The Great Escape!

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Sangria was not impressed with the change! A serenade of angry mooing lulled me to sleep that night, once the terror instigated by whatever made that alarming screeching noise abated. She seemed to be figuring out the new situation by feeding time the next morning. Today, however, she seemed to be pretty nervous about the horses. After I dropped off the hay and grain, she still hadn’t come by, still hanging out by the calf barn (but on the field side). Mooing at me to chastise me for “not” feeding her.

So I went in there, spent ten or fifteen minutes convincing her to come over to where the hay (and horses!) were… how do you explain things to a cow? I don’t know. Anyway, we got over there. It was raining like a freaken monsoon, so I had put the hay under this rustic sort of shelter so it wouldn’t just get stomped into the mud. I eventually convinced her to try eating some of it, but then a HORSE came along!

Not a HORSE, you say? Indeed, a horse! Suitably terrified, Sangria retreated. So I brought her a few leafs of hay from the bale to eat near some trees and she seemed satisfied. She was, until Chester (the jersey cow) came along. Apparently Chester is the Big Cow Around Town now that the others are gone. And he’s a LITTLE bit scared of horses. Only a little. But Sangria is scared of him. She’ll figure it all out soon. She’ll get hungry enough, then she’ll find her spot in the pecking (chomping) order.  OR SO I THOUGHT!

In the horrible pouring endless rain, I drove down that end for a reason. Passing the cow barn, I looked to see if the goats were hanging out in Sangria’s old stall, since I left it open with a bunch of hay since it was so rainy. Maybe they would like to stay dry and eat in there? Well yes, they would, but so would… SANGRIA!

I have NO IDEA how she got out. No one let her. I would’ve heard her knock a fence down. Did she jump? Am I caring for the legendary COW THAT JUMPED OVER THE MOON? I am keeping an eye on all dishes and spoons, I can tell you that.

Honestly, the rain today is just miserable and I can totally picture her just being like “heck this!” And getting back to her nice stall by whatever means necessary. But HOW! HOW DID SHE DO IT!

Bye-bye Cows…

Today my friend came to pick up three peahens and two cows. The peahens were sold to a lady who has a peacock that just showed up one day and refused to leave. She doesn’t have the heart to kick him out and also doesn’t want him to be lonely, so she bought him three girlfriends. So generous! Catching them went a lot more smoothly than I thought it would, we just sort of directed them away from the rest of the flock to a room in the chicken barn place, then picked them up and put them in a big dog crate. One of them was very concerned about being picked up, she shot a bunch of feathers in all directions like a squid firing ink. POOF. But then everything was fine. Seeya, peahens!

007The two cows are the holsteins pictured here. They’re on their way to Vancouver for… you know. Where meat comes from. We tried to get the jersey in the trailer too, since it was decided that he IS big enough after all, but it was getting dark and I’m sure it’s hard enough to drive a trailer full of cow when it’s NOT dark and the highway is getting frosty. It’s a little bit sad because it’s the first time animals I actually LIKE are going off to slaughter. But all cows are likable (in my very limited experience!) so I guess I’ll get used to it.  Sangria isn’t going anywhere, at least. And don’t tell anyone, in case it doesn’t happen… but someone is on the lookout for a highland cow for me! FOR ME! A HIGHLAND COW! I’ll be the luckiest girl in the world if I get a fluffy shaggy cow of my OWN.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I was going through a seed catalogue for about two hours and found 63 things I want to grow. I hope I can do that too. We’ve got the space, but have I got the SKILLS??

Winter: Not an Appropriate Nesting Season

003Sad news from the duckling front, we’ve lost five of them. Turns out having baby birds in winter is not a smart idea. The ducks really screwed that one up. Even with their heat lamp and everything! It has, however, been almost four days since the last duckling death, so I’m feeling pretty confident the rest (pictured here!) will be ok.

I felt bad thinking about tiny ducklings just being thrown in the garbage. How do y’all feel about duckling taxidermy? I’ve got enough of them to make an action-packed tableau.

