Monday, April 27, 2009

Your Weekly Boo: In which Boo embraces his celebrity status

Look, I'm trying to get you some interesting information regarding Boo (if such information exists). I have seen him do some fascinating things that involve grace and precision. Regardless of how many times I attempt to capture his spins and kicks, his rolls and gallops, once the camera comes out, the kid immediately stops what he's doing and walks straight towards me.

At first I thought he was not bright and mistook the camera for, perhaps, a carrot.

Carrots rank up there with sweet feed for donkeys.

However, I quickly realized that he is not only bright. He is brilliant.

Boo has become somewhat of a celebrity. And I've become the sick-o paparazzi that follows him around the place once every few days.

Unfortunately, now when I try to capture him acting like a baby donkey, he stops his activity and walks straight towards the camera. I think he believes he is giving his fans what they want.


No mercy

I need to get something out in the open. It has to do with Jeremy. And the tractor. And the transformation that occurs when he steps onto said tractor.

Boy oh boy does he love that tractor (it has been named Bambi for reasons that are beyond me). I think it makes him feel very powerful and destructive, which I've learned are much sought after feelings among some guys (mostly those who spend much of their time in offices. No offense). All I'm saying is - when it's Saturday - and he's sitting on the tractor - I am always sure to keep a safe distance between myself and Bambi.

This weekend, I found the two of them along the back fence that was once completely entwined with whatever it is that grows back there. Whatever it is, has now died. Bambi killed it.

I am not complaining, mind you. The majority of what has been accomplished would have been impossible without the tractor. And it's always nice when one can both fulfill a childhood dream (Jeremy's dream, apparently, of owning a tractor) and also efficiently clear land twice as quickly. It's a two-birds-one-stone sort of situation.

What concerns me is when one of the tiny cows wants to meet Bambi while she is working.

You see, Jeremy's tractor obsession makes it difficult for him to care whether or not the tiny cow is involved in a head-on collision with Bambi. When he's sitting up there he is unable to differentiate between animal and brush. Seamus's horns probably make him appear as a gigantic cactus, and cactus must die.

"Seamus move!" I am shouting this whilst also photographing his curiosity.

"Seamus! Save yourself! Eat later!" Please keep in mind that the tractor is moving at approximately 2 miles per hour. Please also keep in mind that cows are dumber than tractors, and Jeremy has no control of himself any longer.

I realize these pictures failed to capture the urgency of the situation. But it was intense. Luckily, I managed to lean against the tiny cow long enough after this photo was taken that he ambled off into the woods to forage for more delicious dead grass. No animals harmed. One more portion of the land cleared. Jeremy = happy. Thank you, Bambi.

It wasn't easy, but I was able to salvage one cactus that had sprouted pretty flowers. Just the one, though.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Tiniest Bean

There's a lot going on in our current backyard, too.

Aside from the odd soccer game Jeremy starts with the dogs,

most of the activity has to do with the chickens. Honestly, seasons do not seem to affect chicken activity, but our spring addition of a shmancy compost pile really has the ladies excited. Here they are after we dumped some assorted...? Not sure what's in there...

But how, HOW did they get in there, you're asking??? (Just play along). Jeremy, the ever-conscientious chicken owner, created a nifty stair system so they can easily come and go as they please, scratch around the joint and really stir things up, without risking life or wing. Of course, when he proposed this idea I pointed and laughed at him, making fun of the notion that one can teach a chicken to use stairs. I mean, really. Come on.



to use


Joke's on me.

In other news - Jeremy grew a bean.

And I wanted to share it with you. Here's hoping that it grows just a liiiittle bit bigger.

Feeling Neighborly – or – The Saga of the Sick Cow

First, it’s important to understand that this story was made possible by our new friend and neighbor Dwayne (pronounced “Dee-you-wayne.” Real slow like). Dwayne, literally, rode into our lives on a horse.

