Seven Sets of Eyes in the Dark Night

Sheep

A few weeks ago David asked me why I wasn’t writing more stories about the crazy and exciting things that happen on the farm/vineyard. I responded by telling him that nothing really crazy or exciting has been happening as of late. Life has been rather boring quiet around here actually and I just didn’t feel like I had any material to work with. Well, you know that saying, the one that says something to the extent that God laughs at those who make plans, well I kind of feel like that’s happening to me lately except in regards to my statement about nothingvcrazy or interesting happing on the farm/vineyard.

Sometimes I think the Universe really tests me to see if I’m actually cut out for all this farm business. Like when I said the comment above the Universe was snickering and saying in response, “Oh yeah Amanda? We. Shall. See.” Like, the Universe was saving it all up for the past three days or something. I’m slowing starting to learn that there IS always a calm before the storm. And with David out of town, well, we all know by now something is bound to happen.

With the Coyote experience the other day I’ve been rather paranoid, limiting the amount of time my pets get to go outside and counting my sheep so often that people may just start worrying that I a little OCD. Shit, I am. I’m a total control freak!

Like I said in my previous post, I totally get why Coyotes are coming around and I can even respect it. I mean, we’ve invaded their territory really. One of the reasons more and more people are running into wild animals like coyotes, bobcats, and cougars is precisely that. We are living on the edges of their homes or on their homes. It makes me sad but I also don’t want to lose my pets because of it. I was talking with a guy yesterday and he mentioned that his buddy had his trapping license and I thought that maybe that would be a good idea. Until he told me what happened to the animal once trapped. I don’t really condone killing them unless it’s the very last resort.

But that is not really the point of this story. The point was, the Universe or God (whatever you believe in) likes to shake things up just when you start to think life is going smoothly..or is a little sleepy in my case.

So, he morning after I saw the coyot on our property I woke up early, restless about the state of my sheep. It was 5:30 am and I couldn’t stay in bed anymore, so I got up, and headed downstairs. Since I’m always up first in the morning I make the fire. I opened our back door and was immediately met with the hoots and howls of none other then a pack of celebratory coyots. My mind traced the possibilities of what they had killed, someones beloved cat or maybe a wild rabbit all the while praying it wasn’t one of my sheep. I got my wood and walked back inside, closing the door behind me.

I wanted to head out to the barn and check on my sheep but I knew that it was just too dark so I cozied up on the couch and did my morning meditation and waited till the sun was up.

The sheep were fine but hearing the sounds of those coyotes left me incredibly uneasy. With David heading out of town that day, I was scared of what may happen while he was gone. Luckily, Joel, David’s cousin lives on the property and I know I could always count on him to help when need be. So I went on with my day which involved walking the perimeter of the property with my dogs looking for possible holes where the coyotes could have gotten in. Maddy, our pitbull has the most incredible nose and immediately took me to three separate and large openings where something had dug a space big enough for her to climb under. After we finished our walk about I had Joel fix them with the hopes that those were the only spots and my sheep would be safe from now on.

Later that evening, around 7:30 pm, I let the dogs out to go to the bathroom. I’ve been hesitant the last few nights to do so and hung around the back door to make sure all was ok. When they didn’t return after a few minutes (they always do at night, especially when it is as cold as it has been), I threw on my jacket and muck boots and headed out to look for them. I didn’t have to go far. All three were standing on the side of the house barking at something.

As I got closer to the rail of the deck, whatever was out there got spooked and suddenly, seven sets of eyes ran past the barn on the gravel driveway. &*$%! My heart sank into my stomach and my first thought was that it was a pack of coyotes stalking my sheep! As I turned to run back in the house and get my phone I noticed that one of them had horns and quickly realized that they weren’t coyotes but rather some of my sheep. I squinted my eyes to get a better look because for one, it was pitch black out and there was fog as thick as pea soup, and notices another set of horns.

I turned quickly and ran back into the house grabbing my phone and called Joel. I told him he need to get down to the barn right away and hung up and headed back outside. Sheep are usually pretty easy to gain control over. If you get one to follow you, you get them all, and the goats, well, if you have a treat, they are sure to go wherever it goes. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case on this night.

As I started to walk across the lawn towards the barn I noticed that it wasn’t just the seven sheep it was ALL twenty-one sheep and our four goats. Crap, I thought. I must have somehow left the gate open in the barn which made it even worse, knowing that it was my own damn fault! I stood their frozen just starring at not seven pairs of eyes but TWENTY-FIVE! starring right back at me.

I thought maybe my sheep charming skills would work so I tried that first, cooing sweet nothings while holding out my hand as if I had a tasty treat for them. Lesson number one, sheep are a lot smarter then you think and have excellent senses so if I thought I could fool them into thinking I had something when I didn’t, well, the only real fool there was me!

So, I told them to stay put (please feel free to laugh at me now) and tip toed to the barn as not wanting to scare them into running in the opposite direction. Since we don’t really have sheep treats I thought of the next best thing, chicken food! I scooped a bunch into a bucket and headed back out shaking it back and forth, a sure signal to them that I ACTUALLY had a treat this time. But here was the thing. It was pitch black and foggy as hell so they couldn’t see that it was me and not some big, mean, mangy predator trying to lure them into a trap.  Heck, who am I kidding, most of them usually think I’m a big mean mangy predator even when it’s light out. But, I usually can always get the attention of one which means I’ve got the attention of  all. Not this time.

