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.
Sierra, my wannabe mountain goat, decided that the grass was greener on the other side of the fence (which is true by the way) and wiggled, squirmed, pushed and grunted her plump little body under the fence to chow down. Soon she was chasing the three llamas in their pasture away from little patches of plants. Dillon, her companion and typical goat-in-crime, tried to follow her and got stuck half way under the chain link. He is a bit chunkier than she is and backed himself out then BAAAAA'D at her to come back on their side.
Sierra was too busy eating to notice that only she made it to the pasture of plenty. Dillon trotted back and forth along the fence (which is what Stormy does non-stop) Baaaaaawing at her to come back or help him sneak under. All day, she ate while he baaaawed, she ignored, he ran back and forth, she chowed down more and more, he cried louder. After about six hours of this, I went out there to chase her back but she was having too much of a 'weed feast' and ran away from me! So now we have one frustrated, crazy farmer lady chasing a little black & white goat waving her arms as three llamas were galloping to one end of the pasture to the other trying to stay out of the way as we ran past them like a couple of nuts on the loose from the 'funny farm'!
I always forget how fast a stubby goat can run until I'm chasing one! After 10 minutes of exercise I didn't need or want, I gave up. I left her there looking all smug & satisfied that she got her way ... again! I walked through the gate, past Dillon who was still baaaaaawing and demanded he "shut up"! He looked up at me with a surprised look in his beady eyes and cried even louder, which made Sierra causally walk to the gate, brush past me and get on her side of the fence! Both goats then trotted to the barn and went inside. Really?! Seriously?! REALLY?!
Sierra and Dillon, the staring goats.
After a few months of being farmers and getting the llama experience we, or shall I say I, decided it was time to add to our family of animals. You know us women, we all want a horse. It is every little girl’s dream to have a horse, white and powerful who eats carrots out of your hand and tramples deadly snakes to save your life! My dream horse was named Snowfire after a 1960s era TV show. So, of course, I wanted a similarly white and majestic horse!
I got on the Internet one night after causally mentioning to Chad about "horses, farm, more fun, how about it, etc.” Before he could answer, I already had four sheets printed out of who had horses and where within 500 miles! I narrowed it down to 10 miles and found a cute little place in the country called, Knapp Mini Horses. We visited Lisa and her prize horses. She had every size, shape and color. I saw my white horse off in the distance and beelined to her. She wasn’t a ‘real’ horse as her head came just past my waist and had a little gray mixed in. Also, her name was Sparky and, we would later find out, there was good reason for that. I nuzzled her nose and made up my mind that Sparky was going to be mine!
Now we needed another horse because, according to the always-truthful Internet, they do better in pairs. We found Laci off by herself eating, which we later discovered she does best, non-stop, like a lawnmower on perpetual autopilot. She was brown with a golden mane and, best of all, she was with foal. Two horses for the price of one, we (or I) reasoned! Laci reminded me of a Walmart greeter so I thought she would be great with little kids when they petted her in undeterred munch. We went into dickering mode with the seller and agreed on a price. I was a few hundred dollars short. Lisa offered to let us put them on ‘lay-a-way’. So, for two months, I paid on my horsey-lay-away and got our barn ready for the new family members.
I had a talk with the llamas assuring them that the new horses were not as important as they were and that Mommy would still love them the most! They heard me without listening, blinking as they stared into space while my ‘Charlie brown teacher voice’ went over and around them. Soon, the day came when my little girl dream became a reality! Lisa dropped off my horses and gave us a small booklet on, yes that’s right, the ‘do’s and don’ts for mini horses’. Like before with the “llama manual’, I scanned it, under lined the important stuff and handed it to Chad. He responded much the same as before and had set the book aside as soon as I lifted my pointing finger from the page.
We introduced the animals and the llamas ran out of the barn into the pasture as the horses bee-lined it to the fresh hay. Yep, it was going to work out nice. We had two llamas and two mini horses with a foal on the way! The four were easy to take care of and gave us hours of entertainment and enjoyment. Well, easy and entertaining for me anyway. Super Farmer Chad now had barn duties that he didn’t count on, like mucking the barn, feeding animals in 20-below blizzards, and chasing horses back into their side of the field or off the road after knocking down the fence. What could be better? Maybe a goat or two? Or, three dozen chickens? Why not add a few … dozen bunnies? A ferret? And, of course one has to have a barn kitty or three to keep out riff raff.
I was sitting on the back porch at dusk the other evening. It is a beautiful Spring night, the trees are just beginning to bud, white and yellow daffodils are in full bloom and my animals are fighting each other for the tiny sprouts of green grass trying to come up for life and sunshine.
As I'm watching the horses and Dunkay shove each other away from the struggling blades of green, my mind floated back to 5 years ago when Chad (Super Farmer) and I thought it would be fun to start a little farm with no experience and deceiving thoughts of "I'm sure it will be easy, how hard can it be??!!"
We found a cute, already established farm and started off with two Llamas given as housewarming gifts by the previous "Llama Farm" occupants. These llamas, Sweetie and Violet, surely were like llamas we had seen before and even got close to once. Therefore, we had enough experience to begin with two huge animals that don't like to be touched, are shy around humans, and keep a good distance between you and them unless there's grain.
Sweetie and Violet were 'mini llamas' so, instead of being 6 feet tall, they were only 5 1/2 feet. We thought, "Piece of cake!" Our two full grown Llamas came with 'royalty' papers and a guide book that was close to an inch thick, filled with the do's and don'ts of raising your own llamas for fun or profit. I read the book in 20 minutes and absorbed nothing! I wasn't familiar with farm language yet and didn't know anything about shearing every summer and clipping feet every 5 to 6 months so I underlined all that important farm stuff and handed it over to my soon to be named, Super Farmer, husband. He frowned at me as he flipped though all my underlining and pink high lights. I acted like I didn't notice his indifference while I pointed to all the important stuff like 'They Must be Sheared' and 'No Dogs Should Ever Be Allowed Near Them.' I didn't let on that the dog part worried me since we have a small pack of hounds and I REALLY wanted llamas.
Chad and I learned quickly what llamas liked and what they didn't, which is almost everything. We gained the trust of Sweetie who now gives kisses and have come to be experts on our girls. We and the regular flow of inquisitive visitors enjoy Sweetie and Violet. This summer, our first llama babies will be born. I'm glad we started this adventure together with Llamas! We have learned much about farming and a new kind of commitment to animals (and each other) as we do 'rock-paper-scissors' to see who is going out in the middle of a blizzard to feed, water and chase! Being a farmer is fun and satisfying, especially when I can relax on my antique wicker rocking chair with a frosty glass of raspberry tea, shouting to Super Farmer who is out in the pasture doing the work with more animals than he can count on his fingers and toes. There is a special joy to see Sparky chasing the goat again and to be able to call out, "GO SAVE HER!" And, he does.