Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lots of Characters in Our Little Play...

We were sitting on the deck tonight watching the little tableau spread before us. The three goats were play-fighting, head-butting each other and running around. The two geese-parents were closely watching the three miscellaneous geese who have shown up to hang around. (Apparently the word is out that we feed.) There were occasional geese fights, with lots of head bobbing as warning first. The four ducks, who are now a group, were wandering around in the midst, and Gus the horse was quietly feeding in the background, surrounded by a flock of cowbirds.

Lots of animals....but we know who's number one, don't we, Gus?

When you weigh 1200 pounds, you're the boss.
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This is a big snake...we're not sure because we couldn't see the head today, but it's in the same spot where the cottonmouth was.

I like snakes...but I can't help but think about this when I walk through the pasture at dusk to put Gus in his stall...
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Have You Ever Petted a Goat?

Okay, I can hear you saying, "Why would anyone want to pet a goat?" and I have to say that you have some logic on your side.

But it's surprisingly satisfying. Emma, the female Boer goat on the left, likes to be petted. She doesn't know why she likes it, and she's a little embarrassed about it, so she tends to just put herself in a position where if you happened to want to stroke her back, she's facing away from you and can pretend like she doesn't know it's happening. She stands very still while you're doing it, and you can just FEEL her enjoyment...and her puzzlement. Her back is surprisingly bony, considering that she's a little on the...overstuffed...side. (I have no room to talk in this department; I'm just reporting fact.) Her ears are really soft, but those are off limits. Only the back.

Arlene, the middle goat, sees no reason why you should touch her. Feed her, yes. Feed her all you want. Just don't touch.

Little Ben, the baby, is clueless about it all. He's nervous about being touched, but will tolerate it. We would like to do more of it because pretty soon he's going to be a billy goat with all kinds of goat testosterone coursing through his system, and just like a teenage boy, he's going to be butting heads with us, just a little more literally.

They each have a unique personality, and they're really a lot of fun. It's sobering to think that they were bred to be meat goats.

Lots of reasons here to become a vegetarian. Someday. (Do chickens have personalities?)
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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Snakes In the Grass....

Remember this fellow?

And I mentioned that it seemed to be following the geese-parents, who didn't seem to be paying much attention? Apparently, I was wrong.

I don't have a picture because (darn it) the camera batteries died, but we found the snake in the grass beside the pond, dead, with its head pecked through.

Beware the geese...

It's actually a shame, because it was a harmless (to humans) snake.

On the other hand, while my husband was fishing this evening, a snake hissed at him from the marshy area in the woods. It opened its mouth wide, exposing the white interior, and held a threatening posture for a moment, before gliding away. The treasure trove that is the Internet tells us it's the cottonmouth, the only poisonous water snake in North America. It seemed to be in a bad mood. Yikes.

Monday, April 27, 2009

It Was Too Good To Be True, I Guess...

My husband tells me he heard Miss Penny squawking this morning, and he came out to find this...

All that remains of her labors...

Poor Miss Penny....

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

We Were Right About Miss Penny

I went out to the pasture tonight to pull some hay out of the bale for Gus to chew on overnight. (He's been chewing wood in his stall at night so we're trying to give him something else to do.)

I noticed an odd hole in the bottom part of the bale. We've noticed that Miss Penny, the female duck, has come from that area when she's been disappearing lately, so I went in for a closer look.

Yep, definitely a suspicious hole. We've been suspecting that she has a nest somewhere around there.

Looks like we were right!

It's Not the Garden of Eden Out Here...

Oh, wait, there was a snake there too, wasn't there? Never mind. I guess this IS the Garden of Eden.

This is a brown water snake, completely harmless to humans, but disturbingly interested in our goslings.

In the last post's pictures of the goslings, where their parents were leading them onto the shore, this was the reason.

We saw the snake heading from across the pond toward the near shore so we ran down to get the pictures. It met up with another snake near here, then they split off, and this snake headed for where the geese parents and babies were browsing in the shallows. The geese swam away for a while, then headed up onto the shore. They didn't seem particularly perturbed, so I am assuming they don't consider the snake a serious threat, since it was clearly visible.

Still, getting the babies onto the shore seems like a good precaution. I was pretty glad to be on the shore myself.

I was reading up on the brown water snake, and a herpetologist was complaining about how many of them get killed through being mistaken for the poisonous water moccasin. He said that the snake will drop out of a tree onto a fisherman's boat, and the first thought is 'kill, kill, kill,' and 'then getting the bullet-holes out of the boat is almost an afterthought." Can't you just picture it?
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The Goslings...

Some more pictures of the goslings. I'm having to use the camera's zoom to get the feature, then crop to get more details, so it's a little fuzzy....but then the goslings are a little fuzzy themselves.

Aren't they adorable?

We're so happy about this. I can't tell you how hard we tried to get ducklings on the pond at the other house. We bought four female ducks at different times. The first had some mental health issues. The last we saw her, she was walking down the middle of the road in the subdivision, quacking. She never came back. The other two got eaten by hawks. The fourth one turned out to be a male. (Oops.)

