Thursday, December 31, 2009

Experimenting with Gus

I'm working on making the pictures in my blog larger, so I'm experimenting with an old picture of Gus. Thanks to Pix from Rural Rambles ( for the instructions on how to do this! (Eventually I'll figure out how to make the extra spacing go away.)

From Blogger Pictures

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Let Sleeping Cats Lie, Darn It

My husband says that I am constitutionally unable to let sleeping cats lie.

I have to admit that he might be right. Can you see in Irving's eye the knowledge that he's not going to be allowed to have a nice quiet nap in front of my computer monitor?

Poor Irving. But hey, do I feel like playing with string every time he wants to? Nooooo.

So man up,'s time to amuse the humans.
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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Eight Ducks A-Feeding

Wait, it's supposed to be 'eight lords a-leaping,' isn't it? Oh well, I never was good at singing. At any rate, our duck flock is growing by leaps and bounds. We started with three, and we're up to eight.

Here are some recent additions: Corky the Muscovy duck, and Shelby the black-and-white mongrel duck. They're huge, as ducks go.

Our most recent addition is a female white domestic duck. (Apparently all white ducks are domestic ducks.) Even though our ducks flock together, they pair off by type, and poor Gilligan, our big white duck, had no mate. My husband felt sorry for him, and brought Mrs. Howell home. (I wonder if you have to be of a certain age to think the pairing of the names is funny? Are there reruns of Gilligan's Island?)

You can see the two white ducks below, along with our one male mallard and the three female mallards. There were supposed to be two male mallards, but one got eaten by vultures.

Notice anything odd about the duck in the far left of the picture?

It's not a domestic duck. It's a wild red-headed duck that showed up on its own a few days ago. It joins our flock when it feels like it, but spends much of its time on its own also. We're happy to see it; according to our bird book, its numbers are declining due to over-hunting and destruction of its habitats. It's a beautiful bird.

Speaking of over-hunting, a picture of our animals wouldn't be complete without a picture of a small white cat. You can see how terrified the ducks are of her.

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A Sunny Day...Finally

I looked out the window a bit ago and saw a great picture in the making. Gus was quietly eating hay, while Arlene the goat sat nearby watching him. I've noticed that she has a special relationship with him. I went to put hay out for them all earlier today, and Gus threw a fit because it wasn't time for his grain. After he calmed down, Arlene ran up to him, tilted her head to look at him, and maa'ed softly. She was clearly trying to communicate with him. She's usually near him out in the pasture, while Emma, our other goat, really doesn't pay any attention to him.

At any rate, I went out to take the picture, but of course my presence changes things. Below you can seen Arlene starting to stand up, and then.... turns into this.

And then this. I must look like a walking grain bin. At least he's warm and dry now, after all the rain of the last few days. You'll notice the bin on its side. He kicked it over, of course. There's no reason for an empty hay bin to be upright.

Everyone is enjoying the sun today, though it's still only in the high 40's.

I feel very lucky to be living in the Southeast today, and so sorry for all the people in the Northeast whose holiday travel has been disrupted by the snow. Here's wishing all the travellers a safe trip!
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Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Winter Hungries

I'm embarrassed to even complain about the cold here in South Carolina. It's in the 40's, and I'm miserable. The horse is miserable, the goats are miserable, and the cats....well, actually, they're just asleep on the couch. I know it's so much colder in most of the rest of the country, but try telling that to Gus the horse.

He's cold, wet, and muddy. All I can think about as I look at him is how much work it's going to be to get that mud off of him later on, especially with his nice thick winter coat.

Everyone's hungry all the time now. It feels like a full-time job keeping them all in hay. We tried 'free-choice' hay for a while, by putting a bale of hay in a baby crib and setting it out, but they wasted so much of it that they were going through a rectangular bale a day, with much of it just getting trampled into the earth. The county extension agent told us that's actually good for the soil, but it's not so good for our pocketbook.

Even the cats are hungry all the time. Irving, the brown tabby in the picture below, brought his wand toy to the door in front of the food room, and settled down to play quietly with it while waiting to be fed. Halley joined him.

After all, it was only two hours until feeding time.

