Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Story from June 7, 2008

As an update:
Pete, our precious goose, died quietly last week. Upon reflection, my mother believes that he was one of a few geese that my father brought home to their pond in 1983. He was a sweet old man.

A Story from Merciful Hearts Farm
Deb Potter
7 June 2008

Last week I believe I mentioned that all of the lambs & kids had gotten their shots. In a few weeks they will need a booster shot & then they will be good for the year. The babies are really growing & their mothers are really growing tired of them. Some of the lambs are almost as tall as their mothers. This makes it tricky as a lamb or kid likes to run up under their mother's udder, butt its head up against the udder & then start to nurse. Now that the babies are so big they pop their mothers up off of the ground when trying to let down a little snack. The mothers, in an attempt to get a break from these big babies, are all standing at the gates of their own pastures hoping to escape to another pasture when one of us goes through the gate. I've felt sorry for the mothers so have been letting them into another pasture without babies for an hour or so at a time. I can tell when it is time to let them return because, even though I can ignore the babies who fuss & cry while mama is gone, when I hear mama start to answer back I can tell she is ready to rejoin her young. Sometimes rather than go back to her lamb, a ewe will just lay down on her side of the fence with her lamb right next to her but on its own side of the fence. This seems to make the lamb happy for nap time but doesn't do much if it wanted to nurse. The lambs are almost weaned & eat mostly grain & grass now.

The mothers have figured out that this is a nice arrangement. Unfortunately some have tried pulling the trick at bedtime. One night this week Mr. Potter went out at midnight to try to reunite a mother & lamb who had apparently gotten separated on his last trip around the farm at dark. We'd gone to bed & heard a lamb fussing but that is not unusual. Some of our babies are really “big babies” - they cry if their mother is at the other side of their own pasture. We didn't pay much attention. But as we tried to sleep the fussing got worse & worse. Finally when the mother started to call back we decided it was time for a trip outside. Once Falon & her lamb were back together the rest of the night was quiet.

Sally, one of the triplet goats, has also decided that she is tired of Liz, her kid. Sally has been waiting until Liz is napping to slip between the fence boards of the donkey pasture & go to the far end. When Liz wakes to find herself abandoned she calls for a while as Sally ignores her. Liz has been giving up on Sally & following Lila,our big white Anatolian Shepherd, around the yard. I first noticed this about a week ago. Liz is so taken with Lila that she does tricks for her. Liz jumps up on the woodpile, looks to be sure Lila is looking her way & then jumps off the pile, kicking her heels up as she falls. When she lands on the grass she again looks to Lila or runs over to her. It reminds me of children at the playground who spend as much time saying, “Watch this!” to their parents as they spend playing.

I originally thought that Lila was simply tolerating Liz but yesterday I came around the corner of the house with Lila walking beside me. Liz was sleeping by the door. Lila quietly stopped next to Liz & very tenderly licked her two times across the top of her head. Liz barely opened one eye, saw Lila & then just tipped her head back to be licked again. After one more quick lick, Lila went about her business which at the moment was to lunge at Ben, the one-kidney cat, just to remind him that she is still in charge of the yard. He scurried up a huge weeping cherry tree, stretched out on a fat branch & began to lick the funny spot where his hair is still growing back after his surgery. Lila didn't seem to shake him up too badly; he is just happy to be well enough to get back outside for part of each day.

On Monday 78 new chicks arrived at the post office for us. I was busy as artist-in-residence at a school so Katy ran to the post office at 6:30 in the morning, retrieved the big box that they were packed in, unloaded them into the bathtub & got them fed, watered & under a heat lamp for the day. They were all strong & healthy. I love just-hatched chicks! They have the shape & heft of a big marshmallow with feathery fluff all over. It is amazing that they immediately start scratching & pecking at things. They easily found their chick starter food & had no trouble with the water dish. But they are babies so they will be busy eating, chirping & looking around one minute & will be flat on the ground sound asleep the next. They nap, eat & drink all day long but it seems napping is their favorite thing to do.

On Tuesday morning Katy & I moved all the chicks into big empty water troughs in the chicken house. They have lots of space & a heat lamp just in case but it has been so warm during the day that they haven't needed it. The adult hens can come & go into that room & have decided that they prefer to eat chick starter rather than their regular feed. There are 3 big fat hens that I spend much of the day throwing out of the chicks' home each time I go outside.

This very hot weather has made a few extra chores for us this week. The dogs gradually shed their heavy winter coats in the spring but since they were not done shedding I've brushed & brushed them. That wouldn't be such a bad job except that we are working outside with the warm winds whipping the dirty loose dog fluff up all around me. It sticks all over my clothes & skin so I try to brush dogs at the end of the day & go right in to a shower.

The animals are adjusting to the heat in their own way. They have spots that they like to lay in that are either shady or are at the crest of a hill where a breeze blows through. There are also a few spots in the old barn where, because of the way the doors line up, the air moves all day long. The dirt floor in the old barn stays cool so the goats prefer to lay there. The cows like it down in the woods by the creek. I came down the hill to find all the cows & calves lounging in a big black heap at the edge of the creek. The only movement was a rare tail swish to keep the flies stirred away. Everyone is still just fat & happy – they just have their little heat-beating routine.

Water troughs need to be checked on every trip outside. Because I bring eggs in five or six times a day with hot weather, there are plenty of trips outside. We use automatic waterers in a lot of the troughs but sometimes those hang up & don't work right so we always check water no matter what. And I like to run the water for Pete, the old goose, at least once a day. He has plenty of drinking water but he loves for me to hold the hose & spray him.

Pete has been especially busy lately supervising 4 little ducklings that just hatched. He follows them around as their mother leads them. He loves to sit at the bank of their little pond & just watch as they scurry down the dirt all in a perfect row, hop into the water & glide around a bit. For no reason I understand, the first duckling will suddenly head to the bank with all following. It will slip & climb back up & away they will go to find their mother who has been resting at the side of the pond. She stands up, stretches & marches them off with Pete following a few feet behind. They will go back to the nest box where she tucks them all back under her, apparently for a little rest. Pete simply walks away to check on his regular ducks. It is hard to believe that Pete has been a part of our family for over 25 years now!

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