Thursday, December 23, 2010

Winter Solstice Week

The rhythms of the ranch seem to ease the days into weeks.  Not much changes suddenly here, but then, after days of very slow movement, without expecting it, we see that things have, indeed, changed.

The uniform of light clothing for summer milking, feeding and moving animals has definitely gone by the wayside.  No more t-shirts and shorts.  We are solidly into the territory of a wet, muddy and often cold season.  The bottom of jeans tucked into the tall shaft of black rubber boots (covered in multi-colored polka-dots), a t-shirt under a long-sleeved T, and a yellow slicker with hood covering the ball cap that holds a small flashlight clipped to the brim.  We don’t wear this gear in public, that’s for sure, but it sure works well and the goats don’t mind at all.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have noticed slight changes in the demeanor of the goats.  Normally ready and waiting at the door of the barn when I open it in the morning, these days I find most of them lying in the hay, looking at me with surprise that I actually want them to leave this cozy place.  Normally, Lily is the first out the door, leading the rest of the goats toward their pen and morning meal, nudging them along if she has to, me running to catch up.  This past Monday, I nudged and led the other goats out of the barn and walked about 20 feet before realizing that Lily wasn’t with us.  I turned around and looked at the barn, and there she stood in the doorway, staring at me as if I were nuts.  I have to hold onto Salsa and Imbri so they don’t fight over the milk stand, so this meant leading them back to the barn to grab Lily’s leash too and get her moving on.  At the milk stand, Lily walked onto the patio, paused and sniffed at the stairs leading to the deck while I loaded Salsa up and tied Imbri to a post to wait her turn.  It took a solid tug to get Lily to move, and we walked back out onto the wet gravel driveway to urge the two youngest (Moonshine and Luna) on to their breakfast.

I knew then that this spelled a change in Lily’s future behavior and in what I was going to have to do with my routine to ensure a smooth transition in the morning.  I had no idea what was to come.

Tuesday morning, I knew to take Lily’s leash in hand and tug to get her out of the barn and moving.  She again seemed interested in the steps, which I don’t want to encourage.

This morning, those subtle changes that have been building came to a head.  I am so thankful to be on vacation this week and able to deal with these things in the daylight, instead of pitch black and rain!

Lily came out of the barn with less urging, but I could tell that she was going to do more than sniff at the steps when I was securing Salsa and Imbri.  I saw Lily’s foot go onto the first step, and called out, “Don’t do it, Lily.”  As I moved toward her, she scrambled up all seven steps and onto the deck, rushing all the way to the other end, which ends in a banister that she couldn’t get through.  Grabbing her leash, I turned around to see ... Moonshine and Luna had decided to come have some fun on the deck, too.  I herded them all back down the stairs, and Mooney ran to the milk stand to try and steal some grain from Salsa.  She tried to head butt him, rattling the stand, and he turned away.  The little ones were slow, and I had to pull on Lily’s collar to get her to move.  As we neared the path to their pen, Moonshine slowed and started to turn, but Luna stepped up her pace as she went right by it.  Uh-oh.  She was headed toward the end of my driveway and into the land of 15 other goats, a pony, miniature horse, llama and sheep, and no fences to halt her progress for a very long way on over 200 acres.

I circled to Luna’s left as I caught up to her, Lily by my side, which usually causes Luna to turn around, but she started to trot, and then suddenly turned onto the path to the chicken coop.  With Mooney behind me now, curious as to what his sister was doing, I knew that I had to get at least 2 of the 3 loose goats secured, so I focused on herding him into his proper place.  Once he remembered there was food to be had, he scurried through the gate.  I urged Lily in behind him, closed the gate, and then looked at Luna, trying to figure out how best to round up the rascal.  She cautiously took a couple steps toward me.  I called her gently, and opened the gate up so she could see it.  Within moments, she trotted right to me and veered through the opening, acting as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

Tonight’s adventure?  Moonshine running back and forth at full speed, between me and Becca, trying to fly by me, rather than trotting to the barn like a good boy.

I have been enjoying the fact that most of the goats have learned their routine well enough that I don’t have to hold onto 5 leashes, especially in slick mud.  With this new development, I may well need to add at least one more goat to my leash collection.  I sure hope this doesn’t last long.

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