Last fall Jeremy was alone at the land one Sunday afternoon, cutting trees near the road. He heard a distinctive “clop, clop, clop” behind him and turned to find a man riding a horse towards him while holding the lead rope of yet another horse, following behind. He introduced himself as our “neighbor Dee-you-wayne” and explained that he was taking his horses out for a spin around the neighborhood because they were “gassy.” Sadly, Jeremy didn’t ask him to elaborate on this explanation.

Since that day, Dwayne has been responsible for keeping us apprised of neighborhood politics, the location of new coyote litters, recent rattlesnake spottings, the best ranch for Kobe beef in Texas (2 miles away!), and the existence of a nearby feedstore run out of someone’s home (The Golden Rooster – a one stop shop for Campbell’s soup, Advil, and cattle prods). In a nutshell, we are lost without Dwayne. Apparently, everyone else is too since his cell phone is always ringing. And let me tell you, Dwayne always answers, he always answers – with a cigarette hanging off of his lower lip and a Natural Light tall boy in hand – the man always manages to fish his cell phone out of his Wranglers just in time to answer a call.

His colorful life stories seem unbelievable until he manages to produce a picture to prove them – like the photo he keeps in his wallet of Dwayne sandwiched between Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie in a friendly embrace – proving that they really DID – they DID hang out. This man is an authentic cowboy with no cows, blending an old-fashioned lifestyle of hard country living with the modern conveniences of cell phones and the internet. He is hooked up and plugged in. And is the first to proclaim that he “don’t know sh*t but can get you in touch with someone who does in 5 minutes.”

Now for the other important piece of this story. Matilda got sick yesterday. Real sick. Of course, I’m dealing with some serious guilt as this was the first week I wasn’t able to make my weekly Wednesday visit to the land. My Saturday trip revealed a heinous, 4 inch sore on her inner thigh, which had swollen to twice its size - so swollen in fact, that patches of her skin had burst with the tension. Although eating, drinking, and hobbling around, it was obvious she had fever and was headed downhill quickly. I utilized my go-to-response in such situations: uncontrollable crying, because I’ve found I’m pretty good at it. When I realized this wouldn’t fix her leg, nor would the blue antibacterial spray I doused it with, Jeremy made the brilliant suggestion to call Dwayne. All we wanted were emergency vet numbers, hoping to track someone down on a Saturday who could drop by for a look. But in five minutes, we had Dwayne himself rolling up the drive in his diesel truck, Pall Mall stuck to his bottom lip, the ever-present tall boy shoved into the crook of his arm, and cell phone at the ear. “Hi darlin’,” (he really talks like this) he muttered as he walked past me and examined Matilda. Then into the phone: “Darlin’, we got a real f***ed up little calf here, and I know you’ll make it right so you just tell Jenna here what to do and I’ll go hook up my trailer to bring her on down to your squeeze chute if we can’t stick ‘er ourselves.” At this point, the phone was shoved in my hand as he whispered, “She’s a rancher’s wife. She’ll fix ya up,” and hobbled on his bum knee to his truck, apparently in order to hook up a trailer for Matilda. Wha?? What was happening?

The rancher’s wife is also, apparently, our “neighbor” (in country terms, an individual living within 1-15 miles away constitutes a neighbor. She resides 5 miles away and is a neighbor still). She proceeded to calmly tick off a list of to-do’s including a fast (quick! Be quick! – she told me) trip to a feed store where I was to ask for Mike. If Mike was busy, I was to politely wait and refuse to speak to anyone else as only Mike would have the answers. (By the way, she was right.) Armed with penicillin and several ominous syringes, as per Mike’s instructions, I was to “wrangle” (verbatim) the cow and inject her in three separate spots, under the skin.

OH. Is that all?

Fast forward to Dwayne and I each taking a whirl at this task. Turns out a very tame, 500 pound cow --- is still a 500 pound cow. And she was having none of this. In case she would not stand quietly for several injections, Dwayne had driven his horse trailer over into which we were going to load Matilda and drive her to a neighbor’s house (5 miles away) to place her into a restraining contraption. Load Matilda? Turns out she was having none of that either.

