Tag Archives: farm animals

Arly

I park in the short driveway in front of the wire gate at a farmlet much like ours.  It’s 1-1/2 hours southeast of us in the foothills of Mt. Rainier. Which is hidden in clouds as usual. The Bearded One and I are fifteen minutes early to pick up our new puppy.

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Two tabby cats, the twins of our own Garfield, trot out from the house to meet us.  Yay!  Maybe the new puppy will get along with Garfield.

Soon a young ponytailed woman named Kayla comes out and greets us.  We follow her around to the back of the house where I see the chickens and horse pasture.  And there they are — 3 black, white, gray and brown 8-1/2 week old Beagle puppies, two girls and one boy.  We’re here for the boy, who looks just like he does in the Craigslist ad.

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They call him Lucky because his momma, a 5-year-old Beagle who stands nearby, had a difficult delivery and Lucky came by C-Section.  Which was no doubt expensive and why I feel better about paying $350.  It’s a lot of money, but also pretty much normal based on the looking we’ve been doing.

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I cuddle him against my chest all the way home.  He is a little pudgy because he was eating a lot of his sisters’ food as well as his own. His ears are velvet, his brown eyes impossibly engaging.

We briefly consider keeping the name Lucky, but decide on Arly, after the Bearded One’s paternal grandfather

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who was an Oklahoma farmer and potash miner.

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At home, we put Arly in the backyard and the goats run up the hill like a mountain lion has leaped the fence.  All five hens are up on their toes and close behind the goats.

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Garfield is inside, in the kitchen.  We hope this goes well.

Right off, Arly walks toward Garfield and puppy barks a huge hello.  Garfield hisses.  This is just defensive.  He hisses again.  I try to comfort Garfield, but he slinks to the stairs and zips up to the lone refuge of the second bedroom.

Now it’s Monday afternoon and Arly’s fourth day here.  Garfield is not especially pleased with this new critter.  The Bearded One and I sit together in the sun watching Arly race from grass blade to twig to dirt hole to my shoe.

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He bunny hops after Ruby’s old Kong ball.  His favorite toy, however, is also Garfield’s, the mouse-on-a-string-on-a-stick that the Bearded One made.  If they both use it, it’ll mingle their scents.

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I bring Garfield outside to enjoy the sun, and he sits under the house on the lattice wall and sulks warily.  He watches Arly closely.  Sometimes they are only 4 or 5 feet apart.  This is good.  He is sticking around.

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“Getting a puppy is like catching the flu,” says the Bearded One, exhausted and sore from three straight nights of “sleeping with” the new pup.  It’s only for the first 3 or 4 days.

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“I thought you knew puppies,” I say, reminding him of his Alaska stories of raising and training sled dogs.  “Yes,” he says and grins, “I tried to warn you.”  We laugh.  He’s right, though.  I’m the one who wanted the little howler.

Getting a puppy reminds me of how much work babies are.  Everything else goes by the wayside.  I haven’t even marked out the last two days on the calendar.

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The Bearded One and I are both bone-tired.  Tonight Arly sleeps alone.

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Early that evening Arly is passed out beside the Bearded One in the man cave, watching a football game.

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Garfield arises upstairs and stretches a huge cat stretch.  He pointedly catches my eye.  Watch this.  He saunters unconcerned down the stairs and turns into the den.  Light as a feather he leaps up onto the Bearded One’s leg, maybe a foot from Arly.  He stares calmly down at the sleeping pup, turns away oh-so-casually and hops back down to the floor.  Welcome to the farmlet.

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Look What the Cat Dragged In

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“What is going on?”  Garfield freezes and looks at me from the far end of the living room.  It’s early evening.  He is in mid-stride, and has just come in for the night of his own accord without me calling.  Something feels off.  This is not normal.

“I’m thinking,” responds the Bearded One, who studies his cards across from me at the kitchen table and assumes I am talking to him.  We are playing ritual evening card games.

