Saturday, August 25, 2007

Oh Look, a Dandelion!

Well my grandson the little black-eyed Peanut has gone to his new home out in the Sequim Banana Belt, and the farmer is moping around.

Peanut's mother, on the other hand, did not notice that he is gone. I am not an expert but I think this may ruin her chances for the Mother-of-the-Year Award. After all you cannot very well stand at the podium accepting your crystal vase and say, "and I would like to thank my wonderful children, I had two or maybe three of them this year, and they are all just wonderful kids, etc etc, however many of them there were."

Even so she is better than some of the Nubians. One of our Nubians, Stacy, had triplets one year and she was terribly attached to them but when two of them went to a new home she simply shook her head a couple of times to adjust to the new reality. You could see a little glimmer of an idea scrolling across her forehead: "didn't I use to have a couple more of these darling little things? No, no, I guess not...oh, look, a dandelion!"

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hannah Belle's Old Leaf

Well, my daughter Hannah Belle as you may know used to be quite a troublemaker. In fact, she was certainly the top troublemaker at the farm for quite a while, and was voted Most Likely to Give the Farmer a Stroke with her incorrigible escape artistry. But Hannah Belle turned over a new leaf when her triplets were born in June.

Feeding and cleaning and nudging and coddling them, that's all she did. One, Goatzilla, is such a mama's boy as a result that he practically bursts into tears if he can't see her. If you left the gate open to her stall, she wouldn't leave, that's how bad it was for a while. Personally I thought it was a little smarmy. Luckily the baby, Peanut, was raised on the bottle so he is strong-minded and independent.

Well, one day last week Hannah Belle shook the cobwebs from her head and got the old sparkle back in her eye.

After three months in the milker stall without even so much as an attempted escape, she looked up and said to herself, hey, wait a minute, this wall is only five feet high!

Over she went in a blink and off to ransack the barn looking for grain, leaving cosseted little Zilla bawling in distress.

Then out to the pasture to scarf up the fallen apples. Then on to the porch to investigate a bucket that looked suspiciously capable of containing cob.

And before you know it, she was apprehended and frogmarched to the horse trailer for a punishment timeout, her first in over a year. I heard the angry yelling echoing eerily off the trailer's metal walls - it went on for hours - and my heart swelled with pride.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Vive la Reine!

Return of the Queen

Well isn't it funny.

I don't know if you remember but Brandy was always our leader. She was the herdqueen and everyone agreed she was the herdqueen, so there was no Balkanization of the herd. The herd all agreed that Brandy was the queen.

Sure, some would mutter that they would be a better queen, and if they were the queen they would do things a lot differently, and there would be more cake, and earmarks for the queen's special friends, and bread and circuses and no new taxes.

And some would say why do we always have a LaMancha queen, why shouldn't we have a Nigerian queen or possibly a miniature queen.

And some of the long-eared-bears-of-little-brain even suggested a Nubian queen, since after all the Nubians are the biggest and the loudest. But this was widely considered laughable. Even some of the Nubians themselves would laugh when they said it. At least I think they were laughing. Who knows.

Anyway, ok, I got a little off track, but Brandy was always our leader. In spite of being small, and often terribly skinny because she was such a tremendous milker, Brandy was the queen, and ruled by consensus. She was firm but fair, and she was an excellent goat trainer because she was unfailingly consistent.

Brandy would always explain that she was going to eat first and she would insist upon it and she brooked no disagreement. And if you thought you were going to get in line ahead of Brandy - which for the most part you didn't think - you knew the price you were going to pay. Expert t-boning in the ribs, followed by ear-biting (if you had ears) and an ignominous bum's rush out the door. You did not get away with queue-jumping. Ever.

But if you were polite and waited your turn, you need fear nothing from Brandy. And if you stayed out of her way, she had no quarrel with you.

This was completely the opposite of, say, Boo. In Boo's ill-fated attempt at politics, she would one day insist that she was going to eat first and fight to the death over it. The next day she would run screaming to the end of the line after a sideways look from someone else.

Brandy had an unfortunate occurrence in the spring: she lost a set of beautiful triplets and was kept in isolation for several weeks because she was under the weather, and while she was out of circulation turmoil raged in the ensuing power vacuum and finally, unbelievably, Clipper emerged as the sort-of leader, ruling completely by terror.

Clipper turned into Attila the mini-Togg. You might be dozing in the sun and chewing your cud and out of the blue she would steamroller you into the dust for no apparent reason. She went mad with power. Anyone who looked at her cross-eyed might be t-boned against a locust tree. She was a pillager through and through.

