Friday, January 27, 2017

Verse for a Certain Dog By Dorothy Parker

Such glorious faith as fills your limpid eyes,
Dear little friend of mine, I never knew.

All-innocent are you, and yet all-wise.
(For Heaven's sake, stop worrying that shoe!)

You look about, and all you see is fair;
This mighty globe was made for you alone.

Of all the thunderous ages, you're the heir.
(Get off the pillow with that dirty bone!)

A skeptic world you face with steady gaze;
High in young pride you hold your noble head;

Gayly you meet the rush of roaring days.
(Must you eat puppy biscuit on the bed?)

Lancelike your courage, gleaming swift and strong,
Yours the white rapture of a winged soul,

Yours is a spirit like a May-day song.
(God help you, if you break the goldfish bowl!)

"Whatever is, is good" your gracious creed.
You wear your joy of living like a crown.

Love lights your simplest act, your every deed.
(Drop it, I tell you put that kitten down!)

You are God's kindliest gift of all a friend.
Your shining loyalty unflecked by doubt,

You ask but leave to follow to the end.
(Couldn't you wait until I took you out?)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Loser

Our rooster Poncho has taken the loss of his standing in the flock to heart.  He used to be aloof, always searching for tasty bits to coax the hens, always out in the open, keeping an eye out for the chicken hawk.  He would allow the young rooster, Cogburn, to eat and to roost with the flock, but kept him on the edge of the activity, chasing him away when he got too bold, but never really going after him with the intensity that Cogburn displays to Poncho, now that Poncho is the big loser.  When Cogburn fought back while Poncho was distracted by our rooster guests, Poncho lost his confidence, and may have lost his left eye too.   

The black crusty scabs on his comb and wattles are slowly healing, and the swelling in his left eye is less pronounced, but he still keeps the eye tightly closed and it bulges a bit.  His left ear may be damaged too, or at least blocked with a crusty wound.  

His demeanor is so changed now that he is injured, and isolated from the flock, that he will eat from my hand and he allows me to pick him up and spray some wound care stuff in his bad eye.  Yesterday, while I was waiting for the goat, Peaches, to finish her evening meal on the milk stand, Poncho jumped right onto my shoulder!  This is probably not something I should encourage.   

He sleeps in the barn instead of in the coop, and spends most of the day cowering in corners.  He acts very cowardly now that he's tasted defeat.  When he dares to leave the barn for some fresh air and grass, Cogburn chases him all over, while Poncho cries like a baby.  Really, it's embarrassing.  I tried to tell him he may never earn the respect of the hens if he doesn't stand his ground.  Of course, he knows he doesn't have a fighting chance now that he can only see and hear from one side.  Hopefully, if he shows the appropriate level of submission, Cogburn will eventually allow him back into the coop at night.  We'll see.  

Look, there's almost a break in the clouds!  We've been having fairly warm weather, but no sun shine.  I've been glad that's it's not too cold while Rufus heals from his surgery, and Poncho heals from his fight.  

Monday, January 23, 2017

Rufus Has a Strange Dream

I wasn't sure what I was dreading the most about Friday - Rufus's scheduled castration, or my own appointment with a doctor for a routine physical examination.  While scheduling both of these dreaded tasks on the same day made sense at the time, by Thursday night I was stressed enough that I woke myself and Brandon up with a nightmare.  The dream involved a robotic spider crawling up the wall above my head, but when I sat up talking nonsense and fumbling for the light the words I spoke that penetrated my consciousness were "I don't want it...", but what I didn't want faded away before I could identify it.  

Fortunately for Rufus, he didn't know about his appointment, so when the vet arrived on Friday morning in a giant truck pulling a trailer full of equipment, he didn't even begin to worry until they crowded into his stall and poked him with a needle.  By that point, he was too loopy to worry.  A second jab with some more powerful stuff, and he passed out right on the floor.  One of the women covered his face and pulled his back leg up so he could get a sponge bath, down there.  A sponge bath with cold water!  Thank goodness he was unconscious, right?  

The vet - well, in truth, I'm making an assumption that she was a vet based on the fact that she was castrating my donkey and seemed to have the appropriate gear. She never really introduced her self other than her first name.  I made an effort to track down a vet with donkey castration experience as the donkey book said that they don't respond as well to anesthesia as horses do, and can bleed more.  I spoke to the recommended vet on the phone, explained about Rufus and that I would also like to have the goat, Peaches, tested for any diseases that someone who might allow her onto their farm for breeding purposes would want to be sure she was free of.  So, of course, someone else shows up to do the castration, never explained who they are or where the vet I spoke to was, and had no idea that I wanted to have the goat looked at too.  Oh well, so much for trying.  