Starting to fear that I would have to sleep outside with my shotgun perched over my shoulder while I protected my flock, I started to panic a little on the inside, conscious of the fact that I could not let them smell my fear as it would only make it worse.

Finally, I saw the beam of Joel’s flashlight coming from the opposite direction. Unfortunately, I was standing right where they needed to go to get back into the pasture and with me there, they definitely wouldn’t head that way. I started to walking to the left,  the direction to get around them and must have spooked one of the wooly bastards (I say that with love)  because they took off around Joel and headed straight for the vineyard. If they entered it, we were done for. We’d loose them for good, until the morning when we could see where they went. Even more of an opportunity for a coyote to get one.

I headed off to the left and ran along the vineyard until eventually, they stopped. By this time, we were halfway up to the entrance of the property and I was starting to run out of patience which isn’t a good thing when you are working with livestock. I remembered what David had once told me when we were trying to move the sheep from the smaller pasture to the big one down by the barn. Never push them from behind, always flank them. So, I came up on their side and started to push them so to speak, back towards the barn. You are not really pushing them but guiding them with your body. With a momentary stop to graze on the grassy knoll by the garden, we finally got them heading back in the right direction on the gravel road and then they stopped again.

At this point, I was about ready to go get a dog collar and leash and start walking them back in one at a time. Seriously. I was. But I knew this really wouldn’t work because for one thing, I’d never catch them but also when a sheep doesn’t want to move, they put on their breaks by locking their knees. FINALLY, Joel go the attention of one of the goats and they all started to walk in a single file line back to the barn. Seriously. That is all it took. One minute they were determined to ignore our offers of tasty chicken treats and then the next, they just couldn’t deny their taste buds any longer.

With the exception of a few stubborn ones, they all made it back. I hid behind the gate as the last five pranced back in, slamming the door behind them for dramatic effect only to realize I needed to go in myself to make sure all were accounted for.

After my head count was complete, I apologized to Joel for my silly mistake and headed back into the house. As I finally got all cozy on the couch I laughed out loud thanking the Universe for adding a little excitement to my life. As much as I love to add the slightest touch of annoyance to my stories, I love every minute of it each adventure I have on the farm. So yes Universe, I DO think I’m cut out for this thank you very much!

My Love/Hate Relationship with Coyotes

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, something ALWAYS happens when David is gone, either out of town or gone for the day. I swear I’m being tested, for what, I’m not sure but I know I am.

As I’ve mentioned before, we do get the occasional coyote on the property and to be honest, I’m sure it’s more often then I care to admit because we’ve found plenty of Coyote droppings to prove that.  With our twenty-one sheep, four goats, four chickens and two cats, it’s like a feeding ground for the mangy  mutt-like animals. But as much as I hate them for the sheer fact that inevitably,  one of them will probably  kill one of my beloveds, there is a natural beauty to them that I respect but another reason I think the world would be a better place if everyone and everything was vegan :) .

So yesterday, as I was finishing up a meeting with an arborist in the yard, I bid him adieu and walked back onto the deck to head back inside. It’s was a gorgeous, sunny and bright day , one that makes you want to spend all your time finding projects outside to work on. As I was walking on the deck I happened to gaze out toward the far pasture bordering the vineyard. All the sheep and our goats were, from what I could see,  grazing around that area. I love glancing out there and seeing them all happy and doing what they love, eating.  My eye happened to catch  a glimpse of a silhouette of a dog walking towards the pasture. ‘What is a dog doing on our property?’ I thought to myself. My dogs were inside. It took a brief moment to register what it actually was.

Fixated on our sheep,  as I screamed at the top of my lungs, it glanced at me (from what I could tell from a distance) and I started frantically jumping up and down waving my hands yelling for it to get lost. This was enough to discourage him proceeding towards my flock but I knew if I didn’t do something he would simple hide out and wait till I was gone.

Since our shot gun is inside our house and I didn’t know if there were others with him, I decided to forgo grabbing any protection and ran towards the barn to jump on the RTV and drive out to make sure my sheep were okay. When I tried to start the RTV I noticed that it was in various pieces and I couldn’t use it. I leaped off and started hauling you know what as fast as I could out to the far end of the pasture. As I came up over the small grassy knoll, I stopped. What if I was too late? What if I was about to approach something that looked like a crime scene out of one of my trashy crime investigation shows? So I called David.

Out of breath I cried into the phone, “There…is…a…coyote…on…the…property.” Managing to get out between breaths.

“Calm down Amanda.” David replied.

“What do I do?”

“Go back in the house and get the shot gun and try to see if you can find the coyote.” David replied.

Ugh, thoughts of what I may have to do crossed my mind and I said a simple little pray that went something like this…”Oh God, Oh God, Oh God, Oh God…I am no fing cut out to shoot something that breaths!”

“Okay, Okay.” I said as I hung up the phone.

Instead of turning around right away I decided to head out to the pasture to make sure all the sheep and goats were okay. I could tell that they knew something was up. Most of them where back in the second pasture all huddled together except for my three favorite, they were all in the far pasture, oblivious, which is the problem. These three are so docile that they will be the first to go if that ever happens.

