He can’t take his eyes off of the envelope. The Bearded One has drawn a stick man picture of a 4-year-old boy riding a goat on the front of one of the three payment envelopes we are delivering to the neighbor children.
On a farmlet, animals have to be cared for if you leave and Hansel, age almost 8; Gretel, age 6; and Batman, age 4, babysit our 1 dog, 1 cat, 10 hens and 3 goats for 5 days when we go to Texas for a family reunion.
I hand the envelope over to Batman and thank him for covering the small goat poops and pees with straw for the past 5 days. He nods and whips out the contents. “I got a sucker and five dollars!”
Gretel opens her envelope. The stick girl drawing on the outside shows her feeding corn to the chickens, but she was also in charge of putting Garfield’s dish of dry food out each morning and hiding it in the cat food box at night. She pops a red Tootsie Pop in her mouth and waves a ten-dollar bill, knowing it has gigantic value.
Hansel is almost as tall as his beautiful Thirty-Something mother, and he was in charge of feeding Ruby morning and night — one cup dry food plus a chicken jerky. He fed the goats their dry cob ration and kept the hay feeders full, which is what the Bearded One drew on his envelope. He also raked the chicken poop under the roost into the peat moss and dirt flooring each morning.
This deep litter method has worked well to keep the notorious chicken poop smell at bay. Finally, he kept a daily egg chart which he presents to us.
Hansel smiles politely as he receives his brown Tootsie Pop and $25 cash. He has been lobbying his parents hard for permission to purchase some spinning, battling tops called Bay Backers, or something like that. He says it so fast I can’t take it in. He wants these so badly that he can’t stand still and begins to spin around and around in the exquisite spring evening air.
Yesterday when we got home, everything was perfect. The temperature actually hit 70 degrees, the first time in 192 days. The goats were friendlier, the chickens all present and accounted for.
On our back porch when we returned was a two-foot tall plastic scare owl, a gift from a neighbor in the wake of Blackie the Chicken’s death. It is almost the twin of the one I hauled home from Texas as my carry on, a gift from another Farmlet friend who is also my brother-in-law and a rancher/farmer.
This morning the Bearded One is up at the unheard of hour of six-thirty singing, “Good Morning to You, Good Morning to You, We’re all in our places with sunshiny faces, and this is the way, we start a new day.” He theatrically hugs the compost bin and the hoop house on his way up to the goats and chickens. He shows the big plastic owls to the chickens repeatedly as he’s rigging them to be mounted, getting them used to these two new residents.
Together we spend the afternoon weeding the Rings Garden and the former Strawberry Garden. Our weeding styles are very different. The Bearded One moves fast. He “shakes the snot out of them” and “slams them to the ground” so as to knock off all the loose dirt possible. I am meticulous and thorough and cover much less territory. We listen to the hens clucking and bruck-brucking as we work.
It’s 7:30pm now and 50 degrees. We put the chickens to bed and then walk to the neighbors, sit Ruby on the edge of the driveway, and knock on the door. Ruby is still watching patiently as the adults talk and Hansel spins, and then someone sees it. A baby deer out on the lawn, frozen. Riveted by Ruby. It’s so still we both think it’s plastic, just like the scare owls.
And then, unbelievably, the deer assumes the pooping position. The children laugh hysterically. We reinforce the stay command for Ruby, who is now quivering with desire to chase the deer.
Still the deer poops. Tens of seconds seem to tick by. All 3 kids can now barely breathe from laughing.
Hansel covers his eyes with the intensity of the experience. It goes on and on, the deer 20 feet away, humped up and positioned awkwardly, like a dog. I’m surprised, since goats and chickens literally poop in stride.
“Everything that eats has to poop,” I say.
The deer bolts away suddenly and the tension eases. Eating and pooping is a life truth and a farmlet truth and why we needed our neighbor’s help in the first place.
We thank them again, take our mail and the precious Daily Egg Chart, and walk home gratefully.