The Critters

I write about most everything in the day-to-day God gives me here on this crazy little farm, and sometimes it’s hard to separate how I think about a thing from the perspective that comes from living and breathing with a mosh podge menagerie of funny little animals. I wrote a piece about that once here. This has become the frame through which I see life.

But it dawned on me this week that while I use each and every kid and critter as influence and inspiration to write stories and tales and essays, you haven’t even met our animals!

Without further ado, here are the critters on This Crazy Little Farm.

Wishes is the itty bitty horse that started it all. Ever since I was nineteen years old and visited a circus freak show and my then-boyfriend (my now-husband of twenty years) thwarted my attempts to rescue the tiniest little equine God ever made that was squished up in a corner of a small pen with the heat of shop lights beating down on it and tears leaking out of the corners of its eyes, I put my  hand over my heart and vowed I’d one day have a little tiny horse of my own to love. I met this one almost three years ago. She didn’t bat an eye when I let my wild brood of little kids out of the car. And her name was Wishes. That kinda sealed the deal for me. 🙂

Iphone photos Summer 2013 849

How beautiful is she? She was kind of the herd outcast on the farm where she lived before coming here. She’d eat after all the other horses were done and would finally let her in. She’d just hang off to the side of all the action. The sweet lady that sold her to me made me promise to take good care of her.

She gets fed first every day here. And she eats in her favorite spot, right under the big spruce tree by the barn. I get this horse. She marches to her own tune and plays a feisty act but when I call her in for some love, her eyes go soft and her crust melts. Her favorite thing ever is to spend the afternoon on the lawn, munching her fresh green grass then dozing a bit between watching her kids run and play. This horse is my kind of friend and I pretty much adore everything she does.

 

Our other mini, Charlotte, along with her mama, had been owned by a friend years ago. She sold the two of them to a family four hours away who eventually outgrew them (they were tall minis but still very small horses). They were both up for sale when the mama horse died. My friend, devastated, told me about this and thought I should buy the remaining horse and bring her to our farm. I said no, Wishes was plenty enough horse for our barnyard. And then I looked at Charlotte’s photo.

I drove up that weekend and would’ve put her in my SUV if I could’ve made her fit. I paid a horse hauler bring her down as soon as the mountain pass was driveable. Charlotte took one look at our barn, laid her red body down and claimed it as home.

I would describe her personality but this picture pretty much says it all. What it doesn’t tell you though, is that when she gets a wild hair and tries to be a rodeo star, she’ll buck and run like a wild stallion and every.single.time she’ll let out a stream of old grandma toots, filling up our barnyard with staccato sounding gun fires. We could watch this show all our livelong day, she never ceases to make us laugh.

This is our big boy, Beau. He’s really not that big in horse world, just a pony at 14.2 hands, but to us and to our minis, he’s kind of like a Clydesdale. Beau is my daughter’s first horse and we couldn’t have found a more perfect match for her to learn on. He is mellow, he is well-trained, he is gentlemanly and he has good manners. We have learned so much from him, how to trailer horses, how to give shots, how to ride, how to nurse an illness. He is gentle with my girl and gentle with our minis and he fits this farm perfectly.

This crazy looking creature…oh, has she got a story. She came to us after we lost our loyal and faithful servant yellow lab Bo four years ago. I’ve just recently finished writing a small memoir about her story and how God answered the prayers of my children when he made our path cross with this dog. Her name is Annie but in secret we call her the Admiral. Admiral Annie has an icy blue eye on e.v.e.r.y.l.i.t.t.l.e.t.h.i.n.g that goes on round here. We’ve calmed her prey drive enough to where she no longer looks like she’s going to pee herself when she sees a small critter, but honestly, she knows where each and every animal is and exactly what it’s doing at any given second. She used to bark non-stop to announce to the world that she really was watching, but a bark collar put an abrupt stop to that. She pouted on the porch for the full first day we had her on barky lock-down but has gotten over her bark boycott and now just watches like a hawk from her usual spot and stares instead of barking. Nothing escapes her. Nothing.

This is the Admiral’s pup. While nothing escapes Annie, EVERYTHING escapes Daisy. Unless it’s in the trash can. Or on the counter tops. Or dropped on the floor. Then she’s ON IT. We tolerate Daisy because God sent her too. But some days I forget that and secretly pine for the days when we were a one-dog family. Don’t tell her that though. Because really? Deep down, her obsessive toe licking…the annoying way she’ll flop her head on your belly when you’re just trying to watch a movie…the aggravating way she’ll prop her rear half up on the couch while she keeps her front legs planted on the floor…all those dumb silly things kinda bring a goofiness to the house that we couldn’t find in a better mannered dog.

