So, You Wanna Farm, Eh?…Part 2

by admin on October 27, 2008

Originally published 2000, it covered the years 1999-2000

The year 1999 began sadly with the demise of Blackley , Emma’s pet cat, who touched the face of God when his face touched the rubber of an eastbound motor vehicle on the road in front of the house. True to her children, Jeanne dutifully scooped up the black cat, dug a hole and conducted an appropriately elegant cat funeral suitable to assuage the grief of any 8 year old owner. Despite being a chick murderer of the worst sort, Blackley was our favorite quirky cat who followed us around like a dog and “talked” with you. Emma would grieve over her lost pet for many months afterwards despite acquiring his replacement known as “Lucky Lady”.

Lucky Lady was an adult farm cat Emma choose one fine day at a dairy farm. Who knows what compels young children to choose the ugliest, smelliest, smallest, brainless examples of a species but Emma’s choice was sometimes referred to as “Yucky Lady” and often with good reason. When Emma got her, she was a walking condominium for a lice population numbering in the thousands. She has perpetual sores in her mouth that make her breath stink and her tongue stuck out the side. Emma stuck by her choice and helped Mommy forcibly dip the cat in a large bucket of toxic lice killer.

Jeanne assumed the cat was quite elderly and beyond kitten bearing so she did not get her spayed as she had done with the other cats. With our other two cats being spayed at a young age and Jeanne not really having any experience in cat mating rituals, Jeanne was totally clueless when Lucky Lady began walking around our property screaming like a kitty banshee at the top of her lungs as if she were being tortured alive. “Poor cat!,” said Jeanne, thinking the elderly animal was suffering from hip pain since she walked so funny. What Jeanne would later learn is Lucky Lady was really advertising herself to any male cat within hearing distance…”YEOW! Is there a kitty guy around here? I ‘m ready! HEY! Here I am! ”

Apparently at least one male cat in the neighborhood didn’t think she was “yucky” enough to avoid conjugal relations with and Lucky Lady had kittens one day in early spring. Within two weeks, the cat had succeeded in killing all five kittens through neglect and sometimes kittenicide. After finding the last two kittens placed up against the hottest part of the house during a hot afternoon, Jeanne had to euthanize the remaining live one who suffered from heat stroke. Grandma Ginny aided and abetted Jeanne in that final unpleasant act.

About the same time in early spring, Ginger our mutt dog had had a rendezvous with an annoying stray dog despite our best efforts to curtail such meetings. Ginger also produced a batch of puppies which made life on the farm rather interesting for a while.

Spring is also the time when other babies are born and the sheep and goats had yet to add to the farm nursery. Baa Baa the black sheep was certainly due to lamb but we never knew precisely when she had been bred by the ram so we really didn’t know when she would lamb. The baby watch began as we checked on her three times a day. After numerous false hopes, one morning Jeanne awoke very early to hear all the animals at the barn hollering and bleating. Upon her arrival at the barn, Jeanne found two brand new lambs being cleaned by a doting mother and surrounded by a cheering crowd of goats and sheep heralding their arrival to the farm family.

The pygmy goats were next and Abby’s goat Pepper surprised us with a spectacular birthing which we watched from start to finish. Pepper delivered two of the finest looking kids our farm had yet produced which Abby named Wookie and Jamboree. Nathaniel’s goat Holly was due next but it was not fated to be an event as happy as the arrival of Abby’s goat babies. We discovered one tiny stillborn kid one morning and a weak little buckling who needed help nursing. Ten days later Jeanne would euthanize him as well to relieve him of his slow death. Nathaniel tearfully buried him in the growing pet cemetery on the hill.

Yet amidst all this tragedy, our lives were being busy with numerous other projects which distracted us from the bad start the year was taking. True to our undeniably idiotic desire to try something new each year, all three kids decided to participate in a dairy heifer 4-H project. This involved driving to the State owned dairy three times a week for a period of 10 weeks for what we euphemistically called “calf training” but really was an adventure in calf skiing. With Tim happily doing his Dilbert imitation at work, it fell to Jeanne to do the parental involvement “thing” with this latest 4-H project involving an animal none of us had ever been even close to, let alone handled.

