Farmtastic Updates

Critter Resolutions

It’s that time of year when gyms fill with hopeful new members, weight loss commercials jam the air waves, and we all resolve to strive to be better versions of ourselves in the coming year.  Which of course got me thinking about life around the farm, and just exactly what would the animals resolve for 2014 (or rather what would I wish that they would resolve to do).

So to get the year started off right, here’s a few words from the critters here on the farm.

From the horses

  • Ranger – Everyone knows that I’m the looker on the farm, so I resolve to get my gorgeous mane in fewer knots.  Mom loves to brush me, but I don’t enjoy the talking to that I get when I’m a mess.
  • Sweet Suzy Q – I love to eat, in fact it’s my favorite thing, but sometimes I get a wee bit pushy when it comes to dinner time, banging gates and what not. I resolve to take it easy on the gates and other things that I find to make noise, as I know my mom and dad always keep me in great grain and hay.
  • Smokey – Well I’m often full of hot air just blowing at everything new that comes my way, so I resolve to tone it down a bit.  I mean my mom and dad know that I’m really just blowing smoke (ha ha)!
  • River – I’ve really come to love my humans, so I resolve to continue to build up my confidence.  Oh, and to take my wormer much easier.  Dad really doesn’t love being covered in wormer paste.

From the donkeys

  • Mama Rose – I resolve to finally let my humans pet me.  I mean it’s been four years and they spoil us so much, it’s really the least I could do.
  • Sweetie Pie – I resolve not to chase or bite my humans’ cars (or their family members’ cars).  While they are quite yummy, I truly do prefer some fresh hay.

From the dogs

  • Goober – I resolve to get a grip when Cowboy asks me to go outside.  It is very silly that I act like my legs are totally new and go slipping and sliding out the front door.  And Cowboy has been nothing but nice to me, so I suppose I could give him a break.
  • Dixie Doodlebug – I resolve to eat a little less and walk a little more. I mean in my younger days I was a tennis ball chasing fool, but no one is fully buying that it’s just my thyroid.
  • Abby – I resolve to try to cut down on the shedding.  While I do love leaving my signature white puffs floating all around, my mom would love it if we could make a vacuum cleaner bag last more than a week.
  • Maybelle – Well I am just so darn cute, I don’t really know why I need to resolve to do anything differently other than just being my sweet adorable self. My mom may disagree, but I’m sticking to it.

From the cats

  • Rhinoceros – I resolve to torment the dogs a little less, although I do love watching over their water bowl as they salivate and wish I would move.
  • Willie – I resolve to be more patient with Maybelle.  I’m doing my best to school her into being a proper pup, but she is just so enthusiastic it wears my old bones out.
  • Shadow, Bear, Grizzly, and Chip – Since we’re a little family within the farm family, we decided on a family resolution, which is that we will not run around like crazy cats at night when it is time to go to bed.  It really does wear our humans out and we are truly grateful that they took us in.
  • Nightmare – Since I’m the true barn cat around here, I resolve to continue to prowl the barn, but when I find great prizes, e.g. mice, I won’t always display them quite so proudly, as it really freaks out my mom.

And as the human that belongs to all of these wonderful critters, I resolve to keep up with our blog much better so that they can share all of their antics with you.

Best wishes and blessings for 2014 – from our farmtastic life to yours!

Dog and Cat Photo - Maybelle, Goober, Willie
This is what Dixie thinks about resolutions, just hide them under the cat. Maybelle of course, being adorable.

 

Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

Cat TV

We’ve got animals galore here at the farm.  There are those that are our pets, and those that are volunteer farm critters like deer, jack rabbits, and birds.  And whether you are a pet or a volunteer at the farm, we try to keep you happy.  (I’m convinced that the animals are spreading the word that our little farm is the best place to hang out – there’s good grub, fresh water, and the people love you!)

One of our favorite volunteers is the hummingbird.  And it’s suffice to say that over the last couple of years we have become a hummingbird destination, think Club Med for those little guys.  They start arriving in late March and hang with us all the way into October.

We go through bags and bags of sugar as we make hummingbird nectar, or as Cowboy calls it “hummer juice,” by the gallon.  Sometimes those little buggers will go through eight cups a day. And you know how small a hummingbird is, right?

