"Farm" Report


I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: I’m not a farmer and I don’t really live on a farm. I live on a 5 acre historic farmstead; what was once a hay farm that spanned hundreds of acres, on land claimed by a country doctor from Indiana during the Oregon Trail migration of the mid-19th century. In its true farming era, this property changed hands three times. I have lots of good stories to tell about the farm and about the three families who farmed here. If you’d like to find out more, my friend Alix Ryan and I devoted a podcast to it called Old Bright.

The place I live might be called a “hobby farm.” I have fourteen laying hens and a rooster. I have veggie and flower gardens, fruit trees, and a formidable plot of lavender. I am great at planting things and terrible at remembering to harvest them. I have no dogs, but I have a bunch of cats and some farm animals who refuse to eat hay unless it’s the expensive orchard grass from eastern Oregon. They live in a beautiful old gambrel-roofed barn and have never worked a day in their life. That’s my “farm.”

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I don’t always love living here. It’s so much work. But mostly I do. There are always animals around. Often lots of kids too: climbing trees, catching frogs, chasing goats, and running wild. It’s a sweet, happy place.

One of the perks AND pitfalls of living here is that there’s plenty of space for animals. It’s a perk because I love animals! It’s a pitfall because I can’t seem to say no to an animal that needs a home. Feeding animals every day is not a big chore. The hard work is all the other stuff: injuries and illnesses, wrangling animals who have escaped their pastures, keeping them cool during a heatwave, introducing new animals to the ones who already live here. Sometimes I really lean into this stuff. Sometimes I don’t have the time and I resent all the work and do the bare minimum. Lately I am leaning in, which is good news because I got a lot of new animals this month.

You guys remember this kitty, right? He was skulking around in my chicken coop the night before Halloween. I brought him in to keep him safe from coyotes and now he’s a member of my family. We named him Misha, which I think is basically Mike in Russian.

such a good boy

And meet Comet. He took the place of Dolly, an ancient llama who had been guarding my goats from coyotes for the past year or so. Dolly was on loan from Joyce at Joyful Llama Ranch until she could find a suitable replacement. Comet is a very good boy and so handsome. He settled in so easily; it’s like he’s always been here.

so handsome

Also new: Bogo and Boget. Their owners, who live down the road from me, are moving and can’t keep them. These two have a complicated relationship: they are father and daughter, brother and sister, and occasionally boyfriend and girlfriend. I’m from a different corner of the animal kingdom where this kind of thing doesn’t fly, but I’m not judging. They seem happy together.

Bogo and Baba Yaga

Bogo is an acronym for Buy One Get One Free. Unbeknownst to his owners, Bogo’s mom was pregnant with him when they bought her. He grew up and got his mom pregnant (cool, cool) and they had Boget. I am especially fond of Boget who gives kisses. I’ve been calling her Baba Yaga, after the Russian witch.

photo by Becca

These two had never been moved from the pasture they were born in and the trip to my house was traumatic. It took some work to get them out of the trailer and into the pasture. Eventually Joyce and I got them in and settled and we closed the gate. I turned around to head out to my studio with my friend Becca (we were going to scan a bunch of old photos for a book she is writing) and there, in the distance, next to a pond and a road, was Boget. She had hopped the fence in a panic the moment we turned around, and fled. I didn’t even know that llamas could do that. Miraculously I was able to halter her and get her back to the pasture and she has only hopped the fence one more time since.

Did you know that llamas have an alarm call? It sounds a bit like a yodel. They use it to scare off predators. Before these two came to the farm I’d only heard it a handful of times but Bogo and Boget do it a lot. They yodel at the neighbors’ dogs, which is normal. They also yodel at Misha, the goats, and the rooster. They are alarmed! It’s been a rough week for them. But every day they seem a little less wigged out and a little more at home.

That’s all for new animals. FOR NOW. As for old animals, there are Penny and Becky the goats, now well-protected by a battalion of guard llamas. And there are the lazy indoor cats, Window and Moony. They’ll be in this chair if you need them.

Until next time,

P.S. It’s the first Tuesday of the month! Draw the prompts below and tag them #spikysnakehandlerinahat and #transmundanetuesdays.

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