Ah, cows. Those stupid, brainless poop factories that we love to eat with ketchup, mustard and pickles. No one should express any guilt over eating a bovine. Any animal that expertly and delicately picks it nose with its tongue deserves to be in my freezer and my belly. Training the calves involved catching them every day which, of course, fell to the three participating moms. Once haltered, the tug-a-war began with the hoped for conclusion being that the human won. For the first 8 weeks of the project, it was calves 8, children 0. Granted, it is pretty difficult to prevail over a calf when she’s in her element and the human must negotiate a literal minefield of cow patties. Cow “patty” is a polite term conjuring up visions of dried, massed “pasture apples” that you could throw at each other if provoked. However, these cow “patties” were actually marginally congealed pools of diarrheatic cow manure which, if you stepped on one the wrong way, could send you spectacularly flipping through the air to merely land in more cow patties. Jeanne knows this from experience.

Finally the project was at an end and the 4-H show the next week so Jeanne once again did the parental “thing” and participated in clipping, washing 8 calves which took us four full days to accomplish. Jeanne must have been in one of her insane moments when she agreed to a dairy heifer project thinking to herself, “Hmm, how much work can a dairy heifer be to get ready to show? Surely not more work than a lamb.” Ha!

The day of the show dawned bright and sunny and the children were prepared. Their record books were done, the calves trained and cleaned. This show was to be Nathaniel’s spotlight as we all watched in amazement as he not only won Grand Champion Diary Heifer but also reserve champion dairy showmanship thus beating out about 40 children, some of whom were veteran 4-Hers. His reward for his efforts included two rosette ribbons and two director’s chairs with the award embroidered on the back. He proudly displays them in his bedroom. Neither Emma nor Abby did well in the show ring but Abby would win first place in her age division for her project record book and Emma recognized for her 4-H Cloverbud participation. It was an exciting day for all of us!

Soon after the finish of the dairy heifer project, we proceeded right into preparing for the 4-H poultry project for the 3rd year in a row. We acquired 75 chicks of mixed parentage from the County Extension office and all three children once again participated in caring for a 4-H project animal. This project would culminate in October with one of the largest 4-H poultry shows in the state. 1999 was also Abby’s year to shine and the poultry show her crowning achievement. She would win Grand Champion Junior Showmanship and first place for her project record book. Nathaniel won the Go-Getter Award while Emma kept getting the obligatory Cloverbud blue ribbons and wishing she were in the junior age division. But Emma’s turn was coming later in the year!

October not only brought the poultry show but also the NC State Fair! For the second year in a row, we entered the Pygmy goats, packed our show trunk, packed the pygmies in crates and away we went for three days of showing. Just prior to the fair though, Jeanne got a phone call from a TV reporter named Don Ross from Channel 11 News wanting to know if they could come out and film us getting the goats ready for the State Fair. Not one to pass up an opportunity to publicize the farm, Jeanne happily agreed to a date and time the following week. Don Ross and his cameraman spent an hour traipsing all over the farm with the children filming all sorts of things. The end result was a cute 3 minute long segment shown not only in a evening news broadcast but also in a pre-State Fair half hour special. Emma was once again cajoled to sing her increasingly famous “Jesus Loves the Little Goat Kids” in her warbly goat voice. The segment even started with her singing the song with the voiceover of the reporter saying “Emma Hinds is a baaaaaad singer.”

Our plans for the State Fair always include entry in what are called “fun classes” and we were particularly excited about Emma’s entry in the Pygmy goat costume class. Jeanne had found a tuxedo in a dog catalog which looked perfect for a pygmy goat and with Abby and Emma’s creativity, we came up with a costume of a bride and groom. Abby made a little bouquet of flowers for Emma and a boutonniere for the goat. The costume class is the first class of the show day and there was some stiff competition from other kids wearing such things as Indian costumes, Dorothy and Toto and Hillbillies but Emma was destined to slay the competition! Her secret strategy to win was to use Carmelita’s bad quality of not leading well to Emma’s advantage. Carmelita never did learn to lead very well and if hurried, she falls down on her side with all four legs sticking up in the air.

