Sunday, August 30, 2009

That`s Fowl!!

Life with farm animals can be humiliating.

It seems there`s always an unpretentious critter lurking behind every corner just waiting for a short yodeling goatherder to come blissfully along and be made a fool of. This is one of those stories.

It began a few weeks ago when my hubby, Mr. Yodeling Goatherder, and I were over in the cow/goat barn or as we call it’ The Bachelor Pad’ cleaning the barn.

Now I think I mentioned in my introduction that we have a lot of chickens here. So many in fact that when one comes up missing unless it`s my favorite rooster Weasel I just don`t tend to notice. They all look amazingly similar I must say in my defense. (Aside from Weasel of course.) Scores of blue, black, splash and white Silky chickens mixed in with lots of red, black and gold bantam cochins….well they tend to resemble each other after a spell. Add in the fact that my memory is like a sieve and well, there you go.

So there we were forking and sweating while attempting to not get knocked over by Patty who gets very excited to see momma and sets into rubbing his head all over momma (momma being yours truly.) Being head rubbed by a four hundred plus beef steer is an experience that can quite literally knock you off your feet!

During a break from the bovine love fest we heard a chicken clucking. Very softly mind but we still caught her voicing her displeasure. I looked at my husband and he looked at me, I think we both may have sighed and rolled our eyes for we knew we had a hider.

Lo and behold after a very short search which needed a flashlight to complete we found our hider. `Lil Red Hen had set herself up a fine nest behind a full sheet of plywood screwed to the barn wall. There in the dark and safety she was, becoming very disgruntled when my husband illuminated her hiding spot with the flashlight.

“Well?” he began as I stood on tiptoe`s to peek down at the tiny hen,” Do we move her or let her be?”

“How many eggs does she have under her?” I asked and got a shrug of shoulders.

Being a clever man my husband went and found a long length of plastic pipe and slid it back behind the plywood. Let me tell you mama hen was VERY put out when he rolled her forward gently using the pipe under her ruffled butt! We counted ten eggs roughly before she gave us a glare and settled back down over her clutch muttering in chickenese all the while.

“So?” he inquired.”It`s a safe spot to set but when those peeps hatch out….”

I knew what he was getting at. While she had indeed picked a wonderfully safe place to set on her eggs once those little fluff balls were mobile they would be running around the very solid hooves of a four hundred plus beef steer! That ghastly thought led us to our decision.

We would allow her to finish incubating her eggs then when they were hatched we would take the peeps and `Lil Red Hen back to the chicken coop. Most generally if you move a chicken at night and tuck her babies under her she`ll wake up in that coop and stay there with her peeps forevermore. Once we had our M.O. figured out all we could do was wait and finish cleaning the barn, and try to stay on our feet.

Not two days later on a Saturday morning Mr. Yodeling Goatherder came back to the house after graining the goat boys and Patty.

“I heard peeping behind the plywood,” he informed me as he kicked off his chore boots.

“We`ll give her a day or two to complete the hatch, then we`ll move her,” I answered and so we both went about the work that accompanies having a farm, large or small, and a household to run. Sunday evening at dusk we went over to the cow/goat barn, had a brief session of bovine love and affection and then set about trying to get `Lil Red Hen and her babies moved.

After much colorful language and a few very hard pecks to our hands we managed to nudge her and the nine fluffy babes to the edge of the plywood so that we could gather the chicks and place them in a large orange bucket for transportation up the hill. Mother chicken was tucked under my arm and I had the plastic ‘Poultry U-Haul’ draped over my other forearm. She would cluck to her young ones as they peeped loudly in the bucket then continue to peck my hand as hard as she could.

“Ouch!” I spit as we trudged up the hill in the near black of night.”You can peck all you want but you`re not getting down until you`re in the coop!” Guess I told her! It was another few minutes getting her all arranged and tucked in nicely under the six-holed nest box the ladies use but with a sigh of relief I was closing the chicken coop door on the newest family.

“There!” I said dusting off my hands,” Now who thinks they`re clever?” I asked her rather proud of my above chicken intelligence and fine poultry handling skills.

“Get her settled?” my husband asked as I met him coming up the hill to assist if needed.
“Yup!” I replied as we walked back to the house, “There’s not a chicken alive that can out fox me!” I boasted, wishing I had suspenders so I could tug them out for emphasis.

