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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Tale of a smart chicken and a dumb dog

This week we have a story about a smart chicken and a stupid dog. Chicken first. It was Sunday dinner, and Amanda and Paulina were missing from the dinner table. Carey shrugged his shoulders, picked up his fork and said “Amanda is worried the chickens have no water.”
Of course, the chickens have water. They are on an automatic watering system with these little dishes suspended from tubing dangling over the barn rafters. They need only to push down on the bowl with their beaks and presto - water fills the dish. It doesn’t give much water in each go, however, as too much water equals trouble for poultry. They will get their feathers wet or find a way to drown in it. The Farmer just shook his head and proceeded to serve dinner to 20-2 people, muttering under his breath something about people wandering around in other people’s barns.
Five minutes later, a breathless Amanda arrived. She explained that the chickens really did have no water. She should know – she raises her own little feathered family at home. She said they were pushing with all they had on the bowls, to no avail. One chicken even took it upon himself to leave the coop in search of H20. A self-appointed scout. His loud frantic chirping caught Amanda’s attention, and saved the day. When she finished chasing that bird back into the pen, she followed the piping to the source of the problem: the tube was no longer attached to the water pump. The Farmer knew exactly what had happened.
We often have to move things around in order to accommodate new creatures on the farm and the arrival of the chicks meant we had to steal the water from the main pump in the barn.  That water used to be the horse’s main source, on a float, always fresh. She didn’t appreciate having to pick her way through the muck to the cow’s side of the barn just to get a drink. So she bit down on the piping attached to the pump and pulled it free. Water sprayed everywhere, and she had a nice drink and a shower.
You learn to respond to strange sounds from the animals on the farm. It usually means something is amiss. Like when Cody the stupid Gordon Setter let out a yelp on our walk. He had found the electric fence. I was afraid his old 14-year-old heart would stop beating but no, he just shook it off and bounced across the meadow to report to me: “I’m ok!” Idiot.
As soon as the fields dried up I started walking Cody in the back 40 instead of down the road. There are a couple reasons for this. First, he drags me on the end of his leash down the road, making it a rather unpleasant experience. Secondly, he loves to run off leash, like a young pup instead of a geriatric pooch. I showed him the electric fence and told him every time to stay away from it. Does he listen? No. Of course, he probably can’t hear me either. And he has no short-term memory to speak of.
I wonder if he will remember the fence next time we go out. I hope so. Anything strong enough to stop a bull in its tracks cannot be safe for a dog.

The Farmer read my column last week. He pointed out that a sheep does not have a herd, but a flock. Well of course I knew that. I just momentarily forgot. Like when I say I’m going to the garden to pick some salad. Of course I mean lettuce. You get the gist of it. These columns are stories; not documentation of knowledge of any kind. But I argued, if the man who cares for the sheep is a shep-herd, why can’t you call a group of sheep a herd? He isn’t called a shep-flock. Besides, I don’t pretend to know what I’m talking about. I’m an Accidental Farmwife, remember? Not a real farmwife. Can’t even bake a pie. 

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