Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My romantic life on the farm

I have a new blog friend. Her name is Jane. I hope she won't mind me talking about her. I haven't "known" Jane for very long, but she has a straightforward way of saying things to me that strike me and ring very true. I find myself reflecting on her words later and thinking about my life. This has happened on more than one occasion since we've begun corresponding.

Just yesterday she wrote to me "...So as “romantic” as your life with your precious crew may seem on the blog, I know there is a lot of grunt work and hard labor...". And she's right. Though she forgot to add worry. And unexpected things. No matter how pretty life on a farm in the country may look from the outside, there is a lot of grunt work, hard labor, worry, and unexpected things that go on, mostly behind the scenes.

So, in a moment of "not showing the pretty side", here's a short overview of some animal challenges I'm currently trying to manage here on Critter Farm.

I've got a donkey with bad feet:

I've got two llamas with an as-yet undiagnosed skin condition:

The same donkey with the bad feet has also acquired a weepy eye that, despite my attempts at care, has now gotten worse. The vet is scheduled to come out and do an exam and eye stain on him this afternoon:

I worry like crazy about all these things. I don't paint a romantic picture about farm life, do I?

And we can't forget the unexpected. This morning, when I went up to feed Pete and Reggie, the goat boys, I see this upon entering the goat house:

I know, cute goat. But his head is bloody. That picture is blurry and dark. How about this:

Reggie's head, although appearing pinkish in this photo, is bloody and raw. He's also shaking all over in a way that he never shakes. WTH?

The bloody head is because of Reggie's scurs. Scurs are partial horn growth that grew back after he was dis-budded as a young kid. Scurs on a goat are usually loose or wiggly (but not always) and are not as solidly attached as a "real" horn. Reggie's scurs have always been relatively small, but he has always been itchy between them. He loves being brushed and scratched right between them. Never has he rubbed against anything so hard or long that he has caused himself damage.

Now, an interesting thing about my country life is that not only was finding Reggie this way unexpected, but to then see my vet driving by my house moments after I found Reggie was also totally unexpected. She wasn't due at my house for another six hours.

She had gotten lost on her way to an exam, realized she was close to my house, and came to ask me for directions. From where I was in the goat run, I called out to her what I knew and off she went.

But then she stopped. At the end of my driveway. To make a cell call.

After mulling it over in my head for a split second on what appropriate country vet etiquette is, I scooped Reggie up in my arms and ran with him to the end of my driveway where Dr. Sarah was just finishing her call.

Being the incredibly wonderful vet that she is, she jumped out of her truck and started to poke around Reggie's head to see what was going on.

She pulled out her clippers and shaved his head around his scurs:

I haven't heard him bellow that loudly in a long time. But it was clear why he did once we got the fur away. He had completely pulled off one scur and cracked the other one:

A momentary cuddle on my lap seemed to soothe him:

And then he jumped up and looked at me:

...before running back up the stairs to the goat house where his pal, Pete, was waiting for him:

This afternoon, when Dr. Sarah comes back out, we'll have a lot of things to discuss and attend to. I'll work and I'll worry and I'll try to get my arms around everything that's going on with my critters. I'll try not to feel completely anxiety ridden when I go to bed tonight. As you know, anxiety and sleep are not good bedfellows.

Every day, I learn something new out here. I have an animal medicine cabinet that amazes me with its contents. Half the time I don't feel like I have a clue what I'm doing. Yet, every day, I am happy when I get outside to my animals. Every day. Even when the weather is cold and wet, the mud is making life difficult, and the animals aren't feeling well.

Right now, I'm feeling very nervous about getting everybody back in top form. But I laugh a lot and my heart feels full - and that's kind of romantic, isn't it? :-)

Monday, March 22, 2010

I just want to tell you...

In my part of Oregon, the trillium have started to bloom!

The dark, rainy Oregon days are giving way to pale blue skies and gentler breezes:

On my walk this morning, I noticed many trillium are already fully open:

While others are just starting to think about it:

These blooms will change color as they age, turning different shades of pink and light purple:

Some of the trillium are quite tall:

Others appear almost miniature:

If you pick a trillium bloom, it takes years for the plant to recover:

For this reason, it's actually illegal in Michigan, New York, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Washington state to pick trillium from public land:

I read on Wikipedia today that mice and ants are the ones to spread the trillium seed. I wonder if this is true.

In the less woodsy, more cultivated areas of my property, other spring growth is putting on a pretty display, too.

The daffodils are in full bloom (pay no attention to the as-yet unpruned pear tree in the background...):

The rhubarb seems to have practically exploded from the ground overnight:

The flowering pear has buds almost ready burst:

The snow drops with their delicate little bells:

and the grape hyacinth:

all fill my garden with their soft spring scent.

And then there were these two, little spring flowers, waiting to be let out for the day:

Would you believe me if I told you that these boys smell as good to me as many of the beautiful spring flowers? They do!!

The hummingbirds are back.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spitting as a form of communication, part 2

-or- There's this really bad taste in my mouth

(You can read part 1 by clicking: here)

What I failed to mention in my post last week on llama spitting is that my donkeys are not the sole targets of the llamas' projectile spitooey ( <--I made that word up). The spitting and the intricate non-verbal body gestures that go on prior to every spitting event is a very complex method of llama communication.

The three llama girls use it daily amongst themselves, not just to warn but also to redirect each other.

Most of the time, I'm fairly certain the llama ladies don't want to spit. The threats that lead up to the spitting are really about trying to get someone to IMMEDIATELY STOP doing what they're doing. (And if you don't stop, well, you get what you deserve.)

Uh oh. See how Kai's and Dolly's heads are tilted up? Things are looking serious - they have irritated each other:

Kai decides to avert her eyes so Dolly won't spit. Dolly's mouth is pursed and ready to fire:

It doesn't always come to spitting, though. I've seen the llamas with their heads straight up for minutes at a time as each of them tries to assess whether the other one is going to spit or stand down.

Suddenly, in a bold change of strategy, Kai turns and gives Dolly a side facial spit:

What's not immediately obvious in this photo: that as Kai spat at Dolly, Dolly gave it to Toni and Toni returned the gesture. All three of them just gave it to each other. A classic three-way spit-off.
How do I know? See the lower teeth? Normally these don't show:

The taste left over from an angry spitting is apparently so foul, time is required afterwards to "air out the mouth":

I try to help out by providing some carrot coin relief:

Poor Dolly. She really loves her carrot coins. But she can't eat it, because the taste in her mouth is so nasty:

So she just holds it there...:

...waiting for the mouth nastiness to dissipate:

Oh, dear,, too?

Kai is a bit more subtle about the whole thing. Her mouth isn't hanging open any more and she confidently approaches me:

But that carrot is still not getting swallowed. Not just yet, anyway:

Toni, you actually look like you're laughing about this whole thing. Are you?

Ready to give a carrot coin a shot?

Just going to hold it there for a while, huh? I totally understand:

It's hard being a llama, isn't it?:

Nasty stuff, this llama spit!