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“Garfield just came in,” I say and put my cards down.  I get up and close the front door.

“Hm.”  The Bearded One never looks up from his puzzling hand of cards.

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It’s just 7pm, but it’s dark and rainy.  Of course that is why the cat came in so early, I think.  I sit back down, pick up my cards, and look into the living room.  Garfield is gone.

“Any day now, Honey Darlin’,” I say to the Bearded One who is taking too long to play.  This faux grumpiness does nothing to hurry him along, of course.  This time of year is all about slowing down some.  And being indoors more.  And being nice.

I cross and uncross my legs, which are tired from harvesting raised straw bed potatoes.

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My fingernails, which I examine at length, are stained yellow from the wet leather gardening gloves.

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The table and kitchen counters are cluttered with seed jars from my seed collecting operation,

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bowls of apples and pears and zucchini, and a pile of peach leathers I just took from the dehydrator.  It’s over.  The harvest is over.  Settle down, I tell myself.  Shift gears.  Be sweet.

Finally the Bearded One discards and I immediately draw a card and am studying my options when — THUNK!

The Bearded One looks beyond me to the living room and says, “What is the cat doing?”

“Sounds like he’s in the bathroom,” I say.  Garfield sometimes explores the lower bathroom cabinet, and he’s adjusting to autumn, too.

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We continue to play.  The Bearded One with an ice pack on his sore lower back, me feeling like the hens that are molting — prickly feathers sticking out, bald spots, ragged and not laying.  We raced for days to beat the weather and are beat up.

WHOMP!  WHOMP!

“What in the Sam Hill?” I snap and turn around.  I don’t see Garfield, but there are several more whomps and I get up.

It’s dark and I’m tiptoeing in my socks and calling the cat when I see his cute little face under the stairs where Ruby’s hidey-hole bed used to be, behind the little liquor cabinet I moved from the kitchen.

“You silly kitty,” I say.  “What are –”

And then I see the foot-long rat tail and the rat ears and waves of horror roll across my every nerve-ending, sparking a soul fibrillation and forcing a ghastly, unworldly shriek, “YEEEE-IKES!!”  I run into the kitchen.

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I can handle spiders, no problem.  But rats, especially big forest rats that grow fat in the aviary and move about on rafters in the barn, these are the creatures of my nightmares.  This one is quite a fine trophy for Garfield, but he has never before brought one into the house.

The Bearded One pulls out the cabinet and reports that the rat, and it is indeed a big rat, is dead.  “Garfield’s eating the head,” he says, completely nonplussed.

Was the rat dead or alive when Garfield brought it in?  We ponder this briefly — surely it was dead — but mainly I want it out of the house, and I want to be the one to do it.  I’m not so afraid of dead rats, and it’s my rat somehow.  “Out of my way, Sweetie,” I say, with love.  “I’ve got it.”

I grab one of my yellow rubber dishwashing gloves, and stand before Garfield.  “Thank you very much,” I say as I take the headless corpse and march out the door and into the dark, wet, cold night.  I look into the even darker forest, which is solid black under the full harvest moon.

“Ah-woooooooooo!” I howl.  I throw the rat as far as I can, deep into the woods.  I hear it fall into the leaves.  Whew.  It’s over.

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Autumn has arrived.  Time for me to come indoors.  I think we’ll start shutting that front door from now on.

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Goldilocks and the Three Goats

The stroller has a duo-cab, thick rubber all-terrain 10-inch diameter double wheels, and a cup holder.  Our new neighbor pushes it and its two precious children through the cedar arches of our front gate and down to the cabbage patch.  The little 3-year-old girl has crystal blue eyes and a glittery barrette in her curly blonde hair and I think of her as Goldilocks.

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Goldilocks sits directly under her mother with a view of her new 4-week-old brother and sucks her pacifier.  She doesn’t get to see much except Baby, who sucks his own pacifier.  I’ve heard her outside playing, so I know she has a voice.

