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Friday, February 19, 2016

Spending Saturday in a feed store (from Jan. 2016)

I’ll bet that is one of the world’s first book launches that involved a newborn lamb. Many thanks to Zachary and Kirstan Bennett for letting us borrow their wee one for part of Saturday. He was quite an attraction and stole the show more than a few times. I also think he deserves credit for selling a few books.
When I arrived at Rooney Feeds Saturday morning, the lamb was happily curled up in a ball at the end of its trough-bed, in a blanket. The resident cat at the store, Peanut Butter, was struggling with conflicting emotions of curiosity and disgust at the new smells in the room. Everything was fine until the lamb demonstrated his ability to leap out of his confines and roam around the room. Peanut Butter leapt to safety on the store counter, craning his neck around the corner to see the lamb as it explored its surroundings. As the lamb bumped its nose into the reflection in the glass showcase, Peanut Butter nearly fell off his perch. Slightly humiliated, he decided to go outside for a while to get away from the little attention-stealer.
There was a steady flow of people through the store, some on regular farm business and some had specifically come to get a book. At the end of three hours, I had had six cups of coffee, far too many Timbits, and I had sold twenty-two books. Not bad for a first book launch event, in a feed store. In January, during freezing rain.
Audrey said it was a quiet time of year, because most things are in the freezer now, their heads cut off.
“The animals,” she said. “They’re in the freezer. The farmers don’t come to the feed store when the animals are in the freezer.”
Oh. I get it. Mini heart attack there for a moment.
Well we did pretty well despite the slow season, as far as I’m concerned.
The best part of hanging around the feed store is the stories you hear from the farmers. Audrey and Quinlan share the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows with all of their customers, and get to know them well. They know who had to put a horse down, and whose sheep just had quadruplets.
They don’t just sell feed in that store. They educate new customers – city folk turned farmers – on how to feed their new animals. They share stories of trial and error, success and mistakes, so that we can all learn from each other. The food store is the hub of the farm community.
For the rest of this mild wintry weekend we stuffed the dogs’ houses with fresh hay and watched as they snuggled in for long afternoon naps. I chopped up some apples and fed them to the cows as they socialized around the hay bales. Mocha swipes the apple sections with her long sandpaper tongue wrapped around my wrist, leaving a rash-like mark. Betty is also greedy with her grabbing. Ginger has just become brave enough to eat from my hand in recent months. She is very gentle with her nibble. But the softest, most timid and polite bite of all is from Dono, the big bull. Normally I stand with a gate between us and toss him the apples. Today I fed him by hand. I had Betty to protect me if he decided to charge. He was very tame with his previous owners and he is very well-treated here so he should be fine but, you know what they say. Never turn your back on a bull.
Gina still shows no sign of ‘bagging up’, preparing an udder for an impending birth. Once again, the first cow to give birth will likely be a surprise. We don’t have any expectant heifers this year so everyone is experienced and, theoretically, it should be an easy calving season on the farm.
My bet is on Betty to go first. She is off by herself while everyone else is eating, lying in the straw, staring off toward the snow-covered meadow, chewing her cud. She probably misses the long walks she takes in the warmer months, sampling different clovers and grasses in every field. With ice under foot and snowdrifts to navigate, everyone moves a little more slowly this time of year. She stands up, does a strange yoga move to stretch, and takes a wander along the well-beaten path around the barnyard.

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