Several hours had passed and the sun was dipping low. Seamus and Rooney were separated from Matilda in the round pen and the quiet night was punctuated by their aggravated moo’s (which sound like “mmmoooOOrrrroooOOrrrOOO.” Or something). Dwayne excused himself to “let some air out the tires” (translation: pee) and I made a quiet but panicked attempt to convince Jer to just sell the cows. Just find a buyer tonight and put this chapter behind us!

At this moment Dwayne returned, tires successfully reduced of air, to tell us that he’d made a call and the “crew” was headed over to “wrangle the cow” and take care of it. Hmm. His cryptic solution sounded fantastic! And in fifteen minutes, an engine roared up the drive. Out of an enormous truck tumbled a tall, thin, mulleted man, a short man (beer in hand) with a large grin, and a young, very petite woman. Each carried some sort of rope (lariat??) or restraining device and all talked at once very loudly. “Where she at?!?” “She’s tiny. Sure that ain’t a goat?” “Bet I can toss her over my shoulder!” And all shouted, “Hey Dee-you-wayne – hey boy!”

It was awesome.

In 5 minutes the “crew” had rolled in, roped Matilda, restrained her against the fence, administered three shots (bam, bam, bam) and applied antibac spray on the wound(s). She was released and eating hay before the sun set. The woman, Davina, gave me a huge hug and called me honey, then asked when Matilda will need her next shots so she can plan to administer those, too. She also made sure that I had spoken to Mike, and only Mike, at the feedstore. The long, skinny man, who we shall call “Slim” (I’m sorry) explained that he wasn’t born knowing how to rope cattle and that I could learn to rope, too, by, “jumping right in, the water ain’t too deep.” The shorter, jovial man invited us to his ranch in a few weeks for brisket, gave me a hug and jumped in the truck. Dwayne loaded himself into his own truck, pointed to his jeans where Matilda had relieved herself upon him, and promised to send me the dry-cleaning bill. With a wink, he slammed the door but not before shouting, “I told ya’ll…I don’t know sh*t but can hook you right up with folks that do!”

I was basically giddy with happiness at this point at our good fortune for finding this little plot of land in the first place, for its proximity to people like Dwayne and Davina, and for finally, after six years of living shoulder to shoulder with others in a crowded subdivision, having the names and phone numbers of my neighbors.

I couldn’t help myself…as he backed out of the drive I waved enthusiastically, “Bye Dee-you-wayne!!!”

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Your Weekly Boo: In which Boo shows me what's what

Today marked Boo's second official course in "How to Politely Follow Jenna While Attached to a Lead Rope." This is part of a series meant to teach him excellent manners and encourage his maturity and social growth, kind of like a cotillion, but for baby donkeys. And instead of a big party at the end with a frilly dress, bouffant hairdo, and tea sandwiches, it'll be more of a Boo -tied-to-a-fence-while-vet-visits-and-snip-snips kind of thing. Are you starting to understand the importance of the halter and lead rope?!?

On a scale of 1-10, 1 being a "piss poor showing" and 10 being "exceeds expectations," Boo's lead rope manners scored him a whopping 2.5. Basically, he was a jerk. Sure, he happily followed me around for the first 30 seconds of the ordeal, with his muzzle aimed at my right pocket (sweet feed location), but he quickly learned to put on the brakes when things got boring (Jenna=empty right pocket). And donkeys have impressive brakes. I don't have much up my sleeve in the way of donkey training, and my minimal tricks really weren't sufficient to teach anyone to go anywhere. Especially when the student sees through the 'ol "pretend to have food in the hand but really have nothing" trick.

As usual, my attempt to civilize Boo ended with his heartbreak and despair.

His grumpy mom, Chula, tried to cheer him with some entertaining rolling tricks. To no avail.

Lucky for me, Boo knows just how to pull himself out of a foul mood and that is by schooling the teacher. He was intent on showing me just how much fun it is to be bossed around and told where to go as if you don't, maybe, have better things to do with your time, thank you very much. The jacket wrapped around my waist served as a great "lead rope," in Boo's opinion.

