Barn Plans

It’s been a little over a year since we moved to our little farm, and 3 years since we bought our first sheep. (We boarded them before.) We currently have these horribly ugly hoop house shelters made of cattle panels and tarps. That will need to change in the next few months.

It’s a big process. We need to install a gate to the back pasture, since the front pasture doesn’t drain well enough to put a barn up on it. Then we will need to clear enough room in the back pasture, a challenge since it’s all mesquite. Then we need to order supplies. Then, we get the fun of building the thing. We’ll go from ugly little hoop house shelters, toooo … an ugly BIG hoop house barn. It’s all we can realistically afford to do right now. Much as I may long for a big red barn with eight 10 x 10 stalls and a high hay loft and a tack room and feed room with plumbing and electric and a one-eyed tabby cat, that’s just not where we are yet. One day, maybe …

Date Night

Today I put the ewes, Doileag and Bonnie, in with the ram, Wesley. If they are still in breeding season, we should have lambs in mid May. That is, if this whole thing takes at all. It was really far more complicated than necessary.

First, I had to fix the fence so that the buck, Kuzu, and his wether buddy, Six, would stay AWAY from Wesley and the ewes. This is one time when sheep and goats don’t mix. Kuzu got mad at me and reared up on his hind legs – which actually makes him taller than me. I danced out of reach of his horns, which have about a three foot wingspan at this point. Once he was back on all fours, I wrestled him to the ground and pinned him. Can’t let the buck “talk” to me like that, or he’ll be dangerous. After that he let me lead him to the other side of the fence, and Six followed. Then I got to catch the ewes. Doileag was easy enough, but Bonnie was onto me. I had to back up sloooooowly to where she was eating, not looking at her, pretending to talk to the donkey, then dart out a hand and grab her horn. This is why I like horned ewes: they have handles.

Once the ewes were in the pasture with Wesley, he chased them around, interrupted with periods of eating great big mouthfuls of the new hay I brought out to them. Poor Wesley, Doileag finally stood still for him, and he was so jazzed he wasn’t careful and he fell off backwards. Not the most dignified entrance into the realm of breeding, little ram. The ewes’ lambs from last spring, Thistle and Bailey, were on the other side of the fence, and baa-ed piteously for their mamas. It was so sad! Don’t worry, little lambs, your mamas are RIGHT THERE, you can still see them, and you’ll be back with them soon!

On Orson Scott Card and Other Jerks

I am kind of sad I won’t be seeing “Ender’s Game.” I’ve heard it’s a very cool story, that I would really enjoy it – if I knew less about Orson Scott Card. As most folk are aware, Card is involved in anti-gay politics; he has made no secret of his opinion and his efforts to influence others in these matters. I’ve heard that Orson Scott Card sold the rights for a lump sum, so he doesn’t REALLY get a direct portion of my movie ticket (though it’s arguable that the future sales of other rights could be increased when this movie does well.) It’s also arguable that I should try to enjoy his work on its own merit, rather than judge it based on the nature of its creator. After all, aren’t we all about tolerance these days?

 

Here’s the thing about “tolerating” anti-gay beliefs. It’s pretty much the same as tolerating racism, sexism, ageism, etc. I might agree to disagree with those people, I might be compassionate and try to see them as whole, flawed people like the rest of us, but I will still be standing on the opposite side of the issue when it comes up. And it will come up. When it does, it’s not one side with legitimate beliefs against an equal side with legitimate beliefs, like a Methodists vs Baptists showdown, “West Side Story” style. It’s one large group with power against a small group without power. And on the side of the powerless are people like me, who don’t have to live with the consequences of the discrimination in question, but still recognize it as wrong. When we get involved, and the discriminatory group finds themselves in the minority, then, oh THEN they start crying victim, claiming THEY are the ones being targeted and persecuted. Because clearly, their right to treat someone else like crap is being reined in.