Emma slowly lead her to the ring announcer to state that her costume title was “Bride and Reluctant Groom” and proceeded to then “hurry along” Carmelita such that she fell over repeatedly as if either drunk or having to be dragged to the altar. The howls of laughter from the audience went on for a full five minutes. Emma hammed it up to the crowd with facial expressions of frustration, would help Carmelita to stand up only to have the goat keel over again and even tossed her bouquet behind her back to the crowd. She was awarded first place in the Saturday class and repeated her win the next day before another judge. Emma was interviewed by WUNC-TV and was filmed by a Japanese television crew.

Later that day Emma and Carmelita would shock us again by winning Grand Champion Open Doe for the 1999 NC State Fair. In all, we had a very good show season with our 4-H project animals and our pygmy goats.

Not being one to sit on the family laurels long, Jeanne came home from the State Fair and immediately dove into preparing for the Hinds Family Farm’s 2nd Annual Harvest Hoopla scheduled on October 31st. The sorta- annual event includes a large grill-a-thon requiring about 5 grills, potluck dinner, pony rides, tractor hay rides, and a very large bonfire. About 100 friends, neighbors and family attended the very successful event.

With the end of the fall season comes pig butchering time and if our gentle readers will recall from previous years of Hindsight reporting, our efforts to get 2 reluctant porkers into a trailer could have been a prize-winning entry in “America’ Funniest Home Videos” tv show. Tired of pig wrestling, Tim built a wooden ramp that went from ground to pick-up truck bed height with the crazy thought in our heads that we could lure the unsuspecting piggies up the ramp and into the capped truck using a trail of stale pecan rolls. Only a couple of relocated Yankee suburbanites could ever possibly think that two 150-lb hogs would be seducible with stale pecan rolls and sure enough, they took one look at our trail of dessicated bakery products and laughed vile piggy mockeries. The only alternative now was to force them up the ramp and time and again, Tim, Abby, and Nathaniel tried only to have a too-smart-for-his-ham-hocks pig squeeze through the Hinds Family defenses and escape back into the pen area.

Finally, Jeanne had had enough and declared WAR on the treasonous pigs who were daring to defy the Hinds Family edict that they should sacrifice their lives for the good of our freezer so Jeanne climbed into the fray. Now, some of you have not seen Jeanne in a few years and Jeanne has , shall we say, “broadened her horizons” such that she can command considerable respect from large farm animals who look at her with awe, fear and trembling. Taking a pallet, Jeanne and Tim literally shoved the two pigs up the ramp and held our position against their assaults to escape through sheer gut will that no pig is going to best Jeanne. Teeth were bared, eyes narrowed into little slits of glittering determination, nostrils flared and grunts uttered in such a display of human dominance that the pigs had no choice but to yield. Little by little we gained ground in the war and finally they were in the truck with the lid closed for the imminent trip to the butcher. The spoils of war never tasted so good.

The end of the year also was the countdown to the “End of the World as we now know it” Y2K event and oh, the Hindsight stories I could tell of our preparations if we had been so inclined to believe hysterical reporting of the mass destruction, anarchy and chaos sure to occur once the clocks rolled over to the year 2000.

2000

With the passing of the New Year and no dire predictions of “The End Of The World As We Now Know It” coming to pass, it was time to ponder what new and insane farm projects we could get ourselves into this year. “What have we not done yet?”, asked Jeanne to the kids. “BEEF CATTLE!”, screamed Nathaniel. “A DAIRY GOAT!”, pleaded Abby. And so, Jeanne set out to find these animals for her kids.

