Just Another Week

The light at the end of the tunnel is beginning to come into sight, as the busiest season for my professional work winds down. I appreciate your forbearance with the slow posting, and I look forward to posting more frequently going forward this fall.

In between the craziness with work, here is a sampling of what it’s been like living on a farm for the past week or so:

  • Dot’s lamb is thriving, and managing to keep up with her mother all around the pasture. It’s a big pasture, and they occasionally lose sight of each other; we can tell because the lamb begins a piercing high pitched bleat. Dot usually comes and finds her soon thereafter. It’s been a real joy watching Dot mother another lamb; it wouldn’t surprise me if this is the last time she gets to do it.
  • That said, Dot’s instincts sometimes conflict with our own. The first couple of nights with her lamb, she attempted to bed down in the wooded ridge on the far end of the pasture. I’m sure she was seeking privacy and shelter, but the lamb would’ve been easy pickings for any number of predators — from raccoons to owls. When I did my head count at the barn the first evening, Dot was noticeably absent. Having gotten to know her pretty well over these years, I had a good idea as to where she’d be hiding out. I grabbed the spotlight and crossed the pasture to the ridge; sure enough, that’s where she’d bedded down. Much to Dot’s chagrin, I grabbed the lamb and began jogging across the pasture to the barn. The lamb bleated, and Dot came running. It was actually kind of amusing listening to her continual protest “Meeah” sounds as we jogged.
  • Dot tried the same trick the next night, and I again didn’t catch on until it was pitch dark. The third night, I dispatched the Yeoman Farm Children to the ridge just before dusk, and they did the honors. In the meantime, I spotted an older lamb which had gotten its horns stuck in the pasture fence farther down the ridge. I freed it, and it ran across the pasture to rejoin the rest of the flock. In the days since, Dot has begun coming into the barn on her own with the rest of the flock at dusk.
  • We’ve been taking Wilbur the puppy along whenever we do chores or work with the livestock. When we went to retrieve Dot and her lamb, for example, I took Wilbur with me on a leash. He’s no help with herding yet, but I want him to experience as many different aspects of farm life as possible. For the more routine tasks, he’s beginning to follow me even without a leash. Each morning, he accompanies me as I let the sheep out, fill water tanks, feed chickens, get hay for goats, and feed turkeys. And then he does it again in the evening. Puppies have such boundless energy, it’s nice giving him a chance to work some of it off.
  • Wilbur hangs out in my office with me much of the rest of the day, and he’s about 70% of the way toward being housebroken. He hits the paper most of the time, but the biggest frustration is getting him to relieve himself outside. Often after running around the farm with me, he’ll wait until he’s returned to my office to relieve himself on the paper.
  • We had a litter of kittens born in the barn over the weekend. They were very much unwanted and unplanned (we didn’t get the cat fixed in time), but the cat fortunately only had two of them. Unfortunately, though, the mother cat has been doing a poor job caring for them. I was inclined to let nature take its course, but Cat Girl is having none of it. She and her brothers have taken it upon themselves to bottle feed the things. As of this morning, the prognosis for one kitten wasn’t good. But Cat Girl is working hard to save the other one.
  • Speaking of the Yeoman Farm Children, Yeoman Farm Baby contracted the chicken pox a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t a big deal, and Mrs. Yeoman Farmer treated it effectively with homeopathic remedies. YFB got over it toward the end of last week. Now, you guessed it, the others have begun coming down with it. Homeschooled Farm Boy wasn’t feeling well last night, and began breaking out with pox this morning. Little Big Brother began breaking out this afternoon. We figure Homeschooled Farm Girl isn’t far behind.
  • Pears have begin falling off our tree in the front yard, and I’ve enjoyed tossing the blemished ones over the fence. The sheep see them, and the word spreads quickly through the whole flock. Within minutes, they’re all happily munching as many as I can throw. Then the geese come honking in to join the feast. It’s better than television. Really.
  • On a sad note, we lost one of our oldest roosters this afternoon. Sardine had been the Alpha Rooster for a long time, but got deposed in a cockfight earlier this year. He went into exile, sleeping in a far corner of the barn each night for months. For awhile it looked like he was plotting a Rocky-like comeback, and he did roost with the flock for a time, but in the last few days he’d begun sleeping out in the pasture at night. Annoying me to no end, he would begin crowing at 4am near the house. Always the widest-ranging of the flock, he would regularly cross our road during the day to forage in the neighboring fields. This afternoon, he met the same fate that Scooter met a couple of weeks ago; I found his crumpled body along the side of the road. I won’t miss his pre-dawn crowing, but Sardine had been “one of the gang” and a fixture on our farm for years. He’s one of the few remaining birds that came with us in the “Noah’s Ark on Wheels” from Illinois. So…it’s sad to lose him, but I’m glad he had a long and happy life.
    • Just another week of farm life. What’s ahead? Our first harvest of honey from the bee hive. About a dozen old laying hens need butchering. Potatoes need to be dug. And who knows what other surprises we may find in the pasture…

      Some Puppy!

      After our recent loss of Tabasco and Scooter, our farm was left without a canine. Dogs are essential to a working farm, whether for protection of the property or for herding livestock. Scooter’s loss, in particular, hit us hard in both departments. Suddenly, we had no dog watching the property while we were away from home. Suddenly, if the sheep or goats got out, we were on our own in trying to round them back up. Suddenly, there was no deterrent to predators which might visit our property by night.

      Replacing a dog like Scooter isn’t easy, and I’m not confident we’ll find his equal. But we learned an important lesson with him: it’s best to start with a young puppy. Scooter was only about eight weeks old when we got him, and he was acclimated from that very early age to the whole environment and expectations of our farm. Ideally, we could find a border collie puppy to take his place…and we will continue looking for one. But, in the meantime, we need a dog of some sort to get to work.

      Our solution was to scout the local humane society’s animal shelter. Fortunately, about a week ago, we found a promising prospect: a litter of German Shepherd mix puppies was available. They went fast, and we managed to get the last one. His name is Wilbur, and his is indeed…Some Puppy!

      I’d almost forgotten how much fun little puppies can be; it’s been nearly four years since we got Scooter. He’s bright, inquisitive, and a quick learner. He enjoys tagging along as I do chores, and is eager to please. Best of all, he’s small enough so the other livestock (even the barn cats) are able to teach him his place and ensure he doesn’t turn predator. He may have some bird or hunting dog in his mongrel mix, but at this early age I think we can break him of any inclination he may have to attack the chickens or ducks.
      I’d also forgotten how much trouble little puppies can be, especially before they’re housebroken. And how much they chew on everything. And get into everything. He spends his days in my office with me (and his nights in a crate in my office), and the building is unfortunately starting to smell like it. Hopefully we’ll get him big enough soon to be able to spend his nights in the barn, and by next spring to be patrolling the property at night.
      And we’ll make sure we get the front of the property fenced tightly enough so he doesn’t meet the same fate that Scooter did.