 

A person can believe homosexuality is wrong if they want to. That’s their decision. But as soon as they start getting involved in politics promoting anti-gay legislation, they make their private beliefs a public matter. They make it my business. And it is MY choice whether to engage people who hold those kinds of beliefs. The character of the individual comes through their work, their art. I have seen a part of Card’s character that is repulsive, condemning, and ugly. “Ender’s Game” may be a fine story, but I cannot engage art made by a mind like that. If I watched the movie, or read the book, I couldn’t enjoy it. I would only be filled with a melancholy sadness that the man behind this great work would meet me with hatred in his heart.

How Fast They Grow

Wow, the lambs grow so fast! The goat kids are still little, but the lambs are almost as big as their mothers! Thistle and Bailey are pretty wild; shearing time ought to be interesting. I can’t wait to spin that lambswool!

Thistle and Doileag

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Bonnie and Bailey

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Farm Improv

The kids have started school again. With school comes the inevitable last minute “I can’t find my thing” in the morning, no matter how we try to lay stuff out the night before.

Today it was a belt. Cameron’s new pants were too big, and did not have the handy elastic to take it up on the sides. We could not find any of his many belts. So, I grabbed a lead rope from the utility room and tried to tie it on him. He looked down at it trailing on the floor, looked up at me and said, in quiet desperation, “Mama, this isn’t going to work.”

So, the lead rope came off. I was then forced to do something I had been dreading. I gave him one of my belts.

It fit. My belt fit on my eight year old son.

Guys, it’s official. I’m raising a changeling. Cameron is either a giant or a giraffe.

Rainy Days

For the last several weeks, it has been unbearably hot. The dry earth around the farm was crackled like raku pottery. Large spiders lived in the cool shelter of the cracks, some the size of my palm, while we giants skirted along the top of the crust. The sheep and goats, with several inches of wool or mohair on them, slept through much the day in the shade, grazing in the mornings and evenings when the temperatures duped below 100.

But for the past several days, we have had a perfect rain, that slow, steady soak we don’t usually see this time of year. Summer storms in Texas are furious, with tornado style winds and great gushes of water that run off before they soak in. But there was little wind in this storm, and it lazily drenched everything. Including goats.

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There is a faint blush of green back again. The ground has largely swelled back to a solid mass, and the spiders have taken to the tall grasses, gleefully catching thumb sized grasshoppers.

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Today, the animals are mostly dry again. We built them a new hoop shelter farther in the pasture, in the deep shade, to provide them a little more relief from the heat. The shelter near the house was fine in the winter, but it got hot inside in the summer. While it was raining, and the pasture got really muddy, the animals got to come into the backyard for a day and trim the landscaping. (No poisonous flowers in our yard.) It kept them from getting TOO muddy and soaked, since the shelter was better here, and kept their fleeces nice.

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Except for Kuzu and Six. But they are fine where they are.

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Today everyone is back where they are supposed to be, and it is kind of a relief. As much as I enjoyed watching the baby goats play in the yard, it is better to have them in the pasture, where they really belong!

Birds!

Chickens were the first farm animals we had, long before we moved to the farm. I think I will have at least a few hens for the rest of my life. They are so comical, interesting, productive and lovely. They look like absurd caricatures of dinosaurs. Never has such a ridiculous creature taken itself so seriously. I have birds on the brain, so here is an update on our birds.

This morning, three hens were crammed into one nest box. There are other nest boxes, girls! This one is apparently the new favorite.

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But Hickory, our ever-broody bantam Cochin, had the best nest box fully occupied with chicks! She didn’t hatch them; at over 100, it is too hot for hatching chicks. That didn’t stop her from trying, for weeks and weeks on end, despite the fact she was only sitting on ceramic eggs. I took pity on her. Knowing it was the only reliable way to make her stop sitting, I gave her some chicks. Last night while she was asleep, I took the ceramic eggs out from under her and replaced them with 10 Jersey Giant chicks I bought locally. She woke up to a nest full of chicks, and they woke up to a new mama. And I woke up to a house without a bunch of chicks in it. Everyone wins!

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In other news, our guinea keets have almost turned into guinea fowl. They are making adult noises from time to time, are almost fully feathered, and can fly a lot better than chickens. So, they are now allowed out in the world. They are still keeping to the chicken run, but soon they will venture into the woods and pastures. Go eat those bugs, guineas!

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