I counted my sheep, which were all present and accounted for, and headed back to the house to grab the shot gun, which really wouldn’t do me any good because I don’t know how to use it. I headed back out to the big pasture by the vineyard and stood guard until Joel, David’s cousin got back and could make his rounds looking for a hole along the fence the little bugger could have squeezed through.

While I was hanging with the flock I found myself thinking about how much these little guys mean to me and how devastated I would be if I lost one by way of a hunger coyote. Except for actually birthing these little guys, I’ve put a great deal of love and care into making sure they were healthy and happy.

I knew it would be unlikely that a coyote or even a few of them would drag the sheep off of the property (especially because there is an 8 foot deer fence around it) or even out of the electric fenced pasture. I’m not really sure they can jump the fence holding a sixty pound sheep in it’s mouth so chances are, if a coyote were to get one of my sheep it means I would be left to find the remains. The thought of it is heartbreak and makes me a little sick to my stomach. As much as I want to believe I am cut out for this part of farm life, truth is, I’m one hundred and fifty percent NOT. A, I get so emotionally attached to animals that they become pets and part of my family and B, even though I know the coyote wants to kill one of my sheep, I can’t help but find it a magnificent, courageous animal that is only trying to survive. I wonder if I could train a coyote to just be my pet? I kid, I kid!

So, while standing out in the pasture, I tried to talk some sense into my sheep but was only met with blank stares as they chewed their cud. I told them that they had to stay together, really speaking primarily to Money, Peter and Lilly, knowing well enough that they are the three that like to test the waters and wander off by themselves. I can’t blame them really, I mean, it would get pretty old hanging out with 20 of your family members day in and day out. I’d need to sneak off for a little R&R too.  And part of me loves that they are so fiercely independent and brave, or dumb and naive…however you choose to see it but I prefer to think of them like some of the other great explorers of their time who chose the road less traveled.

Lost in my thoughts, I saw that Joel had returned and I waited for him to meet me out in the pasture so we could debrief and I could send him on his way checking the perimeter of the property.

As I walked back to the house, racking my brain trying to think about how I can protect my animals, I realized that this is just another thing in life I can’t control. I need to turn this one over and just hope that they will be the lucky ones. That the universe realized how much I do not need a lesson in loss but rather one in trust and that it has my back.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Pasture?

I’ve mentioned several times how our pet chickens are just that, pets. We’ve spent a lot of time with them since we first got them in August of 2011, socializing them so that when we are around them they are friendly and approachable. But, we never thought they would be as friendly as they are today, not too mention, gutsy.

We decided to let our chickens be free range in our pasture back in late summer because we grew tired of having to move them around the property every couple of weeks. I’ve seen many other chickens roam completely free on other properties and David and I thought, why not try it out? Our only concern was the potential of one of our dogs getting too close but since they were in the pasture surrounded by an electric fence, we figured they’d be pretty safe.

So, we took down the smaller 40 foot electric fence surrounding their mobile chicken coop and let them run free and they were in chickie heaven. The sheep and goats were curious as to what they were and all of them came over to check out what was going on, sniffing them, trying to figure out what they were doing in their pasture. It didn’t take long until they were part of their flock following them to all corners of the several acre pasture. Sometimes I’d find them way out by the pond in the third pasture pecking the ground, completely unaware of how far they had gone.

But most of the time the chickens stay close to the barn where they now nested and laid their eggs. Gone are the days of opening the roosting boxes on the coop and discovering four perfect little eggs. Now we are lucky if we can find one because they end up laying them throughout the barn or maybe even in the pasture!  If you are a regular follower of the blog then you read this post on the time I discovered over fifty eggs in one spot. If you haven’t read it yet you can read it here.

Now our ladies are totally free range and are loving life to the fullest. The only problem is, regardless of the fact that they have about 5 plus acres of pasture to explore, they’ve grown bored and I believe they have the attitude that the grass is greener on the other side because they keep finding their way through the electric fence and in our yard. Sometime last week I saw Isis, our American Bulldog, standing at the front door looking out the window. She usually only does this when she either has to go to the bathroom or their is someone or something out there. So, I decided to take a look and this is what I found.

Chickens at the front door

Knock knock! Who’s there? Oh, just Big Red and her three silly sisters!

I couldn’t believe my eyes! All four of them were just hanging out on and around our front stoop. I called David over and we both got a pretty good laugh at this. Unfortunately, we needed to make sure that they wouldn’t keep doing this because of the dogs and cats. All it would take was one time and we’d be digging a grave for one of our beloveds.

So with a little investigating, I realized that they were slipping right under the gate leading in and out of the pasture but that didn’t mean I fixed it right away. So far the dogs and cats hadn’t payed much attention to the ladies so I thought we just might be in the clear until a few days ago that was.

I was out by the barn on the phone and had all three dogs out there with me and as I was walking back from getting something from inside the shop I noticed Coleman, our English Bulldog, chasing Goldie Hen, one of our chickens. Then Gwen, one of the other chickens started flapping her wings and running in circles and Isis took notice and started chasing her. Forgetting that I was on the phone, I screamed at Isis and Coleman and started chasing them around as they chased the chickens around. It was one big cluster you know what and I ended up getting two of the chickens back in the pasture and needed to find the other two.

