Saturday, April 1, 2017

"Eating for Six" and Other Farm Tales

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Spring

Here I Mow Again:

Regular readers of this effort know how I tend to piss and moan about the rigors of keeping my massive yard mowed.  Yesterday, the last day of March, I got out the push mower and spent a couple of hours trimming and getting ready to attack the yard with Big Orange, my Husquvarna riding mower.  This afternoon Pa Rock will ride again!

I did have a nice surprise while mowing yesterday.  As I was plowing through the tall grass near the road, I happened to come across a folded five-dollar bill lying among a cluster of leaves.   I think I will use it as seed money for a fund to buy my next new mower.

I mow about six of the ten acres that comprise the Roost, and hire a neighbor to bush hog the rest twice a year.     A normal mowing cycle takes about four days to complete – at two or three hard hours per day.  What kind of idiot creates a retirement where he has to mow day, after day, after day?

The year before last I mowed twelve times, and last year that number increased to fourteen – and that was starting in April.    This year, with all of the rain we have had so far, I anticipate fifteen or more.  While my meth-addled neighbors with their knee-high weed patches believe climate change is a hoax (because Donald Trump told them it was - and he’s a business genius), Pa Rock knows better.  For the past several years we have had essentially no snow here in the Ozarks, and each mowing season is longer than the last.

I suspect that by the time I retire from mowing, the mowing season will last the entire year.  (My retirement from mowing will be announced via a toe tag!)

Eating for Six:

Fiona, the barn cat here at Rock’s Roost, has recently taken to roaming the neighborhood at night, and today I noticed that she is developing a bit of a pudgy tummy.  I suspect by the time Mother’s Day rolls around she will be wishing that she had spent more of her evenings here at the farm.

Fiona, whose tail sticks straight up in the air in the form of a long, thin question mark, was named after Fiona Gallagher, Frank’s oldest child on Shameless and the de facto mother of the family tribe.  That Fiona is another cat who is always prancing around with her tail in the air!

The peacocks are also beginning to ponder procreation.  The two males have renewed their annual bouts of yelling – so loudly that I could hear them at the far end of the farm yesterday over the noise of the lawnmower – and they are also spreading their massive  sets of tail feathers (spanning about six-feet each) and doing their mating dances which have a whole lotta shaking going on.  I anticipate the seven hens will begin laying their eggs soon.    They will sit on some and ignore others.  The orphaned eggs will be placed in an incubator.

Pecking Order

One thing that I enjoy about farm life is observing how the eclectic assortment of farm animals interact with each other.  A major concern that they invariably address is “Who’s the boss?”  When the farmer is slinging feed, of course, they all gather and pay him homage, but when left on their own, a distinct pecking order emerges.

The three feisty guineas seem to be in charge.   They are noisy and physically aggressive – chasing the chickens, the duck, and even the cat.    When the dogs are outside, the guineas will take a run at them as well.    One little rooster, a Red Jungle Fowl by the name of Bobby, will occasionally fight back, but he is the exception.  The larger roosters, who aren’t shy about keeping Bobby in line, are quick to run from the guineas.

Hector, the duck, is the coward of the county.  He turns and runs whenever anything out of the ordinary happens, and an angry guinea will make him absolutely apocalyptic.  Hector will push back against the roosters and hens when he is eating his afternoon treat of dry dog food, but if the guineas happen by while he is eating, Hector abandons the food and flees in terror.

The peacocks don’t figure into the power calculations because they are penned in their own enclosure.  When other farm fowl gather outside of the aviary, the visitors and peacocks peer through the wire at each other, with both groups undoubtedly assuming that they are the ones visiting a zoo.  If the peacocks were ever released into the general population, I have no doubt that the seven formidable hens would rule over everything.   The males may have the plumage, but it is the peahens who wield the power!

This spring I hope to acquire a few goslings.  It will be interesting to see how geese will elbow their way into the pecking order.

It's all about adaptation and survival - at Rock's Roost as well everywhere else on the planet.

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