In happier (?) news, this morning Sangria the cow decided to chase me as I walked up to the boy goats pen. She wanted to eat the hay I was carrying. Never mind that I had just put new hay in her stall. Also forget the hay I put out for the girl goats, which she was already eating when I left. It was vital that she get a taste of the hay (all from the same bale) I was carrying! So I’ve got this cow trotting along beside me and I’m trying to keep the hay from being devoured before it gets where it’s going… it’s icy and slippery out. She must’ve stopped to chew for a second or something, because I got a little ahead of her. Since it was very important that she eat this hay, she ran to catch up with me. If you want to scare the heck out of someone, just place them on icy ground and point an excited cow at them. A 400lb calf sliding on ice, unable to stop, right AT ME. I’m not the most eloquent, so I find it difficult to accurately convey the flash of mortal terror I felt before her hooves found purchase and she put on the brakes. Close call, cow!

The #1 Rule of Farming

barrelgoatjpgIf you open a gate, CLOSE IT! Three times I have made this mistake, despite having known this rule since long before ever setting foot on a farm.

Last week, I was trying to dig a drainage ditch of some kind (more on that another day), and opened a gate to the field behind the calf barn, since that’s the direction I meant to drain. Eventually realising the futility of this task, I gave up (until I am better equipped). For some reason, I thought this gate was beyond the fence blocking off the area the horses and big cows stay in. It’s not. Even if it was, why did I think it made sense to just leave it open?

Many hours later, I was trying to have a nap. The dogs started going ballistic because when unusual things happen,  like a COW ON THE LAWN, well, the humans need to be alerted. I’m amazed that it took as long as it did, and that only one of the six animals felt like exploring. Patches the Cow was escorted back through the gate, and I theoretically learned a lesson that I already knew. Yeah, in theory.

I think it was the very next day when I got distracted by SOMETHING and left the gate to the calf barn open. Again, a few hours later I came back and the barn (foyer??) was full of cow and goat. Mostly cow. Sangria the Cow had completely dismantled the hay bale I’d left there, making a nice carpet of hay covering the whole place. It was kind of cozy, in  a way. Shortly afterward, Sangria, probably high on the thrill of misbehaviour, went CRAZY. Bucking and jumping and hopping around, sideswiping and headbutting me. I thought to myself that she was behaving rather like a playful dog. I went to drive my car back down the road and she started CHASING it, running alongside. Just like my dog does when he thinks I shouldn’t be leaving! Dog: confirmed.

Sadly, that was not even the first time I left the calf barn open. I was feeding the animals one night, and I took the boy goats’ grain and hay to walk it down to their pen. Left the gate wide open, like a regular genius. When I came back, I discovered that an almost-empty grain barrel, when knocked to the ground, can completely contain one (1) angora goat and also fit the heads of two other goats! And naturally the rest of the goats were all over the place, trying to get at that delicious grain. I have never been so sore than after the night I had to physically wrestle all those goats out of there. At least the angora was small and also lying down so that I could just drag her out by her feet. The ones that just stuck their heads in there next to her, well they were a  LOT bigger.  And standing up! Goats do not give up easily. That was one heck of a trying time. I do not care much for goats… more on that later.

NAKED CHICKEN!

009Naked Chicken looks just like Chicken who lives with the calves, but she lives down with the chickens. And has a naked neck. She appeared suddenly up at the calf barn two days ago when I was feeding them, causing me to immediately think that my dog had somehow attacked Chicken in a way to cause her to lose all her neck feathers. My dog is a) a dummy and b) only just learning how to NOT chase every freaken animal he sees. So, in a panic, I rushed around the side of the barn looking for some kind of feathery evidence to support this idea… all I found was Chicken. OK, all is well, Naked Chicken probably just got cold and decided to move up here and hang out in the hay. Or maybe she was getting picked on for being a naked weirdo. Amazingly, all this time I thought she was naked BECAUSE the other chickens picked on her. Chickens are known to peck one another and whatnot. I just CALLED her Naked Chicken because she’s NAKED! Turns out, Naked-Neck Chicken is a breed of chicken. They have naked necks. Learning every day!

