Every now and then I get this lightbulb that shines bright in my dim thinking. You know, things that don't make any sense to a normal person. For example, "Let's give the outdoor farm animals a bath!” After all, Laci, Sparky and Dunkay seemed a bit dirty because every time I petted them, a cloud of thick dust would float up into the air like an exploding nuclear bomb. Thus, on one slow, boring day this past summer, I came to the conclusion that I was tired of having dirty animals. I decided they would feel much better if they got an old-fashioned scrub down. I bought my horse shampoo, brushes and towels, and picked a nice warm day so they wouldn't catch a cold and cost extra money in vet bills.
I tricked the three of them to the fence with the promise of tasty goat grain and quickly tied them up in a row. I was ready! I started with Laci since she moves and stands like her nick name ... Tank. I hosed her down with ice-cold well water, which made her perk up, doing a slight trot dance as the other two sidestepped away as far as they could from the splashing water. I thought to myself, 'Heck this isn't so bad, I should do this once a week.'
I rubbed, washed, scrubbed, rinsed and sweet talked Laci until she sparkled. I set her free, and she stood there, not moving. Great, I traumatized the horse. I gave her a push, she still didn’t move. I shrugged my shoulders and yelled, "NEXT!" The other two now understood what 'next' means and tried to wiggle themselves out of their harness. I baby talked Dunkay, letting him know that baths are "Fun and good for you ... see how happy Laci is?" Of course, Laci continued to stand there comatose.
Dunkay wasn't buying it, neither was Sparky. At that point, I started to get a bit agitated, so I firmly let him know that 'I rule, he drools' as I sprayed him with the ice-cold water. He kicked up his back legs and let out an extremely loud HEEHAW! He settled down after the soap and soaking subdued him. I washed that donkey as fast as I could. Dunkay had enough of me and soap and ran to the back pasture. Two down, one to go.
Laci was still standing there, and by that time I started to wonder if she was in shock. I decided to revive her by turning to Sparky with sudsy bottle and hose in hand. We then made eye contact. She glared at me so I told her the same story I told Dunkay about having fun by getting clean! She squinted at me more and turned her butt toward me as if to let me know that one more step I better expect hoof marks on my legs. I refused to let a mini-horse intimidate me so I stepped toward her. Yep, she kicked at me and, fortunately for her, she missed. I did the 'let's try to get close to the horse’ dance for about 5 minutes when I gave up and sprayed her down from a distance to get some of the dirt off. Finally, I was able to set her free, and she galloped to Dunkay who responded by rolling over on his back in a mound of dirt.
And then there was Laci as she was still standing next to me with a blank stare. I took my hand and waved it front of her eyes, she didn't blink or even look at me. I gathered my stuff, walked out the gate and threw all my horse shampoo, brushes and hopes for clean animals into the trash can. The executive farm lady decision was made – there would be no more baths for the remaining life span of all the outdoor animals on this farm. That was my one and only attempt this past summer to bathe large animals. I thought about doing the llamas for a split second, but decided that the horses were way too much fun, why spoil it?
I opened our back pasture today. It had been sealed off to all grazing animals for about two months so the grass would grow long and tasty. The more grass we had, I reasoned, the less hay I would have to feed them and the more money in my pocket. I walked out there to open it up, and every animal ran to the gate and stood there before I even got close. It’s like they had 'green grass radar'! I wished I had my camera as I walked shaking my head all the way to the gate. Waiting for me to hurry up were three llamas, one alpaca, a donkey and two goats with non-stop baaaahhhing. I did my 'crazy farm lady yell' so they would move. Did … not … work. I swear they huddled closer to the gate as if to say “Let the games begin”!
Boy llama Sammie nudged lady llama Sweetie out of the way which made her angry, so she spit on him. This in turn caused alpaca Lincoln to head bump her out of spite. And, you guessed it, that sparked llama Violet to come to Sweetie’s defense and she spit a green cud at Lincoln who turned around and spit back! Oh brother, all that drama in less than 10 seconds or so. That gave Dunkay the opportunity to sneak up to the gate so he could be the first one in!