After several minutes of being taught what's what, I have a much better perspective on this whole training business.

Boo, I promise to never humiliate you again with the offensive process of being dragged around the place as if you have none of your own preferences about where to go and who to see. Next time, I'll just walk NEXT to you. I promise. Sheesh.

Friday, April 10, 2009

It's a love/hate thing.

I want to preface this post with a statement (since Jenna will read this later) that I do not regret getting the chickens for a second. Well, that's not entirely true since this post is inspired by this morning's incident. So, let me start over.

Take 2:
If I had to do it all over, I would still get chickens in the back yard. BUT, I don't feel like I was adequately prepared for some of the negative aspects. There's a downside? My biggest complaint is the infamous "Egg Song." You're probably thinking, "oh that sounds precious." It's not. Especially at 6:30 in the morning. We had read about this egg song before we first heard it, and they tend to do it after they lay an egg. Ok, I can respect being proud about an recent accomplishment and wanting to let everyone know. I'm not sure I would be as proud since the remaining 20 trillion chickens around the world also lay eggs almost everyday, but to each his/her own. What drives me crazy sometimes is when one of the chickens decides to sing this egg song in the morning for no good reason. (First off, let me clarify, this "song" is no song. When I hear the word "song" I think of a melodious, soothing piece. Like "The Sound of Music" or something. No no, this egg "song" is an obnoxious, jarring antithesis of a song. I digress). Since they normally lay eggs between the 10:00am - 3:00pm time, the egg song(s) don't really bother anybody (by anybody, I mean Jenna and I and our 7 neighbors that surround our cul-d-sac backyard). Everyone is at work or, at the very least, awake by then. So, I don't really care about the normal occurrence. But, the occasional 6:30am performance gets to me, especially when that coincides with a day that I don't have to be up early. Like I said, it doesn't happen every morning. The only common thread between morning incidents that I can see is when I don't have to be up early. Spiteful little punks.

Now, you may be asking how do you get them to shut up at 6:30am? (You're probably really asking why you are still reading this rant thinking "boo freakin' hoo, I get up at 6:00 every morning.) Well, Jenna or I throw on a robe, run to the kitchen and grab whatever bread product is handy, and head to the back yard bumping into walls and furniture along the way in our pre-alarm clock, morning stupor. As soon as we get outside and toss some bread/chips/etc. into the yard, the "singing" ceases and we go back to bed. Every once in a while, the "singing" resumes after we've settled back into bed which results in a repeat of the previous 30 minutes activities. Luckily, no neighbors have complained yet.

So, to all of you future chicken owners, this is not intended to be a message deterring you from acquiring these funny little creatures. Instead, I just wanted to shed some light on the less sunny side of chicken "farming." It's not all scratching and egg-laying.

Below is a video of when they first started doing this last fall, when we thought it was still charming. Without further ado, I present: Graciela sings "The Egg Song." Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Thanks, Google Sketch Up

First off, I want to acknowledge that the hand drawing illustrated in Jenna's previous post got a little out of control. Like any self respecting (read: anal retentive) engineer, I immediately began researching CAD programs to better realize our vision. Being the fiscally responsible (read: cheap) person I am, I ended up settling on the free Google software. Below is a pic of how I interpreted the scribbles on the graph paper.

Once I started to get the hang of this software, I decided to move into the 3rd dimension for my barn. Is it a bad thing that I got more excited about my future barn than I am about our future living quarters? Don't tell Jenna I said that.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Patience is not a virtue

Yesterday, the unthinkable happened. Jeremy initiated a state-of-the-union-address type conversation about future plans for the land. I tried to be cool about his unexpected enthusiasm to start actually really talking about getting out there but I blew my cover with uncontrollable shaking and foaming at the mouth.

