For the last 24 hours all we’ve heard on the news is about this powerful snow storm heading our way with up to 24″ of snow and high winds over night! What do I see outside this morning when I got up? 5 foot snowdrifts? NO! Wind swept pastures with sheets of blowing snow giving us white out visibility? NO! It is sunshine galore out there! Not a cloud in the sky! We spent hours yesterday getting the animals ready for riding the storm out. We shut them in the barn, gave extra grain, plugged holes that we discovered from the last storm, spreading more straw. I gave them all a lecture about being nice to each other while cooped up in a tight spot and few a warnings along with finger pointing (Sparky) for a more dramatic effect if anybody nips at the other! I have trapped animals who I’m sure are very unhappy by this time of day and I’m the one who will be opening up the barn door! That means I have to slowly, carefully slide it open as I stand sideways so I don’t get trampled as they gallop for freedom! As soon as they gulp in the crisp fresh air, shaking off the barn dust they will realize that I’m in the barn and they’re not! That means they all run BACK into the barn to pounce upon the food that I was trying to sneak out before they realized it! IF I’m lucky, I will be in the back pen with the girl llamas and Stormy feeding them before the troops raid the barracks! sheesh!!
On a warm summer weekend we had a garage sale. We would advertise all over town that Addie Acres was having another sale, encouraging folks that they are welcome to bring their youngsters to the farm to see the llamas and pet the fat little goat who likes to hug. It seems like every time we opened the doors, we would get people showing up to offer us FREE animals. This time it was free… chickens. This young couple were down on their luck, moving in with her parents but mom didn’t want noisy chickens to reside in her backyard. They were hoping that we would adopt their pets. They sweetened the deal by not only giving us these chicks, they were also throwing in a nice big cage, food dishes and corn grain! All that FREE stuff! I said, yes before Chad could blink an eye! These chickens were still young, mostly fluff and you couldn’t tell what they were yet. Unfortunately 5 out of the 8 chicks were Bantam’s. They are small chickens with big attitudes… little man syndrome. Of course 4 of those little terrors turned out to be roosters. They hung out together, attacked together and bossed every animal in the barn even at the risk of being stomped. We nicked named them the 4 Horsemen. Bantams are very pretty, they have long tail feathers’ with many different colors. These 4 guys traveled together…the gang. They didn’t like to sleep, eat or hang with the flock. We would watch them strut around the yard, chasing bunnies or sleeping under a bush. The Horsemen also didn’t care that much for humans and after giving Lucifer the axe a few months before, we weren’t up to letting roosters chase us in our own backyard again! Especially annoying little birds that were no bigger than our Chihuahua. We let them know early on that we the people, control the food and showed them where we kept the axe. The gang kept to themselves that first year and although they were a pain by pecking at our ankles we let them stay just so we could watch their antics with the other animals. The Horseman loved the cats and were not afraid of them. The kitties on the other hand despised those irritating birds. Those ankle tall roosters would chase the cats, pecking at their behinds or stealing their kibbles. The kitties sat high up on the hay bales to keep distance between them. Once in awhile you could hear the battle between the Horsemen and a couple of cats….loud squawks and high pitched meows. They also annoyed the goats. The gang was always sneaking into Dillon and Sierra’s pen, hanging out pecking at the goat grain. Once they were in, the goats were not allowed back inside with out a fight. We would chase the pest out so the goats could go to bed. The Llamas didn’t care for the gang and left them alone. Our dogs however loved them! If a pooch got out, he went straight for one of the Bantams! Cody our golden retriever enjoyed a good chase and these roosters were perfect exercise. Those chickens would split up running in circles or ducking under a barrel. Cody was in heaven! He went from one to the other, mouth open wide, tongue hanging, a few feathers stuck in his teeth. As much as I wouldn’t have cared, I never let him grab a Horsemen. But I did allow Cody to put the fear of dog in them! If they were acting up, I opened the door and let a dog or two out to put them back in their place. After a couple of years the gang started to get mean, following in Lucifer’s footsteps. They started to attack the children who stopped by to pet the animals so they ended up in the freezer. I couldn’t bring myself to eat them. Chad cooked them up one night and served them at a family gathering. I heard they were tough and not very tasty which didn’t surprise me at all. I enjoyed them for a short period and can honestly say, I will never allow Bantam chickens to rule the farm again, unless MAYBE they’re free!
We have a small hill by the garage that faces the barn and the animals like to eat the grass up there. Well it’s been snowing allot making the pasture very icy. The horse and donkey droppings have now become hard rocks that stick up like tiny mountains hiding under the snow to trip me. Any who….Dunkay was pawing for grass under the crusty blanket on the slanted side of the hill, ignoring me since I didn’t have any grain in my hands. I yelled out to him, “Dunkay, what ya doing up there” he turned and looked at me, he then proceeded to come down so he could greet me, his favorite human. Because of the ice, he started to lose his footing, sliding towards me with his legs doing the cartoon act, you know where you all you see is a circle of legs going around and around but they aren’t moving? I’m standing there watching him slide towards me, no traction under his hooves that are pumping thinking a hundred thoughts per second like, “oh no, do I run? Do I try to stop him? Will he knock me down if I can’t move away fast enough? Is he going break a leg? Is he going to die? Am I going to die? Where’s Chad when you need him?!” I spread my legs a bit, bend down a little and put my arms out, sorta like a baseball catcher, only in pink, hoping to catch a 300 pound donkey. What am I nuts? I come to my senses within seconds and step aside and let him slide past me. After he got his footing, he looked at me with a grin on his face! I believe he actually enjoyed himself!
