Have I mentioned lately how much fun the farm is? You know, raking out manure, carrying 50-pound sacks of tasty goat grain or chicken scratch, or fighting off large animals who circle you like hungry sharks every time you open the grain bin can be invigorating, right?! Then, there is the truly fun things experienced everyday with my goofy animals.
For starters, there is mountain goat Sierra who starts and finishes every single day by staring at the house. No matter what time I get up in the morning, she is out by the gate, glaring straight up at my bedroom window. She doesn't move a muscle. She focuses, willing me to come out to feed her and only her, NOW! She ends her day with her catatonic stare for about 30 minutes before bed time. I don't think she even blinks when she gets into the zone!
Then there's Dillon, my other adorable little pygmy goat. He loves his people! He usually runs out to greet me demanding a pat, or better yet, a hug. He will follow me into the barn, sometimes making me trip over him. How can I get mad at a goat who adores me? It's easy not to, especially when I'm picking myself off the ground as he sticks his face into mine!
And Mr. Favorite, Dunkay, the donkey who thinks he's a dog. He “hee-haws” at the sight of a human he thinks may be on the way to feed him. He will almost always back his butt up to me, not moving until I give him a good scratch. He loves to play with balls, boxes, empty plastic tubs, the 4-foot-tall Santa or Frosty the Snowman Christmas decorations, the bird bath, our grandson’s toys or the chickens. He pushes the chickens with his nose, grabs ahold of those items and throws them high up into the air. He will follow me or Super Farmer around in the pastures. Dunkay will stick his nose into every job we do whether it’s finding eggs, pounding in fence post or cleaning out the garage. He has mastered almost every gate. We are now tying our gates closed with rope, I'm sure he is studying the knots so he can untie them!
Our mini horse, Laci the mini-tank, is named so as she's a bit plump and stubby. She loves to chew on plastic bags while nudging me with her nose. She can squeeze that round little body between gates and posts, under the fence or holes she has worked on to make big enough for an escape. Like an NFL fullback she pushes and shoves until she makes a green grass gain.
Laci making a funny face.
My boy llama Sammie is laid back. He allows Super Farmer to scratch his behind and stroke his long neck. He pretty much stays out of trouble. His side kick, Lincoln the Alpaca, is in a world that only he can visit at times. He does his warning cry toward anything that moves such as birds, a floating leaf, cats, cars, lawn mowers, people, dogs walking by, a swaying branch. If it moves, he llama screams at it!
Our two girl llamas, Sweetie and Violet, stick together like two peas in a pod. They eat and sleep together, stroll through the pasture, peek inside our windows and fight like sisters inevitably will on occasion. Typical women displaying a love-hate relationship!
Two months ago, an unexpected baby llama joined our family farm. We named him Promise because he is a promise from our Father in heaven that things are going to get better. He is our delight! Promise jumps and runs around like a normal child. He is curious about everything he lays his little brown eyes on. He is friendly and has learned to trust us. He makes us smile and is a true blessing.
My animals make me laugh whether it is putting on a hay wig as Sammie did this week, making funny faces, kissing me, or just putting on a 'here they go again show.' I can’t count how many times I have felt like giving up on life, but once I get inside the barn and feel annoyed, I get happy, letting the peace of God settle over me as I watch His gifts fight, play and nudge me with their soft, velvet muzzles.
Winter fun on the Addie Acres farm often makes me feel older as the animals regress to varying degrees of childish behavior. For instance, this week I trudged through 4-foot snow drifts in 25 below zero gusting winds with arms filled with goodies just to make their feeding seem a little warmer. By the time I entered the barn, I was tired and yet the natives surrounded me with hungry eyes, growling tummies and grunts of "feed me ... feed me ... feed me"... NOW!
I forced my body to call up renewed energy and pushed my way to the blue wooden plank trunk concealing the tasty goat grain. I climbed up on top of the old wood box, put my hands into the air to calm the riot of fur. Instinctively, I made individual eye contact to make sure each critter was going to stay calm as I passed out rolls, stale bread, strawberries and cookies. I contemplated which of the little darlings with the big appetites would be on the short end of the nibble that morning.