And since she was always punishing everyone randomly, there emerged an idea that you could get away with things, small crimes and misdemeanors, if only you kept one eye on her. You could quietly sneak snacks out of turn from the feeder, for example, while she was burning and sacking a village of nearby innocents. This contributed to the chaos.

Well Clipper didn't have kids this year and she was eventually moved out to the pasture of fat girls and dry yearlings, where her iron-fisted regime of seething anarchy continues. Meanwhile, up at the main barn, Brandy endured her demotion with serene dignity, never scrabbling for anything or kowtowing to anybody. Just waiting patiently.

Slowly she fattened and regained her strength, and one day a couple of weeks ago she got a certain look in her eye when Scouty came clipclopping to the door to be fed first.

And that look said, "I don't think so."

And Brandy explained to Scouty that she was going to eat first and she insisted on it. And she brooked no disagreement.

And within a couple of days the fog of amnesia lifted and everyone remembered, oh yeah, that's right, you ARE the boss of me.

And Brandy returned to her rightful throne.

And I say, after surviving the Clipperish Inquisition, Long Live the Queen.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Getting The Picture

When we took this picture we thought we knew what we were doing. This isn't always the case. But sometimes, a lot of the time, actually, you are doing something you don't know you are doing. And that isn't always a bad thing.

Anyway, this picture - we thought - was a picture of Sammy, one of our favorite bottle babies of the year. Sammy went to a very nice new home and we hear that he is doing well. The farmer was very glad when he was born, because his mother is one of the best and prettiest does and she hadn't been able to have kids for three years and the farmer was worried. So Sammy was a welcome addition, just for that reason, but on top of that he had a funny personality and was a very endearing character (obviously not as endearing as my triplets, but you have to start somewhere.)

And we thought this was a nice picture of little Sammy when we took it, and we were glad to have a nice picture of him.

But the farmer was just looking through the photos of this year's kids and stopped in surprise at this picture. In the background is our cat Julius, an orange tabby.

Julius disappeared this spring and we don't know what happened to him. But we don't think he is coming back, since he has been gone for several months now. If you look very closely, you will see him. This is the last picture we have of Julius.

Julius first belonged to the farmer's sister, but he stayed here when the farmer's sister moved to the East Coast. Julius was a very good cat, and he was also very good at being a farm cat. He was friendly and sweet and never lost his good nature even when he was having problems with runny eyes and ears, which he had his whole life and no vet could ever do anything for. Julius was well traveled and confident, a real cat's cat, and he would stray and stroll much further than our other cat, Harry, who pretty much stays right around the barn.

For a while Julius had a habit of waiting at the end of the driveway for the farmer or Lori to come home. Lori always worried that he would get run over, but he was much too smart for that. Julius also made friends around the neighborhood, and for a couple of months one time, his attendance at the farm was very spotty, and the farmer was surprised to discover that he had a side family next door - where the food must have been better - and was spending a lot of time there. But pretty soon he came back.

Anyway, we haven't seen Julius in a long time, and we hope maybe he moved somewhere with someone who thought he was their cat. That could have happened. And that would be fine.

But we do want them to know, if they are reading this, that Julius was our cat. And we will be waiting if he comes home.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Farmer's Amazing Car

The farmer's car is a little black vw station wagon.

Lately the farmer has been driving all over. Down to Longbranch to feed and ride the horses every day because they are at summer camp while their pasture is reseeded. Up to Gig Harbor to fetch paint and supplies for the barn remodeling.

Over to Jerry's feed store in Vaughn to get grain, grain, grain for the piggish milkers.

Anyway, all the time we would see the farmer putting things in the car and never taking them out, saying things like, "I might need that."

So I knew there were a lot of things in the car but I was surprised when the farmer's friend had to drive separately from the farmer instead of riding in the station wagon - because there was only room for one person.

But anyway today the farmer took most of the things out of the station wagon - not all, don't be silly - and even I was surprised to see what was in there. It was like watching the clown car at the circus.

This is not a complete list, just a small sampling.

1. A red metal tack box that says "Elvis" - no one knows why - and contains electric sheep shears, clipper blades, clipper oil, clipper grease, fitting accoutrements for show sheep (which we don't have any of thank Goodness. If there is anything dumber than a Nubian, it is a sheep. Bless their hearts, I say).

2. A cordura breastcollar and other tack for a cheap western saddle.

3. A Buena Vista style leather saddle for a Tennessee Walker.

4. A pair of posthole diggers.

5. A can of rustoleum paint.

6. A border collie.

7. Assorted lumber, including pieces of cedar siding and a 3-foot length of treated 6x8.

8. Several bits, including a copper mouth snaffle, a Tom Thumb, and a Kimberwick. A lunging whip, a horse tack box (not the Elvis box) full of combs, brushes, hoofpicks, neatsfoot oil, fly spray, wormer.

