Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Geese Herald Spring

We marked a full year in the new house this month, so we're starting to see some events repeat, and first among them is the arrival of the Canada geese. Eighteen of them have arrived, just like last year. They come and go, and two of them are here more often than the others, so we suspect they're the pair who had the goslings last year.

They're noisy, territorial, and messy....but as long as they bring spring with them, that's perfectly fine.

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Emma Jumps the Fence

Emma jumped the fence in the front yesterday! It's the first time one of the goats has gotten out since we had the fence redone last spring.

I went out in the evening to give them their carrot and apple treats, and Emma stood up on the fence the way Arlene is doing in the picture below. It sagged beneath her weight...

....and then with one push of her powerful hind legs, she was up and over the fence, and standing in front of me in the yard. I don't know which of us looked more surprised. I grabbed her by the horn, but quickly realized that would just spook her and I couldn't possibly hold on to her.

Fortunately, if you're carrying carrots and apples, you don't have to manhandle a goat to get it to do what you want. All you have to do is look like a complete idiot walking across your front yard dangling a carrot in front of a goat, until you get to the gate on the far side of the yard. You do a complicated juggling act to try to hold on to the carrots and apples while fending off two goats, one on each side of the gate, and you carefully open the gate while a large goat is standing up on it pushing against it. Then you coax one goat through while keeping the other from escaping. Wave at the passing cars as you go. Piece of cake! One goat returned to its pasture....relief all around...passers-by amused. What could be better?

She hasn't done it again yet. Fingers are crossed...

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Fun With Ducks

I don't know why, but I think it's so funny to walk by the pond and see the ducks' behinds sticking out of the water. I was lucky recently and caught the action as one desperately tried to force his plump, water-repellant body under the water to feed. I love that orange foot flailing in the air.

In the shot below, you can see both orange feet out of the water. This picture was actually on the day the cats were pretend-stalking the ducks, and you can see three of the duck armada sailing in to assist their comrades in the horrific cat-duck war. (The cats never did anything but stare menacingly at the ducks, who were obviously not terrified.)

Rusty, the little wild red-headed duck who has been visiting us for months, stays near the domestic duck flock most of the time. A local who visited the pond recently said it's been a long time since he's seen a red-headed duck in this area. We speculate he's either old or got separated from his group somehow. (I mean the duck, of course, not the local.) It's nice that he feels comfortable enough to stay. He's a really pretty duck.

And speaking of good-looking ducks....

Doesn't the black-and-white one look like a penguin there? It was doing some complicated contortions to clean itself. Irving the cat was about 10 feet away at the time. Nice to see he's treated with the proper respect by the ducks...
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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Don't Drink Out of That Glass!

We used to be able to leave half-full glasses around the house.

Then we got Irving.

If you come to our house, I strongly recommend watching your cup.

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Does My Cat Have a Death Wish?

I've mentioned before that we have a huge Muscovy duck with claws, and that we also have an idiot cat, Irving, and a smarter cat, Halley, who likes to egg Irving on to do stupid things.

I guess we should have seen this coming.

Irving has it in his head that he can catch a duck. Yesterday he got right down to the shore, within a very short distance of a group of the smaller ducks, who are still bigger than he is. Halley, of course, was in the background watching. Can you see the little cat smile on her face?

Irving got as close as he could, with the ducks not reacting at all, because of course they know he's an idiot. Afterwards, he and Halley exchanged the cat equivalent of a high-five....

....and then Irving decided to go after Corky, The Duck With Claws.

In the picture above, he looks like he's looking somewhere else, but that's actually a clever tactic designed to avoid Corky's notice....because of course Corky can't see him if Irving's not looking at him. Irving followed the whole duck flock up the hill to their corn bin, and then followed them back down. I'm not sure if they actually didn't notice him, or if he's so inconsequential that it didn't even occur to them to react to him. Probably the latter, but of course he's all puffed up now because he chased the ducks and lived through it.

I'm afraid Irving has a harsh lesson coming, though. The Canada geese have come back. We had 18 for a while yesterday. (Last year they alternated between our pond and our neighbor's pond.) I mentioned to my husband that if we get goslings again this year, Irving might attack them. He just laughed, and then I remembered that the geese parents killed a snake last year. I imagine Irving won't be spending much time down by the pond for a while.

It says a lot when I'm more worried about the cat than about the birds...

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Pink Cat

Our cats like strong smells. No one who has cats (or dogs) would find that unusual, but I can tell you that there's a big difference between having cats in the suburbs, and having them in the country.

Yes, my cats like to play in horse poop.

And no, I don't want to talk about why there's still horse poop on the ground when we haven't had Gus the horse since January. (Hey, it's been cold outside. We'll get it up one of these days.)

Halley, our white cat, likes to roll in the red clay. It turns her pink. When the sun hits her, she's really pink.

Unfortunately, the cats also adore rolling in goat urine. Sometimes I really wish we didn't have a cat door.

I also wish they didn't sleep on the bed.

