The Criminal Element

October 22, 2007

There are criminals on our farm. Yes, they are professionals at Breaking & Entering, always looking for a weakness in the fencing or gates. They are called GOATS. (And a lot of other things I’d best not repeat here….)

Yesterday evening after their warden, otherwise known as The Farmer, went off to choir practice, I grabbed my camera to go outside and look for some good photo opportunities. Little did I know I was going into investigative reporting, and would catch the criminal element at work. The dogs are on the left watching the goats. The llama is in the back watching. The guineas are on top of their pen looking. Everyone sees the criminals at work!
Yes, right before my eyes, I saw the brazen little beasts had gained entry into the aviary AGAIN, and let the peafowl loose AGAIN.

They’re lucky it was only a camera I used to shoot them. Rotten little brats!

It would seem that yesterday morning I must have only slid the latch over on the door, and neglected to flip it downward to let it catch in the notch to lock it. Mind you, this bolt does NOT slide easily, so it never occurred to me it would be any problem if I didn’t latch it down.

Well, I was wrong. Apparently the goats bounced against the door enough that the latch worked loose, and they must also have bounced enough that the door bounced open, and they took advantage to get it WIDE OPEN. Then they went in, and all but two of the peafowl went out.
Here we go again! Fortunately, Young Son was home, so I went in and enlisted his help. We’ve done this so many times, we figure we can call ourselves Professional Peafowl Herders, or maybe Professional Peafowl Wranglers. We’ve certainly got enough experience at rounding up the wandering peafowl, thanks to the baaaaaad goats who keep finding ways to let them loose.

Our first task was putting the goats back in a pen and out of the way. Then we started looking for our wandering fowl.

We found a couple of peahens just sauntering around the yard, and a couple more in the guineas night pen. The peacock was in the chicken’s roosting area.

After we got all the peafowl we saw running loose back in the aviary, we discovered we were still missing two peahens. We walked all around, looking up in the trees, and discovered nothing but squirrels. We were about to give up when Toby started barking. He had discovered a peahen in an enclosure made by wiring upright pallets together to make a fence around my lilac bush and trumpet vine. (And in case you’re wondering why we did that, it was to keep the same B&E experts from stripping those plants bare of bark.)

Anyway, we cut the wires between two of the pallets and opened them up. Experience has taught us it is better to gently, slowly, ease the peahens along in the direction you want them to go. Trying to net them or hurry them along usually results in peahens HIGH UP in a tree where no man (or woman) has gone before.

About the time we got that peahen in the aviary, we heard that loud whoosh of wings that heralds a large bird overhead. There came the last peahen from somewhere across the road, and landed in a walnut tree close to the aviary.
By this time it was almost dark, and she showed no inclination to come down. The guineas were a bit disgruntled because that strange fowl had taken up residence in their roosting tree, but eventually decided to join her.

She spent the entire night in the tree, and it was the middle of the morning before we looked out and noticed her communing with her sister through the netting next to the aviary door. Once again the Professional Peafowl Herders swung into action, and got the last stray fowl into the pen. Yes!

If there’s something strange in your neighborhood (like peafowl), who ya gonna call!??
Not the Ghostbusters!

You need the Professional Peafowl Wranglers, at 1-IRO-UND-EMUP!

Busy as a Bee!

September 1, 2007

Bang, bang, bang! I can’t decide if I feel like I’m sitting in the middle of a shooting gallery, or it sounds like someone shooting off fireworks. Dove hunting season began at 12 noon here, and there are obviously LOTS of hunters busy taking advantage of it.

According to Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, the mourning dove is the most hunted migratory game bird in North America. I believe it, and I think every possible hunter is out there for the start of the season. The dove may be the symbol of peace, but they’ll be in pieces if they show a feather today.

While hunters are busy terminating doves, here on the farm we’re hoping for new life. One of the peahens is sitting on 4 eggs. It sure would be nice to see some little peachicks running around in the aviary. It just hasn’t been our year for peachicks. So far, zilch, nada, none.

While the hunters were after doves and the peahen sitting on her eggs, The Farmer was busy mowing the back yard today. This is news because it’s the first time he’s done it in years. We sold off the majority of our sheep and goats, and don’t have enough left to keep the grass eaten down like we used to.

He also tried out the new chainsaw he bought today. His previous chainsaw expired from old age. He sent it to the shop to be fixed and the bolts fell apart. Yeah, you could say it was extremely old.

While The Farmer was busy checking out his new chainsaw, some old trouble showed up to see what was happening. And what’s the biggest source of trouble on the farm? Why, the ornery little goats of course.

The one busy chewing Farmer’s pants is his special pet, a cashmere goat named Tom Thumb. He is the rare goat that would rather be petted than eat cracked corn.

And while the hunters hunted, the peafowl sat, and The Farmer sawed, there were bees and bugs busy gathering nectar from the newly blooming Sedum ‘Matrona’.

All around the area today, people and critters were busy as bees!


August 5, 2007
The Farmer got busy yesterday and set about making a new door for the aviary — a stronger, sturdier and hopefully goat-proof door. Nothing is ever simple, so it took several hours of work.

First, he took an old screen door, and reinforced it with sturdy wire mesh on both sides, making it more than strong enough to keep the peafowl in, and tough enough to keep the goats from going through the door itself.

That was only half of the equation however. To keep them from pushing the door open or knocking it down, it needed a sturdy wood frame to keep the door solidly in place.
During the construction, a little kit (baby rabbit) hopped by to pay a visit. This little one must have just left the nest to still be so tiny.
When the goats came by to inspect the new door –

…they also checked out the teeny-tiny visitor.