No, no, no. I kid. I really did have it under control and managed to keep him talking about it for a full 37 minutes by nodding with a big dumb grin on my face and agreeing to his many and complicated ideas that involve: a toolshed, within a barn that houses a smokehouse which sits beneath an attic that has a trap door from which drops a pulley and platform to "lift heavy things" (say wha??) next to a pavilion that can be used for both parties and to milk animals (excellent dual purpose usage), that sits beside a garden shed and greenhouse which will all reside atop a hill above the beehive, vineyard, and wheat field, etc. Etc. It is clear that he's covered all of the bases except for....well....a place for us to live.


I have some different ideas. Well, two, mainly. They involve 1) a temporary dwelling that can be permanently left on the land and used later for many, many things (this is, like, a REALLY good idea) and 2) the permanent house. I'm having trouble getting much beyond these two goals but am pretty sure that until we have said dwelling, it might be tough to smoke meat, milk animals, and grow grapes along with the various other activities that require, you know, living there.

The combination of our two future plans, as illustrated, go something like this:

To this entire, expertly drawn to scale, diagram, I added the dot which is now completely lost in the middle corner of the sketch. The dot represented one of my two tiny goals - the temporary dwelling - and I clearly made the mistake of placing it within the area where Jeremy has planned his combination toolshed/smokehouse/barn/orchard/hay field. Oops.

Regardless of where anything will go or what it will be, it seems we're now looking at a Twenty Five Year Plan and the Five Year Plan I criticized earlier looks quite appealing about now. Too bad that the FYP got lost somewhere in the scribbles.

I am not a patient person but this process is going to beat me down into enjoying "the simple things" (blah. puke) - - like tiny teeny steps forward. And I'll admit, adding our first official piece of furniture this weekend, was incredibly gratifying.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Your (more than) Weekly Boo: It's Not Easy Being Green

I totally stole this title from an episode of a television show. Name that show! (There is absolutely nothing in this for you. I'm just hoping someone else can Name that show! and then I'll feel better about having watched it. Thank you.)

But it's a deep message. It really isn't easy being green. Which is why today, I offer you a view of the world from Boo's perspective.

First it is important to understand that Boo takes a lot of soul searching, meandering walks that inevitably end like this:

Probably, this is due to loneliness (please refer to an earlier post.) But maybe it's because he's just very complicated. I am fascinated with such things and have to wonder, what is he thinking?

Upon closer inspection I find that he is not really thinking. He is asleep.

Of course, all my picture taking and bothering sends him trotting away to attend to more pressing business. He sets his sights on befriending the dog.

LuLu is: shock and awe.

Which leads Boo to his second favorite activity, behind eating sweet feed: inappropriate sniffing.

From Boo's perspective, I think all we can ascertain is that he still has a lot to figure out. After all, he's only five months old, and is, let's face it, only a donkey. What were you expecting, rocket science? Geez.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Your Weekly Boo: Nothing stays the same.

Boo is growing like a weed and only one part of him remains the same.

His grumpy mom, Chula, is trying to wean him by nipping his neck and snorting and stomping. This worked for a while and Boo would hang his head and sadly walk away. But he's way past that. Now when Chula kicks at Boo to wean him, he kicks her right back and keeps nursing. Very sassy.

Look at that face! He is hardly a baby donkey anymore which leaves me broken hearted.

I am also broken hearted by the amount of poison ivy that's vined around many of the trees that surround the "pond." Spring has revealed the unpleasant surprise that poison ivy is abundant and that cactus can grow without roots. I promise.

It's a relief that some things will probably never change. Particularly the cows who remain small enough to crawl through the hay ring.

And Rooney, who never eats the outside hay.

Spring Chicken

If you do not have one of these:

It's probably time to run to your nearest feed store and pick out a few of these babies for your own backyard.

We owe a lot to these ladies. Not only do they provide us with lots (lots, lots) of eggs daily, but they eat pesky bugs, and keep the dogs in line.

LinkIf you have a little yard, are easily entertained, and are friendly with your neighbors get onto My Pet Chicken and Backyard Chickens now, right NOW. Tis the season! And I welcome you to my world.