You can see that Halley (the white cat) hasn't missed any meals lately. In fact, I suspect she's suckering us into double-feeding her. She was spayed recently, and she went almost overnight from a bone-thin kitty to what you see here. We actually went and researched whether a cat can still be pregnant once it's spayed. They can't, but tell me that cat doesn't look pregnant...
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Goofy Goats

It's been cold here for South Carolina. Today was mostly in the 40's, and we had to break the ice on the animals' water this morning before they could drink. Both the horse and the goats are growing thick coats, but the weather still isn't fun for them, especially since it's supposed to rain tonight and all tomorrow.

The goats have been such fun to have around. Arlene, in the picture above, has changed completely since we got her. She didn't like to be touched at first, but now she loves to be petted, and she has such a sweet, gentle way about her.

Halley the cat is still fascinated by the animals, and she still 'helps' my husband with all the chores. She especially enjoys checking the hay over.

This is the normal look we get from the goats. It means: 'Didn't you bring food? You didn't? Okay, pet me. Then go get food.'

Halley also tries to supervise Gus the horse while he's eating. I honestly don't understand why he puts up with it, but he does. It terrifies me when she gets in among his feet, because he can't see very well there, but somehow he always steps around her.

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Feeding Frenzies

Sometimes it seems like our lives revolve around feeding animals. We've fed cats for years, of course, and it was always easy...until we added a third cat, something we'd never had before. Now Irving has to be put in his isolation chamber (my sewing room) while Boot and Halley eat, or cat feeding time degenerates into a hissing mess.

Now, goats and horses don't hiss at each other, but it's also hard to feed them at the same time. We fill the goats' trays with grain and minerals, and set them outside the fence. Then we go in and feed Gus the horse in the run-in shed. If we put the goats' food down first, Gus will push them out of the way and eat it.

As you can imagine, the 'feed the horse first' regime doesn't win any popularity contests with the goats. This is the look I get coming back from feeding Gus.

Then it gets up close and personal, just in case I'm secreting goat food on my person. I rarely am.

There's a lot of loud maa'ing going on with this. I'm sure the neighbors think that we regularly chase the goats around with sticks, based on the cacophony at feeding time.

If we're lucky, the end result looks like this. If we're not, there are overturned trays, and a trip back up to the storage area for more grain.

And of course, when the goats finish, Gus comes out and licks the rest of the minerals off of the trays. He's not supposed to have them, but oddly enough, I haven't had much success explaining that to him.

We've actually gotten a lot better at feeding the animals. If you remember any of my early posts about feeding times, you'll sense a slightly less hysterical tone to this one. We're starting to feel like we know what we're doing, which of course means a painful lesson is just around the corner...

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So I'm back after a week-long business trip. I'm sitting in my sewing room, vegging with HGTV, and Irving the cat comes in. He spies his toy. It's got feathers at the end of an elastic string attached to a toy fishing pole. It's so cute how he comes running to get me to play with him and his toy. He really must have missed me. I grab the fishing pole and shake the toy at him.

He takes it in his mouth, and starts to pull it away....

...toward the door. Then he pulls the pole out of my hand...

...and drags the toy into the living room...

...where he gives it to my husband.

I guess THAT will teach me to go away.

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

December Days

I was away this week, and came back to a cold, windy day today, but with beautiful clear light. Gus the horse is growing a longer coat for the cold to come, and is looking a bit shaggy.

One of the goats has developed a beautiful soft fur-like winter coat that makes her feel like a sheep, and the other goat hasn't changed at all. They're the same breed, so it's a little puzzling.

Even the evenings get great light now...

Before we moved here, I had never realized that mistletoe really does grow on trees, and I had certainly never seen it. It's the ball of leaves near the top of the tree below.

Apparently it's believed to be a parasite that will kill a tree, and some people shoot it out of trees with shotguns to save their trees. Supposedly it won't kill a tree, but I kind of like the idea of it being dangerous enough to warrant being 'killed' with a gun. (Hmmm, maybe I've been living in South Carolina too long? You'll know that when you see a gun rack in my little Ford Focus...)
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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Irving Becomes Part of the Family

New cat Irving is passing the final test for becoming (and staying) part of the family. Our 18-year-old cat Boot predictably put up a fuss at the new arrival. Boot's lived in six countries, and has seen his share of impudent new cats, and he was NOT happy with this latest one. Lots of hissing and screaming, but we finally got to this...