Finally the door was completed and securely in place. I don’t think the goats will move it anytime soon!

From Bad To Worse…

August 2, 2007

… Or the continuing saga of goats and peafowl.

All right, so on Tuesday the goats tore down the door to the aviary and all of the peafowl escaped. We rounded up all but two peahens and got them back in their smaller pen. At the last minute we discovered one of the last two peahens on the electric wires, but never saw the other.

Come Wednesday, and it’s status quo: one peahen missing, one on the electric wires. Later in the day I looked out the window and didn’t see her doing her high wire act. I thought, “All right! She’s down.” Wrong! I went outside and discovered all she did was move into the tree between the wires and the house.

The temps were up in the mid-90’s yesterday, so I needed to effect some kind of repair on the aviary gate so I could let the peafowl back in. They needed more space and access to their little wading pool to splash around in and stay cool.

The door was still intact, just knocked off the supports, so I used bungee cords to fasten it back in place. I knew that would suffice to keep the peafowl in their pen. The problem was keeping the goats OUT of the pen.

Taking a page out of The Farmer’s “Jury Rigging Manual”, I went looking for a wooden pallet. I found one wider than the door opening and tied it in place. To make sure the goats couldn’t climb up the slats, I turned it so they were vertically oriented.

It wasn’t long until the goats came to investigate my repairs.

Now here it is, 2 days since the Great Escape, and as it stands,
a) the goats haven’t found a way to get through the wooden pallet (good!),
b) one peahen is still missing (bad!), and
c) one peahen is still up in a tree (rats!).

The Farmer decided this evening it was time to matters into his own hands and find a way to get this peahen down out of the tree. She was too high up for any ladders we have, so he got the bright idea to use my BB gun, just pumped up enough so the BB would reach the peahen and maybe sting and annoy her, but not do any real damage.

The bright idea rather backfired. He did indeed get her out of the tree… you know, the one close to the house? Yep, she flew out of that tree…. and way back to the woods and roosted in a tree there. Bad to worse indeed.

He tried the same BB tactics to get her out of that tree, but she wasn’t falling for it again.

Failing with that tactic, he then threw a rope up in the tree to snag the branches she was on and shake them. She hung on and rode it out. Finally he had to admit defeat. But stay tuned! It ain’t over until the fat lady sings, or the peafowl comes down out of the tree.

The score is peahens 1, Farmer 0.

A stitch in time…

July 7, 2007
We’ve been selling and delivering a lot of sheep and goats lately. Usually the goats are livelier and harder to handle than the sheep, but our last two deliveries were the exact opposite.

Today we had 5 goats to deliver. The three of us rounded up all the goats, sorted out which ones we needed and had them loaded on the truck so quickly we had to sit around and kill time before we needed to leave. All Right!

Some of the goats munching leaves off a catalpa tree.

Our previous delivery was quite different. We only needed to load 4 sheep. Easy enough. Ha! And again I say, HA!

First off, if our sheep don’t go in the shed the first try, it’s a problem. After that they’re spooked, flighty, and downright hard to manage. Part of the sheep did go right in the shed, but unfortunately, two of those left out were ones we needed to deliver.

Worse, one of those still out was an old ewe that’s half blind. Since she can’t see very well, she gets spooked easily. She runs right past open gates, so instead of going into the lot where we wanted them, she started running round and round in the main pasture. Sheep being sheep, the other three escapees followed her.

The three of us tried spacing ourselves in the field and heading the sheep back towards the gate. The four of them continually zipped through spaces between us and continued their laps around the field. Over and over we tried to head them in the right direction. Over and over they went in the wrong direction.

It became painfully clear sheep and people were all getting hot and winded. We needed a new strategy. We decided to try letting them out into their day pasture, then use some feed to entice them through the gate they’re used to coming in each night.

It seemed like a good idea, but the sheep did NOT cooperate. Instead of running around the pasture, they were now running in frenzied circles around the aviary and sheds, leaping and bouncing against things along the way. More time passed as sheep and people ran themselves ragged in the muggy summer heat. Whose idea was it to try this?? Oh yeah, mine….

Finally the sheep went through a big gate into a lot by the shed and we were able to pen them up. However, it was quickly apparent our troubles weren’t over. One of the ewes had blood running down her face. Lots of blood.

Naturally, it was one of the ewes we were supposed to deliver. Upon close examination, I discovered she had a cut about 2 inches long above one eye, and the flap of skin drooped down every time she blinked. Oh great!

Evidently at one point this ewe bounced against the aviary and a bolt sticking out from it had ripped clear through the skin. After almost a decade of shepherding, I’d never had a sheep that needed stitches. This one did.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any sutures. Also, I needed to know the buyer’s preference. Did she want me to keep the ewe until she was healed and deliver her later? Did she want to suture the wound herself? Did she want a vet to do it?

I called to see how they wanted to handle it, and at their request, we loaded the wounded ewe with the other sheep, and stopped at a vet’s office to have the cut stitched up while on the way to their farm. Nothing like sitting in a hot parking lot waiting on a busy vet after you’re already hot and tired from running half the morning.

Once the wound was washed out, sutured up, and the vet gave the ewe a couple of shots, AND I paid the bill (there goes the profit!), we were finally ready to get the sheep to their new home.

Our friend with one of her Great Pyranees and a few of her sheep.

Fortunately, unloading the sheep was pretty easy, and we were able to enjoy a nice visit with the buyer. She has beautiful sheep and wonderful guard dogs and we enjoy chatting with her, but I must admit it was a relief to finally make it home again and put that fiasco behind us.

Which just goes to prove, a stitch in time isn’t always a time-saver!

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