The Bearded One and the dad linger at the new deck construction,

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and the mom and I stand next to the stroller by the onions gone to seed and the cabbages

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and talk about childbirth, the stress of moving, and eating healthier.  I can’t keep my eyes off of the glorious Goldilocks, and she never takes her eyes off of her brother.

Then, quick as lightning, Baby loses his pacifier and Goldie crams it back into his mouth.  He winces.  “Gently!” says the mom.

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I bend down and chop a big green cabbage at the ground so there’s a long stem left.  I snap off the outer leaves and, “Voila!” I say, “A cabbage balloon!”  Goldie watches quietly.  She is not impressed.  Or the pacifier is really really good.   So I lop off the stem, the mom thanks me and tucks the whole thing into a lower back compartment in the SUV stroller and we head up to the goats.

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The men follow us up the hill, and I hear the Bearded One telling about how weasels got all of our Cornish Rock meat birds four weeks ago.  The new neighbors have chickens, too, they say.

“Would you like to pet a chicken?” I ask Goldilocks.  She casts her sea blue eyes upon me and sucks, uninterested.

“She’s been around chickens all her life,” the dad explains.

Still, I go and fetch Leah, our Rhode Island Red and one of our best acts.  She is such a beautiful red color and always up for a petting.  “Ta-da!” I say, as Leah dutifully crouches down to be picked up, and I pet her like a cat.  The dad is smitten, but not Goldie.  She turns her head away and studies the inside of the stroller before resting her eyes back on Baby.

The goats are scared to death of strangers and hightailed it across the upper pasture when we first crested the hill.

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Now Pearl stands atop Goat Mountain, a four-foot high cement hill the Bearded One made.

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The neighbor mom is charmed by the goats, and, behold, Goldie has noticed the goats and is interested!

“They are wild animals,” the mom says to Goldilocks, as she peers around the high padded side of the stroller.  All three goats stare back at her.

“Let’s see if we can get one to come over to the fence, though,” I say, and Goldie looks me in the eye — Hop to it.

In the barn we keep a jar of almonds, the most delicious treat to our goats.

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I fetch it and shake it and all goats freeze.  I walk back outside the fence, stand next to the stroller and shake the jar again.  I open the jar and all three tremble with desire.

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Sage is the biggest and the leader only because Pearl hasn’t had a baby.  Mama goats are supreme, but in our herd it’s Sage, then Pearl a close second, then LaLa comes in last.  Sage ventures straight over but stops halfway.  Pearl steps off of Goat Mountain, and then stops.  LaLa moves laterally, behind a group of cedars, and then zooms in ahead of Sage.

Goldie watches as I hold a nut through the wires.

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LaLa’s soft lips quiver around one nut and then another, and then, glory be, Goldilocks cracks a huge “just right” smile out the sides of her pacifier.  Her eyes crinkle and I hear a wee little giggle.

“Oh, LaLa!” I say, “You have such big lips!”  He nibbles as many more as he can before Sage arrives and plows in for his due share.

It’s getting dark, we say our good-byes, and the new neighbors are almost to the easement, when I decide to give it one more try.  “Good-Bye, Goldilocks!” I sing out.

“Bye!”  I see a flash of blonde hair as she looks back over the side of the distant stroller.

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Strawdust in my Eyes

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There’s a bale of hay and a 50-pound sack of dry cob goat food under a tarp on the driveway that need moving up to the barn. The Bearded One usually does this sort of job, but I’m craving an outdoor break between all the jamming and summer cooking, some little task where the beginning, middle and end all fit nicely into twenty minutes.  I open the junk drawer under the bread-dough counter and grab the tractor key.

It’s a lovely 75 degree afternoon, the sky is blue, and when I pull back the camouflage tarp, the sweet hay smells warm and summery.  When I march down the trail to the tractor, bright light filters through the cedars and firs and birds chirp and tweet.  The breeze is from Puget Sound, which is just up the road.  Farm livin’ is the life for me, I hum to myself.