Unfortunately, Isis found one of them first. I turned around and she was chasing Mary, lunging up as she was in mid-air and snipped her tail feathers. I ran and grabbed Isis by the collar, allowing Mary to run into the barn. I yelled at Isis to stay and ran into the barn after Mary. I found her hiding behind the stacks of hay and knelt down to pick her up. Poor thing was practically shaking. I’m sure she just saw her life flash before her eyes. I got her back in the barn stalls safely and realized I still couldn’t find Big Red. After walking around the inside and outside of the barn I finally went into the pasture hoping she’d be there. And low and behold, she was. Somehow in all the madness she managed to get back into the pasture on her own, unscathed.

When all the chickens were back in the pasture and I had a moment to collect myself, I put the dogs on the deck, locking them in, and headed back out to figure out how to fix the fence.  I found two old boards and sealed up the space where they climb through and they haven’t been a problem since.

I know one day all our animals will die but I’m hoping and praying they all go naturally and from old age. Nothing would be worse, in my eyes, then having to put one down because they’d been attacked by another animal. All of which is part of living in the country but one can hope, can’t they?

The Case of the Missing Eggs, er…I Mean Chicken

Our ladies have been faithful layers ever since they started laying back last January. While I was reading up on hen care I once read that they will slow their laying or stop all together during molting, which is when they lose older feathers and grow new ones. But the specifics of molting vary from hen to hen and usually don’t affect them until they are at least 12 to 14 months. Which is our gals exact age.

When we decided to get chickens it was really important to us to have a mobile chicken coop so we could move them all over the property to fertilize the grounds and do their natural job of cleaning up of various bugs, etc. The only downside to having a mobile coop is that we need to have some kind of electric fence that could protect them from potential predators. We got a 40 foot some what light weight fence that we could encase the ladies in that would give us piece of mind. Unfortunately, over time we got tired of having to move the coop and the fence every time we wanted to move them to a new location so we decided to let them be ‘real’ free range chickens and put them back in the pasture out by barn to roam freely with our sheep and goats. We knew the potential for loss was greater but we also realized they would be a lot happier having a huge chunk of land to explore rather then a 40 foot diameter of space. So, we parked the coop in one spot and its been there ever since.

All of our animals act somewhat out of what we’d considered to be normal character. Our goats, well, they I suppose act normal. Those crazy little guys. Goats are notorious for jumping fences, getting into trouble and causing their owners lots of headaches and ours are no different. Our sheep are very independent. They separate, sometimes wandering off by themselves to the far corners of the pasture and it stresses me out. Sheep are prey animals but they are also very intelligent. At least in my opinion.

Our chickens are very independent. When we first put them back in the pasture and let them roam freely they stayed pretty close to home, venturing only as far as the first little pasture but no further then the gate. As time went by I observed them getting increasingly braver moving into the second pasture, further away from their coop and the barn. But, I told myself that chickens will be chickens and at that point we were still getting our four eggs daily and all was fine and dandy.

 Our egg production started to decrease significantly over the past month and I naturally suspected that the ladies were starting to molt. I didn’t think much of it until the other day when one of our chickens went missing. Golden Hen is our  favorite. Her sweet disposition paired with approachability makes her the perfect hen. And she always laid great quality eggs. So naturally we were both saddened when we thought we lost her.

 D was out checking on the animals when he called me from his cell phone and told me that Goldie Hen was missing. I quickly ran out to help look for her. The other three hens were hanging close to home and we both thought it was abnormal for Goldie to leave her lady friends. If they do venture off they are usually all together or one hangs back by the barn or in their coop. Not the reverse. They never have ventured off into the other pastures by themself.

We searched all over for her but drew the conclusion that something must have gotten her and headed back inside with heavy hearts. It’s never easy losing a pet and our ladies are pets to us.

Later that afternoon I went back out to the pasture to check once again. Just to be sure and low and behold there she was. Just walking around, pecking at the ground. When she saw me she ran frantically, crouching down signifying to me that she wanted pets. I knelt down and softly stroked her back just happy she was alive and well. I decided that she must fancy one of the sheep and followed it out to the back pasture while it grazed and came back when it did.

The next day I let the gals out of their coop in the morning and headed back into the house to take care of a few things. Around mid-morning I headed back out to the barn to meet the mobile vet who was checking on one of our lambs and noticed Goldie missing again. Where the heck is she going I thought to myself. Once the vet left I walked the pasture once more to see if maybe I could find her. I went everywhere. In the woods, by the pond, to ever far corner but still nothing. As I walked back to the barn it hit me. I had noticed that the hens were crawling under the big long feeder that we have against the wall in the barn to feed all the goats and sheep. Maybe, just maybe, she’s under there.

This is a picture of the long feeder on one of the walls.

And I was right. As I crouched down low and behold there she was. Goldie Hen was tucked back on the far left corner, obviously brooding on something. I stuck my hand in to try and move her but she nipped at me. Crap. How the heck am I suppose to get her out? I realized this may be harder than I thought and I needed to see if she was laying her eggs there or if she was just nesting. I stuck my hand in once more bracing myself for her beak to meet my hand but this time she actually let me feel under her. What I found was horrifying.

Not one, not two or even three eggs but as I moved my hand around under her I could feel up to 20 eggs. Holy crap. Not only has Goldie Hen been laying under the feeder but Gwen and Big Red have as well. We had been getting green eggs consistently in their chicken coop so I knew Mary was laying hers in there. But all the others, they had made a nice nest under the chicken coop and were taking turns laying there. UGH!

