Uncomfortable familiarity 

Our cat Rye is missing. It’s coyote mating season, so we have to connect certain dots. We try to provide as safe an environment possible for all our animals, but part of letting them have freedom is accepting a certain amount of risk. 

I am hoping with all my might that he will wander back up, but as the days pass it seems less and less likely. 

Ned Yost is still around and seems to have adapted fine to his missing brother, which astounds me. If something happens to him, we may have to reevaluate how we have cats on the farm. 

Here’s hoping Ned Yost lives for twenty years and is just as grumpy then as he is now. 

patience & space & a cat named Ned Yost

Earlier this year, I adopted a pair of cats from the local shelter. I knew they were skittish, but the information card indicated they were tightly bonded and really wanted them to go home together. I needed some cats for the farm and decided to take a chance.

I got them home and settled and tried to give them space. I named them Rye (black cat, not pictured) and Walter (orange cat, pictured above). Rye would warm up to me, but Walter was miserable and terrified, and it wasn’t getting better.

After a week, there was negative progress. Rye showed glimpses of being comfortable, but Walter was a nervous wreck. He started hissing and lashing out seriously enough that I genuinely thought there was no hope he would come around. His anxiety was reflecting in Rye’s behavior, I was mildly scared he would attack me, and I considered the options.

Ultimately, we decided to move him into the barn. The cats were going to end up there eventually, but I usually try to ease them in to it. Walter couldn’t stand being in the same house as me, even if we were in different rooms. I set him up and left him alone, thinking I would never see him again.

He was still around a few days later. He was near the house, meow-screaming at Rye, who was living comfortably (and noticeably happier) without Walter. Walter let me pick up him and bring him indoors again, but once he was indoors he was worse than ever. I picked him up and took him outside.

A week or so later, he was still hanging around. Previous attempts at bribing him with wet food had failed miserably, but this time he was enthusiastic. I would pet him while he ate and otherwise I left him alone. A couple of weeks after that, I moved Rye to the garage. Walter still kept his distance, but he was starting to relax.

It took a few months, but Walter eventually warmed up. He is still a little skittish and probably always be, but provided I am sitting in the correct chair and things are relatively quiet, he will eventually settle on to my lap and cuddle.

Once he turned from foe to friend, we changed his name to Ned Yost. Partially because having a dog named Watson and a cat named Walter was confusing for us and Watson, but also because it makes me laugh to have a cat named after the Royals manager.

It has been (another) lesson in relaxing and giving space. Even though I live on a farm, I hesitate to admit the animals live outdoors. They all have their own buildings – a huge coop for the ducks and chickens, a brick 1.5 car garage for the dogs, the barn for the cats – and we make sure they are fed, watered, and warm. But having grown up in the city, all of my friends are from that environment. I frequently feel a sense of judgment for letting the cats live outdoors, but in this case Ned Yost is much happier.

if this isn’t nice, what is?

I’m nearing a solid week without internet at the farm. I have already felt more energized and productive. I’m sure that is in part to the shift to chilled weather, but it is so much easier to focus when I don’t get sucked in to looking at hashtags on instagram.

I’m making morning buns and old school chili tonight. I am so eager to go home and see if any more chickens have started laying. Life is just really, really good right now and I wanted to stop for a moment to appreciate that.

a little note on farm dogs.

This is our Great Pyrenees, Watson. We got him shortly before the new batch of chicks arrived with the intention of him guarding them. He had been on a farm with poultry, so it seemed like it would work out.

Prior to getting Watson, we had a little trouble with keeping the flock safe. Because we choose to let the chickens free range during the day, we understand there is a certain amount of risk and accept there will be some losses within the flock. But there was a raccoon who figured out a way in to the coop and was treating it like a chicken grocery.

We did tons of things to try to safeguard the coop. We added extra wire to the chicken run, built a crazy and relatively unattractive structure around the door of the coop, and set up Christmas lights to try to deter the pests. We were able to slow the losses down, but they were still somewhat common.

The problem is, Watson has no interest in being a livestock guardian dog. I admit this was partially my fault, because while I introduced him to the chickens and had him around them, I also gave him plenty of attention and let him play with my other dog, Fritz. He weighed his options and decided pets and romps with Fritz were more enjoyable.

The good news is that by rebuilding the coop door entirely, we were able to protect the hens. We’ve lost a couple, but that was an adjustment period when they were finally big enough to free range.

So Watson roams the night with his best friend Fritz and he happily shirks his intended duty in favor of naps.

new eggs!

We got a new batch of hens in the middle of May. Almost exactly five months later, we have our first egg laid by the new crew.

In the new crew ,we have Ancona, Araucana, Whiting True Blue, Cuckoo Maran, Rhode Island Red, Silver Gray Dorkings, and Egyptian Fayoumis. It’s a mix of chickens I have had before and chickens I am trying for the first time. I am excited to incorporate Anconas into the flock again and I hope they can live up to the legend of Destiny’s Chicken.

I know a Rhode Island Red laid at least one of the eggs. I think she laid both, because they are the same color and size. I am so excited for the new eggs to start rolling in and I have so many plans for the eggs.

(Destiny’s Chicken was an Ancona who lived three years and survived a few different chicken massacres. She was legendary around the farm and I still remember her fondly. She died of old age last year.)

sans internet

We have officially canceled the internet at the farm. The modem broke last week and we didn’t want to spend the money to get a new one. 

I have considered this change for quite awhile. I’ve spent most of the last five years finishing undergrad and then grad school, so internet used to be a necessity. No more! 

Now to find out if I will be a more productive person. 

on garlic and time management.

One of my challenges with gardening is that my time management leave a bit to be desired. I could make excuses, but mostly it comes down to how quickly time flies. I will get busy with something else and then remember that I was supposed to plant something a week ago.

The garlic is in the ground, officially. I planted two 4×4 beds – one with Spanish Roja garlic and the other is with various garlic I grew last year and didn’t mark well when harvesting.

(In case the paint fades from the markers – Spanish Roja is in the south bed, mixed garlic in the north bed.)

This is one of the things I would like to improve upon this year. I’m considering putting the dates seeds should be started and transplanted on the calendar that syncs with my phone and computer. I’m hoping it will work.