We’ve learned that dawn and dusk are their favorite times to flock to the feeders, and since we love a good show, we’ve hung the feeders in front of our living room windows. It’s relaxing to just sit on the sofa with a glass of tea and watch the myriad of hummingbirds come and go.  We’ve got all kinds – some are green, some have purple necks, and some have red necks.  Some are rounder and a little frazzled, and since I identify with that description myself, those little guys are my favorites.

But if you’ve been following my posts, you know that we have cats galore as well, some might even say a cat-splosion has occurred at the farm.  And because I am a neurotic pet owner, I have a fair amount of them inside, for example Shadow and her three boys (Chip, Grizzly, and Bear).  When Cowboy and I put the hummingbird feeders up, it was primarily for our enjoyment, but what we failed to realize is that we essentially created the farm TV network for cats.

Cat Photo - Shadow, Chip, Grizzly and Bear
Cat TV – Shadow and crew are tuned into the hummingbird show.

So every evening you can see the cats gather in the window, chirp and coo, stalk and perch as they watch the hummingbirds. Sometimes it’s like they are watching a well coordinated tennis match as heads bob to and fro.  And the occasional sassy hummingbird will hover just outside the window at eye level with their cat audience as if to say, “Look at me. Aren’t I adorable?  Wouldn’t I make  the most delicious snack?”

So maybe that means we created the Food Network for cats?

Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

“Meow,” said the dog

Around here, we’ve got horses who think they are donkeys, donkeys who act like dogs, dogs who love cat toys, and cats that chase dogs.  It’s a regular madhouse, but it definitely keeps us amused.  We like to say that if you need some good Friday night entertainment, pull up a lawn chair and watch the critters around here, because sometimes they are just plain C-R-A-Z-Y.

For instance, let’s take a look at our dog, Dixie Doodlebug.  She is nuts, I mean obsessed-kind-of-crazy, for cat toys.  If it squeaks, is on a string, or heaven forbid has catnip, she is all over it.  When the cats try to play with the toys, she watches intently as if to say, “Whoa, what’s up?  Those are mine.” She can destroy a cat toy in two seconds flat, and searches closet nooks and crannies for a stowed away gem.  You can often catch Cowboy saying, “Doodlebug, you are not a cat!”

Which leads me to the cats.  Grizzly thinks there is simply no better dog to torment than the gentle and slightly neurotic Goober.  While dogs may chase cats in childhood storybooks, that’s not always the case around the farm.  Occasionally, Goober will find is inner dog and believe he is big and bad enough to chase a cat, and goodness knows he should as he is 70 pounds and counting.  Enter Grizzly.  Grizzly loves nothing more than to pop over the top of the sofa and grace Goober with a few swift smacks on the head, reducing Goober to a shaking pile of wimpy dog.  Which is hilarious, because when it comes to strangers, large animals, or anything he thinks may be a threat, he is all over it.  As long as it’s not a cat that is up close and personal.

Now for the equines on the farm, both horses and donkeys.  Let’s just say they are all kinds of entertaining.  You can often find our horse, River, forsaking his horse buddies for some gal pal time with his two favorite donkeys,  Mama Rose and Sweetie Pie.  He’s twice their size and five times as fast, but he loves nothing more than grazing and kicking up his hooves with the donks.

And everybody’s favorite donkey, Sweetie Pie, is probably just as guilty of not knowing her true identity as any of the other farm critters.  Sweetie Pie follows you around the farm like a dog, and best of all has been known to chase a car or two down the driveway.  There is nothing funnier than driving down the road with a rear-view window full of donkey nose and ears.  But be careful, don’t step on the brakes or you’ll have a Sweetie Pie in the back seat, not that she’ll mind.  When folks come over and are getting things in and out of their cars, we often have to shoo Sweetie Pie away as she is primed to take a seat.

It’s never a dull moment around here, filled with phrases like “Sweetie Pie, you are not a dog,” and “River is running with the donkeys again,” and the ever popular, “Grizzly stop tormenting Goober!”  But  whether they know if they are dogs, cats, donkeys, or horses, I can guarantee that they all know that they are loved and that they rule roost.  It’s good to be a critter at the farm!

