The Farm on Oak Creek

What a day!

It’s 7 PM and I’m just now getting to the computer. My head is aching and my leg is throbbing. Once again, one of those big red ants climbed up the inside of my pants leg and decided it wasn’t where it wanted to be, so it bit me at my knee. If not for that, this might have been a dramatic post about helping Milly deliver her baby (I was right, a boy, too big, one leg caught behind him), or perhaps a joyous post about removing the eyesore fence from around my orchard, something I’ve wanted to do for years. Instead, the ant venom is fuzzing up my brain. So, I thought I’d give you a one-day snapshot of the chaos that has been my life of late.

It started at 6 AM this morning when the guy coordinating the fence take-down project appeared and we discovered a miscommunication. I thought we were going to buy the fencing together, because I can’t lift a 100 foot roll of galvanized horse fencing by myself. He hadn’t understood that and instead expected it to be at the house. I need to run to Home Depot before his guys appear.

As luck would have it, it’s Monday. That’s the day Christina, my tenant and generally right-hand gal, dedicates to working for me. Since she was already up and going, we jump into the truck and hit Cottonwood. Together, we pick up 4 100 foot rolls of fencing, put them on a trolley, buy them, then toss them into the back of my pickup. Job well done!

We make it back to the farm before 7:30, and I drive down to the orchard areas so the guys could unload the rolls. Then Christina, who’s also a massage therapist, looks at Moosie again.

Poor Moosie. Last week, he once more tried to climb a tree, this time after two squirrels. Two! At the same time! In one tree! He had to have them.

Surprise, surprise, he again discovered that dogs can’t climb trees and also tore his shoulder. He was gimpy for a few days, then improved or so I thought. However, on Saturday he stopped putting weight on his front left paw. Christina worked on him, which usually resolves the situation, but he was fussy with her, not really wanting her to touch him. She tried again on Sunday. This time, he put his mouth on her. That was enough for me to decide I had to call the vet on Monday morning.

But at 7:30 as Christina ran her hand over Moosie’s sore shoulder, she discovered a scabby spot. It was a little swollen but no puss. Had he recovered from the shoulder injury only to be bitten? I went into the house to make breakfast, only to have to make 3 trips down to the pasture to answer questions and begin making a list for the next Home Depot run.

At 8 I called the vet and got an appointment for 10:30, then went back down to the pasture to check on water and food for all the critters. When you’re sweating at 8 you know it’s going to be a scorcher of a day.

By 8:30 the guys were sure they needed 200 more feet of fencing, plus 4 sets of post hinges and a saw blade. I calculate that in my head as 20 minutes to Cottonwood, 3 minutes to find the saw blade (I know where they are), 5 minutes to put 2 rolls of fencing on a trolley, then grab the post hinges as we roll toward the register. Then 5 minutes to load the truck, 20 minutes back to the farm. That give me plenty of time to reach the vet in Sedona. I mean, I’ve got 2 hours.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

We went for the fencing first and, as luck would have it, they had 2 more rolls of exactly what I needed. Onto the trolley it went, this time with the help of a couple of guys. Nice. We roll down the fencing parts and find…only the male half of the post hinges. There are two whole boxes of the male halves. What good is that? We ask an assistant and are told they just can’t stock all those parts because the store is so small and there’s no room.

Huh. We’re now over the time limit for hinges, so we go to the saw blade aisle. I’m carrying the blade I’m supposed to replace so I know what to get. Only I can’t find that blade. What I don’t know is that this blade started out at 14″ diameter. It’s now 8″ in diameter. There is no blade like this that’s 8″. We walk to the flooring department in case there’s something there that looks right. Nope. Back in the original aisle an assistant measures the blade for us, tries to find an 8″ blade, then makes out what’s left of the label. Aha! It started out at 14 but has been ground down to 8.

Okay, we’ve lost a little time, but I’m not worried. We get to the register and I make a huge mistake. I had a coupon but it was only good for a purchase of more than $500. I forgot it on the first run, so I ask the clerk if it would be possible to combine the two purchases as they were made only an hour or so apart and apply the coupon.

Things don’t go well at the service desk. My request causes computer malfunctions and managerial requests and total frustration for the poor clerk trying to make it all work. After 15 minutes Christina takes our not quite purchased items to the truck. Another 15 minutes pass before the whole thing is straightened out and the coupon applied.

