Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Boxcar Betty Goes Bad

Boxcar Betty, my cousin, used to be sweet and adorable like me.

She followed the straight and narrow path of the Captain January side of the family tree, instead of the Hannah Belle Lecter side of the tree.

If the farmer would say, "Betty! Betty, come here!" Betty would come.

When the yearlings and fat girls went down below, Betty went with them. Then Hannah Belle got sent down there. Aunt Hannah Belle stayed there for maybe fifteen seconds and then left, because the food up at the big barn by the milker pasture is much better.

Betty watched with dismay but did not attempt to escape.

Then Hannah Belle came back because the fat girls were going out in the big meadow where there is free meadow grass and brush. Betty started hanging around with Hannah Belle, who is her mother after all.

Or should I say loitering. Betty started loitering around with Hannah Belle.

Hannah Belle went back to the big barn when the meadow was closed for the summer.

Betty watched with dismay. Then attempted to escape. Unfortunately for her she did not have her mother's cat burglar skills.

Aunt Hannah Belle looked on idly, chewing her cud like a baseball pitcher watching for a sign from the catcher, as Betty scrambled and pawed in an attempt to duck under the fat girl fence at the blackberry hole. No luck. Hannah Belle looked on with cool detachment as Betty attempted to head butt the gate open. Sad, said Hannah Belle's expression. A sad effort.

Hannah Belle dozed serenely as Betty made a sorry little jump at the field fencing. It was almost embarrassing. Like something you would see from the Breezy family.

Betty began twittering to Hannah Belle, little birdcalls of affrontery and indignation. Hannah Belle stood up and yawned and went and stole some alfalfa from the LaMancha kids. Then Betty began running the fenceline and yelling.

Hannah Belle finally got up and sauntered off toward the fat girl pasture.

I did not see what happened next, because it was time for me to go to the grain bin.

When I came back, Betty and Hannah Belle were up in the milkers' pasture, sunning themselves on top of the tank cover.

"Betty!" called the farmer. "Betty, come here!"

Betty turned her head, like a femme fatale in a movie, and looked at the farmer, and blinked a couple of times. And then looked away, down at the meadow that was closed until spring. Where Hannah Belle was looking, watching all the canary grass grow.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Quid Pro Quo

It is getting late in the season and because of that and for other reasons the milk production has been dropping off. I do not like to name names but Wronny, Winnie, Winnie, Jr., Xie Xie (of course), Lucy, Jessie, Tangy, Maddie, and Betsy have all been milking a lot less. Peaches stopped completely and has been excused from the milk parlor. Only Big Orange has been keeping up production, no one knows why. Jammies of course always milks the same amount because it is her policy.

Anyway there was a staff meeting involving the farmer showing the milkers some charts and spreadsheets and explaining about revenue projections and late lactation milk and our goals for the fourth quarter. Several of the milkers fell asleep. Not Jammies, of course.

"The bad news," said the farmer. "is that everyone needs to work a lot harder. Not Jammies, obviously."

"The good news is because we are out of pea hay we will be getting alfalfa."

This waked a few of them up. Jammies gave the farmer a polite but skeptical look which seemed to inquire whether it would be nice alfalfa or that awful stemmy alfalfa from the place in Port Orchard.

The farmer explained that it would be beautiful leafy 4th cutting alfalfa from Moses Lake in the Columbia Basin, the kind that has just a sprinkle of orchard grass in it for added flavor. It would be only for the milkers.

"And Millie, of course."

The milkers consulted and agreed that they would milk more, effective as soon as the 4th cutting was served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not Jammies, of course; she was already doing her best.

And they did.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Let's Talk About Me

A lot has been written about the infirm (Xie Xie), the elderly (Spenny), the unproductive (most of the milkers), the conceited (Cora Belle), the overweight (Tangy), the ill-behaved (Tangy again), and the extremely annoying (Wendell). But hardly anything has been written about me.

So here are a few facts about me.

1. I like to be carried around. It saves energy and the view is better.

2. I like food and food-related items.

3. I like milk. Milk is delicious, it tastes like candy. While milk is a food-related item, it is also milk, so I include it in a category by itself.

4. I do not care for water or rain except if it is in a bucket.

5. I like to do everything by the schedule. For example, we are supposed to come in from the pasture and eat dinner by 5:30. I start crying at 5:31, because why wait?

6. I am getting prettier every day, which is kind of unbelievable, because I was already so pretty when I was born. I am also adorable.

But that's enough about me, because I am also extremely modest and humble. Thank you.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Take Me To The World

Today we went in the big meadow again. It was a beautiful Indian Summer day. Then I enjoyed a few minutes in the grain bin.

"That's enough, Millie," the farmer said, although it really wasn't. Then carried me out to sit on the porch in the sun.

Zane Gray wanted to go in the grain bin but he wasn't allowed because grain isn't good for wethers. How sad.

The horseshoer came last Friday. The kindly one who loves dogs, not the gloomy adorable one with the gloomy sayings. The gloomy one does not shoe mules, because he says "a mule will work for a man for ten years for one chance to kick him."

The gloomy one is not that crazy about dogs either, because he used to raise sheep. Dogs are the bane of sheep. Neighborhood dogs, anyway; they are always after the sheep.

The gloomy horseshoer has a saying about that, too, about what to do if a pesky neighbor dog is bothering your sheep. "Shoot him, bury him, and help the neighbor look for him."

The kindly horseshoer would never shoot a dog, even though he raises sheep. He got the sheep so his border collies could learn to herd them. And they did.