So ... the donkey was in my way because he stood next to the latch, waiting, watching. The llamas had since taken their dispute to the middle of the field which left me, a donkey, two loud goats and a couple of flapping chickens. I shook my head, pushed Dunkay out of my way, which by the way, was the wrong thing to do. That gave my mountain goat the opportunity to bully herself in front of me pressing her wet nose against the metal mesh, loud baaaahhing all the way. I then grabbed her collar, forced her behind me so I could finally open the stupid gate before the spitting gang hustled toward us again.
Guess who was there waiting to run in? Yup, our awkward pit-lab mix Biskapit! He got through the gate first and he wasn't supposed to be out there. The sight of a Pit running around like a wild man as two goats pushed past me and Dunkay trotted close behind with his nose inches away from Dillon's butt. I turned around to look where the gang was, They were stampeding toward me! I jumped to the side and snickered to myself as I knew four large animals cannot press through an opening made for a human, at least not all at once. Somebody was going to have to slow down and let the other ones go through first. Nope, they all ran toward the gate, three llamas, one alpaca ... they squeezed, spit, grunted and shoved through the small opening together. Yep, that's my life.
Dunkay and friends in quieter times.
Sweetie being sweet as the goats chow down.
Sierra and Dillon the staring goats
There are times when the farm is hard work, not just physical body shaping work, but inside my heart. We've had animals die this year, one after another. It started with "Little Boy" barn kitty this spring. He was best buds with the visiting possum last winter as the two shared bites of cat kibbles on top of the kitty condo. Little Boy and Mr. Possum were two peas in a pod in a most unusual friendship. I found my favorite barn feline under our bushes out front next to the road. It looked as though he had been struck by a passing car and tried to crawl home to be near his family before he passed. It was a sad day for me. Chad and I buried him next to the duck pen where he would sit watching the quackers splash in their green turtle sand box with feathers flying for him to chase. We marked his grave with a deteriorating cement turtle.
Next came a couple of chickens and our quakers (ducks!). One hen drowned in the llama water bin and the other became dinner to a wild animal. All we found of her were mixed color feathers scattered around our backyard. That's when we decided to lock them up at night, which makes them very unhappy. Then two of the ducks passed away. The first quacker became sick and he laid inside the little nest I made for them as the other two stood near. They wouldn't leave their sick friend until he passed. Three weeks later, another duck went to join his buddy in the crystal clear lake up in the heavens as he and our young puppy Biscuit got too close.
Without a doubt, the greatest loss was my beloved and constant companion puppy dog, Tribble Addie, who was taken by a speeding driver who didn't bother to stop. I held my precious dog for hours afterwards crying into his soft, warm body. I never knew a heart could shatter into so many tearful fragments. I couldn't be there when Chad laid him to rest next to the west viewing porch as my sobbing wouldn't let me. I watched from my upstairs bedroom and clutched a plush dog that looked like my Tribble close to my broken heart. Chad placed a concrete angel laying in a woven basket on his grave. It rests next to the covered porch where we watch golden sunsets dance across the darkening skies every evening. It's almost like Tribble is with me. Sometimes, I close my eyes, believing that he is curled on my lap.
Two short months later, our 17-year-old retriever Cody passed. He was incredibly faithful and simply an amazing dog through the years for our family. His failing body gave out, he needed to feel young again. He went to join Tribble and the boy barn kitty to play, chase unlimited bunnies and to be free without pain!
Recently, our mini horse, Sparky, joined God's awesome army of white horses getting ready for the upcoming battle! She laid down in the barn and simply stayed down and trotted into heaven with her white mane flowing behind. Her best friend, Laci the tank, laid next to her body as donkey Dunkay stood guard over them both. Both animals whinnied and paced as we took Sparky's body away on an open trailer. They followed us out the gate and stood next to her lying on the cold metal, their noses pressed against her stiff body until we shooed them away so we could leave to take her to a final resting place.
My heart broke many times this summer. Not only did I lose my beloved animals, including 'my baby' Tribble, but I lost my big brother, the guy I loved and shared a house with when I left home for the first time at 19 years old. We moved to the Sunshine State of Florida to start a new life while looking forward to the winter months so we could call home and brag about the unbearable heat of 85 degrees!
