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Thursday, April 14, 2016

On being an April baby


I was born in early April, forty-eight years ago, so these things are true about me: I suffer perennially from spring fever; I am stubborn like the ram on my zodiac sign; I am an eternal optimist and, I love the rain. This year, however, April is a bit drunk. It’s been snowing, then sunny with a balmy breeze, then torrential downpour, then snowing again. Ah well. We can trust Mother Nature is just having a bit of fun with us and spring will be here soon. The robins and tulips are not impressed.
Our six new calves, aged three days to two months, don’t seem to mind the snow. The two oldest calves chase the barn cats in circles around the feeder while the little ones watch from a safe spot behind the nanny-cow. The nanny (self-appointed guardian of the kindergarten) had her own calf last week and Mocha seems to have given hers up for adoption so the most maternal of the bunch is actually feeding two babies. We aren’t sure yet whether she is aware of that fact and just exceedingly generous, or if the calf is smart enough to steal the milk from her when she isn’t looking. She spends the day with all six calves curled up around her so she probably can’t remember which one smells like hers.
I’m not sure what Mocha is up to. She seems to have lost interest in her calf soon after leaving the barn, but they are both thriving. She does allow the calf to cuddle up to her. I will have to stalk them to see if she is still feeding. The Farmer thinks she has gone back into season already, based on a recent slow dance he witnessed between Mocha and the bull.
We have six calves born, and we are still waiting on the other six.
The two barn cats that came in for the winter left the house for a few weeks in early March when all the snow melted but now they are baaaaaack. Junior, the grey tabby, bolted into the house when he saw an opportunity one morning, and he has refused to go back outside. He seems to have been in some sort of a fight during the few weeks he was returned to the barn. Likely he found a Tom who had been over-wintering there, and now he has to re-assert his dominance and claim his territory. By the looks of him, the battle isn’t going his way.
At first I thought he had mange or something. The back of his hind leg is totally bald, and he has a tiny hole in the top of his head. When I pet him, a patch of hair also fell off his hind flank. I asked the vet about it and they said he is likely over-grooming his wounds after a fight. He’s basically cleaning his own injuries so much that he has licked his fur right off. He isn’t itchy, so I know it isn’t mange. And he got the flea drops in March along with everyone else. So I guess he is welcome to stay in the house for his convalescence.
A weird thing happened when Junior returned – the other two fulltime housecats, Sheila and Sammy, ostracized him. After that initial sniff for identification they decided he was either a threat to their health or their territory and they hissed at him every time he approached for a neck rub. Poor little dude. He still doesn’t like to be petted by humans but will allow me to stroke his fur if he is distracted by food. Even scruffy barn cats need love. He has been back in for just over a week now and Sam has finally decided he is worthy of a snuggle. Sheila still boxes his ears if he gets too close.
It’s supposed to be twenty-one degrees this weekend so hopefully all of the cats will go outside for a few days and give me a chance to give their winter lair in the basement a thorough spring cleaning. And if the warm weather continues, as it has in previous years, it will be tempting to start gardening. But I won’t get caught planting veggies too early because you can be sure Mother Nature has a few more surprises in store before the frost season is over.
dianafisher1@gmail.com 

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