Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Love Shack

Well, it's another sunny day here in the Greatland. Sunny means clear, and unfortunately, as it is November, clear means cold. Not too cold today - zero this morning, 20 or so now - but chilly, at any rate; enough that my truck wishes I'd remembered to plug in the block heater last night. Oh, well.

Things are seeming MOST cheerful and wonderous to me today. This is in part due to the sunny morning, and in part becuase the Purple Toes of Doom are now a little more like the Mostly Flesh-Colored Toes of Anyone Else, my 3X ankle is now down to a 1.5X version, AND I can flex it through its full range of motion. This is not a pain-free endeavor (particularly in the shin-ly area), but it's a lot more pleasant than it was even three days ago. My shin is still a nice mottley shade of grape, but the back of my calf is fading to a pretty rose-violet, and the top and sole of my foot are back to the usual color.

Regardless of all that, however, I'm pretty sure that at least 60% of my extreme cheer this morning is that I am WAY over-caffienated. I went over to Wildwood this morning with 150# of sheep feed, and this of course resulted in an hour or so of sitting on the deep, cushy leather couch, chatting in good company, with the sun streaming over my face and a mug of coffee steaming gently in my hands. A mug which was magically refilled at the halfway point by the good-hearted and ever-helpful YS. As I'm normally a tea and/or decaf sort of person, this has resulted in a sort of extra-happy zing to my behavior. I know I'm not the only one who acts this way with a random excess caffiene load. The other morning (for instance) Dave, the BF, came in to the clinic (he was dropping his dog off to me on his way to work; he's flying all over Asia this week.) Normally, in the interest of speed, he'd just pop Pepper into my truck and zoom on down the road, knowing I'd be out shortly to bring her in and set her up a cushy bed in one of the runs, but the other morning he came bouncing in, saying "Hi! Ooh, surgery, neat! I have to use your bathroom, I had a little too much coffee this morning! Hey, that's a cute dog! Is it getting its teeth cleaned? [short pause whilst sequestered in the bathroom] I left the seat up for the next guy, har har! Hey, is that one of the new vets? Nice to meet you! [pause while he kisses me] Okay, gotta go! I'll email from Asia!" My nurse, J, looking somewhat bemused, watched him go steaming out the door and then looked at me, a grin on her face. "Who put the coin in Dave?" she asked.

"Well, he is a bit lively this morning," I agreed, grinning back. But now here I am, in just the same state, so I'm not pointing fingers. Much.

At any rate, after taking on WAY more caffiene in 45 minutes than I normally would in a week, it was time to go inspect the goings-on in the sheep pens. Trinity the ram and Truffles the buck (now nick-named Horny and Stinky, respectively, by YS) have been in with their respective girls since yesterday afternoon. S has elected to put the marking harness on Truffles, because the minute all her does are bred she's going to castrate Truffles in hopes of sufficiently de-stenching him that A) you can draw a clear breath within 50 yards of his pen, and B) he can, eventually, be eaten. This means that we have to just observe Trinity to see if he's doing his Manly Duty by the ewes. (Yes, we could have gotten a second marking harness, but it didn't occur to any of us prior to running the girls in with the appropriate boys. Apart from which, Trinity is a proven sire, so we have less to wonder about with him.)

S and R and I walk down the hill to the sheep pens to see what's going on. Gigantor (who I plan to keep open this year, in view of her youth) is in with the goats. She seems reasonably content with this arrangement, despite the occasional speculative eye-roll from Truffles, and does not appear particularly offended by his aroma. (This, I will note, is somewhat damped down by the cold, but still quite distinct.) One of the does, Peanut, is dappled all over her fawn rump with red chalk from the marking crayon. She's also spotted here and there on her sides and legs, as it appears that Truffles is none too discriminating with his aim. She's beginning to get annoyed with him, and will make occasional feints with her horns at him (which he foolishly ignores, given that Peanut has already hooked him once in the groin, and he's still limping by consequence). If this threat doesn't work, she will trot over to a small framed-in wire cage (originally meant for moving pigs, I believe) and duck inside it, defending the low entrance with narrowed eye and menacing head-thrusts. This causes Truffles to stare at her longingly for a few minutes before shrugging off his heartbreak and going to insepct the other does, all of whom are evidently less sexy in his view - even the new doe, Jewels, an absolutely gorgeous Nubian. Her sides are a glossy black, pointed up with deep chestnut markings and emphasized with white dapplings on her head and ears. She is a big, substantial doe, and to my eyes quite beautiful, with an aristocratically arched nose and long, gracefully-lopped ears. Truffles, however, has eyes for no one but Peanut, despite her jabbing horns. Well, he would know more about what makes a doe sexy than I would - or care to. Perhaps Jewels will rise in his favor once Peanut is settled.

Trinity, meanwhile, had been romancing Mesquite all of yesterday afternoon, but this morning has developed a distinct yen for Olivia and Priscilla. Olivia walks haughtily away from his advances, but Priscilla can't decide if she's in love or not. She puts her tail up for him, and then down, or else holds it at an uncertain half-mast, twitching with indecision. When he sidles up to her and gives her a stiff-legged tap with his front leg - testing her interest and willingness - she sometimes walks away, and others turns rump-on to him for a moment before declining his advances. She is content to let him rest his head on her woolly back, but walks off if he tries to advance his suit. Trinity, for his part, is philosphical. He's done this before, and appears supremely confident that his moment will come. Last year he settled 100% of my ewes, so I trust in his - and their - judgement. I'm content for him to be conserving his energy until such time as the ewes are ready for him; he has twice the work to do this year than last, and there's no reason to get his metaphorical shorts in a bunch. No need to rush, he seems to be thinking: Eventually they will all succumb to my woolly charms. Beh-heh-heh-heh-heh! (Since, in the absence of human facial anatomy, "Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!" is hard to say.)

