While working as an associate editor for the Rural Reporter/Lathrop Publishing I had the pleasure of writing a weekly column about a city boy transitioning to farm life. The column was well-received by the rural community of Clinton County, Missouri and eventually won 3rd Best Weekly Humor Column from the Missouri Press Association in 2012.
Below you’ll find some of my favorite selections from this long-running column. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. The entire column can be found online at www.fauxfarms.blogspot.com
Faux Farms: Fall Farm Report, Part 1
by S. Daily Warren
This week’s riddle: what goes on 4 legs in the morning, 2 legs during the day, and on 3 legs in the evening?
(answer to last week’s riddle: What’s light as a feather yet no man can hold it for long? One’s breath.)
Kismet, or destiny, is a wheel and it turns always. Now it turns to the bi-annual farm report, to let you know how things are going and, perhaps, that there is a method to my madness. Not really, but that’s how I’ll spin it anyway. And to tell it right requires a trip down memory lane, but I’ll just touch upon the highlights.
In my time here, going on two years, I’ve seen many things. Most of the funniest have to do with roosters, and the laughs just keep on coming even as of today. Earlier I saw a red rooster go after a tom turkey twice his size, and while I think there may be a law against this sort of activity if one sells tickets or takes bets, I still found it fascinating. Out would stretch his wing feathers, upward would jut his tail feathers, leaping straight up and down in a terrible dance of death, this rooster bloomed up twice his size and put on a heckuva show. Then the turkey bit him on the back of the neck. As tom was dragging this once-proud fellow across the yard two turkey hens apparently had grudges they wanted to settle and began pecking the rooster’s backside during his humiliation. He escaped with little injury, and no pride.
Our Silver Wyandotte rooster tried his luck “scaring” an alpaca away from the dog food bowl (yes, feeding time is a frenzied, communal time here at Faux Farms) and he used much the same methodology and with exactly the same result, minus the dragging. The 130 lb. alpaca came up on his hind legs and smashed the food bowl with his front, sending dog food and green bits of plastic and white feathers everywhere. But my favorite fowl-related story is far more frightening and belongs in the season of Halloween.
As stated, every day is an Easter egg hunt here but the feathered ladies do have their favored haunts. One of which is behind some unused lumber semi-stacked and leaning against the barn wall, forming a nice nest beneath where some stray hay has mysteriously gathered. To get the eggs one has to crouch down and lean way over, reaching blindly into the crevice. I must have checked early one day because instead of hard globes of eggs in the darkness my hand encountered feathers instead, followed swiftly by a squawk, and followed even more swiftly by a beak-strike against my unprotected hand. There was a thump as the traumatized bird jumped straight off her nest and banged her head against a two-by-four, and something close to a scream from myself (but, you know, a real manly scream). I could see a therapist over that one, and now I poke the darkness with a stick before reaching in.
There are so many more. The charming way in which the alpha alpaca spits green regurgitated food at the others to show dominance every single meal time. The way the sheep mob me when I’m dropping feed in their bowl, resulting in a frustrated cussing frenzy that would make another seasoned sailor blush. When the sheep pull that business on Eileen the Crippled Cow they get the swinging-head/horn-action and Eileen sends them scampering away hungry, three legs or no. But a knowledgeable local admonished me recently by saying, “You’re not running a livestock business, you’re running a feeding business”. By gum, he’s right and it calls for some transitions to be made here at the farm, that way I won’t have to stifle a grin (or make confession for dishonesty) every time I actually call this place a farm and not a madhouse.
That’s right, folks, we’re trimming the fat. The pastures are eaten down to a nub, there’s no rain to grow fresh grass even if it weren’t too late in the year, and I could make my motorcycle payment on what we spend on feed each month, so it’s “Hi-ho, Hi-ho / To auction we will go”. And the face of the new and improved Faux Farms will be the subject of next week’s column, but for now let me tell you that my heart is still that of a shepherd (no matter the lack of skill) and we plan on keeping a Noah’s ark-style assortment of representatives of our animal friends, for the laughs if for no other reason. We’ll be finish the farm report next week, but meanwhile – Happy Thanksgiving!