I lift the hitch on the trailer with one hand and pull the pin out of the back of the tractor with the other, and then I force the two together.

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And crunch the knuckle on my left middle finger so hard it turns purple as a squashed berry.  But the tractor starts right up and I shift into Gear 4, ease off the choke button, lift my left foot and the tractor lurches forward.

I crank the steering wheel left and make the sharp turn out of the covered parking spot onto the trail, zoom around the tool shed, past the storage shed and out onto the driveway.

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I can’t back up with the trailer — I can never make it work — so I circle out to the easement and get it all lined up just right.  Then I turn the noisy machine off.  I fetch the dolly from beside the garbage cans and recycling bins.

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My knuckle is hardly throbbing at all.

Hay is baled with baling twine so tight it snaps like a whip when you cut it with a knife.  I try to move the bale by wedging a finger — not the hurt one — under the baling twine and can’t, so I tilt the sofa-sized block of dried grass onto the foot of the dolly and then rock the dolly back on its wheels and push.

Flecks of hay poke into my clothes and whittle on my skin as I plop the bale next to the trailer.  I slip the dolly out and away and then crouch down, grab the hay bale’s huge bottom and heave it over and into the trailer.

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No problemo.  I don’t seem to have hurt myself.  The dry cob will be nothing compared to the bale, I think.  Just a few moments of dead-weight lifting.  We move a lot of 50-pound sacks around here.

And then — so what if I pull my gluteus maximus a wee bit — I get the sack into the trailer.  A small price to pay for victory.

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I pile the dolly onto the top of everything hillbilly-style and limp around to the driver’s seat.

It’s a heavy load and I have to shift into Gear 5 to make it up the hill.

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The dolly falls off halfway there, when I’m going downhill before I go uphill, so after I park the rig at the upper gate, where all three goats and most of the chickens watch, I hobble back down the trail to fetch it. And then I unload the hay.

Only now I’m also watching the gate and Leah, the Rhode Island Red hen who is fast, curious and persistent.  I angle the monstrosity, I mean the hay bale, on the dolly through the gate and then through the barn door and then through the interior gate until I finally wrestle it onto the platform.  The goats press in as close as possible every step of the way.

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With sweat dripping down my face, I cut the twine, and the hay bale explodes and sprinkles me with strawdust  flecks which will swim laps in my eyes for the rest of the day.

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Back to the jam.  Break’s over.

Weasel Wipeout

The dead Cornish chick lies wedged at the bottom of the gate, the bite on its neck as deep and bloody as the cut I was planning to make in just five weeks.  Weasels only want the blood.

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Three more dead chicks lay against the  fencing to my right, forty more are scattered here and there, a hillside of horror.

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It’s late Saturday morning.  I let 57 healthy 2-1/2 week old chicks out of their overnight coops several hours ago.  And then the Bearded One returned from his morning walk and found me here in the kitchen frying our next-to-last chicken from last year.  “Oh my darling, you know that meat birds are not pets,” the Bearded One says, catching and holding my eyes with his.  And then, “Because weasels got ’em all.”

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Blood drains from my face and then my whole head as I register the massacre.  I must make meaning of this, but I’m racing up the hill.  My soul is already searching, but the event is still happening.  I can’t make meaning on the fly, though I keep trying.

We find four survivors huddled in the far corner of the pen, and a fifth shows up later, while I silently dig the mass grave and the Bearded One gathers the little corpses in a wheelbarrow.

“We didn’t keep them safe,” I say.  The Bearded One parks the loaded wheelbarrow near the three-foot deep pit and says, “Sorry, Meat Birds.”