Eating in the same room is huge. And this afternoon we saw this...not a good photo, but the story it tells is a good one: Boot asleep on his favorite porch chair, while Irving watches the world nearby. No screaming, no hissing. They're certainly not best friends, and young Irving is still too rambunctious for poor frail Boot, but they're coming to an accommodation.

Irving's been through so many 'tests' since showing up as an abandoned cat on our deck. He's survived peeing on a new almost lethal cold...and scrutiny from two other cats and a husband who were thinking 'we don't need no stinking new cat.' With a lot of tolerance from my sweet husband, skillful care on the part of the vet, and an 'oh darn it, okay' from the cats, it looks like he's found his home.
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How to Make a Man Happy

No, not that - this is a family blog!

THIS is how to make a man happy....brand new 'Black Friday' HD TV and a good football game...

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Counting Our Blessings...

It's been a beautiful Thanksgiving so far. I'm grateful for so many things...

* This beautiful new life we have out in the country. We love having animals, watching the scenery change, and enjoying the peace and quiet. I'm grateful to have a stable job in this dire economy so that we can afford to live here.

* Most of all, I'm grateful for my husband. We've had 27 great years together. I always appreciate him, but this week especially, after a dear man at work lost his wife last weekend. Truly life is a fleeting thing, and we must make the best of it while we're fortunate enough to be healthy and happy. We sat on the front porch together this afternoon, and enjoyed the sunshine.

* I'm grateful that new cat Irving can't catch anything bigger than a grasshopper. I'm also grateful that slightly-less-new-cat Halley doesn't catch birds very often, though I have to say I'm amused by the drama when my husband sees her heading toward the house with a bird in her mouth, and he leaps to close the cat door. And I'm ashamed to admit that I laughed last time at the audible 'thunk' when her head hit the door.

* I'm also extremely grateful that our immediate and extended family are all well and happy this Thanksgiving of 2009. I miss my Dad today, but I'm happy we had him as long as we did. I wish we were with our families in Arizona, Virginia, and California, but I'm glad they're all enjoying the day together.

May all of our blessings last....and the same to all of you!
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Recipe for a Bath

Take one goofball, naive young cat.

Add one wily, slightly older, farm-smart cat with a dash of humor.

Mix in a couple of goats.

What have you got?

Wily cat teaching goofball cat to roll in GOAT PEE.

Post-recipe cleanup: Goofball cat's first bath.
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Irving is WELL

It's been a week since Irving the cat came home from the vet, and it appears....fingers crossed....that he's completely over his horrific cold. We really thought he wasn't going to make it, so this is a huge relief.

Irving looks relieved too, don't you think?

Actually, he just looks goofy. That's because he's a goofball. He blunders around, and can't understand why the other cats don't just accept him right away. We're getting there, though.

I don't want to think about how much it cost to get Irving to this point. Multiple vet visits and a week living at the vet's getting mega-antibiotic shots every day, not to mention keeping him shut up in my sewing room for over a month, giving him pills twice a day, watching him struggle to breathe on his bad days, and gritting our teeth over the mattress he peed on. (Yeah, that's right, Irv, you thought we'd forgotten about that one, didn't you? Uh-uh, bud -- that's going on your permanent record!)

Why on earth would we go through all that for a cat someone else just abandoned? But what was the alternative? He's such a sweet, quirky little guy, and so accepting of everything that's happened to him.

We're all just weird about our pets, aren't we?
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Sunday, November 15, 2009

WannaBe Rider

It was a beautiful day here again today, so we decided to try saddling Gus and riding him. I got him saddled, and got on, but had the same problem with him refusing to move, or refusing to go in the direction I wanted him to go in. I decided that I must have saddled him wrong, because clearly he's a very good horse and he wouldn't just refuse to do what I asked him to do.

So I got off, and then my husband said, "I want to try." I was surprised, because he had already made it clear that he didn't want to ride. He mounted, and gave Gus the same signals I had given him. Gus immediately moved forward, and my husband was riding.


It was ME.

My husband got off, and said, "I could just tell he wasn't taking you seriously." I got back on, and urged him forward more decisively. Sure enough, he started to move.

We went for a ride halfway around the pond and back. The colors are incredible today. It was almost 80 degrees, with a soft breeze, and that crystal clear light that turns everything to gold.

So I still stink at riding, but I'm making progress. At least he goes forward when I ask him. That's kind of a low bar for success, I know, but it's definitely progress over last time.

Next step: riding lessons.

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