Grit Blogs > Feathers and Fur

Special Friends: Welcome to Sugar Creek Ranch

DennisMy family and I moved to our little piece of heaven about 5 years ago, and we haven’t looked back since. I had grown up spending summers on my grandparents farm, so farm life is nothing new to me. Not the same with my wife, Kathy. She was a city girl. But after consenting to be my wife, she quickly learned and came to love rural life just as much as I. This is our second small ranch. We live quietly here, just the 4 of us, myself, my wife Kathy, our son Aaron, and our other son Stuart. Aaron is in college now and Stuart will be starting this fall.


Stuart on modern horse
My son Stuart out on the modern version of a horse.

Once we moved onto our new home, we took a long time to really decide what we wanted to do with our ranch. Initially we just had a small amount of poultry. A very small flock of chickens, a few ducks, several geese and a couple of turkeys. Most were pets. It was about a year before we started building our herd or flocks of livestock. We bought a small flock of blackface sheep, then we were given our back angus heifer by our neighbor when she was orphaned.

Feeding the sheep
Out feeding the sheep.

Then we added a few goats, and then last year our other cattle. And we have added on to our poultry as well. The geese and ducks have always been my favorites among the poultry.

I had one goose that was a favorite of mine. I had hand raised him and he was very attached to me and was my “guard goose” or at least what I called him. He would not let anything or anyone come near me when I was outside. He would follow me everywhere, and when any animal or bird came near, he would immediately charge them and drive them away. This became problamatic when my wife and sons were outside with me. They were safe from his attentions as long as they stayed at least 20 feet or so away. If they crossed that invisible line, he would charge them and chase them until he decided they were far enough away.

And if you wonder if he ever charged or attacked me? Never. However, he was always ready, willing and able to crawl up on my lap if I sat down on the steps or a stump, so that I could hold him and scratch his neck. At times he would even push against my legs to let me know that he wanted to be picked up and carried or at least for me to sit down so he could get some attention. Picking him up and carrying him was sure a chore. He weighed about 22 pounds and was quite large, so my arms would tire in a very short time while carrying him. But he was usually quite happy even if I held him only a few short minutes.

It was a sad time about a year later when he became ill and died. I had grown very fond of him and was always ready to tell folks about my guard goose, and he was always willing to demonstrate his usefullness in that capacity. Since then I havent hand raised another one, but have thought about it. I do miss my “guard goose.”

Guard goose
My guard goose takes a gander at the camera.

We have a number of strange and wonderful cases of odd friends among our animals. One case of strange friends on our ranch involves our flock of ducks and their leader. We have a flock of ducks and a flock of geese both on the ranch. They don’t hang out much together and when they do, the geese usually bully the ducks every chance they get. So I guess it’s a bit unusual to see who the duck flock leader is. A goose!

Ugly duckling and ducks
Ugly Duckling leads the ducks all in a row.

This gander has decided that he is a duck. He was an orphan and was introduced to a female duck owned by a friend of mine, who had just hatched her brood, and was accepted and grew up with the ducks. He was given to me about a year later when my two geese lost their gander. I had hoped that he would breed with them so I could hatch out their eggs. Such was not the case. He thought he was a duck, and my geese were something strange. He would have nothing to do with them and joined my ducks. He became their leader a short time later and has been leading the flock for over 3 years now. He watches over them, protects them, and, when the flock moves around, he is in the lead. He guides them to food and water, and stands guard at night. He is fully accepted by the flock who seem to feel he is just a duck, despite the difference in size. His presence also helps to reduce the amount of bullying from the other geese.

ugly duckling standing guar
Ugly Duckling stands guard over his flock.

Another case of strange friends on our place is the friendship between Precious, our Black Angus heifer, and Homer, our ram. They became friends almost two years ago after Precious arrived and they have been inseparable ever since. When we put Precious with my neighbors herd last fall, to spend a month or two with his bulls, Homer was distraught. He was visibly unhappy despite the presence of nubile young ewes vying for his attentions.

After a week or so, the ewes finally won out and he seemed to forget about Precious, but 2 months later when we brought Precious back to the home ranch it became quite clear that Homer hadn’t forgotten. Neither had Precious. As soon as we backed the stock trailer up to the corral, Homer was there, announcing to one and all with continuous bleating, his happiness that his friend was back. And Precious answered with bellering and moos of her own. As soon as we opened the gate she rushed into the corral, and it was like old home week.

The two began nuzzling each other and making low contented sounds at each other, plainly showing all the signs of two old friends happily greeting each other after a long separation. And today, they still spend much of their time together, even at meal times as can be seen in the photo below.

Precious and homer
Precious and Homer chowing down.

However, it seems Homer has begun to develop a friendship with Wizard, our Nubian buck, which I am happy to see. He wont be so lonely if Precious is ever absent again. I see Homer and Wizard play butting and charging each other on occasion and resting in the straw pile together when Precious is with the other cattle. So life goes on.

Such is life both on our small ranch and I guess life in general. Friends come in all sizes, shapes and packages and lifestyles and it is what is within each one, animal or person, that determines their friendship.