Miss Willie Kitty gives Dixie Doodlebug a bath - at the farm anything goes with the roles the critters play
Miss Willie Kitty gives Dixie Doodlebug a bath – at the farm anything goes with the roles the critters play
Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

And The Thunder Rolls

Goober out for a stroll in the bluebonnets.
Goober out for a stroll in the bluebonnets.

I used to enjoy a good rain storm.  Thunder and lightning.  Wind whipping through the trees.  And then I got a dog who was afraid.   Excuse me, did I say afraid?  I meant to say terrified.  Now storms equal long nights of a very large, 70-pound dog panting, vibrating, and gluing himself to my side.  Sounds relaxing, right?

This leads me to all things, Goober.  Yes, we named him Goober as in “Awe shucks, Andy.”  You see, Goober showed up on the farm almost two years ago.  Underweight, flea-bitten, scared, and heart-worm positive.  But this catahoula   hound dog mix stole my heart.

When he first showed up, I wanted to call him Rebel.  Since we had a Dixie, I thought it was cute, and they would make the perfect pair.   But in about five seconds flat, it was clear that he was no more a Rebel than he was a poodle.  Cowboy said, “He’s really more of a Goober.”   And it just stuck.  He’s Goober.

Which  brings me back to the thunder storms.  This is one of Goober’s greatest shortcomings.  He can hear it coming long before we do.  When Goober starts pacing and panting, you know a storm is coming.  He’s sort of like our own little meteorologist, except he generally gets it right.  When you hear a loud noise and you wonder if it’s a storm, just take a peek at the old Goobs.  If he’s calm, no storm. If he’s anxious, you better get prepared.

The first storm that rolled in after we had Goober was an eye opener.  It was, of course, the wee hours of the morning.  Sleeping soundly, I was awakened to one giant dog leaping into bed, crawling across my head, and promptly burying his head under the pillows.  In a sleepy stupor, partly amused, partly annoyed, and partly concerned, I wrapped my arms around Goober and softly tried to comfort him.  Nothing doing.  Goober wanted one thing and one thing only – the storm to stop.  Needless to say, it was a long night and Cowboy was having second thoughts about  this loveable pooch who cost us an arm and ten legs to have his heart worms treated.

That episode taught us that storms were no longer going to be something we could enjoy, but rather something we just had to get through.  Even worse are day-time storms that last for hours.  Have you ever tried getting a dog to go outside to go to the bathroom in the rain when they are terrified?  It’s a treat.

During a recent storm, I had finally coaxed Goober outside, since he was doing the doggy version of the pee-pee dance.  I stood on the porch, shivering in the winter cold, begging him to go to the bathroom.  So when he finally left the porch to go find his spot, I did little back flips insides.  Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as his feet his the grass the sky lit up and Goober was back on the porch in a shot.  No luck.

I even got a text from Cowboy the other day when I was out during a storm, that simply said, “The thunder rolls …” To which I quickly responded, “And the Goober shakes.”  Now Garth Brooks should have sung those lyrics, don’t ya think?

The bottom line is that Goober is part of the family.  He’s got his issues, as we all do, and we love him just the same.  So when the winds blow, the storm clouds pile up on the horizon, it’s time to hunker down.  Hunker down on the couch, arms wrapped around Goober, and pray it passes before Goober passes out or I run out of patience.

Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

I Should Have Named Him Fabio

Ranger grazing - hair and all.  Special thanks to Kelly Hoodenpyle for the amazing picture.
Ranger grazing – hair and all.
Special thanks to Kelly Hoodenpyle for the amazing picture.

Ranger is our six-year old American mustang horse.  And while Ranger is a perfectly good horse name (his official name is Lone Star Ranger), I really should have named him Fabio.

Let’s start with the obvious, the horse has an amazing mane.  It’s full and long, with his forelock covering his eyes.  It blows in the wind, is fun to brush, and looks gorgeous when he runs through the pasture.  His tail is equally as impressive.  Practically touching the ground, and double bonus, it’s oodles of fun to braid.  While I’m definitely a proud mama, the little guy is a looker.

