Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nerds in Love

Yesterday we went to pick up a "rent-a-boyfriend" for the goats. His name is Curious. Henry grew concerned that Mom and Dad weren't really asking the important questions of the goat's owner, so he had to fill in for us. "Does he have any sperm?", he asked farmer Tony. Tony replied that he probably did. Definitely a good thing to know about.

Ashley, who still seemed a bit down after her latest worm episode, has perked right up. She *really* likes Mr. Curious. With a coy look and a "come hither" flick of her tail, Ashley lures him over. Curious's tongue flops out, and he starts with a nasal snickering while nibbling at Ashley's neck. She nibbles back. Her tail flicks again and captures his attention. As he begins his move, Ashley rears up and spins around to give him a head-butt. Life isn't easy for us men-folk.

Mary Kate wants nothing to do with Mr. C. You can see the utter disgust in her eyes as she stands in the corner watching his clumsy advances on gullible Ashley, and she often tries to intervene. She slips between them and gives Curious a solid knock on the noggin quite frequently. Just to make sure he remembers it, she rears up on her hinds (making her taller than I am) before coming down at him.

Buttercup was in a good mood this evening, as she started bouncing around the barnyard like a spring lamb. I reciprocated on my side of the fence, and we went back and forth a few times. Like a lot of other people who've never worked around cows, I was once convinced that they were not particularly bright or charismatic. In Germany, for instance, a common insult is to say "You're as dumb as a cow". I don't think they're dumb at all. They didn't exactly evolve to fly rocketships, but they're very good at what they did evolve to do. Don't ask me what that is though.

I was previously pouring Buttercup's grain ration right next to the hay in her feed trough at each milking, and got a little fed up that she kept tossing the hay out to get at the grain. Now I give her grain first. When she's cleaned out her trough, she steps back and looks at me. I pull the bucket aside, and go to fill up the trough with hay. Problem solved. No more dancing in the stanchion while I try to simultaneously keep the bucket near her udder but away from her hooves.

Buttercup apparently likes to take a Sunday stroll. Exactly a week after her first adventure that inspired my last blog entry, she got out again. This time, it was zero degrees out, with a wind chill of about 20 below. I think the wind rattled the barnyard gate open, so at least it wasn't a result of me being stupid in exactly the same way as last time. I was stupid in a different way, which somehow seems better. I now know to make sure that the latch chain attaches to a point below the hook on the gate.

After milking Mary Kate, Rachel noticed that Buttercup wasn't in her usual spot, and walked around the barn to see if she'd gone off to the other corner of the barnyard, when she discovered the open gate with departing hoofprints. She ran back to the house to inform me, and I went out to inspect. Sure enough -- she had escaped again. The tracks were on the same path as before, so I started my morning jogging routine. As I made it out to the road, I could see her at the top of the rise to the west, merrily trotting along.

Rachel grabbed Henry and followed us in the car, hoping that she might be able to herd Buttercup back in the direction of our farm. I finally caught up to her at the neighbor's house, and followed behind her into the soybean field. It was really blowing there, with little snow-devils whipping accross the field, and drifts that nearly topped my barn boots.

Buttercup saw Rachel and the car, and paused as I walked around to approach her from the other side. She let me approach, and came up to sniff my hand. With a playful bounce, she spun around and sprayed manure all over the snow. Then she turned around, and walked back on her own path right into the barnyard with me right behind her. It was apparently too cold for a Sunday stroll afterall. She did pause in the neighbor's field, long enough for me to take notice and look up to see a pair of foxes sneaking into the brush.

This last Sunday we decided that it might be a nice time to try skating on our pond. Henry and Rachel have some skates from the Goodwill, which were in definite need of breaking-in. Earlier in the week we'd had 60 degree weather which had melted all the snow, which pooled on top of the ice and re-froze quite nicely. I really need to find some skates for myself now, as Rachel really looked like she was having fun. Henry was excited to try his skates, but grew a little less enthusiastic when he wasn't able to instantly learn how to use them.

As I closed up the barn after this evening's milking, I stopped to watch a car pull slowly into our neighbor's driveway. It was dark, and they only had their parking lights on. Someone got out, donned a headlamp, and walked up the driveway towards their shop, which sits away from the house. I grabbed a flashlight which immediately went dead (D'oh!) and headed over to investigate. As soon as I stepped out our front door, the car backed out, headed down the road a bit, and finally turned their headlights back on.

I wasn't sure if anyone had been dropped off, or if the car's passenger had returned while I was in our house. I spoke with the neighbor (an elderly couple who appreciated my effort), and walked around their shop, but found nothing amiss. She mentioned that another neighbor had fought some intruders a few years earlier, and later died of a heart attack a few days after the struggle. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't catch anyone, but it's probably best for all involved that I just scared them off.

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