After the treats had been gobbled down and I had checked to confirm I had all my fingers intact, I pushed my way through the now satisfied crowd of hooves to visit the chickens who have been loudly squawking, flapping and testing the flimsy chicken wire that barely keeps cranky birds cooped up inside their slice of Addie Acre paradise inside the barn. Once in the pen, I dug deep inside my pink Carhartt snowsuit pockets to pull out the crackers I had concealed from barn border patrol agent Dunkay. I then proceeded to throw handfuls of crumbs to keep the hens busy as I participated in the daily egg hunt. It was a mixed blessing as many of the hens are still producing despite the cold and, yet, some of the eggs have frozen into oval shaped baseballs bursting at the seams.
I then turned my attention to mama llama Sweetie and baby Promise who have been waiting patiently for their grain. I gave them extra as I appreciated that they always wait for me without all the drama the animals in the front part of the barn put on everyday when I walk in. About the only llama drama was when Sweetie was not so willing to share grain with pen companion Auntie Violet, requiring me to put some in a bucket and some across the pen on the feeder hay. Baby Promise also got in on the action and alternated between mama's milk and grain that made its way to the pen floor.
After the morning feeding, watering, and treats, it was pill time for Laci the mini tank and Dunkay, who a few days ago gorged themselves dangerously full on the llama grain after knocking down the main barn gate.
By that time my fingers felt like frozen sausages and my feet like ice blocks, which made it hard to maneuver around the crowd parked in front of the grain storage bin. They somehow knew that a small bit of sweet feed was needed from the magic trunk to accompany the pills to be distributed. As soon as I lifted the creaky lid, they dove, pushed, spit, kicked, grunted and made noises that you only hear in horror movies!
With frozen fingers and awkwardly cold feet, I had to separate a horse and donkey from the llama, alpaca and two aggressive goats all vying for what they acted like was a government entitlement. With one hip on Lincoln the alpaca and an elbow on goat Dylan, I quickly gave the medicine, shoved my way through the barn gathering and, again, plodded my way back to the house through the newly formed snowdrifts.
Tomorrow will bring another winter fun day as my aging body renews itself. In the meantime, I will allow fresh hot coffee to work its way from lips to the extremities of my thawing fingers and toes.
2014 is on its way out as 2015 steps closer to becoming a new time at Addie Acres. I saw despair this past year, the kind that brings you to your knees and swallows you in tears. Death came to the farm and whisked away beloved pets, leaving a void that could never be filled. I lost my constant companion, my puppy dog Tribble, to a horrific accident. My knees ached from the tiny pebbles embedded in them from kneeling next to his fresh grave for days as I sobbed inconsolably. I thought my broken heart would never mend.
A few short weeks after I lost my dog, my full-of-spunk white horse Sparky went to sleep inside the barn, rolled over and trotted into heaven. My heart shattered again and I did not understand. I have enjoyed the fulfillment of seeing the secret desires of my heart come to pass on my small slice of heaven and to suffer losses one after another didn’t make sense.
However, the worst pain suffered, and lingers in my broken heart, was the sudden news that my bestie friend and big brother, Tommy, suffered a massive heart attack. I raced from Indiana to Florida in an effort to beat back Death and stave off that cold grip somehow. I arrived only to find he was put on life support so that what was left of his body could give back the lives to others through transplant.
I, along with Addie Acres in 2014, suffered, cried, mourned and shook fists at the heavens and those of earth asking, “WHY”?! Yet in the midst of unbearable pain, new life came with an unexpected birth of a baby llama. Right in the middle of my crying out, baby Promise brought a swell of joy, rare smiles and renewed hope. I expect that 2015 will be filled with just that…promise. I choose to replace flowing tears with unstoppable smiles. By faith, I will pray that the wails will turn into praise to the One who holds this little farm, my family, my animals safely in His hands.
We have suffered much this past year and, yet, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I am confident that my Father will take all the hard lessons and turn it around for His Glory. I will choose to get up every new morning, go to the barn, be greeted by my mischievous animals, turn my grateful face to the heavens, raise my hands towards the sky and thank Him for the pain. 2015, by God’s grace, will be Addie Acres' year to emerge from the darkness and the valley of the shadow and to move to the top of a more blessed mountain.
