a monday night
I pulled into Cold Antler's driveway and let out a long sigh of relief. All the birds were strutting along and accounted for. No sign of the fox in quite some time. Reports of slain turkeys ten miles down the road made me believe he'd left my yard for greener (turkier?) pastures. I parked and walked out towards the bleating sheep, feeling the wind hit me. Fresh air, how I had missed you. I grabbed at removable electric netting fence posts as I walked. They bleated louder. They knew I was moving the fencing around to allow them fresh grass to chomp into. I smiled and waved to them, telling them to be patient. Within minutes they were let out and happily chewing up the baby shoots. Behind them the grass was healing and growing again from their last rotation. I like seeing one pasture rise as another falls. Makes me feel okay.
I then walked over to Finn in his brand-new pen. My dear friends, James and Phil, gave me their half-day off work to haul a 6-ft tall old chainlink dog run across southern Vermont. James had it sitting in his parent's backyard collecting weeds and offered it to me as a belated birthday gift. I couldn't believe my good luck. Finn has been aching for a larger cage for days, and I was slightly worried about investing so much for just a few months. But James's gift was perfectly needed and perfectly timed. We just had to figure out how to get it to my place...
So we borrowed my pal Eric's trailer (pulled by Phil's rig) and the three of us loaded up the pen in Peru and delivered it to Sandgate. Now Finn has a safe and larger place to grow up in. Those boys have no idea how grateful I am they are here to help me. They were the same guys who helped build my sheep shed, and came to feed the animals when I nearly broke my knee this past winter. Sometimes it takes a village, and sometimes it just takes a couple of people who care about you. They are good men. The world needs more of that.
So while Finn jumped around his pen I refreshed his water and gave him a scoop of grain to occupy him while I tended to the chickens. As he munched away I called the flock to me for scratch grains and clean drinking water. As I hollered they waddled and flew to where I stood. I collected a half dozen eggs from the coop and decided I'm make a broccoli and cheese omelet for dinner. I was inspired. See, the garden broc was looking delicious from the chicken coop. I could see it through the hexagon holes in wire. And hey, I had been waiting for nights like this all winter and spring. Summer days when I can stare at the yard and plan out a menu. After all, I already paid for the meal in planting all those sweaty days ago. Tonight every bite would be appreciated. Eggs from today's coop, veggies cut right off the stalk....Mmmmm.
But my quiet homily was interrupted. I heard a rustle then a triumphant baa. I darted my eyes up towards the sheep and watched as Sal broke loose through a hole in the netting where I lazily connected it to the garden siderails. He came barreling towards me, right into the coop. He slid inside and slammed his head into the scratch grains in the metal trough I had filled for the birds. I laughed out loud and let him feast. The asshole earned it. Then Maude came trotting in behind him. Birds flying every which way, sheep swilling corn, everyone squawking and kicking hooves. Finn watched in quiet awe from his pen. This all lasted till Sal left the coop to visit his buddy, Bean Blossom. (She took in the whole show from the skybox that is her rabbit hutch.) I just grinned and walked over to the grain bin. I like these kinds of problems. I make mistakes on the farm all the time. But I am learning to watch them happen and laugh at them. Tomorrow I'll fix the fence. Tonight I bribed the sheep back into their pen with some coarse 14 and gave them some hay.
With the farm in line I went inside to greet the dogs. They were wound as all hell. Annie had been watching the whole debacle from the window and hated she couldn't be a part of it. She raced around the cabin and crashed into me when I walked into the kitchen. I had planned to take them out for a short walk and then go for a jog, but they looked like they needed to blow off some serious steam. There was no helping it. They would come with me. I changed into running gear, leashed the dogs, and away we went.
We took our time. My pace of jogging was just the right speed for their fast trot. As the sun set on Sandgate's hills we pumped along the horse fences and looked in on the neighbors' farms. We ran past the pair of snow-white Saanen goat kids just born a few weeks ago. A little later we passed a pair of ponies in their red shed. Everyone else seemed well. The fact that the other animals in town were just as content made me run faster.
I love the way it feels to run with dogs. They do this with everything that they are. As my clumsy feet pounded into the dirt their paws graced the earth like athletes. They lifted me up hills and pulled me down into the hollers. Together we are such fast dogs. To feel your heart race alongside strong paws, clawing into the dirt as they keep time... what a thrill. What an everyday simple goddamned thrill.
We made it two hot miles and then we all stood in the creek to cool off. All of us panting. Then we walked home side by side and I let them dry off on the porch with fresh water as I grabbed that mint soap from before. See, this was the plan. To work outside, run like a fast dog, and then take a cool mint shower. The herbs fill your nose and body with energy, tingles even. As I lathered up the sounds of my young laying hens in the cardboard brooder box next to me filled the bathroom with stupid happy noises. That post-run shower shared in a bathroom with future omelets instantly disolved all the anxiety I felt from the day.
I don't know a better way to spend a Monday night than here at this small farm. Tonight things were good. They won't always be. But tonight, bless its heart, was very good.