This is our Joe, the best barn cat in the whole wide world. We brought him and his litter mate sister home two summers ago and my girls, Little Women fans, quickly named them Margaret and Joe. Yes, they knew Joe-in-the-book was a girl. They didn’t care. Joe was just a Joe.

I wasn’t a cat person before these cats came along. Joe has converted me to the bones. This cat. THIS cat. Really. He’s like that.

My poor husband, he hasn’t had a garage of his own since we moved into the place fourteen years ago. I told him just recently that it’s time we build a garage. For Joe. That’s how much I adore this cat. A warm, heated place where he can get out of the snow, something warmer than the kennel I keep stuffed with straw for them, something warmer than the hay tunnel I begged my husband to build for them, something warmer than the chicken coop with a heat lamp. Oh, we bring them in if it gets too far below zero, but house cats they aren’t. Margaret gets panicky and starts looking for a way out and Joe gets hot. He’ll flop down though and look at us like “it’s about high time!”

Joe needs a garage, yes?

Oh my goodness. The goats. Yes, the goats. We went to the goat farm to buy a doe for Wishes so she’d have a little herd and I’d have a little goat to breed then milk. The goat gal threw in a wether for free so we brought him home too. Shortly after bringing them home, we got my daughter’s pony and decided we didn’t want more busy on top of wintering a horse for the first time. So Ruby escaped the joy of kid reading and now the goats just kind of free load and plot and scheme how to bust out of the pen and in between all that planning and conniving they lay around sun bathing and eating bon bons.

They’re wily. They’re sneaky. They’re pesky and frisky and like toddlers.

And they’re dang cute and funny so we let em stay.

the goats

 

 

Oh look, it’s another one of Joe. How’d that get in there?

Every farm needs a rooster right? Well, every farm needs chickens, and our farm needed hens and hens are what we picked. But when we picked UP that ONE hen, well, it fell on the floor and no one knew for sure if it was going to pull through so the sweet lady threw in another chick just in case. That other chick grew and grew and while we didn’t know much about chickens at the time, we knew that all the extra red on the head and under the jowls might mean that our freebie extra hen was really a rooster and sure enough, the COCKADOODLEDOOOOO finally cemented it for us, so our Ms. Lolly became Sir Lolly.

And then his foot got stuck in the coop door and the mangling was just too much to heal on its own and we couldn’t get our farm vet on the phone and splinting seemed much too complicated for his wounds so out came the wire cutters and I held him and we all sweet talked him and my husband did what husbands do in situations such as these and before we knew it, we had a healing rooster roosted in our bathtub, surrounded by wood shavings and a bath towel and sweet healing music. Thus began his reign as Sir Lolly the Two-Toed Rooster.

He keeps the hens in line. His foot healed perfectly. He got his rooster cocky on at about a year old. I think somewhere though, in his little chicken brain, he remembers what my husband did to him with those wire cutters because, while he’ll pretend to get cranky if we come too near his hens, he tends to run the other way if a big person comes round.

 

{{Oh, and the hen that fell? She turned out just fine. She is the smallest of the flock and tends to be a little spacey, but she is a happy little hen that the kids named Sweetie}}

Iphone photos Summer 2013 770

Two of our flock of seven, this is Auntie Gertrude and April. We started last year with these two, Sweetie and Lolly. We were asked to take a flock of eleven last summer when a local family had to downsize and we kept several of those for our coop and passed the rest on to a family that wanted some laying hens. We have these two, some Barred Rock, and several Russians. I’ve gotten used to hearing “Mama!! The Russians laid an egg!!” or “Mama!! The Russians are out!!” Last week it was, “Mama!! One of the Russians is DEAD!!” It was a sad little day. I just have to hope our neighbors understand we’re talking chickens over here.

 

We learned a very important life lesson when we purchased what we thought were three female rabbits and soon after discovered that one was indeed a male. Even doing the most logical thing (having your farm vet come out and neuter said male rabbit on your kitchen table while your children don their surgical masks and learn the ropes of testicle dissection) won’t guarantee that your hutch will be non-reproductive. You see, what we learned, is that when your vet says to WAIT before putting the male back in with the females, assuming he’s just being overly cautious and cutting short the time he indicated by 14 days isn’t WAITING long enough.

