Real farmers have border collies. At least that is my conclusion. Then again, real farmers have other neat things like tractors and farm hands. Here at Star Gazing Farm we have old fashioned rakes and shoves – and volunteers. Most of whom are under 13. 🙂
It’s a very interesting process to see these young folks learn how to cope with the farm learning curve. There are no joysticks to control Mr. Newman Goat (oh, would that there were!), and the only instant gratification comes from seeing a manure pile get transferred from ground to wheelbarrow to compost pile. Wow. Not everyone is cut out for farm work.
There are bugs that bite. There are wet squishy things that you somehow always step on. There are smells that, well, smell. And there are the endless surprises both delightful and quite decidedly unpleasant.
I’m constantly impressed at the way these young people tackle problems and jump right into the fray, sometimes even asking for more. They keep their eyes open for any issues with the animals, inform me of handy farm facts I did not know (long live the Internet!), and lend a wonderful energy to the farm. Plus the animals adore them.
Some of them have even learned to herd. But as terrific as these kids are, they are not border collies, and alas, they are not usually here during round-up time in the evening. You see, persuading the animals to go to the places they are supposed to go and to get away from the places they are not supposed to be in is one of the biggest challenges here.
It goes like this: it’s night time, got to get the ducks locked up safe from the foxes. You get four ducks inside the pen, but two escape. You chase that one down plus the other three who have been loitering about and refusing to go in for the night, and just as they go inside, one of the original ducks gets spooked and runs out of the pen squawking and causing three others to suddenly bolt. At that moment the pig decides there might be something tasty inside that duck pen and his interest sparks the interest of Mr. Newman (who uses Tetsuro as his food barometer).
Night time roundup is not our favorite activity.
Then there are the sheep: you’ve got all the sheep in the pasture they are supposed to be in. Except one. You lure that one to the gate, open the gate, he goes out but you are assaulted by a herd who fling the gate wide open and rush past (and over) you to get to the forbidden field. So I’m convinced that farm life is just one big rubik’s cube where no matter how much adjusting you do, something else always goes wrong.
The addition factor is one of my favorites: it started with Mr. Newman Goat. Newman came to live here when there were only two sheep. “Sheep”, he scoffed. He would circle the house at night crying, screaming and generally being a drama queen, keeping the neighborhood up (presumably to be let in).
I mistakenly understood his deep need to be for another goat, which brought Rosalita here. But Newman didn’t like Rosalita any better than the sheep. So Rosalita was now lonely, which meant we had to bring Little Boy Goat here. And so on and so forth. Don’t even ask how many animals we’ve agreed to take in simply because someone here put in a request for company.
The subtraction factor is my least favorite rubik’s cute: farm finances.
Ever drive through the countryside and sigh deep contented sighs at the sight of hay being made, cows grazing over hills, big red barns with silos next to them? Picturesque. Then you hear about the family farms going out of business and you see more and more ticky tacky houses (or rather, look-alike McMansions) replacing pastureland. What has gone wrong? It’s so sad! “I liked that pastoral view,” you exclaim to your companions, “I even liked the smells!” I won’t presume to comment on the economic structure of modern agriculture, but I can say from experience that running a farm is terribly costly. Ghastly costly. And at Star Gazing Farm we don’t even have crops to offset the expenses! No sir, we’ve got an army of eating machines who never stop. It’s like this: we’ve just got the bills paid for feed for the month, had the vet and the farrier out, paid for the rented tractor (on credit…) and then a neighbor calls to inform me that Mr. Newman Goat “and some of his friends” have been eating her flowers and dancing on the hood of her car and could I please make it stop? This calls for instant and emergency fencing. And there went the money that was going to buy hay for the next few weeks.
Come September we have to buy hay for the entire winter, get the vet out to do rabies shots on all the animals, and who knows what other fencing disaster will occur. I wish we had a slush fund. Heck, I wish we had any fund. But the truth is, folks, just keeping things going is getting “difficulter and difficulter”.
We’re not just sitting around wiping our tears with dust bunnies though! On Saturday, July 28 and Sunday, July 29 we will be participating in the Montgomery County Farm Tour; on Saturday we will be having a HUGE yard sale as a fundraiser, and on both days we will have both fundraising activities as well as lots of beautiful crafts for sale (not to mention Mr. Newman Goat T-shirts). Please consider supporting us in our endeavors to raise important funds for the farm animals:
— Donate items to the yard sale (drop off any time between now and July 27)
— Come to the farm tour and shop!
— Sponsor our volunteer T-shirts
— If you are an armchair farm supporter, think about purchasing your very own Mr. Newman Goat fan club shirt
— Sponsor an animal http://www.stargazingfarm.org/help/sponsor.php or
— Make a tax-deductible donation
Help us organize our own special rubik’s cube – we’d love to get all those nice colors lined up (especially the red and the black!).
Till next time,
Star Gazing Farm 501(c)3
A haven for retired farm animals and wayward goats