Now that the real winter weather has set in, I find myself indoors more than usual. I’m spending my afternoons cozied up to the wood stove with a cup of tea in hand, planning and scheduling next year’s garden. And my cozy little nest is conveniently located next to Raphael’s cage, so I don’t even have to get up to clean what I now refer to as his bathroom platform. I swear, I’m going to give him a little bell to ring when he needs toilet paper service, and I’m going to change his name to Sir Dukesalot. Good thing he’s cute, cuz damn. All those paper towels ain’t cheap.
Rivalling Raphael in sheer cuteness is little Cinnabun, who is adjusting well to the luxurious amenities of the Bunny Ranch. She had a bit of a scare when confronted with her plated salad for the first time, because apparently she’s never eaten off of good china before. But plates are standard here at the Farm; just because they’re animals doesn’t mean they have to eat like one. It used to drive Gene nuts to look outside and see the same table service being enjoyed outside that he was currently eating off of, but once I explained my reasoning he said he understood. Then he quietly added “that you’re crazy,” but I chose to ignore that part.
In his defense, I don’t think he’s that far off the mark. Just yesterday, when it was pouring down icy rain, I found myself outside with a shovel, looking all over the backyard for dry dirt. Broody Mama, who is temporarily living the high life in the brooding facility in the garage with her two chicks, put in a request for a dust-bathing box. I had gone out to check on them, and she was lying on her side in the shavings, flipping them over herself in an attempt to dust bathe. When she noticed me watching her, she started to flip the shavings in my general direction while glaring at me. Thus, the hunt for dry dirt was on. I found some too, even though I had to dig underneath the back deck to get it. But the important thing is she’s happy. And I’m only a little bit crazy.
As I’ve noted in earlier postings, Harvey has a bad habit of staying out all night when the weather is nice, mingling with the local bunnies and partying hard. To date, his longest bender has been two days, but luckily he only did that a few times. Now that I’ve started leaving delectable treats in his cage during evening chores, he usually shows up right on time to gobble up Wheat Thins. As an added incentive, and because baby bunnies are like the cutest things ever, we picked him up a girlfriend today!
Granted, she’s only six weeks old so we’ll have to wait awhile (as will Harvey) for the grandkids, but so far she’s made her herself happily at home. I cleaned out and redecorated the “girl” side of the Bunny Ranch, setting out food, water, hay, and of course a selection of welcoming treats and now little Cinnabun is probably the happiest bunny in all of Allyn.
Yes, despite the wind, the rain, and the flooded backyard, this is truly one of my favorite times of the year. Every day I look forward to Gene bringing in the mail, carrying stacks of glossy, full color catalogs – it’s time to order my seeds! I don’t even try to set, much less stick to, a seed budget, even though my dreams far outreach the amount of available soil in which to plant the seeds. This year Gene is really excited to try some natural grasses, like alfalfa and orchard grass, and is even pondering replacing the front lawn with a variety of grain-bearing goodness. I figure that’s a win-win situation, since we don’t mow that often anyway.
He recently finished the renovation to the alpaca cabana, having installed a raised floor. It looks great, and gets a lot of use. Ariel, Buttercup, and little Leia in particular love to snooze under the heat lamp. Even Christmas climbs up on the platform during the day when it’s raining. Our backyard has gone from merely flooded to resembling a swamp of Degobah proportion, in both appearance and odor. Although I’m guessing Yoda’s stomping grounds smell a little better, since I would assume Jedi Masters are required to have access to indoor plumbing. Our backyard, not so much. Over the rainy reason, the critters have pulled a bunch of hay out of their feeder, so much so that they now have a little mound rising up out of the muck. They spend their time high and dry, contentedly chewing their collective cud and occasionally getting up to pee and poo over the side of it, which compounds the muck problem. All they need is a dragon for the moat they’ve created, and they’re set.