9. A bag of green apples.

10. A cheap cordura western saddle.

11. A boston terrier.

12. Assorted paperwork needed to complete an extension-to-file 2007 income tax return.

13. A clay birdhouse.

14. A saddle pad. A plaid wool blanket. A rug. A heavy winter Carhartt jacket. A frisbee. Several dog leashes. A phone book.

15. An extra-large rubbermaid tub full of Tammy's Special Mix. (horse grain.)

16. An old iron double tree (for two horses to pull farm equipment).

17. Assorted reading material including books, newspapers, maps, magazines and flyers.

18. Sixteen charcoal gray Holland paving bricks.

"This will never happen again," the farmer said soberly, examining each item with dismay. Then the farmer got ready to go down to Longbranch.

"Well, I will definitely need these," the farmer said, and put the cheap western saddle and the horse tack box back in the station wagon.

"And probably these," and the bits went back in.

"And I wouldn't go anywhere without this," and in went the border collie, very pleased at the roomy new accommodations.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Brats Next Door

Well the farmer got mad today but not mad enough. We were lolling in the front pasture when two little fat kids (human) from next door came up to the fence.

I thought they might have some licorice or cookies since they were fat kids so I went right up to the fence. Hannah Belle had the same idea and she came right up behind me. Peanut and Betty and Zilla came up behind Hannah Belle, and then Boo the ocean liner came pushing her way to the front, while Joy and Lucy actually stood up on the fence trying to reach into the kids' pockets.

Meanwhile those little fat boys were saying, "Baa, baa, baa," which on the scale of witty remarks is right around zero, in my opinion, but I stayed long enough to make sure they didn't have any ginger snaps.

Then I left. "Come on, Hannah Belle, " I said. And Hannah Belle and Peanut and Zilla and Betty left too. And Ruby and Annabel left. And Joy and Lucy left. And Eo left, and Aggie and Vel. And Scouty. And finally even Boo turned her wide load around and left.

Well, what happened then? The little princes picked up rocks and started throwing them at us.

One of them HIT me! I bawled. And then Boo bawled - she is a pretty hard target to miss, and then everybody started running.

Well, I saw one of the little teletubbies with his arm cocked back and just then I heard the loudest booming voice of all time.

CUT IT OUT!!!!!!!!!!

It was the farmer, madder than a hornet, and the two little rock-throwers were frozen solid with fear. They were stone cold busted, two of them standing there with rocks in their hands.

The farmer gave them a good yelling at, and asked a series of rhetorical questions - sometimes these are the best kind, I think.

Did they know that they could put somebody's eye out?

Would THEY like it if someone threw rocks at them?

What if they had hit that little baby goat (meaning Peanut)?

Didn't they have anything else to do?

Why did they do it?

Well they really liked the goats and they were playing (meaning they said "baa baa baa" over and over) with them (meaning us) and then the goats (meaning us) left and they wanted them to come back.

Good grief. I don't know how it happened but one of the little brats is going to come over tomorrow to give Peanut his bottle. And they both say they won't ever throw rocks at us any more.

Yeah right. Where is that pellet gun when you need it?

Thursday, August 02, 2007


It is well and truly summertime and you know what they say about that.

The living is so easy that several girls are on the Fat List, including yours truly.

The down-belows are slick and glossy; they go out during the day and munch hardhack and all-you-can-eat canary grass. Several babies and dry does are in very good condition (dairygoatspeak for 'waytoofat'), and even the milkers (Betsy and Wronny and Peaches) are tending toward the chubby. Peaches' little daughter Jules is as fat as a tick - in addition to grain and all-you-can-eat brush and grass, she is on a wide-open 24-hour milk buffet, and is quickly becoming the poster doeling for kidhood obesity.

Boo is also a tub - in my opinion she needs a couple of those big mirrors like the truck drivers have - and even Brandy looks like a normal goat instead of a skeleton.

Only Winnie and Penrose are still thin, and that is because they both milk like a fish.

But I have also noticed that there are a lot of fat robins. I have not seen fat robins before and I'm not sure how they fly. But there are several of them waddling around here.

It's just my opinion, but I think it is better to be a fat goat than a fat robin. At least I do not need a runway to get off the ground. Although sometimes when I see Boo heading for the feeder I wonder if it wouldn't be easier if there were a couple of tugboats to pull her in.

And that little Jules. My goodness. Behind her back everyone calls her Butterball, and even that is being polite.