Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fair to Middling

It is time for the Fair and everyone here is looking middling. No one looks spectacular. Who wants to go to the Fair and sit around looking middling. That is a lot of work for nothing. Red ribbons, who needs them.

Pinky and Xie Xie both look good but they are too thin, they milked down too far. So did Abby. Pinky Jr. is a big strapping girl and she looks good, but that's because she doesn't have enough milk. Blue and Betty might be fairly presentable if they bagged up for about a week. Maddy has at least one screw loose and certainly can't go anywhere near the general public. Moldy is too fat. Clover is too fat. Speaking of Clover, Pebbles looks like the Sta-Puf Marshmallow Goat.

Winjay looks fantastic except her udder sticks out the back about four feet, like a second grader drew her. If she were a drawing the title would be: "Earless Goat Walks Bravely Into Hurricane, Udder Sails Out Behind Her."

That's a long title but it's best if people know what they're looking at.

"You are doing that on purpose," the farmer says grimly every time Winjay walks by with her windblown udder.

Marty is going into an awkward phase, Crayola can't go or Crumpet either, they are too precious and would certainly catch something. Fabulous last place Wronny is even older and more stove in than she was the last time she went to the Fair and got last place.

So you would think we might stay home. Wouldn't you?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hannah Belle 2.0

Yesterday some of the unfortunates got shaved for the Fair. It is surprising what is under there sometimes. Fat little Clover actually looks fairly presentable. Candy and Moony are cute as 2 buttons.

Nobody mentioned anything about it, but everybody thought the same thing when Belle Starr went under the clippers.

My goodness. Isn't it uncanny. She's the spitting image.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The New Pile

Winjay the Hun has been reprimanded for T-BONING Crumpet, who weighs 7.5 pounds.

"That is disgraceful," the farmer hollered, lumbering along to snatch Crumpet up out of harm's way just in the nick of time.

Winjay had to put her head almost to the ground to do it since Crumpet is only about three inches tall. She got a big stripe of pasture dust all over her face since it is dry as a bone here now, you would not believe how dry it is.

"That is a mark of SHAME!" hollered the farmer, pointing at the dust stripe.

"So what," muttered Winjay, flouncing off.

Crumpet gave a little sad mousy squeak and was rushed to the grain bin to drown her sorrows.

Well, anyway that reminds me of how everything had to shift a little bit here since we don't have Penrose any more and there is no way to ever replace her.

When their mothers were busy stuffing themselves with hay, or off foraging for something else, the babies would go and sleep in a pile with Penrose. Especially at bedtime. Many times the farmer would come out and the moon would be high and the frogs would be singing and the mothers would be stuffing themselves with alfalfa and their babies would be in the Penrose pile and Penrose would be chewing her cud and gazing toward infinity, possibly cataloging all the stars in the galaxy.

Now there is a new pile and I was a little surprised who is at the middle of it. It isn't any of the Sopranos, obviously. I thought it might be Xie Xie if push came to shove, but no, she has taken to headflipping stray babies away. I also though maybe Pinky Jr., she is very mild-mannered. But no.

Maybe Moldy or Abby the Crackpot Oregonians, I thought, they seem to like babies. Just then Abby bit little Chance's ear. No blood or anything, but still. Maybe Betty, I thought, and then laughed bitterly. Betty! Ha! That's a good one.

So I gave up guessing and you probably did too but anyway when I was looking over at the big barn last night I saw a pile. Drabby was in it, Chell's plain little daughter, and Crumpet and Crayola, and Blue's girl Cloudy, and Clover, and Champagne was thinking about joining, and there in the center were Creampuff and Crumbles, and they were all clustered around Bumbles.

That's right, Jammies' Little Bumblebee. And there was an air of snoring contentment.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Upstairs Downstairs

Wronny has been raising her two sons Halfway and Gulliver this year and since they are young princes they dine with Wronny everywhere she dines and Wronny dines everywhere since she is the herdqueen and she can eat whatever she wants and it doesn't matter who else wants it.

Wronny eats her grain and hay and then everyone else's hay and grain and the young princes canter along beside her muttering royal statements like "make way, make way, young princes coming through, peasantry please stand back," and so on and they stuff themselves with their silver spoons and by this time they each weigh about a thousand pounds and are as tall as a Shetland pony.  They fancy themselves the Upstairs Goats, and the rest of us are Scullery Maids.

"How kind of you," said Halfway the other day while he gobbled Xie Xie's dinner.