A feeling of anger swept over me. How dare they!  Then I broke out in a fit of laughter. I realized we needed to find ever last egg that could possibly have been laid under the feeders otherwise they could potentially rot and attracted rodents and I don’t mess with rats.

So I called D’s cousin to come down and help me since D himself wasn’t home. If you remember my post about the lamb a week or so ago you may remember me talking about how something ALWAYS happens when D isn’t home. See, I wasn’t lying!

Joel came down to the barn and we slowly began removing the eggs one by one. In total, there were 53 eggs. That’s almost four and a half-dozen eggs. Eggs that people have been asking for but I hadn’t had any to sell.

Moral of the story? Chickens are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. Needless to say, we are boarding up the feeder so there are no more holes they can fit through. Hopefully, when all is said and done they will start laying in their coop again.

One could only hope.

Musings from the Farm – When a Lamb Gets Hurt

D was out-of-town on business last week and I swear, every time he leaves something happens to test me and usually it has to do with one of our animals. Last January when D went out-of-town our dog Maddy almost died. She wouldn’t eat, things were coming out from all ends (sorry), and she broke out in the worst hives I’ve ever seen. I spent the week going back and forth from the vet, emotionally wrecked and very scared. Another time D was gone all day at a conference right in the middle of lambing and one of the moms was rejecting her baby and was head butting it, pushing it against the wall, overall just being a horrible mother. I wanted to jump in there, swoop the baby in my arms and bring it into our home and raise it but I know that you have to let nature take its coarse and with a little manipulation she finally accepted him as her own.

So you can imagine I get a little fearful when D leaves because it’s a red flag that something is bound to happen with the animals.

I’ve said this so many times before but I have a deep desire to save every single animal I come across. For example, last Sunday as I was driving back home from visiting my family in Seattle I was about three miles out from being home and I noticed something flapping uncontrollably on the ground from the distance. As I drove by slowly I saw that it was an injured hawk lying upside down. A man and his wife had pulled over but I felt like I needed to do something as well. I had just read a story that hit pretty close to home. A woman rescued a baby rabbit from a neglectful owner who kept it outside in very cold conditions. She asked the owner if she could take the rabbit as it was near dead and she hoped she could possibly save it. She wrapped it in a blanket, holding it close to her chest, delicately petting the top of his head as they rushed to the vet. The bunny didn’t make it, dying in her arms before they arrived but it was what she said that made my heart melt and tiny bit more. It brought her comfort knowing that the rabbit died safe and warm in her arms instead of cold, scared and alone in his cage in the backyard. That’s how every animal should die.

I flipped my car around and drove back. I rolled down my window and asked the gentleman if he needed any help fully prepared to wrap that cold, scared bird in my own arms but as he loaded it in the back of his truck he said that it had died and I continued on home with a heavy heart.

I really hate when animals are sick or injured. They can’t communicate with you and it’s almost impossible to understand what is going on with them. We have a lot of animals on the farm and I know that eventually even they will get old and pass away and I suppose that is the only downside to having them. That inevitably, one day you wont.

Our sheep are especially dear to me because I was there throughout the whole process of lambing waiting in the winds to jump in and assist if need be. I cut umbilical cords, helped castrate, spent an abundant amount of time just sitting in their birthing jugs getting to know their little personalities and trying to get them to trust me. So as you can imagine these guys are extremely special to me.

I always thought sheep were so boring until I had some of my own. In reality their behavioral patterns are actually quite interesting and although they are somewhat skittish and often terrified of even their own shadow, they each have big personalities and bring us a lot of joy.

I have this funny habit of going out to the pasture at least once, if not twice a day to count them and make sure they are all there. Since sheep are prey animals and the lambs are still babies, I guess you could say I’m like a momma bear watching out for her young. If one of my sheep goes missing I am running all around that pasture looking for it which believe it or not, happens all too often. Our sheep are unlike normal flocks who stay together. Our sheep like to branch off and are a little too independent for their own good. They somewhat remind me of myself in that way.

So the other day as I was out counting my sheep I couldn’t find three of them. After discovering that they were way out in the wooded area of the back pasture I made my way back to the barn. As I was entering the entrance from the pasture I noticed that one of the lambs was limping pretty bad. It was Sweet Pea, the runt of the flock and also one of the most fearful. My first reaction was panic.  I’ve never been good in stressful situations. I’d make a horrible doctor. So here I am alone with a scared wounded lamb.  Great, what the heck do I do with this? My mind started working over drive and visions of having to put her down flashed before my eyes. I could see it all to well. Poor little me having to make such a big life changing decision, dragging my feet as I walk back to the house to grab the rifle slowly, unsteadily walking back out to the barn dragging the gun behind me as  tears stream down my face preparing for the worst thing you could ever ask me to do. Dramatic, yes but all I could think about was when a horse broke its leg it was done for. See why I’d make a terrible doctor?

I shook the thought off and got back to business. I knew I needed to separate her into a confined area so I could look at her but I had no idea how I would go about doing that. Since I had just fed them most of the sheep were in the barn eating which made it a little easier. But when I tried to get close to her she would get scared and run which only made matters worse. For her and for me.  Whatever was wrong with her leg, running was probably not good for it.

