird flying overhead. She is bored. If you know a sheep farmer who needs a good working dog, give him my number. Chelsea loves to work the sheep.
One day Chelsea got off her lead and after a quick tour of the neighbourhood she returned to the farm to sit under her shade tree, beside her doghouse. Then she noticed the sheep were beginning to venture out of the barn after their midday nap so she herded them back into the barn. When we got home from work there she was, in the barn, pacing back and forth to keep her herd of 100 sheep tightly packed into the corner. Some of them were panting, in need of water. We put Chelsea on her leash and brought her back to her doghouse. The sheep ran over to the water trough and started gulping. Chelsea is a good sheep dog.
This is supposed to be our down season on the farm, as the water is on a float and the animals feed themselves out at pasture. Still, we find plenty to do, weeding the vegetable garden and perennial beds, cutting the grass, mending fences, cleaning the house, cooking Sunday dinner for 20 family members and friends…I left the sheets out on the line just past sunset and now they are wet with dew and we will have to wait til they dry before we can put them on our bed. The Farmer doesn’t like my spare sheets because they are red and he says they make him feel like Elvis. And so we sit on our bare mattress and grab ten minutes to talk before turning in.
I think the Farmer is afraid he will be bored without 100 sheep to shear by hand this year. And so he bought an old farmhouse to renovate. Never a dull moment, here on the farm.

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