"You may touch my white spot if you like," said Gulliver after hogging all the alfalfa in the feed rack.

In between their ten times a day grain and hay feedings they each guzzle about a gallon of Wronny milk. Their idea of portion control is that they control all the portions.

Everyone else just looks at them bitterly and pretends to like them. "So handsome! So regal!"

"Would you mind just moving just a tad bit out of the way?" they are always asking, then hogging the best spots to lie down.

"Of course not," says everyone else, looking daggers at them.

Well the word came down today that they have been sold and are leaving for their new home very soon and the chorus of fake sadness that welled up would deafen the gods. The insincere expressions of sorrow were many and numerous, with nobody wanting to be outdone.

"Not! Not Gulliver and Halfway! Our two royal ponies! The sadness! The sadness I feel coming on! I'm sure it will hit me as soon as I stop laughing these anguished laughs!"

I did not want to tell them but I had to, it was only fair that they should know that after living their whole lives Upstairs, they will be going Downstairs without their mommy, and they had better start shopping for little frilly scullery caps.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

He Made It

Well I don't know why people are always saying they are going to do this that and the other "if the creek don't rise." Because the creek always rises. I don't know why I am thinking about that because we are in the middle of a Northwest drought with no rain predicted until the weekend and temperatures in the mid 90s and right now as far as the creek there isn't any but I guess it is the kind of absence that makes the heart grow fond because I was just thinking about the creek, the way it burbles and so on and how darling that is except when it is burbling up to your neck the way it does most times around here but not now as already mentioned since there is no creek anywhere much less up around your neck. How tiring it is to think these complicated thoughts.

Anyway we have had a lot of visitors this summer way more than usual including visitors from Qatar and Korea and Oregon and Seattle and Burien and Puyallup and Belfair and Oakland, California, not to mention Longbranch right down the road. And some people came to take the cheese class and they came right at the time when we were most worried about Moldy's little son Chance who looked like he might not be long for this world and the people in the cheese class were all very sympathetic and they hoped he would do well and especially one very nice lady and when she was leaving the farmer said, "well, I will let you know how he does," and the lady said no she would be so sad if he didn't make it so best not to let her know anything and the farmer said, well all right then, I will only let you know if he makes it. And she said no, then if you don't let me know anything I will know he didn't make it. And the farmer could see this was all quite sensible and agreed not to tell the lady anything.

But anyway he made it.

Today Chance went out in the front pasture for the first time and he enjoyed it very much. Willen the fat Haflinger came over to look at him and smell his breath and then gave a little stamp of approval and Chance disappeared into the herd like an ordinary baby goat and that was that.

World Famous Betsy

Funny story about Betsy. When she was just a kid, she went to the Puyallup Fair. She misbehaved badly in typical fashion, Betsying around incorrigibly, but she won a blue ribbon.

That year the Tacoma News Tribune had sent a photographer to do a photo essay on the Fair. They probably do this every year, but that year for some reason he was drawn to the goat barn. The farmer saw him several times walking up and down the aisles, among the Alpines, Nubians, Saanens, Oberhaslis, Toggenburgs. Inevitably he was drawn back to the LaManchas.

The farmer chatted with him and he explained what he was doing. "I see," said the farmer.

Up and down the aisle he went, always ending up in front of the stall where Betsy crowded the bars, jumping up to try and catch his shirt, snatching for his camera, investigating his pockets, while Wronny huddled against the far wall, shrewdly avoiding all the lookiloos and stuffing herself with free hay.

The next day Betsy peered out at the world from the front page of the TNT, looking extremely Betsyesque.

The farmer showed Betsy the picture. She didn't care; it wasn't edible. The next year - a year when Betsy did not even go to the Fair - her picture was turned into the TNT blog icon, and she was on the front page of the paper every day the Fair ran.

So Betsy was pretty much the TNT's official goat of the Puyallup Fair.

They could have picked a bigger or a smarter or a flashier goat. But they could never have found a Betsyer goat. Because there isn't one.

Monday, August 13, 2012

East of the Mountains

One of the farmer's friends has a family saying. It is a euphemism. It comes in handy to soften bad news. The saying is: East of the Mountains.

Here it is, used in conversation:

"What happened to that old cat Tiger?"

"Tiger went East of the Mountains."

It means Tiger is dead. Everybody in the family understands. It is a way of saying what you don't want to say. It is a way of telling the truth without telling it.