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“Let’s count them as we go,” I say.  I’m surprised and comforted by the simple ceremony, how the enormity builds until I cry.  One…TwoThree…FourFiveSix….Fifteen….Twenty-ThreeTwenty-Four Twenty-Five…Thirty-Six…Thirty-SevenThirty-Eight…Forty-OneForty-TwoForty-Three…and finally, Fifty-Two.  We fill the grave in and resolve to do better.

The Bearded One calls Momma Goose and Brooklyn Man, our neighbors and poultry mentors.  We ordered the Cornish chicks with them last month.  They have 59 identical birds in their non-weasel-proof coop.  Brooklyn Man is horrified.  Another neighbor got wiped out precisely this way a few weeks ago.  He says that they’ve never lost any birds to weasels.  He knows that weasels can not only climb and dig and get through a one-inch hole, but they can also cross the road to his place.  His chicks are doomed.

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So we make plans to move his chicks to our aviary that evening.  We’ll do the work and split the birds with him.  The aviary isn’t Fort Knox, but it’s dig-proof (cement trench all the way around), there’s doubled chicken wire on super tall walls, plus goats patrol the perimeter.  Our layers have been safe in there for almost two years.

Cornish fryers and grown layers would fight if they were housed together.  So for now, the layers will be fine shut out of the aviary until we harvest the meat birds on August 2.

As he backs out the tractor and trailer to move Brooklyn Man’s chicks, in broad daylight, the Bearded One sees one of the supposedly nocturnal weasels loping across the tractor trail — long and dark and about the size of a stretched-out squirrel.  We see them on the road once in a while.

It’s the hottest weekend of the summer so far, up to 90F, and sweat drips into my glasses as I move Brooklyn Man’s feeders and waterers into the aviary.  The Bearded One catches dozens of chicks and then hauls them to our place.

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The transfer takes a couple of hours and we are exhausted when it’s all over.  “I’ve reached full kaput,” says the Bearded One.  The house is an inferno, and before I go to bed, I look outside and ask the wounded Barred Owl I removed from the aviary last week to please eat the weasels.

Sunday is blissfully uneventful.  Only Maybelline and Kimber, two of our bossiest layers, are out of sorts, furious about not having access to the aviary and their old nest boxes.  They pace the aviary perimeter while the meat birds mock them, dust bathing and stretching their drumsticks in the sunray.

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All is relatively well for two nights and half of Monday.

And then the Bearded One hurries back to the kitchen after just finishing lunch — “Six or seven meat chicks are dead,” he says. “Weasels again.  I think it just happened.  I heard a loud squawk.  I left Ruby up top guarding the place.”

We move fast, I’m in the lead, and I see a dead chick by the aviary door, a deja vu of Saturday at the meat bird pen on the other side of the property.  There are five more dead, but all the rest are still alive.

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“You caught them in the act,” I say, and the Bearded One agrees.  He gathers the bodies.  “They’re still warm and loose,” he says.

I look up and around.  “You know the weasels are watching us,” I say.

“There’s no safe place on this property,” he says, “except inside the house.”

“I’m entering the anger stage,” I say.

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We decide that we have to move the chicks back to Brooklyn Man’s.  At least they’ll make it through the afternoon.  The weasels haven’t discovered his place yet.  They’ll be back here the minute we leave.

I babysit the chicks while the Bearded One calls Brooklyn Man at work, and then we spend the afternoon catching and transporting 58 chicks back to the hopefully weasel-free zone.

At least for now.  Any place is safer than here.  We quarantine the aviary to clean it up for the layers, all of which we now wonder if we’ll lose.  That’s how weasels are.

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Not the Weaver

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I am on my knees beside a half-wild 150-pound goat plucking the cashmere from his hide.  With my pronged comb, I coax the mix of fluff and strands, tugging the silky lengths, rolling it like cotton candy.  Eventually a clump pulls free, I admire it and tell Sage how gorgeous he is, then drop the exquisite puff into a 5-gallon bucket.