Tommy was my provider, protector, mentor and, as I called him, my Boom Boom. Tommy was the funny man who made everyone laugh whether they wanted to or not! I held my dying brother with my mother and sister as we cried out our goodbyes in tears one final time before the doctors turned off the beeping machines that kept his failing body alive. So much death among all the life that still thrives within Addie Acres and our family.
I will sit on my rope swing that hangs from the large half brown and half green fir tree in our backyard that seems to mirror the life and death struggles of the past few months. The fir tree faces the tall cornstalks ready for harvest as they seemingly wave farewell in the persistent gentle breeze that blows across the field.
Next to the fields of plenty are my llamas and other goof balls grazing in the pasture. As I sway in the wind, I will take the time to thank my Lord for all I have left, for each and every one of my crazy animals, both present and departed. I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to love, laugh at, cuddle with and be loved back from fur and feather. I enjoy my animals, I am thankful for the time I've had with this blessing of family, home and farm. I've shed enough tears this summer and fall to fill a bucket, yet, I wouldn't change a thing.
My heart is softer as I see things in a new, different way. I find myself able to love more deeply. I'm tender where I use to be hard. So, I say goodbye to the ones I love. At the same time, I say hello to the blessings they brought into my life along with the hard lessons I didn't want to learn, but now know were necessary.
Now that I’m feeling almost ‘normal’ after losing my brother Tommy and the struggle with Dad’s Alzheimer condition, my animals have decided to be themselves again and show me just how ‘normal’ it is around here. So far today, Bouncer chased one of the baby chicks and it ran to the trees where both mama hens were sitting with the other peepers. Both chickens FLEW out of those bushes like ninja warriors and pounced on Bouncer with wings flapping amid blood curdling squawking! Bouncer bolted in full retreat and they chased him to finish him off!
Dillon, our loveable but not-so-bright goat, worked the fence to get himself stuck on the other side our boy llama Stormy. He trotted back and forth BAAAAAING trying to get back to where our mountain goat Sierra was. I went over and lifted the fence up as far as I could with my back and right leg to let him come back to his side of the pasture. I looked like a weightlifter! Of course, he stood there staring at me. I then took my left arm, went under as far as I could, grabbed his collar, tried to force him under and back over to me at which point he got half way under and did his infamous stiff front legs out, digging into the grass trick, to let me know that ‘he ain't going nowhere!’ It looked like we were playing farmyard Twister!
Right at that moment, a young mom with her little girl drove up, got out, and asked from afar if I had eggs for sale! Incredulous, I thought, “Does it look like I can go check right now?!” After threats, grunting and pulling, Dillon ended up relenting and ran to Sierra on the right side of the field. I went to the house with fresh plucked eggs and satisfied the wants for our brown beauties with the patiently waiting momma and oh-so-curious little girl.
When I returned to the field to finish chores, I noticed the black mama hen and her seven fluffy chicks had found their way outside the fence in the farthest back pasture and were staring at me in an effort to get back inside. I realized I couldn’t get at them and really needed Super Farmer hubby to help me. As he was at his day job as Super Principal, there we all stood separated, the eight of them, lined up along the fence, clucking to get back in and me wondering if Super Farmer would mind mending the fence after I pushed it down with Wonder Woman resolve! The fence remained intact. The chickens were left staring.
After about an hour's rest, LeAnna, Isaac and I, decided to do some Goodwill shopping. She accidentally left the gate open and I just happened to look up as Lincoln crossed the street into our not-so-hospitable neighbor’s yard and sat munching at their freshly pruned bushes. Sammie was still in their driveway a few steps from joining him. I called LeAnna, “HELP ME!” We ran out to where the escapees were, they looked up, spotted us running toward them and took off galloping down the street.
