Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

To be continued…..

Posted on | February 1, 2011 | 6 Comments

You’ve heard the news.  Owning animals is proven to extend your life.  Researchers speculate about oxytocin and cortisol interactions, companionship, and responsibility.  Which just means they’re missing the big picture.  Obviously, people live longer because they are determined to live to see the day that the dog doesn’t manage to get into the trash can overnight.  Or to never wake up to cat poop next to the litter box instead of in it.  And you have to live a long time to get that point.  After all, any self-respecting dog or cat will not use up all their trash-eating, next-to-the-box pooping behavior in a month or two.  No, siree.

Pets know it’s much more effective to let  their owners think that keeping the trash bag in the pantry is going to work.  Just leave it be for a week or two.  Enjoy the new self-cleaning litter box for a while.  Just until it gets moved back to the bathroom instead of that dank corner in the basement.  Then go crazy, furry friends!  And while licking the butter wrapper on the couch or taking care of business on the bath mat, they can take pride in the fact that they’re enhancing the lives of their loved ones!  Imagine the plots and ploys the owners will devise to get acquiescence.  Brain cells firing, energy exerted, family meetings being held—it’s bonanza of health and social interaction.

And farm animals like to kick it up a notch or two.  Just because they can.  Which is why I’ve spent quite a few days since December devising a way to keep the ponies out of the goat barn.  Feeding them their hay in the front pasture was my first defense.

After all, why would they raid the goat’s hay roll when they receive their own hand-fed portion of hay twice a day?  That’s like trading in room service for the buffet.  But ponies being ponies, they decided they would accept room service and then head over to the buffet anyway.  I admit, it was a weak defense.  I’ve never actually had an animal turn down the chance to eat someone else’s food.  But it was nice for the first couple weeks that it worked.

The next step was closing the top door of the goat barn.

Occasionally the goats need to be confined (any work detail involving the wheelbarrow comes to mind as the goats are infamous wheelbarrow tippers) and the split allows me to close the bottom and keep goats in the barn, but leave the top open to allow chickens and ducks to move freely in and out.  In this case, I just reversed the process—goats can go in and out, but no ponies.  Unfortunately, ponies don’t have a problem with a little squat and scoot.  Not that I’ve ever seen them get under the half door.  But I have seen this in the goat barn next to the hay roll.

Let’s just say, no DNA testing necessary.

The next step was a bright yellow chain.  So bright, so cheery!  So easy to hang with a few eye hooks and a little hand torque!

So easy to tear out of the barn wall by leaning all 500 pony pounds against it.  I suppose it was a foregone conclusion.  After all, the woman who boards her pony with us, took notice of the chain while visiting one day.  She commented what great idea it was and I responded, “It works like a charm.”  NEVER, NEVER say, “It works like a charm.”  Murphy’s Law of Farming dictates that it will stop functioning immediately.  Which is why I woke up  the next morning to two ponies in the goat barn and my pretty yellow chain laying in the straw despondently.

I’ll admit I rehung that chain 3 times before giving up on it.  I was hoping it was just a battle of wills.  Sooner or later one of us was going to get tired of dealing with that chain every day.  Guess who got tired of it first?

Luckily for me, I am well prepared for these types of animal vs. farmer contests.  In addition to determination and creativity, I have a well organized and easily accessible assortment of hardware to manage any problem.  As long as you consider “easily accessible” to mean gathering items from the backyard shed, the top cabinet over the television, the mud room, and the closet under the stairs.  And as you can see, everything is neatly organized in various ziploc bags and a strawberry basket.

To think Craftsman wants $60 for one of those multi-drawer hardware chests.  Please.

Best of all, this Christmas I received a cordless drill to replace the one I burned out last summer.  Oh, how I love a cordless drill!

The animals have run rampant since my last one died—-ripping doors off hinges, legs off of milk stands, and mineral feeders off the walls.  I could hear them chuckling softly as I stomped off to the house claiming, “Just you wait!  I’ll be right back with the drill to the fix that and then you’ll be sorry you messed with me!”  They knew darn well I wasn’t coming back with 400 feet of extension cord and the electric drill that is so powerful it strips a screw head in .3 seconds.  Instead, I would stay late after the evening milking using leftover twine from the hay bales to tie things back in place.  Oh, the shame of it.

So prepared with my new drill, a hinge, and a scrap piece of lumber, I strode out to the barn to put an end to the ponies’ mischievous behavior.  I even got to use my yellow chain.

The concept behind this construction is that the wooden bar is too low to go under and the half door keeps them from going over.  In addition, by leaning against the bar, they cannot push it out of the wall but will instead be leaning their body weight against the support of the very heavy, very solid door.  For us to enter during feed times, all we have to do is unhook the chain and open the wooden bar.

Just think of all the years I’ve added to my life just by trying to outsmart my critters.  That’s not even counting what I’ll have to come up with next month when they figure this one out.  To be continued….

P.S.  Now that I see the picture, the wooden bar looks a little crooked.  It is not crooked.  Must just be the angle of the camera while I took the picture.  I can assure you I used a level and a measuring tape and a chalk rope and whatever else you see people use when they turn a 10 minute fix into an entire weekend project.  Also, that wooden bar is not too long.  It is the exact length I want it to be.  It’s not just the size I found it and I was too lazy to get the circular saw to cut it down.  C’mon, people I’m a professional.  😉


6 Responses to “To be continued…..”

  1. Terry
    February 1st, 2011 @ 12:28 pm

    I’m just surprised that you are trying to keep the ponies out of the goat barn, and not vice versa. My own goats have learned to unlatch their door, and then lock themselves out of the barn. Sigh.

  2. Jill
    February 2nd, 2011 @ 3:04 am

    You’re going to live forever. that and don’t children keep you young? You you are going to be young forever.

  3. Tanya
    February 2nd, 2011 @ 6:17 am

    Love the picture of the pony poop..

  4. Erin
    February 2nd, 2011 @ 9:07 am

    Oh, LOL. Everyday is a new “youthful” adventure, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing!

  5. Melanie Woodley
    February 2nd, 2011 @ 11:44 am

    Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! LOVE to see another Farm Professional on the job….

  6. Lisa D.
    February 2nd, 2011 @ 12:09 pm

    You have so much more motivation than I do! If only you could see the contraptions in our house to keep everyone where they are supposed to be. The great part is that none of us think twice about it until someone has a friend over and we try to explain to them the importance of keeping this door closed, that gate latched, that gate high, etc. It’s a funny farm 🙂

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