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Friday, June 21, 2013

In which Ginger doth protest too much

“The sheep have that pasture nibbled down to felt,” said the Farmer one day last week.

Now that our back two pasture fields have been tiled and planted, we no longer have as much grazing land for the sheep. There are two options: move them to the other side of the farm or supplement their diet with hay while the grass grows back. The latter is too expensive an option. The next day I came home from the work to find the Farmer had moved all the sheep up into the front and west fields, with the cows.

“They even sound happier now,” I commented. “But what about Misty and Donkey?” The horse and her friend stood at the fence watching the festivities on the other side – and probably planning a break-in. It’s not as though there wasn’t enough food left for them, now that they had the whole pasture to themselves. But they hate feeling left out and wondered what they were missing.

“Are they going to be ok over there without the Donkey?” I wondered aloud. So far this year we have only had one coyote strike, but one means they are watching and waiting for another easy opportunity.

The Farmer muttered something like “by the time we get a strike over there, the grass will be grown back over here and I can move them again.” I went out on the back porch and stared at the sheep. I thought about Gracie, who has twins of her own plus an adopted lamb on her. Her face has become so thin and elongated I didn’t even recognize her. And I thought of my little bottle-fed lamb, only recently weaned off milk, who still comes running whenever he hears my voice. I don’t want them to get taken by a coyote.

Finally I heard a big sigh and the Farmer came over to join me. “Ok, we can move the horse and donkey over there too. But remember last time? As soon as the horse arrived, the cows found a hole in the fence and left.” Oh yeah. I forgot about that. The cows hate having the horse and donkey around. A whole herd of sheep underfoot they can handle. But as soon as you introduce a big Belgian horse and a neck-biting donkey, they feel crowded.

I got busy weeding the garden while the Farmer trudged off to move the animals. Within about half an hour I knew they were in, because all I could hear was the loud protest of Ginger, bellowing repeatedly like a broken foghorn. I decided to go and have a look.

The sheep were nestled down for their mid-day nap, almost hidden in long grass under the shade of the trees. Most of the cattle were in the barn, where they also have a mid-day nap away from the high sun and the bugs. Donkey and Misty were standing in the breezeway, reveling in the wind blowing through, cooling their hot skin and blowing the bugs off them. They were also blocking entry to the part of the barn where the rest of the cows were sleeping. Ginger stood just outside, in the hot, wet mud, bellowing. She probably wanted to get in but she wasn’t going to risk brushing up against Misty or Donkey, for fear of getting a nip on her side. It’s really more humiliating than painful, I think. The only thing hurt is her pride. I told her she was being ridiculous and she snorted at me. Betty was resting on the far side of the barn with her calf, as if launching a passive-aggressive protest against the entire operation.

By sunset, everyone had “found their corners”, as the Farmer says, and it’s been quiet ever since. It’s weird to look out the window and not see a single farm animal, however. I’m sure the neighbours can do without all the mooing but they have said before they like to have the lambs up in the front field where they can see and hear them.

I’m just hoping they don’t get an up-close-and-personal visit from a certain angry cow and her calf, looking for a corner of the meadow to call their own.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Summer storms are no fun for Cody the Wonderdog.

I love a summer storm. I’m not crazy about 50kph winds that rip the tin roof off the stable but I love a cracking thunderstorm with lightning and rain. Especially when I’m sitting on the sun porch, under the blanket on the love seat, with a cup of tea and a good book. The farm animals do not share my fondness for Mother Nature’s fireworks display.

The last time we had a storm, I watched with interest as the sheep led the way up from the pasture as the clouds opened and dropped torrents of rain on their fleece. They speed-walked as fast as they could up the field, their udders hobbling their steps and their little ones tripping along behind them. I could hear them complaining all the way up the pasture, “my wool is shrinking!”

The horse doesn’t mind the rain, but she sure moves at the first rumble of thunder. Then she makes thunder of her own, racing up the field with those big dinner-plate hooves tearing up the soil in her wake. I’m always afraid she is going to trip on a stone and break a leg and that will be the end of her. But you can’t get her to slow down when she’s spooked. Just stay the heck out of her way. 1800 pounds of scaredy cat at 50kph, kicking up sod.

The cows are usually safely tucked in the barn well before the storm. They seem to be very perceptive when bad weather is coming and they get in out of the way of it before the lightning strikes. The cats love to watch the storm, from a dry, safe place in the hay loft. They aren’t fond of getting wet either.

No one hates storms more than Cody the Wonderdog. Well before the wind and the rain, he starts fussin’ to be let into the house. He seems to know the difference between a regular rain and an electrical storm, long before the rest of us. Rain drives him into his doghouse. A thunderstorm drives him right up the wall.

If we aren’t home to let the dog into the house during the storm, he breaks off his leash and runs. He runs and runs until someone lets him in, somewhere. Saturday afternoon we got a call from the neighbours at the end of the road. “Are you missing a black dog?” This is the second time in a month that the dog has run away during a storm. I looked out the window and saw the broken lead hanging from the clothesline run. “Uh, yeah, I guess we are. Sorry; we’ll come and get him right away.” No worries, said the neighbour. The dog was having his nerves calmed with a juicy hamburger. Right.

The Farmer swears his dog was not nervous about storms before I arrived six years ago. He says Cody would just go in his doghouse and sleep through the storm. Apparently I taught him to freak out during a storm. Well that just doesn’t make much sense to me, because I’m not afraid of storms and the dog seems to react the same way whether I’m home or not. And I think a lot of dogs are afraid of thunderstorms. My sister’s dog, a Rottweiler/Shepherd mix named Mandy used to bust in the screen door when there was a storm, and hide under the nearest bed. In the years that she lived at my mother’s house, the dog must have busted the screen a total of six times. Dad would take the door off, bring it to Blair at Home Hardware for re-screening, and hang it up again. Next storm, same thing. Eventually the frame of the door was so bent you could barely get it open.

Mom would be at an event of some kind, hear thunder rumbling in the distance and announce, “I’ve got to go! I don’t want to lose another screen door!”

If our spring weather is any indication of the type of summer we’re going to get, I have a storm warning for my neighbours. I predict a forecast of wet dog with sad “feed me” eyes, dragging a broken chain behind him.