Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Right Puppy

In 1997 the farmer did not live in the country. The farmer lived in a duplex in Ballard, which has since become a hipster neighborhood in Seattle. At the time there were very few hipsters there. There were a lot of old Scandinavian fishermen. You could actually buy lutefisk in Ballard, real lutefisk, not ironic lutefisk. Bill Clinton was President of the United States.

But even then there was a hint of something in the air. An ominous hint of impending prosperity.

At that time - it is embarrassing to think about now - the farmer drove around in a vintage black Jaguar, having just gotten a job in what would later be known as the Internet bubble. Nobody knew it was a bubble then. So everyone bought vintage black Jaguars to drive around in.

But one day out of the blue, in spite of the vintage black Jaguar, the farmer drove to Tenino, a little bend in the road outside Olympia, to look at a litter of border collie puppies. "Just to look."

The puppies were all in a pen, and some children were 'playing' with them - poking them with a stick through the slats of the pen. Several of the puppies seemed to like this kind of fun, and they seethed around in a mass, following, on the inside, as the children ran around the outside of the pen. One very beautiful puppy did not follow the children; instead she observed them, watchfully, and moved neatly and efficiently in such a manner as to remain as far away from them as possible at all times.

The farmer bought this puppy, and named her Spenny.

Not long afterward, as the puppy looked with a pained expression at the farmer from the passenger seat of the black Jaguar, the farmer bought a thing they used to call a newspaper, and looked through it at these things they used to call classified ads, and found and bought a 1978 F-150, battered even then. The puppy was extremely pleased. This was the type of vehicle a border collie could be seen in in public.

Not long after that someone looked at the farmer and the puppy riding around in the truck and said, "well, you have a farm dog, and you have a farm truck, now all you need is a farm."

And so then the farmer bought a farm, and gradually became a sort of inept but oddly persistent farmer, and stayed on the farm when the Internet bubble burst, and bought a pair of LaManchas to eat some of the brush growing in the pastures, and then bought a little white Nigerian Dwarf goat named Baby Belle, driving in the F-150 to Eastern Washington to pick her up, with the border collie riding shotgun, watchful as ever, occasionally even standing up on the seat with her chin balanced on the dashboard and the tip of her nose against the windshield, the better to see every inch of the world passing by.

Time passed, many years, and the puppy grew old and frail. She began to fail badly, and was weaker every day. But she was watchful as ever, faithful as ever, keenly intelligent as ever, always looking to the farmer for a sign. The farmer would not, could not, let her go. Because it was spring, and turning to summer, the most beautiful time of the year. Because she might miss one more beautiful day. So Spenny watched and waited, as usual, for the farmer to figure out something Spenny already knew.

Would any day ever be beautiful enough to be Spenny's last day? Was there ever such a day? No. And so finally, yesterday, the farmer let her go.

It was a desperately beautiful, desperately sad day. And a desperately sad end to the story. But it was just the end of the story. It wasn't the heart of the story. The heart of the story was the fact - who knew? - that all of us, at any given time, are one border collie puppy away from a whole new life.

It just has to be the right puppy.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Little Jennifer, or, be careful what you say to a farmer

Round 2 of the baby blizzard hit and Clover popped out a darling little buckskin doeling and a moon-spotted buckling, and then Sandy dropped two little wiseacre bucklings - already they are very mischievous, trouble is their middle name if not their first - and then a couple of days later Abby went into labor. She was as big as a house, and I don't mean a Tiny House, and you could just tell from looking at her that she was going to split her aces and double down. She doesn't go in for singletons or twins, what's the point of that. She is the only one here except for me to ever have quads.

She started in pushing and it wasn't good. She worked and worked and finally two feet appeared but they were back feet and the farmer set to pulling and out came an ENORMOUS buck kid. His cord had broken too soon and he didn't make it. Not a good start.

But Abby pulled herself back together and popped out a tiny doeling who rolled across the barn floor like a ping pong ball, so small that Abby hardly noticed she had had it. But Abby is a pro and she performed a thorough straw search in the area right behind her like all the expert kidders always do and she found the ping pong doeling and set to licking it and it was up and around in no time but here came the next one and this one was coming head first with one leg back which ought to be easy but it was a struggle the way it had its shoulders wedged, but then finally it plopped out, a good-sized girl. Abby was dog tired but this one was in nice shape too, up and around in no time. The farmer bounced Abby hoping that was all.

But it wasn't. Sure enough there were four.

Abby was starting to shake and wouldn't take her electrolytes because she wanted to get things done and the two little doelings were starting to cry because they hadn't had any milk yet what with all the pulling and rearranging and Abby laid down again to try to get the fourth one out and the farmer set the timer to 20 minutes because Abby had already worked too hard but before the 20 minutes were up the farmer went back in and a big giant downward-diving head was crowding the runway with no feet in sight and the farmer tried again but Abby was frustrated and moving around and wouldn't stand for any more inspections and so the farmer looked at the clock and sure enough it was after midnight.

Well there are very few people you can call after midnight in the country to come and lend a hand with veterinary obstetrics, especially on Memorial Day weekend. But the farmer's neighbor Jen had made the mistake that very day of saying, "if Abby has any trouble, you know you can call me."

She had forgotten to say "but not after midnight." And when the farmer went outside and looked across the fence, sure enough the light was on at Jen's. Who knows maybe it was only the porchlight that stays on all the time,  but anyway the farmer said to no one in particular, "oh good, Jen is up," as if that made it true, and ran for the phone, and the next thing you know Jen came over and held Abby's head and with a little bit of bellowing and rearranging the farmer was able to get in and grab one leg, and then two, and then to pull out an exceedingly round-headed doeling. The doeling was pancaked and a little bit hard to start but after some smacks she sputtered to life.