I’m now at 20 minutes to get to the farm and 20 minutes to reach the vet by 10:30. On the way to the farm, Christina and I realize that we have a serious problem. Moosie needs a leash but his collar is still on Milly. We used his collar and leash on all the ewes during their deliveries. Milly has yet to forget her awful experience and isn’t about to let us close enough to touch her ever again, much less remove that collar.

By the time we reach the gate we’ve choreographed the whole stop. Christina opens the gate, I park. She rolls the fencing out of the back of the truck while I run up to get Moosie, using Bear’s collar (that was a really dumb idea) and Moosie’s leash, and get the dog who hates to ride in the car into the truck.

After Bear’s collar falls off Moosie’s neck, Moosie gets the idea he’s going for a ride. Much to my surprise, for one blessed moment in his life Moosie actually doesn’t fight getting into the truck. Although I put him in the back, he immediately moves forward and takes his position on the front passenger seat. What he really wants is to sit in my lap but he knows I won’t let him. So he contents himself by panting and shedding. I hit the vet’s parking lot at exactly 10:30.

The vet is very worried about Moosie not putting his foot down. What we thought was a bite turns out to be nothing but a foxtail. Moosie doesn’t even notice when she plucks it out. He does turn out to have a very painful shoulder and to be old. He’s 50-ish in human years and a little overweight, plus his cholesterol is a little high. Other than that and the serious pain in his shoulder he’s in excellent health.

So now I have two old dogs with arthritis. Of course where Bear avoids moving when he hurts, Moosie doesn’t have that off switch. If there’s something going on, he needs to be in the middle of it. My challenge will be to slow him down some and keep him from climbing any more trees.

By the time we leave the vet’s office it’s almost noon. Since I’m in Sedona, I make a stop at the hardware store and find my post hinges, then race back to the farm. Actually, I coast back to the farm. It’s a steady downhill run from Sedona to Cornville. When I hit the house, I give Moosie his pain pill, then it’s time to feed the puppies, the ducks, the chickens and the chicks in the chicken tractor who eat more often than the puppies. OMG, but those Cornish Crosses are eating machines!

Just as I make it back to the house again, I’m needed in the pasture to approve changes. I go down, then come up again to check on Moosie. I’m in the house long enough to eat crackers and sardines for lunch–I had to open a can to use a fish for Moosie’s pill; he loves fish–then I hear a lamb bleating.

Down I go to my barn. Sure enough, a lamb has slipped out of my neighbors’ pasture and back onto my property. My little flock of sheep put themselves in that pasture this morning at 5:30. I was thrilled. They would be out of the way of the workers. However, the gate to that pasture is bent. (It wasn’t me that hit it, just saying.) Now, with panicked mamas and worried babies, I have no choice. They need to come home. I open the gate and off the ewes go straight for the garden.

This is the main idea of this new, completely fenced pasture area of the farm. From today on, I will be able to keep my animals where I want them. No more chickens climbing through gaps to reach the gardens. No more sheep coming up to the house to eat my roses. And Bear will stay where he needs to be–with the animals he supposed to guard, and the puppies will learn how to do what Bear does.

Moosie won’t be down with them, at least not at night. There isn’t a fence in the world that can hold him. If he can’t climb over or go through, he’ll dig out. I’ll be interested to see how this plays out.

I stay with the sheep in the garden because the gate that will keep them where they belong is just going in. The moment it’s functional, I drive my flock into their newly fenced home and chain the gate shut behind them. Then I grin like an idiot. I’ve waited four years for this moment. The eyesore orchard fence is gone and my sheep are locked in where I want them.

Well, the fence is doing its job but the gates need work. By 3:00 PM the workmen have gone and I try letting the puppies run free in the pasture. By 3:10 PM the girls have escaped the first gate. Down I go with my new bolt cutters and handy panels. By 3:30 the ant deposited her venom. By 5, with Christina’s help, I had three gates puppy-proofed. By 6:30 the girls had exploited all the gates I haven’t gotten to yet.

That’s okay. Tomorrow is another day. Hopefully it will be a calmer day.

It has to be. After all, each and every day those pups get bigger. Pretty soon they’ll be too big to shimmy through those tiny holes. But the lambs won’t be. Sigh.

© Denise Domning, 2023