Saturday, April 28, 2012

What I Notice

It took me 12 hours to notice the Dumpster was missing from the driveway. It takes me 1.2 seconds to notice if a ewe is lambing in a field, if a horse is lame, if a dog is not feeling well.

The Dumpster had been sitting behind our house for a week. I walked by it on my way to the barn, on my way to the garage. When I was getting ready to take the trash to the garage, the spouse said, "Throw it in the Dumpster."

I thought that there was no way I was throwing a garbage bag in an open Dumpster. By morning, the cats or raccoons would have it shredded. I thought this as I walked on the gravel where the Dumpster used to sit.

The next morning, on my way back from my morning workout in the garage, I noticed the Dumpster missing.

"Did you see them take the Dumpster this morning," I asked the spouse.

The spouse looked at me and said two words, "Investigative reporter?"

I suppose that in a complex world, where our senses are being bombarded constantly, we can only be aware of so many things. Apparently, Dumpsters in the backyard are low on my priority list.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Chicken Wars

The guests weren't a bother.

They didn't raid the refrigerator, drink my beer, or complain about the amenities.

But I was tired of them occupying the guest bathroom.

"It's time for you to move out," I told the three-week-old chicks.

They cocked their heads and gave me the one-eyed stare.

Before the chicks could move to the pullet house, the pullets had to move from the pullet house to the old hen house.

Early Saturday morning, I plucked the pullets from their perch, placed red bands on their legs, and moved them to the hen house. The pullets grumbled, as did the old hens. I locked the chickens inside so that they could become accustomed to their new home and friends.

On Sunday morning, I let the merged flocks out and fed them scratch grain. On Sunday evening, five of the six pullets had flown back into the pullet yard.

So tonight, I will again move the pullets, one by one, to their new home and lock them in with the old hens.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Llama Spit and Lambs

When living on a farm, a day can begin with llama spit and end with newborn lambs.

The llama spit came during morning feeding time. I was attempting to lure the llama with grain. When he became pushy, I stomped at him.

Unlike sheep and horses, the llama stood his ground and spat.

I had to believe the day would get better.

When I arrived home, I saw a ewe lying in the far corner of the pasture. The last pregnant ewe was finally giving birth.

The spouse and I brought the two ram lambs to the barn where I dipped their umbilical cords in iodine while Daydream Believer played on the barn radio.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Rooster's Song

"The dogs were good," the contractor reported when I returned home from work. "But that rooster, he crowed all day long."

Why wouldn't he? It is a sunny day with a slight breeze, and hens are roaming the pastures.

Because we live back a quarter-mile lane, few people see our roosters. More hear them. The rooster's crow can roll for a few miles.

"It's a sound you don't hear often anymore," the contractor said. Few people keep backyard chickens, and fewer keep roosters.

We've had roosters for so many years that the rooster crow has blended into the farm's white noise. But it is a song I'd miss if absent.

I wonder if the construction workers will miss it, too, when they pack up and move onto a job in town.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Morning Wake-up

Standing in front of the horse stall, I startled when grey fuzz brushed across my feet.

"That is a bold mouse," I thought, looking down.

The grey and tan fuzz appeared from under the stall door.

When I realized it was a cat paw, I smiled, and thought how lucky I am to have a barn cat that has a sense of humor at six in the morning.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Plowed Fields

On our walk, we came across something we seldom see: a plowed hay field.

We live in the land of corn and soybeans. Occasionally, we'll see a wheat field or an alfalfa field, but they are in the minority.

The man who farms for us rotates between corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. He will keep a field in hay for five to eight years before plowing the soil and planting corn.

When I see the turned sod, I feel like I've stepped back a hundred or so years, when the land was just cleared and the land was first turned.

The corn crop will get a boost from the nitrogen that the alfalfa produced.

Meanwhile, the dogs find their own treasures in the plowed land.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The 99 percent

Should I tell the farm visitors that our chickens aren't part of the 99 percent? That their lives differ from most chickens?

On some days -- when the temperatures are below freezing, when the mud squishes up to my ankles, when I'd like to sleep an extra 30 minutes rather than deal with critters, when I'm doctoring a lamb, when I'm writing out farm care instructions so that we can get away -- I wonder if it's worth the effort to raise, humanely-raised meat.

Then, there are days like today, when I read the New York Times, and am reminded why I participate in this crazy farm life.

The first is a report on what is in factory-farmed chicken.

The second is on meat inspections.

 This morning, as I look out the window at the Buckeye chickens roaming the pastures, eating clover and scratching for bugs and worms, I think that inefficiency may sometimes be a good thing, and how glad I am that they aren't among the 99 percent.

A Spring Tonic

By late winter, I commented on how bad my critters were behaving.

The horses, confined to a paddock area for most of winter, were nipping at each other and, if feeling brave, mouthing at me. Dewey Kitty was shredding books, papers, bags.

So, I did what my mother did to me and my siblings when we were young. I sent them outside.

When the ground finally dried and the grass began growing, the horses returned to pastures. Dewey transitioned from an indoor-only to an indoor and occasionally outdoor cat.

The horses, who now spend hours each day grazing, have stopped picking on each other and stopped trying to mouth me. The cat is sleeping for chunks of the day and night, and is only shredding paper a few times a week.

I, too, am heading outside more... because I'm sure after a long winter, my behavior could also use some improvement through sunshine and the great outdoors.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hanging out in the Chickie Lounge

To prepare for the newly-hatched chicks, I hung a heat lamp over the crate and placed a thermometer inside.

Hatchlings require temperatures between 95 and 100 degrees, and I wanted to make sure it was warm enough for them.

Dewey Kitty says he's a better warmth tester than any thermometer.

"Bring on the chicks," he says.

I bounced Dewey Kitty from the Chickie Lounge, and admitted the chicks.

Spring Moment on the Farm

When the visitor asks to use the bathroom, I issue a warning and directives.

"There are chicks in the bathroom," I say.

"So make sure you don't let the cat in there.

"He'll eat them.

"Also keep out the dog.

"And make sure you close the door behind you."