We had a surprise waiting for us on Monday morning when we went out to the barn… the first lambs of the season! It was our lucky guests that day who first discovered that Piper had given birth to triplets:
And then, on Tuesday morning, Nona gave birth to twins.
Very exciting times in the barn!
This wonderful photo of Tina Turner, our Polish Top Hat chicken, was taken by guest Gernot Albrecht.
The blanket has become itchy; the ground in the turn-out area muddy and deep; the donkey is cranky; life has become boring; and, the sheep are just plain stupid IMO.
And then one morning we wake up to six inches of snow. Oh, glory be! Every animal and person on the farm breathes a sigh of relief. The brown is gone, covered by a crystal white as pure as light in a short winter’s day. The mood is lifted. Even the donkey’s. Of course, the sheep are still stupid because they don’t seem to notice anything different.
Is there really anything better than a roll in the snow? No snow angels here but horse angels instead. A face full of the white stuff feels good. It’s cool to the touch. It’s in my nose. It’s on my belly. Legs in the air!
What’s that sheep looking at? Stupid sheep. They have no horse sense.
Photos: Tater and Moralecia playing in the snow. Katahdin ewe doesn’t get it
All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2012 Scottie Jones
When I was nine or ten, my parents bought me my first horse. Actually, he was a large pony from Old MacDonald’s Farm, a local petting zoo. I have no idea why the farm was selling him, except he liked to bite. He was black and white, with a thick neck and big head. I thought he was beautiful. My own pony. I had dreamed about this day for years; well, at least since I was eight.
As I remember, that first summer was a bit rough. Perky (a name that never quite fit the package) had the bad habit of bucking me off on a regular basis. We eventually reached an understanding, but I had many friends who ended up in the dirt of the arena at one time or another. It was a right of passage. No one rides the pony without hitting the dust a few times for good measure. Luckily, this was in the 1960s when no one talked about suing anybody.
Perky died when I was thirteen. My parents replaced him with another horse and I continued riding through high school. A bit like the Velveteen Rabbit, I lost interest in my college years and the ponies were sold. The stable became a shed for garden tools; the fencing of the paddock a trellis for the wild roses my mother planted to border the lawn.
There weren’t horses in my own back yard again until more than 20 years later. Up to that point we had had neither the space nor the money to host animals larger than a dog, a cat, an iguana, various domestic rodents, and a bird or two.
The ponies arrived as rescues in the night and thus began a new chapter for the horses in my life; except this time I had daughters of my own and a husband who had spent more childhood years riding a dirt bike than anything with four legs and a mane.
The idea was to teach our girls to ride, to be responsible for something larger than a dog, and to keep them distracted through their high school years when sometimes a horse can be a better friend than the two-legged kind. It didn’t work exactly like that for both kids because apparently you have to have some special crazy-about-horses girl gene to make you keep riding when your friends have other ideas to occupy the hours after school.
But all of us were touched in one way or another by the horses in our back yard. They morphed over time as some proved more reliable than others, but we settled on one of our rescues, Moralecia, a fancy little Arabian with a large attitude and a good mind, and a square-headed Appaloosa named Chaco who was athletic and gentle in an old soul kind of way.
Our horses became ‘familiars’ as the years passed and our girls grew. There is a strange, almost centaurian oneness that develops from riding a horse day after day, where communication is handled by the shift of one’s weight or the nudge of a heel. It’s non-verbal but totally understandable. Our horses in turn used their own signals, if we were smart enough to pay attention: the turn of an ear, a look in the eyes, a nuzzle, a shove.
In the end, if you want to know the truth, I think we can actually blame our move to this farm on the horses. Greg figured they needed more space than our 1-acre suburban lot and so he bought them 40! I never understood until then that for the love of horses we were to become farmers.
Old MacDonald’s Farm was a prescient look into my future. No petting zoo here and the horses don’t bite, but Perky would have loved this place. And, while it took our desert horses more than a little time to adjust to the green pastures and forests of Oregon, they’ve settled in. So, too, have we.
Photos:(top)Moralecia and Chaco when we first arrived in Oregon;(bottom)Moralecia, Chaco, and Tater about 3 years into our move
Postscript. I have been remiss at finishing any of the blogs I started since last May and have about 10 partially completed, but none ready to ‘go’. As I find time this winter, you may read stories from 6 months ago and wonder what is going on at the farm. Nothing, except it’s a farm and farming is never done.
All rights reserved. Copyright 2011 Scottie Jones
Nona and Deedee started life just as their mother lost hers. I don’t know if it was Nona or Deedee that I first swung upside down, back and forth, to get the fluid out of her lungs and her breathing started. Which ever lamb it was, she hasn’t held it against me. Both lambs were rubbed down and in a cardboard box with straw, placed in front of the wood stove, before they were even 15 minutes old.
By the time the girls were a few days old, living in the house with the dog and the cat had become customary and normal. They were given access to all the rooms during the day as long as they had on their disposable diapers. We cut a hole for the tail and, being girls, the system worked sufficiently well. At other times, Deedee and Nona were relegated to their cardboard box for lamb control.
The dog was interested in the babies. The cat wasn’t so sure. Cisco would clean Nona’s and Deedee’s wool and lick them all over, especially when they dripped milk down their chins and around their mouths. Similar to the ministrations of a mother ewe, this encouraged them to drink more. It also helped to keep their faces from getting crusty with old formula. Shortly, the lambs learned to climb out of the box and were thus sent back to live a lamb’s true life at the barn.
Deedee and Nona were named for ancient Greek goddesses or furies or something. Annie might be a vet student but her semester of Greek archaeology had proven interesting to her and thus influential in her approach to naming these babies. She did, after all, deserve first rights for delivering them. She picked names that reflected the goddesses who oversaw childbirth and fertility.
It seemed fitting but I had the hardest time remembering the names to start. Usually I let lambs name themselves. If it had been up to me, the lambs would have called themselves Laverne (Deedee) and Shirley (Nona). It was that obvious in their personalities.
So, here we are now, with lambs a month old intermingled with all the other lambs on the farm. Instead of being afraid of us, they push to the front of the flock and dive through the barn door at feeding for a bottle of formula and a scratch on the head. This has all been to the extreme delight of guests and their children. Who can’t love the smell of a baby lamb; feel the soft wool; oooh and aaah as they tangle around your legs pushing up for a bottle of milk? Like all babies, they are picked up and carried around. They are posed for photos. They are treated like pet dogs.
On a warm day when the doors are left open, it comes as no surprise to find them walking into the house, especially when the sheep are grazing the orchard close by. Our split rail fencing works for sheep but not so well for lambs. It’s an easy squeeze for Deedee and Nona, and they sagely know how to find the front door.
Without diapers, the lambs are not as welcome in the house. The cat is still wary and will run sit on the stairs. The carpet may be old, but lambs peeing on it are not appreciated. I wave my arms and scold until Deedee and Nona bounce out nonchalantly. “Who’s she yelling at? Us???” The lambs graze the lawn. Sometimes they check out the guests and totter up the steps onto the deck. When it suits their purpose, Deedee and Nona will squeeze back into the orchard to play with their kindergarten class.
I suppose I should just be happy they haven’t figured out how to use the dog door, although I did see them watching Cisco pass through it the other day. Quite intently, I might add.
Photos: (top) guest with Deedee and Nona on the bridge; (bottom) guest feeding Deedee. Photos by C. Anderson (father).
All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2011 Scottie Jones