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Goats Like Nice Weather Too

It was a beautiful sunny day in South Carolina, and our goats loved it. We sat down by the pond for a while and watched them romp in the pasture. They ran, chasing each other along the pond bank. Check out Emma's right ear flying here.

Then they wheeled, and came racing back toward us, as we cowered. They're sweet as can be, but it's easy to forget that they are really quite powerful, until you see them in action.

They veered off in time, of course.

Arlene came up afterward and, visibly panting, stood by my husband to get petted. Then she went to her hay basket, which was -- gasp -- empty.

Don't worry -- it's full now! Playing goats need calories...

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Goat Fur & Calisthenics

See what looks like cotton in the picture above? It's goat fur. Poor Arlene is losing her winter coat, and it's itchy. I had no idea that goats would beg to be petted just like dogs. We sat down at the bench, and Arlene came up and nudged my hand with her head. I started pulling her fur out, and she stood quietly and blissfully for me. I toss the fur to the winds, figuring that the birds can use it for nice, soft nests.

Here's Arlene with fur stuck to one of her horns. She's holding her head like that so I can scratch between her horns and behind her ears. Never thought I'd be able to read goat body language! (Of course, most goat body language revolves around some version of 'do you have food for me' but then my husband tells me my body language does too.)

Then she settled off to the side to do some complicated cleansing rituals. I'm very relieved to report that a goat can bite its own toenails, just like a cat can.

I'm relieved about that because otherwise I'd have to clip them for her. You may have noticed the horns? She's a very sweet goat, but any of you who have clipped a cat's claws before can imagine what the procedure would be like with a goat.

I learned from a friend to wrap the cats in a towel to clip their claws. I just had a mental image of my wrapping the goats in a huge beach towel to do their nails.

Once again, I really am so very glad we have a private back yard. Not that I'd actually do it, of course, but hmmm...I wonder if it would work?
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Monday, February 15, 2010

The Diving Mallard?

I've shown this picture before because it's a great picture of our Moscovy duck, but this time I'd like to focus on the brown female mallard in the upper part of the picture.

We have two of these. Mallards are dabbling ducks, which means we spend a lot of time laughing at their little upturned behinds as they reach for food just below the surface. Mallards dabble. They don't dive.

Except for this one. I was out there tonight for quite a while, and she was diving all over the place. It was clearly intentional, and the other female mallard didn't do it once. You can see in the picture below that they're virtually identical.

I did a little online research, and apparently mallards have been seen diving, but it's unusual.

The interesting thing is that we do have a visiting red-headed duck. He's been with us for weeks now, and he's a diving duck.

Could this duck possibly have learned to dive from him?

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Grooming a Goat

I think I mentioned before that Arlene, one of our two female Boer goats, grew a thick fluffy coat for the winter. I have no idea why she would start to shed it now, but she's been shedding for about the past two weeks, and it's obviously itching her, because there's now white goat fur all over our fences.

So of course I had to brush her.

Irving the cat had to watch, of course. He needs to know about everything. Arlene's fur is shedding so much that I can pull it out with my fingers. She was fascinated by being brushed, and held perfectly still for it.

Can you tell she's enjoying it?

Emma, the other Boer goat, who was smart enough not to grow a winter coat for a South Carolina winter, took the opportunity to grab a bite, while Halley the cat checked for the ever-present possibility of something to play with. (And yes, that's an antique baby crib. Doesn't everyone use one to feed their goats?)

Of course, Arlene's winter coat did come in handy during our recent snow, but check out her fur all over the fence behind Emma. I think I'd rather be a little cold during a two-day snow than have to shed all that fur.

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Nature Is A Quick-Change Artist

Last Saturday morning, our little world looked like this. This is one of several abandoned houses along our South Carolina country road.

It didn't feel like we were living in the South.

And now we're back...two days later it looks like this again.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010


Our power went off shortly before noon, and stayed off. After a few hours, the snow had mostly melted, and the sun was shining, so I went out to give the goats some hay. The electric company truck drove by just as I finished, so I flagged them down to say that our power was still out, and they said it was a problem throughout the area, and it should be back on soon.

I went in to tell my husband what they said, and told him how strong a country accent the driver had. He sounded like a real country boy. You could almost describe him as a hick, I said.

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My husband smiled at me.

Then he reached out and gently pulled a large piece of hay out of my hair.

Oh well. The power's back on, at least.

Pretty, Pretty Snow

I can't resist more pictures of our snow. I don't know why, since so many other people out there have much more dramatic pictures of much bigger snowfalls...but this is MY snow.

I think the birds below are scoping out the cracked corn we just put out for the ducks.

Here's a comparison to the original picture of the front of the house while the snow was starting to fall yesterday evening.

Our big hardship so far has been that the snow somehow prevented our local NBC affiliate from showing the Olympic opening ceremonies in HD. This hurt my husband deeply.

And a shot of our country lane. Doesn't it look like an old-time Christmas postcard?

A pickup truck just went by! The road should be clear enough for our little car soon.
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