She got a lecture on tardiness which she didn't listen to, because her sisters were born yesterday. But she waited until today.

She was supposed to have a fancy E name but instead she will be called Little Jennifer.

LJ shows off her big round head

Friday, May 23, 2014

Blue Jaye's Rapid Redemption

The incursion has not been fixed yet but it has turned out to be not as bad as I thought because of speed and wits. Here is how speed and wits works: the farmer comes out and feeds the fat girls in their feed alley. They lumber over to eat. Once they are engrossed in stuffing their faces we shoot through the incursion doorway and eat part of their breakfast. Meanwhile the farmer is dawdling toward our feeder and once we have finished some Fat Girl hors d'oeuvres we spin and dash back through the incursion hole to eat our own breakfast too. We eat prestissimo as they say in Italy, achieving double breakfast through speed and wits.

Ok Blue Jaye's son Edward went to his new home on Saturday. On Sunday Blue Jaye went on the milkstand for real.

Day One: Blue Jaye milks a reasonable amount of milk then kicks the bucket across the barn aisle, then screams in a high overdone falsetto, then lies down on the milkstand. This is the Triple Crown of milk malfeasance.

We all agree that the scream was overdone and we watch with interest to see what the farmer will do. Nothing. The farmer hums and throws some bedding pellets on the spilled milk to soak it up.

Day Two: The farmer has a talk with Blue Jaye before she goes on the milkstand, explaining that yesterday was her free day and she used it up and today is not a free day, does Blue Jaye understand. Blue Jaye blinks rapidly in alarm. The farmer gives her a vanilla wafer, then says, "Uppity Ups," which means get on the milkstand, then Blue Jaye jumps on the milkstand and the farmer starts milking. Blue Jaye milks a good amount of milk and then lifts one of her legs as if to kick.

"No," says the farmer politely. "If you do that again, you will get a smack."

Blue Jaye milks some more and then lifts one of her legs one inch off the milkstand and instantly gets a loud smack. She puts her leg down, and ponders the situation scientifically. She lifts her leg again, a quarter of an inch, and gets another smack like a bolt of lightning. The Light of True Understanding breaks across her face. She is not a Nubian, after all.

Day Three: Blue Jaye milks like an angel. She is her mother's daughter.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Wheel

A glooming peace this morning with it brings. The sun for sorrow will not show its head. Orangina, Hannah Banana, and little Eskimo Joey went to their new home yesterday. Edward left the day before. Tomorrow the wheel will turn again. But this is today. Today the farmer milks Binky with no Seal Team. Today Belle Starr is crying again. This is today, don't ever forget that.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Problem with Doorways

There was an incursion. This was caused by Little Drudgery repeatedly slipping through a small hole in the fence between our pasture and the fat girl pasture. Finally the seams popped completely as Little Drudgery went back and forth back and forth back and forth. She is a born waffler and can't go anywhere without coming right back. Anyway then there was a gaping hole. A hole so large that it really couldn't be considered a hole any more. It was more of a large doorway. And I want to repeat when the history books are written that this was caused by Little Drudgery.

Once you have a nice doorway probably the first thing you say to yourself is ah, now I can go out. What you don't think about is the Fat Girls, massing on the border with their beady eyes gleaming. Some of them are not thinking anything. They are part Nubian. But some of them are thinking, "NOW WE CAN GO IN!"

So there you are minding your own business and one of the Fat Girls bellows "INTO THE BREACH!" and the next thing you know you are bobbing in a sea of Fat Girls as they stampede down to the far corner of the pasture near Lost Beaver Lake where there are still some sprigs of blackberries we were saving for summer (GONE), washing over the swath of canary grass we grew out for after-dinner dining (GONE), steamrolling into our shed to scour for hay and nibbles set aside for later (GONE).

That is the Problem With Doorways. You can go out. Sure that's fine. But Fat Girls can also come in. You might think this problem could be corrected with a neatly placed sign - "Exit Only" - or something to that affect. You would be wrong in so many ways, so wrong.

And thus it will be written in my history book, the Ballad of Baby Belle (Jr.), in the Chapter titled The Battle of Lost Beaver Lake, with the addendum on The Problem With Doorways, and a footnote on Little Drudgery's Lament. "Beware the Gaping Hole: Fat Girls Can Come In."

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Seal Team #1

Homer went to his new home where he is living with a Nubian wether and eating blackberries. This meant that the farmer had to milk Binky a minimum of three times a day or Binky would explode and the farmer had a very sore wrist so the farmer looked around with a certain look that the farmer gets when the farmer is hatching a plot.

"Come here, Orangina," said the farmer. "Come here, Hannah Banana."

Orangina and Hannah Banana are two of the most greedy little piglets we have ever bred here at the farm and both of them are fat as little baby harp seals.

The farmer put Binky on the milkstand and started milking and then surreptitiously moved aside and Orangina and Hannah Banana galloped onto the milkstand and started sucking away and in no time at all the farmer's job was half done and Binky none the wiser.

So then every day the farmer would put Binky on the milkstand and call for "Seal Team 1!" and out would race the two little butterball commandos and they would leap onto the stand defying all danger and gulp down a half gallon of  milk in record time.

Then the farmer thought of expanding the program, and Edward and Ellie May were recruited and they became Seal Team Two but after a couple of days it was apparent that one team was vastly superior probably because Edward is a single and already gets 10,000 calories a day from his own mother, and the same with Ellie May, so they got fired after a couple of days and Seal Team #1 reigned victorious.

Semper fi, Seal Team #1.