Times have been hard, everyone knows that, but the horseshoer has a spring in his step because he got a new dog, a "grand dog." He thinks maybe the new dog is going to be the best dog he ever had, a dog with heart and soul and relentless drive. And biddable but not too soft.

He wouldn't say that if he didn't mean it.

The new dog brings tears to his eyes, just talking about him. "You know," says the horseshoer, who has had dogs forever, "You might get one dog like that in your life."

"A dog who can take you to the world."

Everyone was feeling misty-eyed that day, I guess, because after the horseshoer left the farmer made our border collie, Spenny, sit with us on the porch for a long time, even though Spenny doesn't really like just sitting.

We looked out at the goats in the meadow, just like we did today. It was a beautiful day.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Xie Xie was in a stupor for four days, not really eating anything and with a blank look on her face. She walked around in slow motion.

Yesterday she looked at the farmer in surprise. Her expression said, where have you been? Did you get a new hat?

The farmer gave Xie Xie some alfalfa. Xie Xie started eating it. Then she stopped and looked at the farmer. Ok, her expression said. Let's go on.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Herron Hill's Weeping Camel

On Wednesday several of the milkers got very sick from eating some bad grain. Jessie and Wronny are fine now. Winnie, Jr. is doing pretty well. Peaches was in terrible shape but she has perked up. The farmer is going to let her dry off. Xie Xie is still a little glassy-eyed and looks like she lost about fifteen pounds in three days. We will have to see if she can keep milking.

We lost Cammy.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Yesterday was a very sad and happy day at the farm. Since it is so gray out already I am going to tell the happy part. My cousin Cora Belle won Grand Champion at the State Fair in Puyallup.

From what I have heard there were a lot of beautiful doelings there, so Cora Belle started acting conceited before she even got out of the ring. By the time she got back to her pen, she had stopped taking personal calls and hired Tangy as her assistant. I think that is a mistake because in my opinion Tangy is not that much help. But who am I to tell the state champion how to conduct her affairs.

For the rest of the day Cora Belle would immediately strike a pose whenever she saw someone with a cellphone camera.

Tangy also won a blue ribbon but that was because she was the only one in her class. The judge kindly remarked that she was a perfectly presentable goat or something to that effect, and Tangy was delighted to go back to her pen without even performing any of her patented "swordfish" airs above ground. As soon as she left the ring an army of beautiful giant Saanens with ten gallon udders came supergliding in, making Tangy look like an apricot-colored miniature poodle.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

You Can Do It At a Gallop

This morning there was a strange honking noise and we all looked up to see a flock of little pink pigs flying over the barn.

"Ok then," said the farmer. "Tangy is going to the Fair."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Wendell Has His Day

You know what they say, every dog has his day. And it is true. Even Wendell.

There has been a big bold coyote coming around and he is called B.D. for his habit of sauntering insolently into the goat pasture in broad daylight. Every time he comes, he comes a little closer.

The farmer runs at him and throws rocks and shoots at him with the pellet gun and he just doesn't care. He is an excellent judge of speed, which let's face it the farmer lacks, and he stands his ground until the last minute and then bounds away as if he was just leaving anyway and it is a coincidence that the farmer is running pell mell toward him hollering and throwing rocks.

The farmer always calls for Atty but usually Atty sleeps during the day and it takes a while to wake him up and let's face it once he is woken up it is pretty much a tie between him and the farmer as to who is the slowest. But Atty definitely puts on quite a display of woofing, I feel like clapping every time I hear it, it is very authentic.

The other day B.D. came right up to the fat lady pasture, leaving only the fence between them, and he looked the fat girls up and down as if he were peering into the lobster tank at a seafood restaurant. He comes around so often that the big ones - Bertie is a good example - don't even have sense to know they should stay far away from him. Bertie and Binky, in fact, were crowding up to the fence line to see if he maybe had some pockets with vanilla wafers in them.

Anyway the farmer caught sight of him and hove into view hollering and hucking rocks and calling for Atty. The farmer came on down the hill like a battleship being tugged out to sea, stopping now and then to pick up rocks, and yelling for Lori - "get the gun!" - and Atty - "ATTICUS!"

The farmer opened up the gate, thinking Atty was on his way, and grabbed some more rocks. But it wasn't Atty coming. It was Wendell flying like a little black bat out of hell and he shot past the farmer as soon as the gate opened and went straight for the coyote. The farmer was terribly alarmed since Wendell was maybe - maybe - half the size of B.D. But Wendell apparently didn't know it, he just went on like a dervish and scared the coyote so badly that it turned around and ran right into the fence where it caught for one scary moment with Wendell jumping at its throat like a good bulldog will do and then it sprang free and shot out through the hole in the fence where Melly goes out to eat hardhack in the meadow. Wendell was hot on his heels and acting like a true berserk.

Wendell and the coyote ran about a hundred feet along the fenceline and then both of them disappeared into the high grass, with the farmer lumbering along helplessly behind, yelling for Wendell to leave the coyote and come back.

Atty finally appeared, huffing and puffing, and ran along the fenceline in the wrong direction. "This way, Atty," the farmer yelled, pointing toward the canary grass into which Wendell and B.D. had vanished. But Atty flopped down next to the gate, spreading his paws out like a lion. He had used up his quota of running energy for the day.

"Wendell!" hollered the farmer, over and over, and in between yells it was all deathly quiet for several long minutes until you might almost start to wonder whether the coyote hadn't lured Wendell into a trap, but then we heard the wet snuffling of an overexerted boston terrier and a couple of seconds later Wendell's head bobbed up out of the grass, wearing a big delighted grin. I never saw a dog look more pleased.

And B.D. hasn't come back since then.