At this point, I saw a truck coming towards them and a car coming up behind us. Without paying admission, both vehicles stopped to let the circus perform. We ran in a zig zag pattern with outstretched arms. I called to her, “Herd them back my way!" LeAnna, not familiar with farm talk, looked at me funny, so I instructed further, “Bring them back my way.” Her feigned understanding then broke into full bewilderment! I yelled, "Just help them to come back toward our yard,” and understanding increased and innate herding skills emerged.
I ran in front of the bushes to keep Lincoln from going around them and back into the street. The woman in the stopped car leaned out amused with her window down. I smiled as I ran past her, “Never a dull moment!” Her mouth was open as if seeking an appropriate response, but her concerned look caused silence at the sight of this crazy woman running down the street behind two llamas with a trailing nicely dressed young woman in heels. Lincoln sprinted through the open gate and I told LeAnna, "Just wait, Sammie will follow," and he did.
We grabbed for the gate, slammed it behind both animals, and ran to the backyard as the others joined them. Stormy watched all the excitement, which made him agitated cause the boys were a few feet away from him enjoying some freedom. He screeched out his alarm call as he charged along the fence trying to find a way over it so he could fight!
When I finally got back to the house, my back porch chairs were knocked over from the donkey, the mini-horses had forced my bird feeders off their stands to eat ALL the birdseed, one or more of them pushed over Isaac’s pup tent, which is now in a heap, the trash can was on its side again and the goats had eaten my flowers. Yep, back to “NORMAL” at Addie Acres.
And then, there were the goats. They are very smart and know Mike the Hoof Man’s truck and they recognize Dr. Smith’s oversized, gleaming white 4x4. We can have 50 trucks, cars and vans drive up our well-worn driveway and they will glance up, snort defiantly and keep on eating in feigned disinterest. BUT, as soon as Mike or Larry drive up, they do their little goat dance and jump, running towards anything that will hide them!
When Doc Larry pulled up, they high tailed it to the back of the barn, trying to squirm under a bush. Two full grown goats trying to squeeze themselves under a bush usually big enough for a rooster and a hen or two! They sat perfectly still, barely breathing, thinking they had accomplished the perfect get-a-way. Doc decided to tackle them first since the other animals were already galloping into frenzy at the very sight of him. So we causally walked towards them, pretending we couldn’t see them. Doc was on one side, me on the other, getting ready for a grab and pull.
Oh, but my mountain goat is smarter than she looks. She BAAAAA’D long and loud and pushed herself out from under that low laying bush, practically rolling poor Dillon down the slope that the bush grows atop on. Come to think of it, I believe she did that on purpose! She pushed defenseless Dillon towards the doc as a sacrifice, which gave her time to find a new spot to hide in. Unfortunately, both goats managed to get away and ran into the barn where we found them crouched behind the chicken coop with only a tail sticking out.
At this point, it was ON with Doc on one side, me on the other, and two shaking goats in the middle. He grabbed the slightly more compliant Dillon first by the collar and pulled him out giving two quick shots as Sierra BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA’d longer and louder than I have ever heard her do before! Doc then grabbed her, gave her the first shot, and reached as she jumped high into the air trying to twist her body out of his grasp! Doc held on with Superman strength and gave her another shot which made her in turn glare at ME standing there.
Both goats bolted out of the barn and back to the bush. They gave whoops of warning to the rest of the frightened animals already leery of the guy in the big white truck. The horses and Dunkay seemed to huddle, devise a plan and split up as if to say we couldn’t catch them if they were in the four corners of the pasture. This is where my adult son Kyle came in. The ensuing chase helped make sure that Sparky and all humans in pursuit got a year’s worth of exercise. Sheeesh!!
And later on, I will relate about the girl Llamas and Stormy in the back pasture and the mother-of-all chase scenes. Yup, Stormy was a bad boy! Poor Doc Smith, I think every time he pulls up into our driveway, he makes the sign of the Cross and says a desperate prayer, “Father, it’s Addie Acres again … favor please!” I am pretty sure his faith has been expanded.