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This is the preferred method for cashmere Pygoras, so as not to mix the shorter and courser guard hairs into the fine silvery cashmere.  Sage loves it.

And I love his musky smell, his curling lips, and his long straight beard.  I love his little bushy tail that gives away his feelings just like a dog’s, and I love his hooves, which are small, round pegs that trot and prance and are so strong they can grip the side of a mountain like pliers.

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Sage points to an itchy spot on his back with his horn tip, and I stroke it with the comb.  The skin is dry but there are no lice at all, the scourge of goats.  We watch that closely.  Sage rolls his eyes with pleasure.

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Pearl stands patiently with LaLa waiting her turn.  She is shedding a bit later than her brother Sage.  Her fleece is pure white, Sage’s is tan, and LaLa is black mohair.  His fleece is clumpier and more matted and doesn’t brush, so the Bearded One successfully introduced him to little scissors this week.

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Goats are one of the most beautiful creatures on the planet, I think as I bury my hands in the now full, 5-gallon bucket of raw cashmere fleece.  Two weeks’ worth.

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Then I stand, pick up the bucket, and trudge down the hill from the barn, past the hoophouse where cabbages and broccoli desperately cry out to be transplanted,

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and up to the house where the next step looms.  Literally.  I want to learn to card and spin.  To use a loom.  I’m sure I do.  I’ve been thinking about it for weeks now.

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I clean my boots with the hose and carry the bucket inside and upstairs to the work table where I have everything set up.  Here is the fleece.  Here are the carding brushes on this nice flowery tablecloth.  Here is the computer with a You Tube “How To Card Fleece” video ready to go.  And I am frozen.  I can’t do it.

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Who is making me turn this fleece into yarn, anyway?  I look around and see no one.  The Bearded One is outside working on the roof of the meat bird pen.  Sixty Cornish Rock chicks — meat birds — will arrive at the post office in two weeks, and we are getting ready.  Or at least he is.

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Then I have a deja vu moment.  I ran into this same wall last year, didn’t I?  I keep doing this to myself of my own free will, which is kind of insane.  I’m the same person I was last year, and I still don’t want to card and spin.  Maybe I really don’t have to.

I turn to the computer and close the video without ever having opened it.  And then I type an email to a Seattle spinner who expressed a lot of interest in the fleece a month ago, and who even offered to pay for some of it, especially Pearl’s.  But money is complicated and I’m not a fan.   Instead, I plead with her now to just take all of it.  I attach a picture of the fleece so she’ll know what she’s getting into.

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Within a half hour she squeals with delight through cyber space, “EEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!  YES!  That would be lovely!  It looks wonderful, and I promise to give it TONS of love!  Thank you so much!  I’ll be sure to send updates on what I make with it!  I can’t wait to see what it wants to be!”

I read her response and I, too, squeal with joy, and I am happily stuffing the gigantic pile of fleece into a box to mail when the Bearded One comes in.

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“It’s like an entire goat!” he says, smiling.

I need to explain.  “I literally set the table,” I say, gesturing upstairs.  “I’ve nurtured these goats all year and you’ve patiently trained them to be brushed.  I’m not lazy, but it’s time to card and spin and I keep putting it off.  You’ve seen me.”

He nods.  His eyes show that he is really laughing inside, but I don’t care.  I am at epiphany here.

“There is someone right for every task in the universe,” I say.  I look at the Bearded One, then point with my eyes to the itchy place on my back.  Scratch me.

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“You are the Goat Grower,” he says.  “Not the Weaver.”

I laugh out loud with delight and relief — he knows me so dang well — and trot back to finish boxing up the fleece for Seattle.

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A Farmlet Christmas Miracle

It’s a small world, my life here on the farmlet with the Bearded One and our goats and chickens.  I’m 56 years old this week, and I am content.  I could die today.  In fact, I wonder, as I get up in the dark, how it can be that I have so little ambition.  I don’t long for anything or anyone.  I don’t yearn for a million dollars or a bestseller.  I’m married to the love of my life and am completely and totally requited.

