Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Moving Day

Posted on | March 1, 2010 | 10 Comments

I can only guess what other people do on Saturdays.

If you live in a suburb, you probably sit by your kitchen window, sipping coffee, and watching what your neighbors are up to.  As in, wonder if Rob-next-door will take out that huge pile of trash in the garage or spend the day washing his car?  (I know.  Who washes their car?  But I have heard it is big in the subdivisions.)  Or, will Carrie-down-the-street come out to get her newspaper in her hot pink sweatsuit or, please God, no, that horrifying moo-moo no one wants to see ever again but can’t look away from?  Also, who will go by walking their dog (a necessity) and who will go by jogging with their dog (an activity favored by the sick and twisted trying to make one feel guilty for the 6 tablespoons of caramel mocha flavored creamer in one’s coffee)?  I can see how this would be a fascinating way to relax.  I mean, why would you need facebook if you live in a neighborhood?

If you live in the city, you probably sit on a park bench feeding the rats.  I assume you do this because I see it on the movies all the time.  I think city people refer to the rats as “squirrels.” They don’t realize they are actually rats because they have limited exposure to wildlife and, therefore, view the vermin around them with a sympathetic eye.  Just so you know those cute, cuddly rats breed in the city then send their ever-expanding families out to the country where they terrorize the locals.  We’re talking not a day goes by without the bird feeder being assaulted by a rat battalion and if you leave the car door open while unloading groceries you will return to find a rat in your granola.  I won’t even mention all the good, solid country dogs driven to muttering, drooling insanity by the rat escapades in their back yards.  Well, I did mention it, but I will spare you the horrific details of their slow slide into madness.  How do you rat-feeding city people sleep at night?

Around here, Saturday tends to be moving day.  And I don’t mean moving my daily Waterford china off the table to make room for the weekend Wedgwood.  (Hey, just because I don’t actually own china doesn’t mean I don’t know what kinds there are.  I have Google, too, you know.)  No, a bright sunny weekend is perfect for moving the bedding in the barn down to the garden.  Kind of like changing the sheets for the livestock.  After all,  nothing says “a day off” like dealing with big piles of poop.

But just like watching the neighbors or feeding the rats in the city park, moving day is the cornerstone of social awareness and community interaction.  The chickens, being excavators at heart, are the first ones to gather around the wheelbarrow and pitchfork with me.  If it involves turning over poop or dirt, they are all for it.  There could be delicious squishy grubs, a wriggling worm dissected by the sharp tines, or even undigested pieces of grain in the manure pile.  The chickens are the dung beetles of the farm world.  You know, disgusting and invaluable all at the same time.

The goats come over to check out the action, too.  Not because they are interested in the poop pile.  Goats are so above poop.  As  a matter of fact, should any goat worth her 6% butterfat milk encounter a goat “berry” floating in the water trough she will fall down, waving her hanky, and calling for smelling salts.  By afternoon you will find all the goats lying on their sides, panting and gasping, crying, “Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink!”  As if they didn’t pollute it all by their poopy little selves.  Sigh.

Actually, the goats are just hoping for an escape opportunity.  Eventually I forget to fasten the bottom of the gate securely on a trip to the garden and they squeeze their bodies through the 2 inch gap in 3.5 seconds.  Sometimes even two at a time.  They’re like that squishy bad guy on X-men that goes through the jail cell bars.  I’d like to say I’ve seen them melt into amorphous goo but they tend to do it as soon as your back is turned.  One minute you see the goats behind the fence and the next they are hauling butt past you to the….well, that’s the thing.  There’s nowhere to go and nothing to do outside of the fence.  All of the hay to eat, grass to trample, and fallen trees to climb on are inside the fence.  Outside of it is just the driveway and the deck stairs.  Boring.  So they exercise their superpowers for nothing.  I try to explain, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  But they are too busy running around doing nothing to pay attention.  That happens a lot around here.

Soon the miniature pony arrives to supervise moving day procedure.  Supervising is big with him because he is a very Type A pony.  He recognizes that all poop belongs in its proper place and actually backs up to the manure pile to take care of business when he is loose on the pasture.  Really.  And should he be confined to the barn for the night when the call of nature strikes, he leaves his droppings in one corner of the barn in a discreet little stack.  Then he goes to the water trough and washes his hooves exactly 6 times and unlocks and locks the stall slide bolt exactly 4 times before turning in 2 complete circles.  I’ve thought about taking pictures of the pony backing up to the manure pile to do his business, and posting it just to prove how Type A the little guy really is.  But then you might think I’m not as funny as I am kind of weird.  It’s a thin line and I try not to step over it.

After a few minutes, the sheep joins the moving day crowd.  It’s unlikely that he recognizes the significance of the moment.  He’s blind. He just follows the body heat until he starts bumping into everyone.  Once that happens, he figures he’s in the right place.  The other animals sneer at him, but luckily for him, he can’t see it.  He has a delicate ego which barely survived the transition from an adorable, white, fluffy, bouncy lamb to a what looks like a walking, dirty, gray Q-tip.  I can empathize.  It’s the same reason I try to keep pictures of my college-aged, size 8 self hidden away in drawers.  Sometimes it’s good to be blind.