The vet isolated a testicle by squeezing it between her thumb and fingers, and then used a scalpel to slice a three inch long cut in the skin and popped the testicle through.  She didn't cut her hand until she did the second testicle, so that first cut went pretty smooth.   

She used her fingers to break away some of the connective tissue and muscle on the tube and blood vessels that attach the testicle to the body.  At this point the other woman realized that she had dropped a needle and syringe full of the anesthesia from her sweatshirt pocket, so a search was begun.  Brandon found it near their truck before either of the dogs did, so Rufus was the only one who got a good nap.   

The vet then used a clamp tool to squeeze the tube until the testicle fell free.  She squeezed the cut end of the tube for several minutes, but when she would let go of the pressure, blood would squirt on her shirt.  Brandon took over holding Rufus's leg up, while the other women went to the truck to fetch some suture materials.  While Brandon was holding the leg up, Rufus started to move.  Brandon held him down with one hand on his neck and held his foot up in the air with his other hand so that the vet didn't get kicked in the teeth while she finished tying off the bleeding tube with some suture string.  Rufus got another poke to send him back to sleep while the other testicle got the same treatment.  This time she tied the tube before she let go with the clamp, so she didn't get squirted with blood.  

The incisions were stretched open "so they would drain better" and doused with some purple stuff.  Rufus was given a tetanus shot, and then he was propped up on his knees with his head flopped over.  He looked like a sad little rag doll donkey with his lips all droopy.  Someone said that throwing the testicles on the barn roof was good luck, so Brandon pitched them up there!  Wait. What?!!  I have donkey balls on the roof of my barn?! Brandon! Ew.

While waiting for Rufus to come to, the vet stuck a needle in a cyst on Peaches neck so she could check for Caseous Lymphadenitis, which is a dreaded goat disease that causes abscesses in the lymph nodes.  The cyst is right where Peaches had the dog bite, so I'm hopeful that it's not a contagious condition.  She doesn't have any other signs of illness, but if I was a goat farmer with a buck for hire, I wouldn't want a strange doe with a lump on her neck on my farm unless someone made sure it wasn't CL.  

I just had the strangest dream...

The vet waited until Rufus was standing up before she left.  We were told to take him for lots of walks the next day, to make sure everything stayed open and draining.  Drops of blood were not a cause for alarm, but if we see a stream of blood we were to call them right away.  He got nothing for pain, or even stitches!  

Strangely, I wasn't worried about my own doctor appointment any more - if Rufus could endure the procedure I just watched, then surely I could get a physical!      

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Views from Above

Here's a google earth image of our ten acres of land shown as a green rectangle of trees and brush with the long gravel driveway leading to our house, right in the center.  Our walking trail snakes around the boundary and fence lines, and wiggles through our "nature area"  - that patch of green with some trees above the house in the photo. If you click on the photo so you can view it larger, you can see where the fence we built behind the corn crib/barn that houses Rufus and the goats.  

This is an image of our place from 1978 - back when I was a year old.  Check out that huge barn!  No wonder the soil in the greenhouse and the garden is so nice, it probably received lots of organic matter from hay stored in the barn, or from animals that may have been housed there.  The workshop was painted white, and the corn crib was painted black.  The metal on the roofs isn't brown and rusty like it is now.  The room on the front of the house has nice big windows, and there are more big shade trees in the front yard, which was fenced.  The back field looks like its been planted with something that grows in tidy rows.

I took this photo this morning as I admired the amount of water standing on the ground and teased the chickens with breakfast.  If it was 1978, to my left would be that giant barn, and the workshop wouldn't have an outhouse and wood shed attached to it, instead it would be painted a pretty white.  The back of the house wouldn't have the tiny bathroom addition, either.  I bet the water would still be standing in puddles though, if they got as much rain as we did last night.

This picture is from 1986.  So, by the time I was nine years old, some of the big trees in the front yard had been removed, and the front field is plowed up and ready to be planted.  There's a tiny building in the back, which is missing now.  