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My husband just came in to say that one of the goslings puffed out the fuzzy little stubs it calls wings and made a run at one of the peacefully drowsing ducks, which of course just ignored the little fuzzball. The ducks and the new-parent geese are co-existing just fine. It's the other geese pair that's being warned to stay away. I've been trying to read up on whether geese are actually a danger to each other's babies but haven't found anything.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

And in the Meantime...

The ducks are getting along! Here are the three males hanging out a bit. Miss Penny, the female, was off somewhere unseen, and came back later calling them all to her. She doesn't normally go off by herself like that. Hmmm, wonder if we're going to get ducklings to go with the goslings?

Here's my intrepid 17-year-old cat, Boot, running to my 'rescue.' Whenever I interact with the other animals, he's just sure I'm going to get hurt so comes rushing to help.

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Why Are the Geese Fighting? Big News

We've had two pair of Canada geese living at the pond for at least a month now. They squabble a bit, but for the most part have been co-existing. Today while the one pair was swimming, the other pair came back from wherever they'd been, and when they landed a huge fight broke out.

Here's a closer view. They were pretty far from me so I couldn't get much detail. I'm assuming it was the two males fighting.

And here's why -- we have goslings! You can barely see them in between the two proud parents here.

We saw them for the first time this morning. We had no idea they were expecting! Supposedly the female goose incubates her 5-7 eggs for a solid month, rarely leaving them and guarded by the male. We saw none of that; she's been visible frequently the whole time. Then all of a sudden we have five adorable, roly-poly, fuzzy yellow-and-gray babies. According to the web, the babies lose their yellow within the first week, so these babies are brand new.

We'll work on getting better pictures. For the moment, we're giving them their space.
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The Luna Moth...

Part of the fun of living out in the country is seeing new (to us) flora and fauna. We walked into the garage yesterday and saw this beauty clinging to the overhead garage door. It's a Luna moth. They're about 3-4 inches wide, and 4-5 inches long. It was resting here until its wings dried, then flew away at night, since it's nocturnal. It will live only about a week.

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Friday, April 24, 2009


I want to learn to edit pictures better for the blog, so I was fooling around with the Picasa software this evening. I found a button that said it could identify pictures with faces in them, so I clicked on it.

Here's what it gave me.

I love that.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gilligan Gets a 'Friend'

Well, we're finally figuring out why Gilligan is getting such a hard time from the other ducks. This being a family blog and all, I'm going to have to talk around it a bit. Please pay attention to the gender of the names, since I really don't want to have to spell out what's happening here. Not in front of the kiddies.
We have three other ducks: Walter, Gus the duck (to distinguish him from Gus the horse and Gus the cat, of course), and Miss Penny. It turns out that Walter has begun to...fancy...Gilligan. He wants to be....friends. Unfortunately, Gus the duck apparently considered Walter to be his...friend, and he doesn't appreciate Walter' Gilligan.
So we have a vicious cycle. Walter comes to sit with Gilligan. He preens him and makes it clear he wants to be friendly. Gus the duck sees this, and comes to make it clear to Gilligan that it's not happening...not on his watch. He pecks and bites Gilligan until Gilligan scurries away and settles down elsewhere. The cycle begins anew.
There are some more events in the cycle that I'm leaving out, but you can perhaps guess.
Miss Penny watches, perplexed. Poor, naive Miss Penny.

Horse Chores...

During the week, the evening is when I get time to groom Gus. Look how pretty this setting is.

It's fun to watch Gus enjoy it. I did his ears, and he leaned his head on me and closed his eyes. It's so quiet and peaceful there under the trees. Look how cute the goats are.

Doesn't this look idyllic? The contented horse, good physical exertion outdoors, cute curious goats...

Okay, here's how it really went down here in amateur-land:

I tied Gus up, using the wrong knot every time because I can't seem to get the easy breakaway knot down. I left the gate to the other pasture closed but not latched, because I thought I might want to groom him out there, then forgot when I didn't. The gate to the pasture where the goats are was open, because why not? What could happen? I got distracted grooming Gus when I noticed fly bites on his legs, so I went to get the fly spray from the shed, leaving the gate to the shed closed but not latched when I came out, because I knew I was going back in.

Could everyone but me have seen this coming?

Goats EVERYWHERE. Miss Emma goes through the gate into the wrong pasture. John comes down with sweet feed to get her back. Miss Arlene gets her head stuck in the fence trying to get to the sweet feed while I'm using it to lure Miss Emma back. We get Emma back in, Arlene's head out of the fence, and the gate closed. Little Ben then of course finds the unlatched door to the shed, where the sweet feed is. I see him just in time and make a dive for him, while Emma, his mother, baas because I'm manhandling her baby.

We shut all the gates, with everyone on the correct side of a gate. Gus just watched the whole thing.

It's weird how you can actually SEE the expression 'you're an idiot' on a horse's face.

I should mention that my only 'chore' is grooming Gus when I feel like it. My dear husband does all the manure management, makes sure there's fresh water, and watches out for him during the day. All for a horse he didn't really want in the first place. Thank you, sweetie.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Odd Man Out...