Eventually the guardian dog shows up.  He is all about poop.  Several times a day he finds a pile of poop and rolls in it.  I have read that he does this to disguise his scent so he can sneak up on predators of the flock and attack them.  But I have my doubts.  First of all, he pees on everything and anyone who stands still for more than 3 minutes.  This does not seem like a particularly sneaky strategy.  Any predator within 5 miles of our place will either know we have a livestock guardian dog or think a crop sprayer plane with 100 gallons of dog urine just passed overhead.

Second, rolling in poop makes him so darned happy.  I mean, he grunts joyfully, and wags his tail, and has this huge doggy grin on his face during the process.  Sometimes, if it’s a particularly stinky pile, he even backs up to get a running a start before throwing himself down in glee.  Now, I’ve seen a lot of war movies where the soldiers disguise themselves for battle.  They get out those little tins of green and black and smear their faces with camouflage.  And they look very serious doing it.  I mean, no smiling or tail wagging.  Sometimes even dramatic music playing in the background.  If the guardian dog is trying to camouflage himself in order to take out his enemies, someone forgot to tell him that smiling while you’re putting on your disguise is not very tough.   Not tough at all.

I don’t want to embarrass him, but I think he just likes poop.  Which is why the goats and the pony try not to make eye contact with him.  And sometimes when he’s rolling in it they look at me like, “Really?  This perv is in charge around here?  Tell us again where you went to farm school?”  I don’t get a lot of respect unless I’m holding the food scoop.

So you can spend your Saturday checking out the neighbors or feeding the local wildlife.  One day when I am too old for the wheelbarrow I hope to join you.  But for now, I’ll be in the barnyard, stumbling over the chickens, chasing goats, and inhaling the sweet aroma of…well, let’s just say, smelling the spice of life on a farm. 🙂

© Stevie Taylor 2010. All Rights Reserved.


10 Responses to “Moving Day”

  1. kmmykat
    March 1st, 2010 @ 8:12 am

    The poop patrol is never ending with the pets….makes me wonder if the really big farms have an actual job title for this? And btw, remind me that I should not pet your guard dog – ever!!

  2. forensicfarmgirl
    March 2nd, 2010 @ 10:30 am

    LOVE IT! Your days off sound a lot like mine!

  3. KathiD
    March 2nd, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

    This made me laugh! I have always maintained that rats just have better PR people than squirrels.

  4. Cheryl
    March 2nd, 2010 @ 7:00 pm

    As I read, I felt me and my animals were out there with you. 🙂 Sounds like around here.

  5. Linda
    March 7th, 2010 @ 7:09 pm

    Saturday is just another day of the week around here 😉 Our dogs roll in the crap all the time..I think they think it’s a disguise of some sort 🙁

  6. Linda
    March 7th, 2010 @ 7:09 pm

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting too b.t.w.!!

  7. GaFarmWoman
    March 10th, 2010 @ 7:02 am

    I have heard there are people who actually have time to sit on benches and feed those critters that are always trying to sneak in around here and eat the fruit off my trees,etc..

    I also have a dog-BoDog- that loves to roll around in smelly stuff with that same grin on his face as your dog has there.LOL…

    I probably am getting old, so I am told, but I still push my wheelbarrow around regularly. Sometimes it even is filled with something.

    Have a great day.

  8. Cindy Cass
    March 12th, 2010 @ 2:54 pm

    Once when I was younger (by a lot of years) i wanted to be a farmer of sorts. I even subscribed to a magazine called ‘farm wife news”. Then one day I slipped and fell into the compost pile. End of ‘farming’ End of wanting that world. I never even got to the chicken coop stage of my life. I still dram longingly about other people’s chickens and then I think about the poop and go out to the porch to watch my neighbors wash their cars. This is a great publicationyou have. Keep up the good work. (Jen T’s. MOM) Cindy

  9. Margaret Maxikowski
    March 13th, 2010 @ 10:52 pm

    great and funny story, that is just life on the farm. I agree the 2 inches is more than enough room for a full grown goat to get her body though.
    thanks for the laughs

  10. Cheryl W
    April 3rd, 2011 @ 7:29 pm

    Moving Day I think has just become a new term in our household! Our ducks and geese can make a huge sodden mess of their bedding, and somehow, even though the other half thought they would be a great idea, I am always the only one to clean. (Cat box too!)

    Ah, and what do my friends do on their Saturdays? They play Farmville on their computers…really, and have the audacity to ask me for stuff for their “farms!” (Um, no, I actually have to go take care of my REAL animals!)

    Keep up the wonderful writing, my whole family is enjoying hearing about the humor in farm life that echos some aspects of our life.

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