Monday, January 16, 2017

Poncho Met His Match You Know

It rained and rained, and all our many puddles are full to the brim.  The paths we use regularly to the outbuildings and hay pile are squishy and the mud seeps around the dormant roots of the grass and forms a dirty slosh to coat our boots and contaminate our dogs.  Wendigo doesn't care if she spatters mud all over herself and anyone in her vicinity!  This morning, I didn't even make it from the front door to the car with clean clothes because she insisted that I would want to play with a filthy toy and rubbed it all over my jeans while I was trying, in vain, to tip toe through the puddles and save my work shoes.  

In my day dreams I can afford stone pathways and an entire barn full of dry straw - Wendigo and I would happily skip from stone to stone sprinkling straw on any mud that dared to threaten our perfectly clean paws.  While I'm dreaming, I'll go ahead and add a large mud room to the house, so that dirty boots aren't piled up like a barricade by the front door, and we don't have to excavate our dining rooms chairs from the many layers of dirty barn clothes, work gloves, and headlamps that end up draped over the chair backs.  

It may have rained all weekend, but it didn't stop us of from getting out and enjoying the mud.  We did some remodeling on the donkey's side of the barn.  We took down the painted board and tarp that were covering the north wall, and replaced them with some sturdy plywood.  I hauled cartloads of wet straw and hay from Rufus's stall, and hauled in carloads of sand and clay left over from the rocket mass heater project.  Groundwater was seeping into the stall in areas where Rufus has excavated the floor, and drainage from outside was flowing into the stall.  I used the sand and clay mixture to build up the floor and hopefully redirect some of the drainage away from the stall.  Now that the wall is more solid and the floor is a little higher, I'm hoping that the hay I put on the floor will stay dry and he won't have his feet in the mud.  We'll see.  All that work left me sore, but happy.  Plus, I have a giant pile of good stuff to compost for the garden.  Thank you, Rufus!

Not everyone had a happy muddy weekend.  I'm baby sitting my parents chickens, and the appearance of new roosters caused an upset in our flock.  Even though the visiting roosters are contained within the spare chicken coop, Poncho and Cogburn, our roosters who have always peacefully co-existed, got stirred up and fought each other.  For real.  Their hackle feathers were sticking straight out, and they would jump and claw at each others faces.  We couldn't break them up, and had to watch as proud Poncho, our beautiful flock leader, got his ass kicked by Cogburn, the young upstart.  

Once the fight was over, Poncho ran from Cogburn and cried like a little chick while blood trickled from his comb and wattles.  He was wet too, so the drops of blood spread making his feathers pink.  

He was missing for a while and when we finally found him, he was hiding in the corner of the barn, looking sorry.  

He wasn't in the coop last night with the other chickens, and we couldn't find him anywhere.  I was relieved to see him this morning, but his feathers were wet with mud and blood, his comb is crusty from cuts, and his left eye is swollen nearly shut.  Not a single hen was with him, and Cogburn was strutting his stuff and crowing with his new position as head rooster.  The hens don't seem to mind.  Poor Poncho.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Wind

The wind was so strong yesterday that it blew our trash can over and spread bits of kitchen garbage all the way to the back corner of our property.  As soon as I got home I realized that the dogs and I would get to spend the remaining daylight on a garbage picking adventure.  We tracked down fluttering plastic bags in the shrubbery, and rolling raisin boxes in the woodpile.  It's interesting to see the evidence of the weeks meals outside of it's normal habitat.  I was able to reflect on our eating habits in new ways as I reached deep into the weedy margins of the farm to collect blueberry packages and sausage wrappers.    

The wind was so strong it pulled against my clothes and hat and spit tiny stinging drops against my face and glasses.  The tarp on the side of the donkey shed would billow in the wind like a great crackling sail, and then snap like a whip against the barn before popping back out to sail again.  

The wind pulled the screws from a piece of the tin roof on the chicken coop, and it provided an incessant banging as a counterpoint to the crackling flap and pop of the tarp.  The side of the greenhouse was flapping and banging too, and the vent fan in the barn would spin like a turbine and then suddenly stop.  It was eerie, like the scene in a movie right before the tornado.  

The animals were restless.  This chickens stumbled in the wind and their tails blew inside out.  The donkey was frighted of the loud tarp, and Peaches was nervous to trap herself on the milk stand so near the loud noise from the loose piece of roofing, so she stomped her feet on the wood of the stand while she hurried to scarf her food.  When I scratched hay from the giant bale to fill the mangers, dust and leaf particles swarmed from each forkful like angry insects and landed in my eyes and pelted the goats.  