His second fabio-esque trait is the fact that the horse just likes to pose.  Cowboy will often look out into the pasture and say, “Your horse is posing again.”  While the farm is relatively flat, there is some slight variation, and we have small berms throughout.  Ranger tends to find a berm, wind a blowing, and just stand there, as if to say, “Aren’t I just the most handsome horse you’ve ever seen?”  It simply makes me smile every time.

His third fabio-esque trait is that he likes the ladies.  He’s a gelding (and for my city friends that means he shouldn’t care about the girls, think Bob Barker spay and neuter your pets), but he is IN LOVE with our mare, Sweet Suzy Q.  What’s even funnier is that she’s 22 years old.  But to be fair, she’s equally sweet on him. Does that make my horse a cougar?  I digress.  The point is that Ranger spends an inordinate amount of time following her around and placing himself between her and the other geldings.  And like good geldings, they don’t care about Suzy or that Ranger is trying to be a bossy pants about who Suzy stands next to.

So there you have it, Ranger should have been named Fabio. But to me, the part that is most interesting is his personality.  You see, before I had horses, which was not that long ago, I really never thought of them as having personalities.  I thought of dogs and cats with personalities, but it just never occurred to me that large animals are just as funny, amazing, and often times neurotic.  The truth is that they have personalities in spades.  Some love attention, some are playful, some are curious and get into all sorts of things.  Ranger happens to fall into the latter category, prompting our trainer to say he should have been named Dennis the Menace, since he doesn’t mean to get into trouble he just can’t help himself.  But that’s another story for another day.

Ranger is my first horse.  He’s taught me more than I could have ever imagined.  Cowboy likes to say that our biggest challenge with Ranger is that he’s smarter than we are.  So whatever you call him, my horse by any other name is still Ranger.  Mustang, magnificent, and all mine.

A small plug, if you have never experienced the beauty or the story of our amazing American mustangs, wild horses who live on government lands, check out the MustangHeritageFoundation.org or ExtremeMustangMakover.comRanger is a makeover horse who competed as a yearling.  We were blessed to adopt him into our family.

Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

Cat-splosion

There is simply no other way to describe it.  Since moving to the country, we have had a cat-splosion.  Not the gross-blow-em-up kind of splosion but the holy-moly-how-in-the-world-did-we-end-up-with-so-many kind of splosion.  For years, we have been dog people, frequently having five at a time, but we have religiously stuck to one bossy cat, the infamous Miss Willie Kitty.  And that has been plenty, or so we thought.  But since moving to the country, we have added and added until now we have seven, yes count them seven cats, clearly landing us smack in the cat people category.  (Personally I prefer to just think of us as critter people, but still this is getting out of hand.)

It all started with the thought that we needed a barn cat.  So when I came across a beautiful cat that had wandered onto the wildlife center where I volunteer, I took him home to be the barn cat.  Well a whopping 24 hours in, he bit me which resulted in 10 days of quarantine for him and a swollen ankle for me.  Needless to say, after “investing” in his stay at the vet and his health, we made friends and Rhinoceros became cat number two.  (Yes, we have a cat named Rhinoceros and he has the heft to prove it.).   Life was good – one Miss Willie Kitty and one barn cat overseeing the place.

Well wouldn’t you know, not even a year later a tiny cat wanders into the barn, and we see her dart here and there on occasion, but we are getting nowhere near her and she is getting nowhere near us.  Rhinoceros seems to be sharing his barn, and there you have it, we have cat number three, Shadow.  Now we are good cat owners and Rhino was neutered and Miss Willie Kitty was spade so we had no intentions of being in the baby kitty business.  But it seeems that Shadow had other plans, and clearly had a boyfriend or two, and before we could catch her, she ended up preggers.  And to top it off, she had them in the barn under the attic floor.  So here we are cutting up the attic flooring to dig her (I should mention a not so happy her) and her little gems out.  Well that little adventure brought us Chip, Grizzly, Bear, and Petunia.  Yep, numbers four, five, six, and seven.