Last this blog saw Gilligan, the white duck, he was sitting in a row boat, hiding from the other ducks. He's come out of the boat, probably because it's remarkably hard for a duck to find food in a boat, and is disconsolately roaming the yard by himself. My husband is feeding him corn when he can get to him. The other ducks come by occasionally, and apparently make snide remarks, but at least they've stopped attacking him for now. He won't go in the pond any more. This is a family blog so I'll refrain from explaining what they've done to him when they've found him in the pond. Let's just say that duck gang activity bears a striking resemblance to what movies say about prison gang activity and leave it at that.

Poor Gilligan. We hope he finds his place.

Insanity in the Family...

I thought it might be interesting to prove to the world that we're lunatics. (And by 'the world,' of course, I mean the approximately four and a half people who read this blog.)

Here's the proof. Below is the run-in shed that the property came with. It originally had a narrow chute between the open pen and the enclosed stall, where you would trap a cow or bull for the vet. But Gus, the horse, was terrified of the narrow chute. He hit his leg on it, and hated going through there. So every night we were having to lead him out one side of the pen into the open field, then around into the gate leading to the stall, avoiding the chute. What really bothered us, though, was that he was afraid. We didn't want our horse to be afraid.

So we had people come in and with great effort, remove the inner wall that created the chute. Now it's at least four feet wide and he has no trouble with it.

Here's his stall. It originally had a half wall running the length of the stall that cut out about 15 square feet of the stall, apparently for supply storage. Again, we had people come in and remove that so that Gus could rest comfortably in there at night. Our horse has to be comfortable.

You can't see it very well, but the doorway in the picture below leads into a supply area where we keep all our supplies for Gus. Horses need a lot of things. We bought brushes for his tail and mane, several different types of brushes for his body, a body massage mitt, tail and mane detangler, body shampoo, a hoof pick, and a shedding comb.

And of course, you don't just pick up all this stuff one day and decide to groom and handle a horse. No, if you're me, you have to buy books...lots of books...on how to take care of a horse. Because after all, if you're going to have a horse, you should do it right.

So what makes us lunatics?

Did I mention that we don't actually OWN Gus?

He's just here on a 2-month loan to see if we even like having a horse. We've had him about three weeks.

Can you spell S-U-C-K-E-R? I think he can...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Gus Loses Tina...

I think I mentioned previously that we had asked the owner of Tina, the pony, to come take her away? Ponies can be a little feisty, and she didn't like the goats. The owner had sent her with Gus, the gelding, to keep him company while he settled in, but he really didn't seem to pay much attention to her.

Her owner came Sunday afternoon. She pulled up with a big horse trailer that apparently contained at least one of her other horses. It whinnied, and Gus went mad trying to get to it. He whinnied back, and starting pounding around the corral trying to get to it. The owner came down, and while her friend whisked Tina away and put her in the trailer, the owner stayed in the corral to talk to us about Gus, with Gus stomping angrily around her. It was quite the temper tantrum! We'd never seen him like that. I was afraid for her, but she didn't seem concerned, which reinforced my confidence in Gus's essentially calm nature.

After she left, we let Gus up into the upper pasture. He stormed around for a while, then went to the corner where the trailer had been, and stood there looking at the spot.

I know I'm not supposed to anthropomorphosize, but this is one sad horse. Was he looking for Tina, or wishing he could have gone home with the others?

He paced the fenceline along the road, whinnying as he went.

Finally, he let me pet him, but he was one angry, sad horse all evening.

I hung out with him as much as I could, but he really wasn't ready to forgive us.

I'm happy to report that he's feeling a little better today. My husband said he grazed normally during the day, though he let out sad cries from time to time. When I came home, he was standoffish at first, but I stuck with it, and he finally come up and put his head in my arms and let me love him up a bit. We did that several times this evening. When I put him in his stall to feed him, he licked my hair, which I suppose means something in horse body language.

I hope it doesn't just mean I need to wash my hair.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

This picture is here just because I've always liked it. We got these two, Hobie and Fred, shortly after we were married, in the mid-1980's. They were very good friends, at times.

Grown-up Cats...

I realized that I forgot to add a picture of a grown-up Gus to his story in the earlier post. Here he is in one of the many hotel rooms he and Boot have stayed in with us during our travels. You may notice that he never lost the spots on his stomach, and he still has a penchant for that sleeping position.

Also, he and Boot did make it up, and they've become good friends.

My favorite 'hotel with cats' story was the time we checked into a hotel with the cats, and I asked the clerk behind the desk what we should do with them when the maids came each day. This particular hotel had advertised that it accepted pets. The young woman looked at me in surprise, and said, "They can't be in the room when the maids come. You'll have to take them with you every morning."
It took a while, and the manager, but we got that one straightened out.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Out of Place....

Notice anything odd about this picture?

How about now?

We've named him Gilligan. He's been in the boat for the past day. We have three mallard-type ducks (mallard bodies but with blue beaks), and when Gilligan, the white duck, came along, the three other ducks ganged up on him. They made him so miserable that he's taken refuge in the boat. Poor little guy.

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