Calfnado!

021Cleaning cow stalls is like cleaning a giant litter box that you stand in. Except the cats are 300 pounds and aggressively nuzzling you. Why won’t they go outside? Most cows (I mean the whole four other cows I know) like to go exploring. These guys won’t go any further than the barn… foyer. Is there a word for that room?

Is their hesitancy because they’re just little, four months old? Or is it the bale of hay I’ve got there for restocking their manger that just stop them in their tracks? That one time a few deep cleans ago, one of them (they have names for some reason, but I just call them both ‘cow’ since we are going to eat them eventually) wandered a bit down the road toward the house. When I noticed, impressed with his boldness, I thought to myself “I hope he doesn’t go TOO far,” since I wasn’t very confident in my ability to retrieve him. Just as I finished the thought, he seemed to realise how far from home he was, turned around and started galloping back to safety. More of a skedaddle than a gallop, these little guys move like Looney Tunes. Too much horrible, horrible freedom for one little calf!

Sometimes they won’t even leave the stall. I try to clean around them while they chomp hay, since I personally don’t want to eat a creature that has to sit in its own poop for too long. It’s pretty roomy and they’re not kick-y so it’s not really that hard. Except when they’re NOT eating hay and instead nibbling on your boots, or pant legs, or shirt hem, or shovel handle.  They are reasonably swayable and don’t fight me when I move them out of my way but they’re so darn cute that I don’t really want to! Unless their absurdly raspy tongue contacts my skin, it’s surprisingly painful. Like the spiky side of velcro, but sharper. I kind of just want to play with them all day, but I’m still easily exhausted by manual labour, so I have to get this done once I start!

Another way they like to make my work take longer is when I’m trying to give them their grain. Cows love grain. Horses love grain. So do chickens and ducks and turkeys and peacocks and goats and dogs(!). I don’t think there’s a critter on this property that doesn’t go crazy for grain. But these baby cows! They are most grain enthusiastic. I walk into their stall with the container I measured it into and I can’t even get to their dish to pour it in. I am immediately surrounded by two excited calves running in tight circles around me. I have to fight my way through the calfnado to give them what they are so excited about getting. Will they ever realise that if they just don’t do that, they’ll get their grain sooner? I don’t personally care, I think it’s hilarious and look forward to it every time.

Make Way for Ducklings!

008Peep peep! That’s the duckling alarm! I decided I needed to move some hay bales from the big barn to the hay barn, since the hay barn has been empty for a bit. The big barn isn’t finished yet, so the main hay supply is blocked off from Treacherous Goats by big plywood boards, and I have to move them and climb up the massive bale piles to get one every time I go feed the animals. I have become tired of this because it makes me want to procrastinate, and I don’t WANT to procrastinate. I was feeling energetic and decided to get the truck and move some hay to the more-accessible hay barn.

But guess what happened then! When Roberto showed up to help me stack the hay at the hay barn, he found a nest of ducklings under one of the floorboards! (The hay barn isn’t finished yet either, that’s why they were so easy to spot.) There were TWELVE ducklings, one still trying to hatch, and three more eggs. The lil hatchling didn’t make it unfortunately, and those last three eggs may not have been viable, who knows. But twelve out of sixteen is pretty good, I think. Why the ducks decided to have babies in the dead of winter is beyond me, but they picked a cozy spot. Maybe they also know they would be caught, and that the humans would then fix up a chicken coop with a heat lamp and all the latest in duck amenities! Clever girl. Living in duck luxury, now. Duxury.

They spent the night in a big tub in the house while the coop was getting renovated. I peeked in there one time in the evening but I couldn’t see much since all the babies were keeping warm under their mum, who also glared at me like “hey! Babies are sleeping!” In the morning I got a much better look when mum went for a little walk and a bath in the creek. I wonder if she heard us talking about how bad they smelled! (So rude of us, sorry, Duck!) They are teeny fluff balls, still egg-sized. They say “Peep peep peep!” all day long. When the mum got back, she counted them (really!) and scooted them all back underneath her. Keep warm, little ducklings!