All the Animals (the peaceful farm sanctuary)

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She was three days old.  Bouncy, adorable, and everything one would imagine a baby goat to be.  She nibbled on the geraniums, went to inner city schools with me when I went to speak, played the piano, and loved her bottles.  She stayed next to me as I read and thought herself a cat.  She rather enjoyed rides in the truck and loved everyone.

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We often have to learn things the hard way to realize what our true beliefs are.  I had been vegetarian for twenty-five years and then vegan for an additional two years when we entered the farming scene head on and fell into line with all the other small farms around us.  We started a small dairy.  We increased our chicken family.  We had many animals who all had to “earn their keep.”

Elsa got pregnant too early.  When she gave birth, we took the baby away. (That is how people get the milk and not the infant) (and we were so thankful it was a girl because boys get killed in the dairy industry.  Period.)  She got mastitis and scabs on her udders.  Instead of letting her heal and giving her another year, I quickly sold her to a family who ushered her into their minivan and were gone.  For $250.  It was only then that I realized in my farming fervor that I just sold our baby girl.  Roosters I couldn’t get myself to eat came home plucked and beheaded for little reason.  I have too many recipes out there that need to come down.

Many folks deter squirrels with cruel spinning feeders and squirrel proof this or that.  We had a squirrel years ago that would throw his food bowl if it was empty after getting our attention!  They are quite fascinating and sweet animals.  Our life is certainly richer watching them play.  They come quite near to receive their goodies.

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Birds of all sorts gather around our third of an acre in the middle of the city.  Scores of blackbirds, owls, hawks, eagles, sparrows, finches, and silly blue jays.  Hummingbirds drink the nectar from the geraniums on the porch.

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The chickens are named and are actually included in our holiday cards.  They all have very different personalities, just like cats and dogs.  My friend’s young turkey was killed.  A few weeks later, the mother of the turkey died.  She was depressed and had stopped eating.  There is no difference (and it is only humans that have determined who is more worthy, who is food, who is equal) between the dog, the cats, the chickens, the squirrels, the blue jays, even the mice that steal a nibble here and there from the birds’ food bowl. They all have a right to live and be and I have no more right to be here than they.  We are all walking upon mother earth.

At this time that we wish for peace on earth, let us remember these things.  Not only will your health drastically improve, but your emotional state will be happier,  anxiety disappears, your impact on the earth’s resources will lessen, and the very number of lives you will save and improve by not eating animals and by putting out some bird seed will be significant.  That is how we get peace on earth.  One life at a time.  This mini-farm is a sanctuary, for me as much as them.

 

Recommended Reading:

The Good, Good Pig by Sy Montgomery

Happily Ever Esther by Steve Jenkins

Living the Farm Sanctuary Life by Gene Baur

 

 

 

The Charming Garden

20180501_143251There are many efficient and simple gardens out there and they are all lovely.  I thrive on color and texture and I love a little whimsical touch.

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We spend much of our time outdoors if it is nice out so we treat the yard as if it were an extension of the house.  Two comfy chairs (not couches or discarded recliners please) make a nice place for settin’ with a glass of sweet tea, to watch the world (and neighbors) go by.  They don’t match, but someday they will.  I always have about twelve bucks in my gardening budget so we use what we have!

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Trellises anywhere you can put them invite vines and climbing flowers.  They add a vertical element to the garden.  Of course, our old farm sign still graces the porch.

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A yard (or a house) should never be quite perfect.  Complete orchestration takes out the whimsy and comfort of a place.  We have weeds and barren places and we have beauty and interest.  Our gardens invite the visitor to look for fairies and sit awhile to watch the birds.

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These trellises are a bit rickety after years of use but attached to the fence they make a lovely architectural image, like a large picture in the garden.

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I have friends with very efficient gardens that are self watering, raised beds that can stand the test of time.  Again with twelve dollars, I get more creative.  I want my garden beds to become part of the earth.  Each spring and each fall as I add more compost and chicken straw from the coop, I want them to nestle down into heaps of greatly fertile soil that restores Mother Earth.  My simple method is logs surrounding cardboard topped with straw, compost, and soil.

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This soon-to-be herb garden is awaiting its soil.  The trellis in the center is for scrambling vines to add height to the bed but also to create beauty.

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I love how the beds seem like they just rose out of the ground.  I didn’t leave enough room for the mower in between the beds so I took empty chicken feed and mulch bags and lined the space between the beds then topped them with mulch.

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The spring crops peek out of the soil.  My fingernails are gloriously dirty.  I love springtime!

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Most of our decor are natural elements but sometimes you need a little bling.  I added the wind vane/solar lights to create a fun vibe.  The tractor and the bicycle are adorable.  There are more beds to be made and more twinkly lights to be added.