The following morning was a Monday and my groom leaves for work very early, so the chores fall to me and my daughter in the A.M., that day being no exception. I had my coffee to get my brain in gear and set off to do the birds. Doing the birds entails feeding and watering Wade the duck, the six geese, the five turkeys and then the chickens. All the poultry have breakfast then have the run of our property until dark when they have to go in for the night.

The turkeys are the lone exception to the ‘freedom of the farm’ rule since they got into trouble a few months ago when they showed up in our neighbors driveway to pick grit and eye their flower beds with beady lusty turkey eyes. Since then they`ve been in lock down. Felonious feathered friends you might say.

The chickens were let out and I gathered my watering can, handed it to Trinity the black lab who insists on carrying everything that will fit in her mouth, then came back home to do housework. Okay, I more than likely was writing a story but housework sounds more industrious. That afternoon we had completed our milking chores down at the goat barn and had gone over to give the boys some fresh hay and water. Patty was being his usual cow self and the goat bucks Anakin and Auron were also getting some hugs and pats when I heard a chicken and peeps!

I shoved, or more accurately TRIED to shove Patty aside so I could peek out of the barn into the pasture. Lo and behold once I managed to re-locate the Hereford momma`s boy there sat `Lil Red Hen and all those peeps! I gaped at her openly while she merely turned her head as her babies gathered under her and gave me a look as if to say ‘Now who thinks they`re clever?’

That was two weeks ago and `Lil Red Hen and her brood are still making a fine, and safe, living residing in the bachelor pad.

It truly is humbling to be outfoxed by a chicken.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

One Liners

Bake for HOW long at WHAT temperature?!?!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Those Udderly Wonderful Goats!

Fall is just around the corner.

Now I know most of you are saying ‘Hold up yodeling goatherder! It`s barely September and it`s still hotter than heck outside and you`re talking about fall?! Did someone spike your coffee?’ And you would be right. Well not about the coffee as far as I know but yes it`s still toasty outside here on the hillside farm as well but I have a secret, one that only owners of goats know. Fall doesn`t announce itself on a goat farm with the subtle tint of color to the maple leafs or the flocking of black birds. We caprine owners know that fall is just around the seasonal corner because our goats tell us.

Fall brings changes to the goats here. Fall is the season of ruminant adoration. Of sounds and smells of caprine passion that will tell any who visit that infatuation flows from one side of the driveway that separates the goat pastures to the other. Ahhh yes, goat love is in full swing here. It flies on gossamer wings and soft bleats of desire.

Okay, I may have romanticized things a wee bit, but the shortening days do bring a new vigor and fuel to our goats. Much like white-tailed deer domestic goats are influenced by the waning sunlight. Shorter days make changes in our usually sweet and mild mannered farm friends. The one who shows, and wears, the touch of devotion most is our senior buck Anakin. That`s his handsome face above. (Yes, he`s named after Skywalker and yes I am a nerd and proud of it!)

Anakin has noticed the sun setting just that wee bit earlier each evening and he has noticed how lovely the ladies are across the driveway. I can imagine him, stuck in that pasture with the rest of the goat boys and Patty the cow, looking longingly across the gravel road at that bevy of beauties.

‘A pox on these fences and those who built them!’ he must be thinking as he calls to the ones who hold his heart in tender wee hooves. Truthfully I do feel badly for the man. So close and yet so far away….

We separate the bucks from the does after kidding season is done. Once the babies are all born and bouncing about the pastures, dad has to move into the ‘bachelor pad.’ And I have noted that after spending a week or two with ten to fifteen kids leaping off his head Anakin doesn`t seem to mind the separation overly much.

He spends his summer with his buddies-the young men who are now weaned and Patty the cow who may have some idea he`s a goat I`m not sure- eating tall grasses and butting heads, you know? Guy stuff. He barely raises a passing eye at the girls all through the hot days of June and July as he enjoys his bachelor status. But then something happens, his thoughts tend to stray more and more from the ‘Let`s see who can roll who down the hill’ game the fellows are so fond of.

He begins to think of romance.

And much like the white-tailed deer buck our boy will also display signs of his masculinity. His neck swells and his temperament towards his sons seems to grow shorter and shorter. He is a very gentle buck with us though. He has never dropped his head once to anyone here that wasn`t a fellow caprine and that is one of the major reasons I adore him so. Also the beautiful babies he gifts us with each spring adds to his appeal for me as a Nubian breeder.