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This is my frame of mind as I walk up to the aviary in the cold, dusky day.  What day of the week is it anyway?  They’re all the same.  I open the main door of the chicken coop.  “Good morning, Ladies!” I say, as usual, to seven hens perched on the top roost.  Stevie and Spot, who both have been broody for weeks now, hunker in the nests.  All nine hens accounted for.

Dusty is the first off, then Leah flaps the fifteen feet down from the roost and out the coop door into the main floor of the aviary.  I open the side doors and by then, Anna, Cheetah and Kimber have dismounted, too.  I disappear behind the coop to hook the door open and fill the plastic jar with cracked corn.  It’s not raining so the goats have come over to watch.  Sage scratches his head with his hind leg, like he always does.  Pearl pees.

By the time I’m back with the rake to stir the night’s chicken poop into the deep peat moss and dirt below the roost, Jane is the only hen left.  She and I have a system since she hurt her foot this fall in an oatmeal stampede with the goats.  Usually I have to go around to the end of the roost to pick her up and transfer her gently to the ground by hand, but this morning she eyeballs me and actually walks the roost toward me, then hunkers down to be picked up.  “Whoa!”  I laugh out loud and kiss her soft orange back feathers before I set her toes into the dirt.  She shakes like a dog then waddles to the feeder to start her busy day.

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I feed the goats a cup of dry cob and four little carrots each.  I stuff new hay into their feeders and talk about the weather and how I’m enjoying their new Christmas lights and hope they are, too.  Then out of the blue, I remember the spoon.  What day is this?  Saturday the 22nd!

Down the hill I trot.  I open the soggy gate and hop through the puddle on the other side, then, fired up with anticipation, walk like our son (much-rehabbed from knee surgery) taught me, stretched up like I’m looking over a fence and showing the soles of my shoes with each step.  He’s here on Christmas break, sharing his recently-learned body-healing stretching techniques.

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Now he’s still sleeping, as is the Bearded One.  So I tiptoe up the stairs and turn on the computer.  Garfield, who has completely recovered from his spell last week, hops into my lap.  I admired the spoon when I first saw it on my friend’s blog.  Tasmanian wood, a light color and smooth as butter.  Best of all, hand-carved by her husband.

I literally felt a spark when I read that it was to be the prize in a reader’s lottery.  To enter you just had to leave a comment, which I did.  For someone not desiring anything at all, it occurs to me that I really want that spoon.  Their dog Earl would be picking a walnut with the winning person’s number written on it out of a bowl on Saturday, December 22 — yesterday in Tasmania.

Down through text and pictures of scones and gorgeous summer gardens and flowers I scroll.  And then I see it.  It’s a miracle.  The winner of the spoon is:  CHRISTI.  My name is written in the middle of the page in bright green twinkling letters, and I gasp.  I won!  I laugh out loud and stifle a shriek of absolute delight.  Men are sleeping.

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I click on the video link my Australian friends have made of Earl the Dog actually picking the walnut with my number, number 5, and I am giddy.  Steve’s accent is thrilling and I can see Fran’s hand in the bowl and her direction behind the entire enterprise.  I have won.  With no effort whatsoever, no striving, no cause and effect involved except showing up, I won the lottery.  Merry Christmas Everyone.

Spoon and the winning walnut

Our Little Butt Heads

“Gather round,” the Goat Owner says, and from different angles in the muddy pasture the Bearded One and I and our Twenty-Something son and five of the Goat Owner’s family members — 8 of us wranglers in all — close in on the 3 fluffy little goats.  “They know something is up.”

The plan is to herd the freaked goats into a smaller pen, then tackle them individually and haul them back across the pasture to the trailer, two men on the horns and me pushing the rear, each goat braking the entire way, hooves digging in.  It works, but not before I lay out gracefully in the mud.