Always thinking of safety first, Jeanne purchased a 5 month old Dexter miniature calf which she had castrated and dehorned. How much trouble can a calf be that only comes up to your knee caps? Off the trailer he came bucking and snorting, bovine drool flying everywhere like a National Finals Rodeo bull and Jeanne immediately regretted her decision. “Kabob” as Nathaniel came to call him, was quite a handful and not quite the docile 4-H project the dairy calves had been. Our first task was to give him vaccinations and of course, Jeanne was thinking, “Hmm, the horses are ten times bigger than him and we give them their shots. How difficult can this be to do it ourselves with Kabob?” HA! Obviously the musings of an ignorant person! Efforts to give the calf a shot entailed the entire family moving the corral fence panels to form a makeshift squeeze chute and then blocking him with 2X4s only to have the little demon kick through the bars and leap all over creation, particularly after Tim, grasping the syringe like a dagger, PLUNGED the 2 inch needle into Kabob’s butt clear up to the hilt and broke off the syringe. My rear end hurts just remembering it. Now we had to remove the needle which was firmly embedded in a snorting, wild-eyed demon calf’s gyrating backside. After finally getting it removed, it was time to declare defeat and let the real soldiers in the war of livestock pestilence take over. Dr. Bob, our ever patient, mildly-amused-at-our-antics vet, strode out to the pen, purposefully climbed over and to our awe, smooshed Kabob up against the pen fence with his leg and proceeded to administer not one but TWO shots to a meek Kabob while reminding me that I owed him sausage for losing a bet to him. He can talk and intimidate cattle at the same time! Wooow! Were you taking notes , Nathaniel?

Kabob’s training would continue all summer and into early fall as Nathaniel patiently tried to gentle a spoiled rotten brat of a bovine who was trying his best to stop the Hinds family name being perpetuated to the next generation with well placed kicks that emanated from a pelvis that could rotate 360 degrees in a split second. Nathaniel sported an 18 inch long bruise from his thigh to his ankle after one such lightening fast kick. One of the funnier moments was when Nathaniel and his friend Tyler decided to take Kabob out of his pen for a “walk” only to have the calf drag both boys on the end of a 13 foot lead rope through the manure compost piles. Nathaniel eventually took Kabob to the 4-H Barnyard Bonanza in September to show. He won Champion Steer and Reserve Champion Showmanship which Nathaniel modestly accepted considering that Kabob was the only steer registered in his particular class! Kabob then promptly made the journey to the butcher and tastes great!

Abby’s desire for a dairy goat was fulfilled in early Spring with the purchase of a 1.5 year old doe named Queenie. This required Abby to learn how to properly milk a goat but what Jeanne had not thought of was the necessity of everyone in the family learning to do this for times when Abby was sick or not home. Jeanne had to milk Queenie during a three day period when Tim and the kids were at a church retreat and this is not her favorite farm chore at all.

At the same time we got Queenie, Jeanne bought Emma a baby dairy wether she could train to pull a cart. Tyke became one of our favorite farm animals because he so too cotton pick’n affectionate for a goat. He had to be bottlefed so he learned to come with called, would follow you all over and would spend an hour plopped on your lap with eyes half closed dreamily. As he got bigger, this lap sitting became a problem so he progressed to lying under your feet.

Shortly after the purchase of dairy goats, two of our pygmy goats were due to kid. We never knew the exact date the babies were expected so we always began the “baby watches” at the earliest possible date. Mitzi went into labor first and it was obvious this was not going to be an easy first birth for her. Goat screams of anguish echoed off the barn walls and down the hill as poor Mitzi did a grand imitation of Jeanne during her last hour of labor with Emma. “BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”, translated from goat language to English means “GIVE ME MORPHINE!” Nurse Jeanne leaped into action by driving the van up to the barn while Nathaniel and Abby carried the still wailing goat out to meet the van . Mitzi’s baby was stuck with one front leg going forward and the other backward and his little muzzle could be seen emerging. But his tongue was blue from all the contractions with no delivery so vet care was a must.

With Nathaniel sitting on the middle seat holding Mitzi’s head and Abby squatting in the door well at Mitzi’s effluent end, Jeanne went into “ambulance driver” mode and sped to the vet. Abby was furiously pushing the baby’s head back into the uterus with her hand as Jeanne skidded into the vet’s parking lot honking the horn. Once under Dr. Bob’s care in the vet hospital, Mitzi threw her head back to wail inconsolably during each contraction providing Jeanne with a spectacular view of her tonsils and back molars. “Mitzi, I didn’t know you had teeth back that far!”, exclaimed Jeanne. “And they are so brown!” Dr. Bob understood the garbled goat language incoherently screamed by does in labor and gave Mitzi the veterinary version of “good drugs”.