His appeal to my husband, daughter and I does tend to waver some though as Anakin begins to spend more time trying to jazz himself up. Now don`t get me wrong, I love the big lug! Heck I bottle fed him when he was a tiny kid brand new to our farm and I will admit to hugging goats daily. But when August rolls around Anakin tends to become rather, offensive, at least to our human noses.

Now the goat ladies! Well that’s a different story! Apparently the girls find his rather strong musky aroma MOST appealing. Personally I`ll stick to Old Spice or Stetson on my man, but who am I to question love? Once he has his cologne dabbed onto his striking and manly beard he will mosey to the accursed fence and he will sing. I`ll say now he`s a L-O-N-G way from Elvis when he breaks into a love song. Maybe if the other guys and Patty would be the Jordanaires it would help, but I kinda doubt it.

Nubians are not a breed known for their soft, gentle bleats. Nubians scream. Loudly, harshly and with grating levels that rival an air raid siren. I`m pretty positive our neighbors up and down our dirt road are thrilled to hear the echoes of Anakin`s plaintive love calls as soon as the sun peeks out in the morning. His concertos will continue daily until the end of October when the gates are opened and he can run into the girls pasture and fall into the open arms of his lady loves. *Sigh*

But until the frost touches the pumpkins Anakin must remain where he is, singing his heart out as he dreams of finding a danged hole in the fence somewhere.

Monday, August 24, 2009

An Introduction....

I`ll be the first to admit I`ve put off this whole blogging thing for awhile because I didn`t think I had enough to say to keep one running, and that the life of one short farm woman really wouldn`t be all that exciting or entertaining. But after gentle nudges from friends (you know who you are) I`ve decided to try my hand at it.

So with coffee beside laptop I`ll begin with a short introduction to this blog. First off, I don`t yodel. Lord but I wish I could. My thirteen year old daughter would be thrilled beyond measure if I could add yodeling to the repertoire of things I can embarrass her with.

I do though breed and raise Nubian dairy goats so my link to Heidi is somewhat strong even without the yodeling. When my husband and I first bought our nearly twelve acres in the mountains of north central Pennsylvania we had a dream of a small hobby farm. Mayhap a nanny goat for fresh milk and a few chickens for fresh eggs.

Over the years it has grown to include WAY more than one old nanny goat. Oh. The ladies in the goat barn would remind me to mention that they prefer to be called does, not nannies. Yes, they really are that particular and snooty. We now have seven adult does and two handsome bucks who I hope to introduce you all to over the coming weeks and months with entries entitled-‘Those Udderly Wonderful Goats!’

We also became first time cattle owners this spring when a neighbor had twin polled Hereford calves and didn`t wish to keep both calves on the mother. Since our young lad was born on St. Patrick’s Day he was named Patty. (I`ve never been strong on snappy names or titles.)We may be adding another calf to the mix soon, I`ll keep you up to snuff on that if it happens. The snippets dealing with Patty and his ‘maybe’ brother will be called-‘Bovine Time!’

We share this parcel with a plethora of different kinds of birds. Tons and tons of bantam chickens which seem to spend more time sitting ON eggs than actually LAYING them. A flock of domestic turkeys, a gaggle of six geese and one duck who suffers from species confusion issues. I`ll explain about Wade the duck later since his list of oddities is kind of lengthy. The birds will have their own entries which I thought would be funny to call-‘That`s Fowl!’

To round out the mix we also have three dogs and two cats that keep us hopping inside the house when the outdoor critters decide to leave us be for a spell. The dogs are two Labrador retrievers and working bird-dogs. Well, one has retired due to bad hips, our old yeller gal named Poe. My daughter was three when we got her hence the Teletubby name. (Must be she inherited the weakness for snappy names from me, poor kid.)We also have a black lab named Trinity who is, like most labs, orally fixated and our most recent canine addition, a beagle named Tinker. He came to live with us when my father moved down to Texas recently. And yup, my dad named him that saying he wasn`t worth a Tinker`s dam! Do you see a pattern in name and title weakness too?

Also not to be forgotten, since she`s currently sleeping on my shoulder is our kitten Lu-Lu and our old, old, old, old cat named Susie but everyone calls her Bean. Quite the lot to keep track of isn`t it? You should see this place at dinner time! The dogs and cats will have their stories told in entries I decided to call-‘Purrs & Wags!’

I also hope to add some ‘Life on the farm’ type stories as we move along on this adventure, to help give anyone who ventures in a taste of what raising livestock and living on a small farm is like in this day and age.

So stop in and relax a spell. The coffee pot will always be on!