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We put pumpkins from the root cellar in the trees for the squirrels and put out a big bowl of bird seed along with a bowl of water for birds.  The hummingbird feeder is full.  We love the Snow White feeling here.  We welcome all the critters.

We eat alfresco every night of the summer so it is time for me to clean off the table and put a nice woven blanket on it.  Yesterday a lovely, rich rain fell upon the beds and the earth and the birds sang and is beautiful in this charming garden.

 

Life with Squirrels

 

squirrelWe have never been known to have underfed animals, and that goes for wildlife too.  Where most folks purchase squirrel proof feeders and shoo them away, we set out welcome signs.  We have a long history with squirrels.

It started with me as a child and teenager at the park feeding them and talking with them.  I didn’t think it strange, I still believed everyone spoke to animals.  Our first home we had together in Parker had a lot of squirrels, one particular was named Pierre, and he had a large bowl that we kept on the table in the back yard filled with bird seed and squirrel food.  The birds could still get to it and we didn’t have to mess with feeders.  One time we heard him yelling so we looked out our window.  There he was with his empty bowl.  He caught sight of us, showed us the empty bowl, then threw it on the ground.  Yes, squirrels are not much better than toddlers, I am afraid.

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We moved to Elbert county, and to our surprise found that there were hardly any squirrels!  We had one that visited us on the porch in the mornings as we had our coffee when we lived in Elizabeth.  His name was Pedro.  When we moved to Kiowa, there were even less!  We were delighted when we noted the squirrel nest in the tree near the road.  Unfortunately one baby fell out of the nest.  I carried him in my shirt tending to him, trying to bring him back to health.  But, I fear he had too much internal damage.  As I gently held him on my lap swinging in the back yard he had a seizure, scared me so that I tossed him.  I felt so bad, I held him close to me again crying as he passed into the next world.

You may have noticed we are not particularly scared of rabies.  Rabies is one of those rampant fears that is actually quite rare in reality.  No one seems to be scared of dogs and cats or people.  They could all be carriers!

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A few months back Shyanne brought to the shop a squirrel that she had rescued from the street.  We didn’t think he would live the night.  His held was tilted to one side and he made slow circles when he tried to walk.  We thought it was spinal, but began to believe it was neurological.  Every day without fail, the squirrel allowed Shyanne to give him his medicine.  We make very good animal medicines, and he received his twice daily doses of Arthritis and Anti-Parasite.  He took to us rather well, particularly Shyanne.  She could be seen out on her smoke break in the back with a squirrel playing at her feet.  Every day he wandered further and further, she would just call him and he came prancing back to her, gaining strength each day.

Soon he was well and we knew it was time to release him as he looked at us as captors instead of friends.  Shyanne drove him to a nearby state park and released him.  She sat on a rock watching as he climbed a tree, came back to her, climbed a tree, fell out, climbed a tree, looked at her with thanks, and was gone.  Through tears she made her way back to her car.

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Healing animals is one of our favorite aspects of our work.  We are glad that we did not raise our children to fear animals.  We adore these creatures that share the earth with us and they have made our lives so much lovelier, even the wild ones.

On our new homestead here, there are two rather fat squirrels that have been working very hard, despite the black birds, to build a nest in a hole in the tree outside our kitchen window.  We leave them bits of toast and greet them.  Perhaps we will have some young ones scampering around the yard and house.  I better get a bigger bowl.

How to Predict the Weather

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The weather reports are generally so off here that the weather announcer actually brags when they get it right!  I’m not kidding.  The snow from yesterday still wasn’t in the forecast as it was gently making its way down from the clear blue sky.  I used to think that the saying, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute, it will change” belonged strictly to Colorado but I have heard people outside of Colorado use it, so I guess not!  The point is, sure it’s nice to see if a doozy is coming.  If three feet of snow is expected, I will refrain from filling the clothes line.  But ordinarily, your guess is as good as mine, which is as good as the weather report’s.  In the city or country there are tell tale signs of weather changes on the horizon. Here is the scoop on knowing the weather.

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Snow Storm is coming- The lilac bushes and pine trees act as community apartment buildings.  The noise is intense filled with gossiping sparrows and laughing blue jays.  Scamper the squirrel has found a new girlfriend and they spend hours racing around trees and giggling.  The birds flit to and fro and the air is filled with activity.  If it stops suddenly…and I mean you can hear a pin drop….something’s comin’.