Using plain old baling twine, Dr. Bob slipped it around the baby’s leg and pulled in time with Mitzi’s contractions. “Push, Mitzi, push!” yelled the kids as Mitzi ratcheted up the goat labor screams a few notches. Finally, out popped a humongous male baby who was exhausted from the ordeal. Even under the influence of some tootin’ good drugs, Mitzi’s maternal mothering kicked in and she began that lovely, soft goat “nickering” to her baby as she cleaned him up. It’s worth all the hassle just to hear a goat mommy loving on her baby.

And a mere week later, we repeated the exact same experience with Nathaniel’s goat, Holly. Her labor was also problematic which necessitated a rerun of “Hinds Paramedics in Action” only this time in the pick up truck with Nathaniel, Abby and Holly in the truck bed under the cap and Abby once again sticking her hand up the nether regions of a female goat to stop the progression of labor of yet another stuck baby. (Oooh, was I not supposed to say that? What do you mean Abby says she will die a thousand deaths if her Youth Group friends find out?) Holly would deliver a huge buckling and the tiniest doeling we’ve ever seen, named respectively Leroy Brown and Skittles. “Leroy” so named because he was a “baaaad, baaad” goat that caused a lot of trouble.

Tiring of the usual animal antics we Hinds seem to get ourselves into, Jeanne looked around the farm to find some other new project she could mess up, er…um, get involved in and low and behold, the old, dilapidated corn crib was slyly whispering seductive “come hither” messages with every gust of wind through its rotted boards. One fine Saturday morning, Jeanne innocently asked Tim, “Honey, can I burn down the corn crib today?” Either engrossed in his latest edition of Policy Review or simply trained after 15 years of matrimony to answer in the affirmative to all wifely questions, Tim mumbled, “Sure, dear. Anything you want.” Turning from Tim, Jeanne experienced near instantaneous malevolent thoughts as she plotted the demise of the corn crib she hated so much. She would start a fire in the door way and simply let the destructive power of nature take its course. “How hard can this be?”, opined Jeanne. So she and Abby purposed to commit corn-crib-i-cide with every twig and match they could find but the ancient building was stubborn and resisted their efforts to really get a good fire going. “Let’s throw on all the empty feedbags!,” Abby offered and they both rummaged through the barn collecting as many as they could. Meanwhile, a sharp eyed neighbor saw the fire in the corn crib doorway and stopped in the driveway to inform us, “There’s a far in your corn crib.” “Thanks, Robert, we’re doing it on purpose!”, Jeanne merrily sang out to her neighbor, delighting in the fact that she was nearly singlehandedly contributing to the beautification of the road by this act of architectural immolation.

Tossing the empty feed sacks on the fire, Jeanne and Abby stood back to enjoy the effect of paper on fire. Three seconds later the side wall caught fire to be followed four seconds later by the roof catching fire followed three seconds later by the entire building becoming engulfed in flames. Giggling merriment turned to fear-tinged awe as the flames raged over 20 feet tall. Not taking her eyes off the inferno, Jeanne firmly instructed the kids to, “Go get your father. NOW!” But Tim was rapidly on the way having seen the towering inferno from clear across the other end of the property. In fact, it was seen by our neighbors ½ miles up the road who raced into the driveway wanting to know if we needed help. An hour later and all that remained were the nails and roofing tin.


Our next adventure of 2000 did not involve an animal of any sort. On rather short notice, we decided to host a Japanese student for a month as part of a 4-H/Labo exchange program. Literally ten days later we welcomed Yuji Fujiyasu at the orientation meeting at NC State and brought him home. Yuji was technically the guest of Nathaniel although about 18 months older than him. Both boys have two sisters and no brothers so this was an interesting arrangement for two boys who had never shared a room nor had a brother to play with and were culturally a world apart.

We committed ourselves to adopting Yuji as a fourth child and exposing him to as much American culture as possible. This included Country/Western line dancing, North Carolina BBQ, putt-putt golf, horseback riding, Thanksgiving dinner, and calf riding at the local bullriding arena. The latter was Nathaniel’s idea since he had always wanted to calf ride so both Yuji and Nat registered having no clue what they were getting into. As it got closer to the actual show time, it became apparent that neither boy was prepared at all. They had no protective vests, no helmets, no gloves and no bull rope due to the presumption that these would be provided by the arena staff. However, their competitors very kindly lent them all sorts of equipment and were exceedingly helpful in getting both boys ready to ride their prospective calves. I should clarify that “calf” in this context means “800 lb juvenile bovine”. Nathaniel went first and barely lasted more than 2 seconds, landing face first in the dust. Yuji went next and amazingly hung on for nearly 4 seconds placing fourth out of six competitors !