After luring Sweet Pea and about five other  into the two back stalls in the barn I still needed to get her alone in a small space so I could examine her leg. Easier said then done. Each time I approached her she would  quickly hobble around me and get all the other sheep frantic in the process. After ten minutes of trying I was so frustrated I called D practically in tears. I knew this little girl was hurt and she needed to stay off her leg but I was all alone and didn’t know what to do. D told me to just calm down and keep trying. He said it was probably just a sprain but that I had to get her alone to check for cuts or a snake bit. Excuse me? A snake bit? I was under the impression we only had harmless little gardener snakes or gopher snakes here. So now I’m dealing with snakes AND an injured animal. My two own personal ideas of hell.

I got off the phone with D with thoughts of big poisonous snakes flooding my mind and  was finally able to sneak up on her and put my arms around her torso lifting her into one of the birthing jugs that would contain her. I climbed in and tried to hold her still long enough to get a good look at her leg. I petted her and cooed in her ear promising her that I was only trying to help her, not eat her.  Fortunately, no snake bits or even a cut for that matter. Phew. I’m not sure what I would have done if there was a big gaping chunk out of her leg but knowing me, I’d probably curl up in fetal position and start crying or hyperventilating, most likely both.

I came to the conclusion that little miss just had a bad sprain which made the most sense. With no cuts or nails embedded in her hoof, it was the only logical explanation. Plus, if you’ve never seen a sheeps leg up close and personal they are skinny little things that look as if they would brake easily with one wrong turn. I was re leaved that no amputation would be necessary nor would be putting her down. A little R & R is what this ‘doctor’ prescribed.  A couple of days of forced relaxation and she’ll hopefully be back to normal.

I got her some food and watered and willed her to get cozy in her temporary home. She’s not happy though. In fact, I think she hates me now. She cries non stop and gives me the stink eye every time I go out there to check on her which of course breaks my heart a little more each time. On several occasions I almost let her out in hopes that it would convince her I was one of the good ones. How do you communicate to an animal that it is for their own good? All they really know is that you are holding them captive against their own will. But, sometimes you just can’t always be the nice guy. I know parents deal with this all the time. Sometimes you have to make the hard decisions, the ones that are best for your little ones.

And that is what I did.

She’s better now and running freely with her flock but I swear, every time I go out there  now she still gives me dreaded stink eye breaking my heat a little more each time.

I’d Like You to Meet the ‘Ladies’

D and I purchased 26 baby chicks about a year ago, when we still ate meat, and had the intention of butchering some and using the others for their eggs. Well, things changed and we knew we couldn’t eat them or their off spring and we ended up selling all but four of the ladies. I struggled with selling them because I knew ultimately their were few people around here who wanted a bunch of chickens as pets and that they may go to someone who would end up butchering most of them. We didn’t know what to do but knew we couldn’t keep this many chickens. I ended up posting them on Craigslist and fortunately a really great couple purchased them and I like to believe that they are all happy, roaming freely on their farm.

The four that we did end up keeping have slowly, over the course of the year, become more like pets to use. They honestly have their own funny little personalities . Anytime they see us they all come running over to the fence. Their coop is surrounded by a 40 foot electric fence which doesn’t seem to work very well because we always see one of the chickens poking it’s head through reaching for the grass that sits just on the other side. But I suppose it still gives us a little piece of mind with it up. Plus, the dogs really can’t be trusted, nor the cats or the occasional coyote that gets on the property.

These gals have a special place in our hearts. We’ve nursed one back from the dead, literally, and the other three just tug a little at our hearts as well.

Every morning they are we waiting patiently for me to come out and undo the latch and open the ramp which they come in and out of the coop from. I’m an early riser so this is usually around 6-6:30 am. If it’s any later they always raise a stick and you can hear them from inside the house voicing their frustration at you. They spend their day waking around their pen picking at the ground. On extremely hot days they go under their coop and sit in the shade until it cools off in the evening. They are, for the most part, creature of habit. When the sun goes down they automatically go back into their coop and wait for D to come out and lock them in.

When we first got the chickens, while they were still living in the guest room as little baby chicks, we had a Chicken Coop made from Gopher Boy Farms. They idea behind it was for it to be mobile so we could transport the ladies around the farm and they could fertilize the ground.

This is me cleaning it out during the winter. The hay from inside the coop is a great ingredient to put in your compost {in case you are wondering}.

Most days the girls give us an egg each; a blueish-green, a pinkish brown, a speckled brown, and a plan brown.  We decided that instead of throwing them out {since we don’t eat eggs} we would trade with our friends for other goodies like vegetables or fun house plants or we sell them for $5 a dozen.  We may as well cover their cost, right?

So without further ado, I’d love for you to meet ‘the ladies’.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

What Do You Do When Your Cat’s Stuck in a Tree?

Before moving to the country, I lived in apartments and homes where my cats were predominately indoors only. When we first moved into D’s home last May, I was hesitant to let my cats out because I was afraid that they would a) become food for something or b) get lost on the property and not be able to find their way back. Yes, I’m a tad bit paranoid but I love my little furry family members and wanted to shelter them from anything bad happening to them. But, they are cats and well, cats will be cats and they wanted to run free and feel the wind in their fur so I let them out during the day. Well, about two months after moving in my cat Lucy was killed by something at dusk and that left only Oliver, my fluffy tail orange Tabby.