Unfortunately the mess doesn’t confine itself to the backyard — Raphael has devised new ways to drive me nuts after Gene switched his water bowl to one that he can’t dump over. Now he has decided it’s great fun to unhook his litter box and drag it around the base of his cage, and use the third layer of his luxury condo to make his deposits instead. Now I have to drag his cage away from the wall, pull open the side of it, and clean off the platform like four times a day. I also need to break down and put a litter box in the back bedroom, which we’ve ferret-proofed for his out of cage time. I try to time his visits for right after he’s pottied, but since apparently ferrets feel the need to potty every fifteen minutes, I’m invariably scooping and cleaning the corner of the bedroom. Having five cats, I feel like we’ve met our litter box capacity already, so I hate to use another one – we might as well rip up the carpets and replace it with Johnny Cat granules. Between that and having to muck out the goat, chicken, rabbit, turkey, and duck bedrooms once a week, I swear when people ask what I do for a living I feel like replying, “Why, I shovel sh!t!”
At least Charlie’s latest game doesn’t involve stepping on Tootsie Rolls deposited in unexpected places. No, she’s discovered something infinitely more amusing – batting the eggs off the counter. Not at all what you want to step in barefoot as you’re stumbling out of bed to make the morning coffee. At least she only got me once – she’s gotten Gene twice. The second time he roared so loudly that now I immediately wash, dry and put the eggs away. She’ll just have to amuse herself by pulling the ornaments off the Christmas tree.
Now that Raphael has been here for about two weeks, he’s starting to fit in with the rest of the critters, particularly in the “no respect for mama” category. On Tuesday I was already having a stressful day because my surgery was the next morning and I had a ton of things I wanted to get done before I was one-handed again. I went outside to check on the goats and dispense extra treats, since it’s been so gloomy and rainy. On the way to the goats’ feeder, my boot got stuck in the mud, and I was walking so quickly that I walked right out of it. Bad day to not be wearing socks! After washing up inside, I decided to make a salad. Just before putting the dressing on it, I looked over at Raphael in time to see him lift up his water bowl with his front paws and dump it down outside the cage. As I ran over to deal with that mess, I looked at the kitchen island just in time to see Chunk violating my salad. In his search for the crispiest, crunchiest lettuce, he would nibble on a leaf then put it back in the bowl and choose another one. By that point I had refilled Raphael’s water bowl, and when I raced back to shoo the cat out of my lunch, I saw Raphael staring at me. He slowly put his paws under the bowl, then flipped it over like a furry little Hulk. I know he was just messing with me, since I’ve never seen a ferret look that gleeful.
In addition to Raphael, we have added two new critters to the farm! Broody Mama hatched out two chicks, so now she and her babies are temporarily living in the garage brooding facility until the chicks get big enough to hang with the big hens. Broody Mama doesn’t seem to mind her new surroundings, she’s just content to care for her babies. She’s a hardcore broody hen – I had to pick her up and put her by the food bowl just to get her to eat and drink.
But the chicks aren’t the only new arrivals — next week we’re going to go pick up a new girlfriend for Harvey! I’m looking forward to the prospect of new baby bunnies, mostly because of the cuteness factor, but also because besides my egg sales, the baby rabbits are just about the only way we bring money into the farm! I will have to increase the Wheat Thins budget though.
This week wasn’t just about additions unfortunately. Today Wesley was escorted down to Abigail’s pasture, since he’s swiftly moving into adolescence by having a relationship with his Auntie Buttercup. Taking him out of the backyard was pretty heartbreaking, because he was protesting the move mightily. He calmed down once he realized his new herdmates are all boys, and Abigail’s youngest goats, the twins Fritz and Frodo, are just a bit older than him. The female goats here on the farm seem to be fairly relieved that he’s gone. According to the articles I’ve read, you’re supposed to separate the boys from the girls at three months. We did pretty good – I think we only missed the date by like two weeks, meaning there’s a slim chance he put a bun in Buttercup’s oven. Guess we’ll find out come spring!