The month was memorable mostly for how enthusiastically both boys played. The rubberband gun wars continued nearly the entire month as well as playing air guitar, very loud foosball tournaments, listening to the BZs (Japanese rock stars), and teaching Yuji the fine art of giving wedgies. We were pleasantly surprised at how quickly Yuji assimilated into our family’s weird sense of humor. We were all confronted with how different Japanese and Western culture truly is. What we take for granted was entirely new and different for Yuji so it was mind expanding to begin to look at our way of life through his eyes. On his last night with us, we exchanged gifts which is very traditional etiquette for Japanese. Jeanne had worked the entire month to create a scrapbook of Yuji’s visit which she takes great pleasure in knowing that many people enjoy looking at a slice of American life halfway around the world.

After such a fun month with Yuji, our lives on the farm changed dramatically with the necessary euthanization of four pygmy goats due to their being infected with a fatal disease that could spread to the others. Two of these were Abby’s pet goats , Pepper and Little Girl, known to readers from the 1999 Hindsight. The test results of one goat surprised us and it was our beloved Tyke, Emma’s pet, yet a more stringent test confirmed the earlier results. It was two and half weeks of utter sorrow and weeping in the house as goats that looked perfectly healthy had to be put down.

Jeanne finally tired of this grieving and determined to purchase a new pet for Emma that would have a much greater likelihood of surviving than her previous pets. Calling a few breeders, Jeanne finally found one in Raleigh that had what she wanted and after spending the next morning in the distasteful action of having Tyke euthanized, Jeanne bundled the kids up for the 45 minute trip to Raleigh not telling them why or where we going. Jeanne found the apartment building she was looking for and as she and the kids were walking down outside stairs to get to a patio entrance, out from behind a row of bushes came two tiny puppies that looked suspiciously like guinea pigs followed by their human owner. Tears of sorrow were swept away on rising swells of joy, delight and laughter as an energetic puppy was chosen to be Emma’s newest “child of her heart”. Emma would christen her AKC registered Yorkshire Terrier puppy “Sukoshi” which is Japanese for “little bit”. Sukoshi would prove to be a greater blessing than we originally hoped she would be. Her presence in the house helped Hairball, our other Yorkshire Terrier, to overcome a two year battle with skin infections and hair loss he had due to anxiety chewing. With a rambunctious puppy at his heels begging to be played with every waking hour of the day, Harry has little time to be anxious anymore and his skin problem is in remission.

Fall is the busiest time of our year as we prepare for and then host hundreds of school children for our special “Pilgrim Children” Thanksgiving Educational Tour. Honoring a previous promise to Jeanne, Tim geared himself for the daunting task of renovating and restoring the 100 year old barn which had become an eyesore. With only the help of Nathaniel and Abby, Tim would strip off all the wood siding, replace the sill plates, reconstruct and replace the wall studs, manufacture new stall doors, reside the barn and paint it. Considering that Tim entered marriage as a klutzy handyman wannabe, the barn renovation would be his crowning achievement up to this point.

With such an auspicious ending to our summer and fall, it was time to cap off the year with yet another adventure in the yearly ritual of getting pigs to the butcher. It was early December and our farm tours schedule was over which signaled the eminent demise of the pigs just as surely as the falling leaves heralded the beginning of winter. The family convened outside one cold December morning and we briefed the troops as to the battle plans. Not willing to abandon our plan to use the ramp, Nathaniel wanted to try one more time to see if Hamadeus and Suey would voluntarily walk up the ramp and into the truck. Using dry dog food this time, Nathaniel coaxed both pigs slowly up the ramp and into the truck without incident. It appeared our rural naivete extended only to believing pigs would prefer stale bakery products over dry dog kibble. There may be hope for us Yupneck rural transplants after all!!

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