We also learned that rabbit pregnancies aren’t like human pregnancies, i.e., rabbits don’t whine and cry and rub their bellies all the time while they put their feet up and beg their husband to go on a Double Fudge Brownie run..again. No, rabbits just pretend that everything is fine, giving you that blank stare at morning feed as if it’s just another normal ol’ day in the hutch until WHOAH! that night you go in and see bare naked little pink things squirming around in a furry pile of baby rabbit nest.

And you’ll listen to your children squeal and scream like a grown up on a Publisher’s Clearing House commercial except the prize this time isn’t eleven million dollars but eleven million baby rabbits from two different mamas.

Okay well, maybe not QUITE that many, but man oh man do those mamas have a lot of babies!

This one is Junior. He was Runtie but then he grew up strong and healthy and got a new name. We found homes for all but one of our baby rabbits, have seen some in rabbit shows and at the fair, and my kids still talk about how we had babies on the barnyard.

While not exactly FARM animals, these little critters are a big part of our life and our day-to-day animal care. It all started with the one that Santa brought and then the next thing I knew, I’m packing up the truck to take my little guinea pig owners and their herd to sanctioned guinea pig shows where ladies driving vans with personalized guinea pig licensed plates and wearing blinged out guinea pig necklaces brush the flowing locks of their champion therapy pigs with soft bristled, silver-plated hair brushes.

Yeah it’s like that.

And I guess that’s just how it works when you’ve got kids who love animals and are in 4-H.

My son found a breeding pair at said show and spontaneously decided his life’s calling was to become a guinea pig breeder. I snorted and told him he had to call his dad about that one. Ha I said to myself. I won’t even have to be the bad guy.

His daddy said Sure, Why Not? It’ll be good for him.

Sue and Angus have borne my professional guinea pig breeder four pups {the correct name for a guinea pig baby}, one of which sadly was born deformed and perished after two days of tender care from my son. Out of the other litter of three, he made some profit by selling two. To his sisters. He then decided the third couldn’t possibly be sold just to go to a home alone, away from her mama pig and the people she’s always known.

So. You can see how that career panned out. It’s a good thing he’s only twelve.

Really though, having these pigs has been a great thing for my kiddos, they’ve learned SO much about responsibility, care of small animals, paying attention to something other than themselves and how to share. They cart their pigs down to the local fair every year and have shown them in formal judging situations, and better yet, they hang out in the small stock barn and share their pigs with the public and have helped to educate many folks to the joys of owning a small animal. I’ve run into folks in town who have, in small town talk, told me all about the guinea pigs they met down at the fair and when I tell them, yeah, those belong to my kids, they are just thrilled to share how sweet and helpful and knowledgeable my kiddos were with their guinea pigs. I’ve seen my boy take his guinea pig across the barn for the sole purpose of letting a little girl he’d spotted with Down’s Syndrome pet it and her smile will forever be etched on my heart.

I’ll put up with a few little rodents for that kind of sweet.

See? I told you. Eyes on e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. Admiral Annie.

 

Oh Joe…how’d you get in here againnn? {{Did I mention we adore this cat?}}

 

That’s our farm. We’ve had the occasional surrogate come through…neighbor rabbits who take up residence for a few months then move along…our sweet hedgehog Patrick Hugo that graced our home for just under two years before succumbing to Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome…a pup that we fostered until finding other placement…we’re just kind of all about animals here. We’ve decided we’re pretty much full up on critters and have just settled into loving and learning from these ones right here. We won’t add more I don’t think. We’ve got the perfect blend of species and personality right here, right now.

Unless we were to find a fainting goat. We’ve decided that would be an animal that definitely belongs here. THAT’s the kind of animal that would fit perfectly…

…right here on this crazy little farm.

3 thoughts on “The Critters

  1. New Earth Paradigm

    Beautiful story of your life and your farm! Keep writing — so delicious! I grew up on a chicken-sheep farm but always had a collection of cats and dogs. My grandfather had been in the Jersey dairy business for decades and then turned to the smaller animals in his “retirement.” Then, along in his 60s sometime, he went out and bought ONE jersey calf. My grandmother rolled her eyes — she could see where this was going. Shortly, my grandfather had 10 jersey cows that he was hand milking twice a day.

    For the past six months I’ve been living in Morocco in semi-rural areas where there are lots of chickens, goats and donkey’s — you might consider a donkey, they’re pretty crazy. I’ll refer you to one of my posts about a certain rooster who had a unique call. He was one of a kind and I haven’t yet heard another rooster here with a call like his.

    In my teen years, our Presbyterian Church in the Two Rock Valley, Near Petaluma, CA had a pastor by the last name of Rankin. You wouldn’t happen to be a relation, would you? Blessings to you and your family, Alia
    http://wp.me/p2BC2S-IL

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