Unlike Lucy, Oliver has always had a good understanding of the meaning of predators. That much was obvious whenever you watch him run across the yard. Hunched down, constantly looking around him and up into the sky whereas Lucy, God rest her soul, was completely oblivious to anything. She had no idea that there were things out there that didn’t want to be her friend.

When Lucy was killed Oliver went through a brief mourning period (he did, trust me. He seemed sad, very confused and lost) and that’s when I decided that Oliver needed to have a little more freedom. As much as I wanted to tighten in the reigns and never lose sight of him, but I knew that this just wasn’t going to cut it. Oliver has a longing for adventure and to hunt and there was no keeping him indoors.

So, he started coming and going as he pleased at all hours of the day and in no time he had made friends with D’s cousin’s cat Buddy and they explored the nights together. Every morning I could always count on my little buddy sitting on-top of the towel I placed on the BBQ, starring in the window to notify me he was ready to come in. Except, yesterday morning he wasn’t there.

My first thought was that it was unlike him and strange. He is a kitty of habit and I always knew he’d be on his spot in the morning. Unless, something was wrong and he couldn’t make it to his spot. I calmly put on my muck boots and jacket and told myself I had to go let the chickens out any way so I might as well check around the yard to see if he’d possibly forgotten which door to come to. I know, but seriously, I had to tell myself something because I was trying to remain calm and not let my mind go to those dark places where coyotes get on the property and find their way to my fluffy orange tabby.

As I walked around the yard I called his name hoping that he would just hop out from behind a tree as if he was saying “boo mom! I was just trying to scare you!” But he didn’t and I continued to call out to him. As I was walking back onto the deck, my heart aching fear and sadness,  I called once more and instead of silence, I heard a soft ‘meow’ in the distance and stopped in my tracks. I called again, and the same. “MEEOOOW!” Okay, I knew he was alive and that was good. But where was he? I walked back into the yard and called out again and again following the desperate cries in the distance until I was just on the border of the vineyard in a clearing that had three 60 foot pine trees. I stood at the bottom trying to figure out where he was until his last cry had my eyes trace up towards the sky and there I saw it. My poor, defenseless house-kitty stuck 30-35 feet up in the tree. WTH! How the hell did he get up there?

The tree

After a moment of just staring at him in sheer shock that he actually knew how to climb a tree, hey, he WAS a city cat after all, I turned and ran at full speed back towards the house to get D. You would have though the base of the tree was one fire with the speed I ran but my poor kitty was stuck up there and I’ll be damned if I did. not. do. something!

(side note: I have been known to go to great lengths to save animals so what I am about to share may seem… well, a little too much effort to some but to me, it’s all part of my make up…so don’t judge. lol)

I burst through the bedroom door out of breath and D starred at me in confusion as I tried to explain to him what was wrong. Bent over and out of breath, I finally managed to get out that Oliver was stuck in a tree ’40′ feet off the ground and he can’t get down!!!

“He’s a cat Amanda. Just leave him alone, he’ll climb down.”

“No, you don’t understand. I’ve NEVER seen him climb a tree before. I think something chased him up there and now he has no idea how to get down!!”

“What do you want me to do? I really think if we just leave him alone he’ll come down”

“Noooooo! You don’t understand!! HE. IS. STUCK! HELP HIM!”

I turned and ran back outside and did what any right minded, cat loving, country girl would do. I called the fire department.

After a somewhat embarrassing conversation with the woman on the other end, she basically told me to just get a ladder, place it against the tree with some food at the bottom and eventually, when he is hungry enough, he will come down. She OBVIOUSLY didn’t know MY cat or me.

A few moments later D joined me under the tree and after a few minutes of trying to coax him out I told him to go get the tallest ladder we have and a long rope, “I am going to get my harness and climb this bitch and save my cat!”

Not so much.

That idea was shot down quicker then it took me to tell him. “Fine, go get the tallest ladder and I’ll go get him some food and we’ll just place the ladder against the tree and try to entice him down with food. I’m sure he is starving since I just know he’s been up there all night long.”

After we got the ladder in place and the food at the base of the ladder, we decided that we would go inside for a bit and he would come down on his own. After an hour and a half I went back out and saw that he had made no attempt to get his butt out of the tree. At this point D was in a meeting with some vineyard people and I was left at the base of the tree talking to my cat. A few minutes later I saw Joel, D’s cousin coming out on the quad. As he pulled up his cat Buddy jumped off his lap and ran over to the tree. “Wait, your cat rides the quad with you?” My cat gets stuck in a damn tree and his cat rides quads? Awesome.

It took a moment but once Buddy realized Oliver was up in the tree he began to panic, circling the tree, meowing frantically and both Joel and I had to chuckle. They really ARE best friends. I thought that was just something I made up to be funny. Buddy sat at the bottom of the tree looking up and cried out to Oliver. I assumed he was trying to explain to my poor city cat how country cats go about getting out of tree. Obviously, right?

After 30 more minutes and Oliver almost falling out of the tree I started to panic. And after calling the Humane Society to see if they knew of someone who would rescue cats out of trees and being laughed at by the woman on the other end, I started to get angry.

“Isn’t there something we can rent to get up to his level and get him out?”