Great! Now, ALL the animals are mad at me! The vet came over today with the intent to give the Addie Acres hoard their shots. Dr. Larry, our adult son Kyle and I chased, cornered, tricked, tackled and yelled at running horses, llamas and goats. It took over an hour to get the job done. It felt like a long weekend moving a household! Sparky ran like the wind. She ran and ran and ran and ran, and, oh, did I mention that she ran? She was NOT going to let Doc stick her with anything. Finally, after a loooonnnng run and chase ... she stopped and stood there defiantly, but in defeat! HA! We win ... she got her meds!
The llamas and alpaca were another story. When we were trying to corner Sammy & Lincoln in the open field, they kept running towards the fence where rogue llama Stormy was pacing. Since he is not overly fond of any other male in the pasture, he was very upset! Stormy pushed against the fence spitting in our direction while yelling out his clacking war cry toward the boys. He then tried to jump, push through, and topple the fence all in one motion which unnerved smaller alpaca Lincoln since he is usually the target of Stormy's rampaging aggression.
So ... three humans, two llamas and one scared Alpaca began to run in circles yelling, clacking and spitting with a few choice sailor words blurted from the guys! We finally got them cornered and did a free-for-all grab with Lincoln getting caught as Sammie slipped through six arms and galloped to the farthest corner of the pasture that he could possibly get with Kyle undeterred running after him.
“My camera ... I need my camera!!” I thought. Youth.
Kyle chased that llama in a wide circle as Stormy uncharacteristically spit back towards The Doc while I hung onto a squirmy Lincoln. Sammie ran for the gate and was cut off by our salty old vet who has learned all the sneak, grab and hold tricks from the past 40 years. With syringes and medicine in hand and a few quick pokes, we claimed victory with “job somewhat well done”! Ten upset animals, now in stunned silence, watched as three humans high fived and gave cowboy style whoops of YIPPEE!!!
I didn't mention how we corned the goats. Sierra and Dillon put on a performance deserving an account all their own. To be continued.
Defying the laws of physics, Dunkay managed to fit his plump, furry body through a tiny opening in the back gate and into the forbidden pasture with rogue llama Stormy. Mini-horse Lacy, aka The Tank, tried to follow him, but is a bit chunkier than he is and looked like the oft-fought battle many fight with skinny jeans a size too small. She twisted, snorted and tried to jump. She gave up and backed out while Dunkay stood there mockingly with a mouthful of grass. Sparky, not to be deterred or outdone by a mere donkey, thought she could get through to the field of plenty and squeezed, whinnied, stomped her hooves and got stuck like a cork.
I stood there watching the performance as my eyes rolled with the words, "oh, brother" coming out of my mouth along with "c'mon!" With indifference at this point, I went to the other side with Dunkay and I pushed Sparky's head and shoulders, forcing her to go backwards and freed her from the trap. I must admit I was tempted to leave her there and be contented with a scolding of "bad horse, very naughty"!
I then turned my attention on the original issue, Dunkay! We sized each other up for about 15 seconds, me with narrowing eyes and he with the amusement of knowing it would soon be chase time. I stepped toward him and he stepped back. I raised my arms to start my 'famous crazy farmer lady yell,' and he, unfazed, turned around and trotted to the back part of the pasture. The games had begun!
I chased, he dodged. I yelled waving my arms, he threw his head back and loudly, with seeming laughter, let out a 'HEE HAW.' We sparred back and forth as Stormy camped in the corner watching.
All the while, chickens scattered, feathers flying, while the mama hen protected chicks as we barreled through the middle of the flock that previously had been peacefully pecking away at the grass. It seemed the madder I got, the greater energy and happiness he bolted with. He won. This time.
I left him there for Super Farmer to deal with when he got home. Later on around dusk, I listened as Dunkay sounded out his amusement when Super Farmer chased him back and forth yelling out words like, 'Idiot, stop, awww, come on!' I quickly went outside and pulled up a rocker to watch the unfolding show. I definitely got my money's worth!
Super Farmer gave up. He came back to the house mumbling as he scraped the poop off of his dress shoes with tie flapping behind him. He gave me a 'don't even say it' glare, so silently I giggled and gave a thumbs up to Dunkay. Later, a simple offering of carrots tempted Dunkay to follow me without fanfare as he smugly returned to his own field. Just another day at Addie Acres.