Monday, September 24, 2012

Fall Update

It does not take a calendar to tell me that autumn has arrived on Harrison Farm, thanks to the current chilly mornings and cool nights.  It was quite brisk out this morning -- despite the sunshine -- as I chased three nefarious escapee goats.  Admittedly, my attire of pajamas, bathrobe, & muck boots were not the warmest or most functional clothes in which to be chasing goats through the bushes around the (currently dry) creek -- but the goatherd must respond to goat escapes immediately!  (And apologies to my neighbor who drove by as I was herding the goats back across the road while making such a glamorous fashion statement!)

My junior farmers Joseph & Eliza have been learning many lessons about goatherding lately, as they are now the proud owners of Jodie the Country Goat and Cute Face.  Joseph & Eliza have been working on my farm to earn their livestock.  Joseph picked out Jodie, and Eliza was determined to have Cute Face.  Joseph used some of the metal that the summer storm took off my barn roof, reconfigured it to create a goat shelter, and then put up fencing for a small pasture.  He is an extremely industrious young man!  Cute Face is a buck and Jodie is a doe, so in about a year their herd should expand.  Until then, Joseph is manfully learning the responsibilities that go with feeding goats, protecting goats, and attempting to corral goats . . . and every few days I respond to assist in goat wrangling when Cute Face finds a new spot to escape from the pen that Joseph built for him.

Last week, Joseph & Eliza got to ride Flirt the Horse for the first time and they were very, very excited!  Flirt struggled with some hoof issues which required regular treatment for much of the summer.  It also took her awhile to bond with me.  It seems as though just in the last few weeks, I have begun to notice a change in her interactions with me -- I have gone from "that person" to "her person".  I have been riding her a little bit around the farm bareback, and finally got to the point where I was comfortable having Joseph & Eliza each take a turn riding her.  It was Eliza's first time on a horse, and she grinned from ear to ear!  I feel very blessed to be able to share my love of farming with these two young people!  They are remarkable individuals, and add so much to my life!  It amazes me that it has only been a few months since they first began to visit the Farm, yet they have mastered so many new skills -- and are now learning to ride a horse!

I will admit that I gave Flirt plenty of time to adapt to me before I began climbing on her to ride.  I begin to think I have found a horse too much like me: she does NOT like change!  Flirt has had quite a bit of change in the last few months.  In December she left a large group of horses to come live with me.  At that point, my two visiting horses TG & Carson were here.  Flirt slowly adapted to living with them, but they soon moved closer to their owners on the west side of town.  After that Flirt lived with Baby V and D Calf for a few months, until they departed to be slaughtered.  Following her cow experience, Flirt moved in with a group of goats -- no wonder my horse is opposed to change!  Yesterday, my new sheep arrived, including a ram that is now living in the same group as Flirt . . . and she is NOT happy!  Flirt spent the first hour chasing him relentlessly, but I am confident she will soon accept his presence and carry on.

The biggest change on the farm this summer, though, has been Grandmother's move to a retirement community.  This was a very big surprise for me (I literally found out when my aunts came to pick up Grandmother), but both Grandmother & I are learning to adapt to a new normal.  Grandmother moved to Sterling House in Urbana at the end of May.  I was travelling for much of June, then July was busy with visits from friends & family to the farm.  Grandmother had a difficult July, as she took a nasty fall that resulted in three separate trips for medical attention.  By August, she began to recover and I began to adjust to living on the farm solo.  Grandmother has recently been appointed as co-chair of the Resident Grievance Committee at Sterling House, and is enjoying wielding her new authority.  She maintains her feisty spirit, even as her memory struggles.  (Case in point, Cousin Eric asked during his visit with her how the food was at Sterling House.  Grandmother smiled sweetly and replied "crappy!")

Two nights ago it was very cold in the old farmhouse, and so I turned on the heat.  It was a liberating moment when I realized I could now leave the door open to the upstairs so my bedroom could have some heat (previously forbidden).  It was always a running joke that thanks to the "no heat upstairs" policy, I would wake up on winter mornings with frost on the INSIDE of my bedroom windows -- true story!  I never look forward to a change in temperatures, but I am optimistic that fall & winter may be easier now that heat is permitted in the farmhouse!  Alas, this probably will not change the inclination of the goats to escape their places of residence on cold mornings, but at least I will be able to return to a warm house after dealing with "livestock at large"!

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