“Well, I can call and see how much renting a cherry picker is.”

“Do it.”

A few moments later, D’s meeting ended and he joined us back under the tree. I told him we were going to rent a cherry picker and they would lift me up to Oliver and I would grab him out of the tree. After a brief chuckle he realized I wasn’t joking. “This is what you really want me to do.” As he said it tears started welling up in my eyes and and I cried out that I didn’t want another dead cat and I certainly don’t want him dying by falling to his death! He said okay and Joel and D went back up to the barn to make arrangements.

Buddy and I stuck around the tree but after a few minutes and realizing that neither Joel nor D had left to go get the cherry picker I left Oliver in the tree and Buddy at the base crying up to him and went back up to the barn.

“What are you doing? Why haven’t you left?

“I just wanted to make sure you really want me to rent this thing.”

“Fine, don’t. Just let my cat die. But let me say this, YOU DON’T want to be around me if THAT happens!”

Just then David yelled out…

“$%@*, he’s on the ladder! He’s on the ladder!”

I took off running back out to the vineyard and low and behold, Oliver was balancing on the top of the ladder and by the time I reached it, he was scurrying down the tree to join Buddy. I ran to pick him up and make sure he wasn’t hurt in any way and he hissed at me. What the hell? He wanted nothing to do with me and he and Buddy frolicked off in the tall grass. When I eventually caught up with him and I picked him up and he growled at me. Wow, love you too little buddy. I can only hope that one day he will understand a mother’s love.

I carried him back inside and needless to say, guess who wont be going back outside at night any time soon?

Moral of the story is this. If your cat climbs a tree and gets stuck, just wait, he will climb down.

Do you have any fun cat stories? I’d love to hear them!

This post is linked up at Serenity Now!

Basic H2 Giveaway Winners Are…

Good Morning Everyone! Hope you had a great Easter weekend! We sure did! The weather was AMAZING and I even had the chance to get outside and get my hands dirty weeding. It was heaven!

If you happen to have a moment to jump on over to facebook and give up a good ol’ ‘like,’ we’d be forever happy :) And if you also want to follow us on Twitter that would be pretty heavenly as well.

Before I announce those who will be getting their very own sample of Basic H2,

I have some photos I snapped this weekend when we went on a walk around the property. Spring is making it’s presence (finally) and everything was soaking up the sun, especially us!

D’s mom and dad were in town and we took the puppies on a walk around the family vineyard, Omero Cellars. It’s hard not to feel proud when we take a walk around the property as a lot of blood, sweat, tears, joy and happiness has gone into this beautiful place. Nothing is better then enjoying it on a sunny day! We even thought one of our sheep was going into labor. Turns out not quite yet but soon. Very very soon!

And if this vineyard was here in 1960, this is what it’d look like.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend and the sun was shinning for you as well!

And here we are…

The recipients of a sample of Basic H2 are…

Elizabeth Hammett

Shaye

Tammy Morlan

Teri Capalby

Please email me your address at bullfrogsandbulldogs (dot) com so we can get you your samples! Happy Cleaning Ladies!

our first two eggs

It’s the little things in life that can be so unbelievably thrilling and satisfying.

Yesterday afternoon as I went to clean out the girls coop, I was met with the greatest little surprise ever. Our first eggs!

Back in August D and I bought twenty-six baby chick to raise, use their eggs, and butcher.

Well, things changed and somewhere down the line D and I transitioned into a Vegan lifestyle and eating the eggs and meat of our chickens (or any chicken) was no longer something we wanted to do and so we were left with a difficult decision.

What the heck do we do with all those chickens?

We decided we wanted to keep a few of our favorites and the eggs that they produced, we’d give away to friends and family. We ended up selling fifteen of our flock, a mix of hens and roosters, to a lovely couple who own The Collective, which is a farm and community cooperative development project. And although I still struggle with the fact the roosters will be getting butchered, there was no way we could have kept all of them with our hens starting to lay.

So what about our eggs?

Even though we’ve made the decision to not eat them anymore, we did decided to keep four of the hens for agricultural purpuses and becuase their poop is one of the greatest things you can add to your composting bin. And, because they are four of the coolest ‘chicks’ around!

And I have to say, finding those eggs was one of the coolest little surprises I’ve gotten in a long time. We knew that the little ladies would start laying in the next few weeks but honestly, I thought it would be closer to March then at the end of January.

So now, every morning when I pull on my muck boots and trek out to the pasture, hop over the electric fence (don’t worry, the top wire isn’t on but don’t tell the goats!), and open the side hatch of the coop, I will do so with great anticipation, knowing there will be four perfectly oval eggs sitting there waiting for me.

I’m so proud of our lil’ hens, just as a momma hen should be.

 

goober jr. – the sperm donor

With the onset of the flu earlier this week and family arriving today, Wine Country Wednesday and Feature Friday will be back after the holidays but for now, I thought I’d introduce you to our sheep’s sperm donor, Goober Jr, our rented stud-muffin.


Goober Jr. comes from Bide-A-Wee Farm just down the road  and I have to admit, he is quite the gentlemen. With his curious and extremely friendly disposition, he is exactly what we hope rubs off on our skid-dish ewes and their lambs.  With a little persistence and a lot of alone time, all seven our our ladies will be lambing baby Goobs sometime this spring.