For those of you who know me personally, parting with an animal is not something I do well.  Considering we’ve now raised these kittens, they are going nowhere fast.  I did make one exception to send Petunia to Chicago to live with my sister-in-law turning her from country cat into city kitty.  Okay, so if you’re following the math, we’re back down to six.

After Shadow and crew arrived, we started seeing a black cat wander around the front yard at night, much to our dismay as we were farmtasically happy with six. Well, low and behold one evening, about 3 a.m., the old black cat decided he wanted in and started scratching at the door and meowing to high heaven.  Cowboy was thrilled, as I’m sure you can imagine, and as such named the cat accordingly.  You guessed it, Nightmare.  He showed up in the middle of the night, and he was number seven.  Perfect.  Nightmare was a bit of grump (shocking) until he got sick with an abscess driving his temperature to dangerous levels, and us back to the vet. The vet tech promptly gave him an old fashioned ice bath to bring it down, which like a chicken (or maybe a sneaky genius)  I opted out of participating in.  This little adventure has turned Nightmare into the loviest of all.  He watches the barn, but I can carry him around like a baby, rub his belly, and call him like  a dog.

There you have it. Seven cats who all have their shots, are micro-chipped, are all neutered/spade, and all part of our lives.  Most of them live inside because I’m neurotic and worry about something getting them.  God bless our vet (or maybe he should be blessing us) who lets us bring all of them in once a year for shots – yes we do it at once.  We enjoy making a scene that way and clearly cementing our status as cat people.

So there you have it – a true cat-splosion.  It seems in the country they literally just show up. But Cowboy has made it clear, the ranch is full.  So we’re hoping this is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event, because if cats live as long as I suspect they do, we are going to be cat people for a very long time to come.

Rhinocerous (wearing his Christmas ribbons).  From wild to mild, clearly he has a farmtastic life!
Rhinocerous (wearing his Christmas ribbons). From wild to mild, clearly he has a farmtastic life!
Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

My Donkey Found a Duck

Yep, you heard me correctly.  My donkey found a duck.  Sweetie Pie the donkey was hot on the trail of a little brown duck.  And this is how it all started …

It was a Wednesday morning, and I distinctly remember because I was busily gathering up the trash to drive it down the driveway for pick-up.  (Yes, driving the trash down the driveway is the norm – either in the tractor bucket or piled in the back of the little Jeep.  Either way – carrying it is not an option in the country.  Heck, we’re lucky we have trash service at all.)  And as usual, I was in a hurry, when I happened to notice that Sweetie Pie was dead focused on something in the pasture.

For those of you who have a donkey, you know that they are experts at spotting things, and when they are seriously paying attention to something, it’s usually worth checking out.  You can imagine my surprise when I rolled up to find Sweetie Pie nose to beak with a brown duck.  Keep in mind, our farm doesn’t have  pond or a lake, so a random duck in the middle of the pasture was quite a shock.  The good news – the duck was alive and alert but not making any attempts to make a break for it.

My save-the-animals instinct kicked in, and I dashed into the barn to grab a cat kennel to collect the duck (yes I said cat kennel – in my mind it was the right size).  My second germ-a-phobe instinct kicked in, and I decided to grab a pair of latex gloves, which happened to be blue, just in case the duck “had something.”

Back into the pasture I went cat kennel and gloves in hand, Sweetie Pie standing guard and thankfully not stomping or attacking.  As I went  to grab the duck, Mr. Duck found his inner duck self and wings and began flapping like mad and running as best he could through the pasture.  Clearly Mr. Duck was injured but not enough to make this is an easy catch.  So off I went running after the duck, blue-gloved hands waving, yelling behind me at Sweetie Pie to stay away.  Oh what a farmtastic site!

Well after much fussing, Mr. Duck made it safely into the cat kennel, where the dogs and cats all checked him out with faces that pleaded, “Please mom, let’s not keep another critter.”  So I loaded Mr. Duck up into the Jeep and drove him off to our local small animal vet, who was kind enough to take him in and nurse him back to health.  Mr. Duck was released into a local pond and has yet to be back in the pasture. Sweetie Pie continues to keep watch.

Donkeys - Sweetie Pie and Mama Rose
My donkey girls.