Well since I’ve been writing about goats, I will tell about the 2cnd goat we got…for free. Jasper! You would think that after Billy, red flags would be easy to recognize. Well they’re not! Jasper came to us approx. 3 months after Billy went to live at his new butting playground. Jasper had been raised by an elderly lady who kept him in the house for the first year of his life. He was treated like a child and he excepted nothing less from Addie Acres when he joined our family. Jasper took over Billy’s old pen. It was the perfect goat area! It had a cozy 2 room shelter with a thick straw bed, a special wood ‘goat pole’ that we put up so he could scratch his horns and take care of any itch he may have. It had a large private pasture for running, playing and to lounge around in the sun with a small dirt hole for a body rub. Jasper had a couple of good points right from the start. He was already fixed and even thou he liked to play, he wasn’t a ‘butting’ goat. He would push around colorful beach balls, muzzle our hand for a massage and he had an unusual talent… escaping from any pen no matter where it was or how strong the structure! Billy the goat would butt us to play and Jasper the goat would escape so he could trot up to the house looking for his human family. He would spend un-noticed hours searching for a tasty bush he wasn‘t allowed to eat. We reinforced the fence, replacing most of it with horse fencing, plus we pounded in a few heavy duty posts to prevent him from pushing a wall down. Goats are famous for finding a weak spot in the fence or locating a hole as small as a guinea pig that they can hook their horns into until it is big enough to squeeze through. If he could get his head through an opening, his whole body would follow without effort! Jasper would work on his pen everyday, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! There were many times when would I find him standing on the porch next to my white wicker furniture staring with dancing eyes, tail wagging! He was patiently waiting for me to come out to feed him and play. We had folks knocking day and night to inform us that our escapee was out enjoying exotic flowers. We caught him standing on his hind legs, front hooves on the window sill, looking in the family room trying to find life inside the house! Jasper was too friendly! He didn’t want to be alone and he didn’t enjoy living outside like an animal! I really liked Jasper, he was cute as a button and loved his humans! But he refused to be caged and enjoyed his freedom too much. It finally got to the point that we needed to find him a real farm with farmers who knew how to keep a Houdini inside the barn. So after a few short months we gave Jasper to a young lady who fell in love with him. She was active in 4H, and excited to show him off at the fair. We told her about his escape adventures, not holding any information back. Lucky for us, this teenage girl was raised on a large farm, experienced in taking care of goats. She was willing to take Jasper the escaping goat and teach him proper farm manners. When the day came to say goodbye, I was sad. I gave him a hug and help load him into her trailer. I watched my silly goat ride down the gravel driveway, his furry behind sticking out, tail wagging as the dusty white cloud enveloped them. I was disappointed that once again we were goat free, yet relived that I didn’t have to chase him down 5 days a week, worrying he might be struck by a car. Our ‘goat less ness’ lasted for about 8 months. Our next 2 FREE goats came from the Michigan City petting zoo. Their Care Taker promised that they wouldn’t try to escape, reassuring us that because they were hand raised at the zoo, they didn’t have that natural instinct to butt, they did however, enjoy circling around people for grain and vanilla wafers. Welcome Dillon and Sierra…the staring goats!
I need to write about our first goat…Billy. Yes that was his real name. Chad and I were just getting started in the ‘farm business’ when a man with 2 kids tagging along behind him, came to our garage sale at our new home. He asked if he could take his children over to pet the horses and see the llamas up close. Of course we said yes, after all, that is why we felt led to get some large animals,to share our place with folks who had young’uns. After a few minutes of friendly chit chat, he mentioned that they purchased a young goat from the Amish almost 6 months ago and Billy was getting too big for their back yard. He asked us if would like to have him…for free! Well of course we said yes! Never turn down a free animal when your starting up a farm! Since we were new at this large animal stuff, it didn’t click inside our heads that there is always a good reason why people want to give away a perfectly good goat (remember the Dorito commercial??). That should have been Red Flag number one! We agreed to meet ‘Billy’ the next day to see if he would fit in with our family. We met Billy in the back yard of a modest house where they kept a few chickens and a very large black lab. Red Flag number 2 was about to show itself! Billy came running straight for us as fast as his little goat legs would trot, only stopping when his horns were firmly planted on Chad’s behind! We nervously laughed as Billy’s mom commented over and over how cute it is that he likes to ‘play’…allot….non stop…continually. Flag number 3 came when the kids automatically hid behind both parent’s as Billy tried to play with everyone within sight!
We took him home, in the back of our van.
Billy was an adorable looking goat with big horns and a non-stop ‘lets play’ attitude. His playfulness consisted of butting everything that breathed….the horses, which kicked their hind legs at him…the llamas that ran away which made him very happy since that meant chase, and anything on two legs! If you moved, he butted…if you stood still…he butted. If you came outside…he butted. He wasn’t mean, just a typical boy goat! After a couple of months of the butting game, Billy started to get gruff! He was beginning to smell like a mature goat! Male goats STINK if they aren’t fixed! Billy needed an ‘operation’. We were hoping that after his ‘castration’ he would settle down. Hope is a funny word when it comes to goats. Our wishful hope did not come true. Billy just wanted to play! Soooooo, we learned to run faster than him in a zigzagging line , we even made escape plans before we ventured inside his pen! Chad and I tried to feed him together as one of us distracted him so the other could sneak in, filling up his food dish and water bucket, trying to be quiet as barn mice. If he heard you, he got into play position, head bent low, horns glowing with determination to butt! We tried with Billy, we really tried. We changed how we did farm chores, we gave him balls to play with and learned how to be sneaky. After a LONG frustrating year, we gave him away…free to some folks who I’m sure had Red Flags swaying in the back of their minds as we commented over and over how cute it is that he likes to play!
Then we got our next FREE goat…Jasper, ‘butt’ that’s another story!