I tied the tarp down as best I could, and scrounged up some bungee cords to secure the greenhouse flap.  For the first time, I regretted that the pile of old tires we've collected as we cleaned up around the farm was so far away from the house.  When I racked my brain for a temporary solution to the banging roof tin, it occurred to me that an old tire would solve my problem beautifully - heavy but not sharp - so I could pitch it up there and stop that horrible noise.  An old rubber tire on the tin roof may not be the most elegant solution, but when I look at my barn and chicken coop, elegance isn't what comes to mind anyway!  Unfortunately Thankfully the tires weren't convenient, so Brandon got to do some carpentry by flashlight when he got home.  

Once the trash was captured, animals fed, and the loose bits were tied down, I retreated to the house and turned up the music so I could mask the windy noises from outside.  Cats, be glad you get to sleep in here!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Snow Day Love

We had the first snow of the winter season last week, which meant that I was home from work for a couple of days.  Days with no big plans.  Wonderful days of fireside reading, jig saw puzzling, hot tea guzzling, cat snuggling, and so much meal cooking.  All of these favorites, intermixed with frequent outside adventures - I love snow days.  

Just getting geared up with insulated coveralls, wool socks, hats, gloves, and coats is it's own adventure. There's no quick trip to the barn when it's ten degrees outside, so we might as well stay out for some fun with the herd while we're all bundled.  

The herd doesn't stray far from their fluffy beds of hay and straw, but everyone got a little exercise with us there to play with.  The Rivers know to jump up and beg for treats and pets, but Peaches has figured out that her pointy little snout fits perfectly in my pocket, so she helps herself while the Rivers create a distraction.  

Rufus and I got to demonstrate our running routine for Brandon.  Even in the snow, with bulky clothes and giant boots, we managed a awkward jog down the fence line.  With Wendigo pulling at her leash, and Puck stopping mid trail to sniff a sniff and nearly causing a pile up, my donkey running skills were shown to their best advantage.  ha!  Brandon thinks it's only a matter of time before I hurt myself while hurling down the fence line being dragged by a dog and chased by a donkey.  Weeee!!!

I like to round the last post and let Wendigo off the leash so that as I approach the last little hill both dogs and the donkey are looking back waiting for me to catch up.  I'm coming guys!  My nostrils feel frozen from puffing such cold air.  My cheeks feel chapped, and my heart is pounding.  Oh my, all of sudden it's so hot out here!  I bet steam rises off my head when I rip off my hat. 

It's a good warm up for the real work, which is scratching forkfulls of hay off one of the giant hay bales that sits near the barn.  It's not easy to knock the snow and ice from the tarp so that I can uncover the bale.  I use a curved pitch fork to pull the hay from the tight bale into a big fluffy heap, and then use a regular pitch fork to move the hay to the goats and donkey.  When I explained my method to my horse owning friend he shook his head and said "that's not that way most people do it, Rain." Doh! 

Birds with horns are weird, right?  The guineas and chickens hang around the barn and hay piles during the cold weather.  They have a heated water bucket near the house that they share with the dogs.  Rufus and the goats don't have heated water buckets, so I've been taking them warm water several times each day.  Sometimes Rufus slurps up several inches of warm water right away, so I know he gets thirsty out there in that dry cold. The goats snuggle up and keep each other warm, but poor Rufus doesn't have anyone to lean on.  He shivers, but he won't let me wrap him up in my coat or give him hugs.  I give him extra food and he stays out of the wind.  

Did you wonder if Brandon and I would have the resolve not to invite Wendigo inside the house during freezing temperatures?  I did.   She is supposed to be adapted to the cold, but I knew that if she wanted to come in, all she would have to do is shiver just once in front of Brandon and he wouldn't be able to stand for his puppy to be outside.  Thankfully, she acts like it's not even cold!  

Even with her drool freezing into icicles, she's happy in the snow.  Whenever we check, her dog house is toasty warm from her body heat.  Her fur is long and thick.  

She gets clumps of ice between her toes, and still wants someone to throw a toy for her.  She's a snow beast.

The roads are clear, and I went back to work today.  The snow and ice are melting, which means the mud will soon be back.  It also means the water pipes in the kitchen will thaw out, and we won't have any excuse not to wash the dishes!  
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