Pearl, LaLa and Sage — our gorgeous new Pygora (Pygmy/Angora mix) goats — were not hand-raised.  They have never been sheared.  They’ve lived their entire 4 year lives brush-clearing this beautiful 5 acre farm on Vashon Island, a short but complicated ferry ride from the Farmlet  (the Bearded One had to BACK the truck and rental trailer onto the ferry both ways.  He is my hero).

It's a complicated square dance on the ferry, some going to Vashon Island, some to Seattle, and those who can't turn around on the boat deck must back on down a narrow lane and then across a ramp.

“They’ll come right up to you,” the Goat Owner had told me over the phone.  “They’re easy to grab or wrestle, but they aren’t petting goats.”

“Like chickens?” I asked.  I have experience with not picking up chickens, then eventually picking them up, mainly when they are asleep.  I rarely grab them anymore, however, somehow content with vicinity.

“Yes!” she said.  “They’re farm animals.  They really don’t want to be caught.  They’re not cuddly.”  I’m learning this.  Farm animals aren’t pets in the sense that Ruby and Garfield are.  They’re bonded to each other in their chicken and goat ways, not to me.  No hugs, no walking the road together, no brushing their thick coats.  Not yet, anyway.

And they come and go.  Steve and Tux, our 21-week-old roosters, will be moving on to auction this month.

Pearl, LaLa and Sage were welcome to return to the neighboring alpaca and sheep farm on Vashon Island where they were born if we didn’t want them.  My role it seems is to provide food and shelter and health care as needed.  And be here.  Theirs is to be goats and chickens and provide goat and chicken type insights, and hopefully, eventually, fiber and eggs.

I want to touch these goats, though.  At least have them eat from my hand.  They did this for the Goat Owner.  Everyone says to offer carrots, which I’ve done and they haven’t approached yet.  I’m a bit sad about this.

The Bearded One reassures me.  “They’re making friendly gestures, semi-approaching,” he says, “and it hasn’t even been a week.”  That’s all true, I think.  Sage, especially, is clearly dying to get a carrot from me but he gets in trouble for it from his sister and the indisputable boss and brains, Pearl.

Our three beloved butt heads in the first snow of the year. Left to right -- Sage, LaLa and Pearl. They are constantly, literally butting heads with each other.

Sage and I have a connection because I am the wrangler who first tackled him in the muddy pen on Vashon Island last Friday.  I had him, too, my fingers deep in the gorgeous, inches-thick cashmere fleece.  And then he bolted away and I hung on long enough to flop flat in the muck.  “I looked so good when I arrived,” I said, closing the 5×8 rental trailer with all three goats successfully loaded.  The Goat Owner agreed and apologized for not having mentioned it.

That first night the goats were here, the Bearded One dreamed he set up a huge tent and the Occupy Wall Street movement came and took it over.  Then last night, just three nights later, he worked in the barn for a couple of hours, playing the radio and talking to the goats.  They hung around and watched him the entire time, each species enjoying the other.

LaLa, Sage and Pearl in their barn.

Then Pearl butted the gate.  Hard.  Like a car.  Like a car wreck.  Then she did it to the inside planking on the barn.  Wham!

I knew something traumatic had happened when the Bearded One came in.  He was diplomatic, though, and didn’t come right out with it.  Instead, he talked about the goats sticking around in the barn and Pearl finally nibbling some hay.  He called them damn-near friendly.

When he started talking about reinforcing the barn walls and making stops for the sturdy gates I knew we were getting close to what was on his mind.  “If Ruby weighs 60 pounds, them sheeps weigh 180,” he said, and then told me about the blow to the gate, which hadn’t hurt it one speck, but impressed the Bearded One nonetheless.

“The goats are going to knock the farm down,” he says.

And then we both are laughing so hard we slap the kitchen counter and have to wipe tears from our eyes.  What on earth have we done?