If I had blog, today I would write about the fact that when I am running the farm by myself I don’t have time to blog. My day starts early, around 7:00. My first order of business, after starting the coffee, is to let the dogs out and feed the hummingbirds. I swig my coffee and down a bowl of cereal while the dogs circle like sharks homing in for a feeding frenzy. I could feed them before I eat, but I’d pass out from hypoglycemia before I got my own breakfast. Feeding three, very opinionated, elderly dogs, is quite a process.
Bree, the eight year old Pyrenees whose motto is: “If you can’t be smart, be regal,” won’t stand up to eat. If I put the bowl down before Bree has positioned herself, she will lay down on the dish and end up wearing her food. Even so, I often have to wash her shaggy neck after breakfast, especially if wet dog food has been involved.
Hank, the eleven year-old yellow lab, is a grazer. When he’s at home with David and Kindra, he has free-choice food and nibbles all day, but when he’s in Doggy Daycare at my house, its eat or be eaten, so I have to keep encouraging Hank to return to his food before Owain descends. Owain, the eleven year-old border collie is the smartest, and fastest, dog in the world. Even with hip dysplasia, he can whip in and clean up everyone’s leftovers in just a few seconds. That might not seem like a problem, but since we’re dealing with geriatric dogs, everyone takes medicine and no one takes the same kind, so there’s no sharing of food at breakfast. So, in the end, my job is food referee. Once the dogs have gone out again and are secure in the knowledge that the proper scent is dominating the yard, they crash for a morning nap. That’s when I go to the barn.
Regardless of the weather, the horses are waiting at the gate when I drive into the barn lot. Their long night of grazing has tired them and they are ready to come in, stand under their fans, and eat hay during the hot part of the day. If I am late, my big paint horse, Rain, will be six inches taller than usual, boring holes in me with her stare of desperation. Before I bring the girls into the barn, I fill their mangers with hay and put a handful of feed in their bucket. If I fail to do this, Nika, Mom’s Arabian, squeals and bangs on the wall with her hooves until her needs are met. It reminds me of my first job, working in a daycare. If only horses responded to “time-outs.”
Once the equine contingent is munching hay, I feed the barn cats. Toby and Miranda want their breakfast, but they also want their morning tete-a-tete. It often comes just before I leave the barn, but I always make time to sit on a hay bale and love on my two tiger-cats. Miranda is the last surviving member of three siblings I adopted in 2003. Her brother Viggo and sister Tasha have passed on, but soon after Tasha left us in 2012, a new yellow cat entered my life. His name is Toby and I suspect he found me after his owner, an elderly neighbor, died. Wherever he came from, Toby is a sweetheart and his soft, tawny coat matches Miranda perfectly.
Then its off to meet the needs of the poultry. Two of the feathered-folk live at the barn: Edward, the huge, black and shiny rooster and his life-mate, Ferdinand, the white and fawn runner duck. Ed and Ferdie have their own digs because they were a little too randy to live with the lady-birds. Edward is too big to “tread” my smaller hens and ducks just have a different sensibility when it comes to romance. Feather-pulling is a integral part of the ducky love-dance and since all of my lady-ducks perished in the coyote massacre of 2010, Ferdie was turning my hen-house into a nudist colony. Fortunately, Ed and Ferdie are very happy together and, in today’s world, I think it is lovely they can live together without fear of discrimination.
Once I’ve filled Ferdinand’s swimming-pool and offered Ed some mealworms, its off to the hen-house. My girlie-birds used to be free-range, but after the massacre, when I lost fifteen beloved hens in twenty-four hours, the flock is now restricted to getting their fresh air in the safety of their coop. Every morning, they are waiting at the little chicken door, like a group of nuns called to morning prayer. I let them out, feed and water them, and head back to my house, where I have one last family member to feed.
Because having the standard fare of domestic animals was not enough, we also provide living quarters for a three-toed box turtle. Mr. Turtelle (Telly for short) has been our friend for almost twenty years. Until 2011, Telly was a wild turtle who summered in our yard. He’d arrive in May, patiently waiting by the back door for a handful of grape-tomatoes or apple-bits. We fed and watered him through the heat of summer days, then, with the coming of frost, Telly would vanish into the forest to hibernate until spring. In 2011, that changed. One fateful night, Telly got into the garage and when Dad went to work the next morning, he accidentally backed over our beloved Turtelle. Telly’s shell was cracked (thank goodness it wasn’t fully broken) and one leg was almost torn off. It was an awful day, but thanks to a very kind veterinarian, we pulled Telly through the worst. The only lasting damage is Telly’s inability to retract his injured leg and it is because of this, he cannot return to the wild. The leg would make Telly vulnerable to predators during the summer and to frost-bite during the winter, so now he lives with us. He has a spacious terrarium in our spare room where we keep his humidity and temperature at optimum levels year-round. He has a UV by day and a infrared heat-lamp by night, a bathing pool, a basking stone, and his own iPod that plays bird songs during the day and night sounds after dark. Telly does quite well for himself, dining on earthworms, tomatoes, and apples. He is my Turtle Prince and I am The Worm Goddess, dispensing bounty from on high. I am honored to serve such a noble creature.
Now, with the morning round of animal care is done, its almost eleven and time for lunch. After that I’ll start watering the yard and feed the hummingbirds. Soon it will be time for afternoon chores to begin, but, to be honest, there’s no where on earth I would rather be.