But what are you going to tell if you don't tell the truth? Nothing, that's what. We had an embargo on bad news because there was just too much of it.

That prevented us from telling an important story. And it wasn't right.

We were waiting for what should have been the last kids of the season. But it became apparent as Betsy went into labor that the kids inside were no longer alive. We don't know why. And when Betsy could not deliver them and the farmer couldn't get them out, the only hope was a c-section to save Betsy's life. It didn't work.

Even on this black day there were grace notes - once again, indispensable help and kindness from friends. And the luck to be in the hands of a good old-fashioned farm vet, who called a halt to surgery when it was apparent what the outcome would be. And then did what more vets should have the courage and kindness to do: he put Betsy down immediately when he saw, after the opening incision, that her uterus was ruptured.

At the start of this year our herd had three titans: Hannah Belle, queen of the Nigerians and Baby Belle's oldest daughter; Betsy, the magnificently goofy head of the part-Nubian Betsy Family; Brandy, Queen Mother of the LaMancha herd.

Now we have Brandy, 13 and tough as nails, as irresistibly ornery an old bird as ever walked the barnyard.

We lost Betsy. We lost her kids. If you want to know who Betsy was and how much we will miss her, just go to the search box and search "Betsy."

It's not a story we wanted to tell. But we can't live East of the Mountains. We have to live here.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

What Goes Around: Wendell's Woes

Wendell got hopped up on sticks.

Wendell has a friend named Jack. Jack is a mostly blue heeler with a little bit of border collie. Wendell is a godawful pest as you know. Wendell and Jack have opposing philosophies on sticks.

Jack lives for someone who will throw a stick. Then he runs and gets the stick. AND HE BRINGS IT BACK.

Wendell also loves sticks. He lives for someone who will throw a stick for Jack. Then he runs and gets the stick, ripping it away from Jack if he has to, AND HE RACES OFF TO HIS SECRET STICK STASH AND THE STICK IS NEVER SEEN AGAIN.

The farmer would never consider throwing a stick for either Wendell or Jack. What a waste of energy. But when the farmer's nieces were here, the first thing they did was starting throwing sticks for Jack. Jack was in heaven until Wendell arrived and started stealing all the sticks.

Unbeknownst to anyone, Jack had been getting madder and madder about the sticks for years. And he finally snapped. The two best friends erupted into a big snarling ball that surged across the lawn.

"It will be fine, " said the farmer blandly. "They are hopped up on sticks. Just let them fight it out."

About one second later blood started spurting and Wendell gave a yelp and dropped the stick and ran to the farmer to be coddled as he always does when a trip to the emergency vet is imminent.

The farmer took him inside and wiped away the blood to see where it was coming from and it was coming from one of his eyes. His eye quickly filled up with blood, turning completely red on the inside in a matter of minutes.

Quick trip to the emergency vet, where it was a quiet day except for a lady in an Acura, who brought in a dreamy-eyed Bichon Frise who had eaten a pot brownie. Wendell was diagnosed with bloody eyeball caused by crushing injury and sent home with a pack of medicine. Bad news? No, the eyeball was unpunctured and did not deflate and after a few days it started  - very slowly - to clear.

Flashback one, two, three, four, five years: young Wendell has enjoyed a lifetime of tormenting Laddy the Tennessee Walker by sneaking up behind him and nipping his heels or pulling his tail, then scurrying away laughing. Laddy has never been able to retaliate because of the skillful scurrying.

Fast Forward to the present: Wendell is out in the pasture snacking on horse poo. Our pasture is an Olive Garden of horse poo. Perhaps because of his impaired vision, he makes a critical strategic error, turning his back on Laddy who is only about 15 feet away. Laddy gets a gleam in one of his big eyes, and in one, two, three, four lightning steps, he is on Wendell before Wendell sees what is happening (Wendell's bloody eyeball is squinted almost closed.) He delivers a direct boot to the middle of Wendell's back.

Wendell gives one short yelp and drops to the ground. He allows himself to be carried into the house without even a whimper which makes everyone think he must be very seriously injured. He takes one of his eyeball pain pills. He sits on a cushion. He eats a treat and simpers. Everyone gazes at him expectantly, talking to him and about him in hushed tones. Isn't he a darling dog? Isn't it awful what happened to him? Perhaps the end is near.

It isn't. He's fine. It's a miracle, but he's fine.

Somewhat sobered, obviously, and a tad bit sore, because payback is a _ _ _ _ _. (Rhymes with hitch.)