Cold Front is coming- Go stand outside.  Most of the time in Colorado the wind comes up from the south-west.  It is our “normal” wind if you will.  It brings snow or rain, neighboring smoke from wildfires, or fresh air through the front range.  The arctic wind will come from the north.  As I was putting the clothes on the line on a seemingly lovely day last month I noticed that it was cold..nay, freakin’ cold.  My fingers turned the most odd shade of purple and black after only a few minutes playing with wet clothes in the wind.  I noted the direction of the wind and went and turned on the heat lamp in the chicken coop.  It was ’bout to get very cold!

Tornado is coming- Huddling in the basement of our house in the middle of the city as a child, we heard what sounded like a train and hail hitting the windows.  We lived off of Broadway and Evans and the hail was actually signs from the highway!  The tornado ripped through, pulling up trees as if they were chopsticks leaving them in the streets.  Parts of fencing were gone, roof shingles, parts of 7 Eleven.  Our power was out and we had to be escorted to a motel where the Red Cross bought us McDonald’s and my siblings and I had the time of our life while my parents worried over the damage.  We met Mayor Pena and were in the newspaper. It was great fun. Now as an adult, I could probably do without the house being hit by a tornado.  One will first note the quiet, the wildlife in the area will let you know whenever something is about to hit.  They are way more in tune than we are, and will huddle in for oncoming storms.  The sky will be a greenish tint.  The wind blows.  When debris starts spinning up in little circles, time to get in the basement.  If the wind stops, the birds stop, the sky looks like something evil from the Hobbit is coming but with a touch of green and pink, you best run to the basement.

Rain is coming- Not quite so noticeable.  We watch towards the southwest at how big and how dark the clouds are.  On the open fields you can actually watch the storm blow towards you, like a giant tumbleweed.  It is awesome.

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Beautiful, warm, clear day- A most delightful day. The birds are singing, the animals are playing, the sky is clear with wispy clouds, the breeze is soft, not much moisture in the air, clear all the way to New Mexico and Kansas.  Time to take a baguette, some goat cheese, grapes, and a bottle of wine out for a picnic.  I can’t wait for the next one!

Wildlife Lover

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Living with wildlife is part of the beauty of the lifestyle we have chosen.  Others may call them pests, but we call them animals.  The picture I snapped from this side of the window last night at dusk was of a young deer eating the rest of the birdseed.  Naughty?  Yes, but Santa had already come so there is plenty of time to make up for it next year.  The sky was so blissfully brushed rose and the stars were just coming out.  The chickens were snug in their coop, the cats under the tree, and the dogs on their beds, the whole world was sweetly humming Christmas songs, and the snow was such a joyous sight.  Such a vision of this sweet deer and her sister and baby resting in my yard on their journey made me sigh and be thankful.

When we first moved out here every deer we saw had us pulling over to the side of the road with our heads hanging out the window blowing kisses and waving.  (I am actually not kidding about that.) We still slow to see families of deer, hope for their safety, and blow a few kisses.  To provide a safe place for them to rest and be is part our reason for homesteading and wanting a larger homestead, more sanctuary….for them and for us.

The key is distraction.  We have posts around the garden perimeter and clear fishing line strung every foot all the way around.  They cannot see it, it spooks them when they run into it, and it kept all manner of animals out of the garden.  They have since recently figured it out so I will come up with another distraction for next year.  Birdseed is the same.  Bumble, the mighty farm dog, keeps most animals out of the fenced part of the yard but I let this one slip.  The deer usually hang out in the unfenced yard, eat the compost buffet by the garden and rest under the large tree.

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Inside the fenced yard, Scamper the squirrel waits for Bumble to go inside.  He does love himself a birdseed snack.  To remedy his acrobatic feats, trapezing from feeder to feeder, he gets his own bowl on the outdoor table.  Lots of peanuts and a nice blend just for him.  It does the trick, he knows where it is, and would rather get the easy snack then worry about Bumble catching him by the feeders.  At our old house, outside our bedroom window, the squirrel there would actually start chirping and yelling and would throw his bowl when it was empty.  Not so great with manners, that one, but really funny to watch!

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Here at this homestead, I have watched Scamper grow up this year.  His brother is the one I am holding in the picture.  He fell from the nest and Doug swooped him out of the street so not to watch him get hit by a car.  He died of internal bleeding later that day.  His mother was hit last week.  Because of the fleeting lifespan of these adorable creatures, why not spoil them a little while they are here?

Coyotes have a right to live, we are in their space after all, just pen up the chickies.  Raccoons and Foxes are a fun sight as well.  I just don’t want them all in the chicken coop for Half Price Chicken Wednesday.  But live and let live.  They have a right to live as much as we do.  I love seeing them cross the field yonder.

I am enthralled by the Sparrows and the Mountain Jays, their calls and their antics.  I love all the wildlife.  I could never go back to the city.  Not enough life for me!