Daily Archives: October 4, 2008

Life and death (and housing) on the farm

It is a typical west coast, gray, autumnal day here: pouring rain–in fact, a fall day, as in, rain falls from the sky, fall day. I went out this morning to do the farm chores, squishing my way across the sodden lawn. The chickens are hardy, and the wet weather doesn’t seem to bother them at all. The ducks, ditto. In fact, they seem to relish all the extra wet and delight in bathing and showering at the same time. It is pure bliss to watch and even charming listen to, as I move on to the next item on the list of things to do. Goats.

Goats in the rain are another story. They hate everything about it: wet ground which leads to wet feet, and wet sky, which leads to wet feed; God forbid their hay might get some raindrops on it! Normally, I have a rack that I put the hay into which they then spend the day kicking around the yard. Each morning it is like an Easter egg hunt: I spend valuable time searching for where they left it this time. In this weather,  however, if I want the goats to eat the hay and not just watch it rot in the rain, I have to evenly distribute it among what are actually dog houses but function as goat ‘day-beds’. There are three ‘day-beds’ for the five of them, so they spend these wet days jockeying for position in the best one (the one with the window in it). Ruminants with a view–who knew goats could read? If I’m not careful, they’ll want their own 500 British Pounds per year each next.

We have yet to build them a purpose built barn. Presently, they are ‘making do’ in the one end of my ‘big red barn’ that was actually built to house, among other farm implements, the ride-on lawn mower. However, after the cougar incident, the lawn mower moved outside under a tarp (with relatively little complaint) and we immediately installed a front door, and let the goats call the space their own. It is where they spend their nights now, although it was supposed to be a temporary arrangement and we’re holding to that story; or I am. The ‘other half’ is pretty convinced the goats can stay there forever, but then he isn’t around to hear their endless complaints or their rapidly expanding wish-list.

Having observed the just completed purpose-built poultry barn, the goats now have aspirations. They would like to have their own purpose-built barn thank you very much, facing south to let in the winter sun, preferably with an automatic watering system–so they don’t have to wait while I chip ice before they can drink in February, and a place for the salt lick, and possibly with a scratching post and if it isn’t too much trouble, separate bedrooms because Gordon snores. They would also like to be able to tap-dance on the roof of their new establishment and take in the views; they take Forster literally. I was kind of hoping to be the next in line for an addition this year, but my list of needs and wants may go unnoticed, a-gain. All I want is a room with a wood stove for heating, before winter sets in, a-gain.

Alas, I came to the turkeys this morning and found one dead. At first I thought for sure it would be little miss with the impacted crop, but it wasn’t. She seems to be in perfect health apart from the obvious protrusion. Oddly, it doesn’t seem to be bothering her; she’s as sprightly as ever. I lifted up the dead one and took it out to bury it in the garden. I have to do it deep enough so as to not attract the bears or foxes, and out of the sight of my own pooch lest she decide it is a ‘help yourself lunch’ when she gets hungry.

I have no idea why this turkey died. It is often the way on the farm; you simply find things dead, no note, no explanation, and often without warning. She’s not the only thing I buried this week: we also lost the owl that got caught in the netting. She died some time the next day. She too is buried somewhere in the garden, along with a host of other critters. I’ve got patches of garden devoted solely to ‘pet cemetaries’.  We even call them by name: we’ll plant those roses in Tui’s garden, and the tulips in Severance’s garden. Now the wildlife and the other lost creatures are joining them and augmenting the place names. The creatures here are remembered in life and in death on the farm.

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Filed under Animal issues, Goats, Sustainable Farming, Turkeys