I don't know why, but there is something deeply relaxing about seeing all the goats and sheep together. The ewes are rounding up with wool and feed (this is the time of year we bump their food up, to encourage ovulation), and they have their shed to snuggle up in should it get cold. The does - thinner of coat - are less weather-resistant, but they have a snug, heat-lamped little barn to hide in if it gets too chilly. Neither of the males seems in the least interested in the weather, and it is perhaps this intentness of focus that is so calming to me. They are settled into their work, driving the circle of life, making sure that there are more sheep and goats coming in the spring.

S and R and I walk back up the hill. At the top of the path there is a post. I look at it thoughtfully.
"You should put a sign on this post, with an arrow pointing down, saying 'Love Canal'" I tell them, thinking that Truffles' smell and unfortunate caprine urinary habits might qualify as a metaphor for the pollution of the New York version of Love Canal. R chuckles.

"Love Shack," she counters.
"Love Grotto," I say, thinking of the secluded nature of the pens amongst their embracing woods. We have reached the chicken pens, which S is opening to allow the residents out into the sunny morning.

"Want some gloves?" she asks, pointing to a pair laying on the front step of the hen house. "They're free," she adds, with a sidelong look at me. This arouses my suspcions.
"I don't think so," I say doubtfully, alerted by her lurking smile. "What's wrong with them?"
"We used them to handle the goat yesterday and we forgot to put them in the wash with everything else we were wearing at the time," she tells me.
"Hmmm, no, that's okay, thanks anyway," I tell her, making gaging faces. We are moving to the next chicken pen, the one that also houses the peacocks. This one doubles as a greenhouse in the summer, and S lets the birds out by cracking a window. They pour out in a feathered stream, hopping onto the sill and then down into the pen in a steady procession. Ironically, the exodus is led by the peacocks, birds that originate in the sultry climes of southern Asia - yet they seem perfectly thrilled to go out into the paltry twelve degrees Fareheit that the morning had to offer at that hour. The chickens don't hesitate to follow. Some of these are chickens of S's own carefully-considered breeding program, and I am amazed to see how big they've gotten. They are particularly beautiful, with gorgeous feather patterns in rich colors, some with deep red combs, some with feathers so glossy and iridescent in the sun that they mesmerize the eye. Here too I am calmed by the abundance of the birds, their industrious inspection of the frost-blighted remains of the garden, their bright-eyed energy as they strut and peck amongst the sere remnants of the summer's harvest.

Hmm. Maybe there's something about farms; or maybe there's something about THIS farm. Either way, it's somehow viscerally satisfying to see all the animals going about their buisness in their robust good health and single-minded focus on the work at hand.

S emerges from the bird pen with a handful of eggs. We mosey back toward my truck, conveniently parked near the garage where the grain is stored. I should stop dawdling and unload the sheep feed, I figure, with some reluctance, still wallowing in the peacful satisfaction of animals. However... I have laundry to do (amongst other chores) and I know the inhabitants of Wildwood do as well. But at my truck, I discover that YS has been there before me and my 1.5 hundredweight of grain is already stored away. That's it, then: nothing for me to do but finish my coffee (which I discover has again been mysteriously topped up) and take my leave.

So now I'm back at my own house, dogs napping in the sun. Laundry is chugging away in my washer and I'm contemplating errands and chores with such goodwill that it's something akin to delight. Not sure if that's the delerious intoxication of caffiene combined with sun - or if it's the lingering, visceral peace of watching the animals at Wildwood, and the anticipatiry glee of knowing that there are Goings-On happening there, Goings-On which will (if all goes well) result in a crop of bouncing baby lambs (and even bouncier baby goats) come spring. On balance - as the caffiene is starting to level out - I think my cheer is due to the Love Shack, a little old place where sheep can get together, Love Shack, Love Shack ---> baaaaybeeees.....


MaskedMan said...


I'm picturing Trinity with a Snidely Whiplash mustachio, now.

MariBy said...

Stumbled on your blog a couple of days ago (link from 3 Woofs and a Woo) and I'm enjoying your writing immensely. :D

AKDD said...

MM, he may be rubbing his little cloven hooves together in glee, but I assure you he is too direct for the Snidely-stache. None of that sly plotting and subtle leveraging for HIM. He's RIGHT up front about his plans, which blatanly include cheerfully breeding everything with wool that'll stand still long enough. I think he trusts to blunt persistence to win the day, rather than relying on intricate plots! :D

Mariby, thanks! I'm glad you enjoy my little stories. I'm not as good a photog as the Food Lady, though! I will, however, soldier on and keep trying - once I have a working camera again....

MaskedMan said...

Hmmm. More of a sort-of Austin Powers of the ovine world, perhaps?

Anonymous said...

I'm definitely seeing the Austin Powers approach - of course you'll come around, I'm ME. Blah-blah-not-interested-blah, you WILL be baby, :wink: you just don't KNOW how much yet.

AKDD said...

Hmmm... I could see that. Not as smarmy, though, and with better teeth.

Dragon43 said...

Great as usual.

I disagree on the pleasures of being around sheep and goats. Seeing as I am an old goat, I guess that makes it okay to have a 'tude' about it... ;)

AKDD said...

Are you saying you DON'T like being around sheep and goats? Why.... why... how could that BE? :D

They're not everyone's gig. But I do find them peaceful and soothing to watch, with their little velvet lips and their clever little cloven hooves. And in the spring, the babies - nothing so hilarious and dear in life as pronking lambs and goats.