I think I'm going to start placing bets on Dunkay and the goats. Daily, I let the barnyard clan out in the main yard to graze and, hopefully, eat every last leftover maple leaf rotting on the ground. Unfortunately, the donkey and goats also know where the duck pen is with yummy quacker food inside. As soon as I open the gate, the three of them RACE to the corner of the yard known as Duckieland. It is almost shameful at times as manners are set aside and they push each other out of the way to get there first!
Once in awhile, I literally slap my hand to my forehead remembering that I forgot to tie the gate so they can't get in to Duckieland. Yes, that's right, tie it with rope. They are smarter than the average bear and know how to open every gate and latch that man has created! Which means, I have to run behind them trying to get to the pen before they do! A donkey, two goats and a crazy farmer lady running neck and neck towards the back yard is a sight to see and probably worthy of an automatic yard cam at some point.
I can just hear the announcer giving odds and commencing the race with "Ladies and gentlemen, at 2 to 1 is Dunkay, Crazy Lady at 5 to 2, Mountain Goat at 20 to 1 and distant long shot Pudge Boy at 70 to 1 ..."
"Racers have come through the farm gate and they're off! Here comes Crazy Lady on the gravel stretch with Mountain Goat a nose behind, Dunk the donk is coming up fast as Pudge Boy goat is bringing up the rear!"
"At the maple bend, it's Dunk the donk passing Crazy Lady, Mountain Goat and Pudge Boy collide and ... Mountain Goat is off the track in a swirl of dust and Pudge Boy is falling three tail lengths behind!"
"Here they come down the final turn to the finish pine."
"Dunk and Crazy are nose to nose, Dunk pushes Crazy causing a near fall."
"WAIT! Mountain is mounting a charge aaaannnd, yes, takes the lead after an amazing come back!!!"
"Hold all bets! What's this? Somehow, folks, Pudge Boy is already inside the Victory pen and eating the duck food prize. Unbelievable, ladies and gentlemen!! Pudge Boy comes out of nowhere against all odds for the win!"
Dunk, Crazy and Mountain stand there in disbelief as Pudge accepts his prize and the white quaker duck prominently stands close like the end of race pretty lady presenter. To the victor go the spoils! What a race!
Once in awhile my animals will surprise me with wonderful gifts! Two weeks ago I went out to the barn to feed, water and entertain when my girl llama Sweetie gave me the surprise of my life. This one melted my heart and made words come out of my mouth like ... What? Huh? No way! Oh my goodness!
Just under her was a brand new baby, he hadn't even been up on his legs yet! We were told that our boy llama 'Stormie' was a gelding so we were not expecting any babies! I guess his parts were working after all! I was shocked to see this adorable little baby, with the sack still on him looking up at me. I watched him struggle to get up on wobbly legs. When he finally got up, he stepped over to mama and immediately started to nurse. Our sweet girl ... a mother! I praised mama and stood for a few minutes, gazing at the little miracle in front of me.
We have had so much death and heart break the last six months, I realized this gift from above was a blessing! No matter how hard life seems to get, there is always something that the Father will send your way to let you know that you are not alone, you are loved and in His hands. We decided to name our little gift Promise, on the encouragement of our friend Regina, and because he is a promise from God that He is still in control. A promise that all the tears have been wiped away and brighter days are on the way.
Our little Promise is thriving now, even though he wears a pink winter jacket due to the extreme early cold snap (its the only one that we could find that fit him). It was a joy to see him prance across the pasture the other day, in all his pink glory! Skinny little legs were kicking up and galloping from one end to the other with mama close behind.
Our precious baby llama has been a hit to all our Facebook friends who follow us, he is everyone's favorite animal. I am so thankful that Promise is in our crazy animal herd. I'm sure he will give me lots to write about in the future and bring a smile to all who will venture out to meet him.
The vet visited to check on our little Promise this past week too. He checked Sweetie's friend Violet and matter of factly announced that another little blessing may not be far behind. That adventure has yet to unfold and is for another day.
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