Faux Farms: Fatalities and Faux Farmer Fancy-pants
by S. Daily Warren
Like a grim accountant during a bad economic downturn, I must occasionally report the losses on our little farm, this overpriced and underpaying petting zoo we call home. But first, the farm report…
The word of the day is: hydroponics, a term of Greek origin defined as “produce farming for those too lazy to bend over and actually work for a living.” But first you’ll need a few things: plastic kiddy-pool from Wal-Mart, a timer, some lava rock, an aquarium pump, some rubber tubing, a 5-gallon bucket and a couple of specialty items like overflow/drain plugs for the kiddy-pool and organic nutrient solution. Oh, I forgot the tomatoes.
Right. Stop off anywhere this spring and grab any kind of tomato start that your prefer, the younger the better. Let them soak in diluted root stimulator for 2-4 hours because the transfer from soil to holistic hullabaloo of hydroponics can be stressful on young plants. It’s actually best to start your own tomatoes (or cucumbers or peppers or fava beans with a nice Chianti…whatever) from seed in a moist paper towel, but this method works well for the impatient, such as I.
Rinse the lava rock thoroughly after placing in the kiddy pool. Just let the timer run continuously for an hour or so and the water does the work. Then set the timer, add your starts, douse them with root stimulator 2-3x per day to get them started and, wonderfully, go about your business. The trick is the nutrient solution, and I recommend something organic (your produce will taste “chemically” otherwise), and I’m working on making my own out of Alpaca-chicka-rabba-poo, patent pending. Some worms to compost and some rainwater, a screen for the solid waste, some ashes and I should have my nutrient solution, because that’s the only real expense…but it’s worth it. Why, you ask? Simple.
I HATE digging in the dirt. At our last house, before moving to Faux Farms, I planted a small potato garden. The grueling labor involved in unearthing these spuds was why we sold the house. This year’s solution is a “potato box”; just some old boards, some soiled hay from the barn, some plastic mesh to keep the chickens out and the potatoes just pop right up. Just reach in and grab them come harvest time.
It’s the same with hydroponics, but easier. Firstly, my kiddy-pool is on an old rickety table so there’s no bending over. Secondly, 90% of your pests come either from the ground or can be found gossiping in the local café, so with no soil you have next to no bugs, which also means no insecticides or herbicides. I’ve never used them and always have phenomenal tomato crops. Lastly, it’s labor free. Check the solution once per week (a lid on the 5-gallon bucket keeps evaporation down), and let the sun and a smidgen of electricity do the rest. Best of all, everything’s reusable.
Finally, our fatalities:
1 Turkey – coroner’s report: death by stupidity. This bird was an idiot, even by Turkish standards.
1 Rabbit – apparent suicide. He left a note, but it failed to mention the true cause which was almost certainly rabbituous promiscuity.
1 Barn Cat – I very much loved that cat, Izzy Kitty – cause of death: unknown, but I highly suspect Littles the Faux Farm Dog, who had once been seen lovingly carrying kitty around by the head. There was also some suspicious drool on the cat corpse.
It hurts, you know. These losses, livestock and pet, hit close to home, especially the sense of responsibility for another life. It reminds me of a Baptist preacher from my past who, while in the mission fields of Guatemala gathered with his family in their ramshackle house to cry crocodile tears over their pet Chihuahua. Outside their home, gunfire rattled as people battled in the streets, but the good Lord waited patiently on those souls while these Christian soldiers mourned the loss of their pet.
Fond Faux Farms farewell, Izzy-Kitty. Thou wast a fine cat. Amen.
(anyone wanting detailed instructions on hydroponic gardening or feline autopsies can email me at email@example.com )
Faux Farms: A Fistful of Fertilizer
by S. Daily Warren
For some inane reason I ventured back into Kansas City and spoke with an old friend still stuck there, although even the trip into town made me anxious compared to the peace and beauty of Clinton County. As he crammed a triple-decker Burrito Supreme from Taco Bell down his pie-hole he made disparaging jokes at my expense about working and living in poo on a farm, which I took in stride since he’s an old friend…and by that I mean a true cidiot (the city idiot that I hope I no longer relate to). I kept to myself the thought that essentially he was eating what he accused me of working and living in.
But aside from the little lambs and the hatched baby chicks, there are some joys and sorrows to share on Faux Farms this week, and let’s get the sorrows out of the way first. Hamilton, that noble rooster, is dead. Albert the Boxer escaped and snapped his neck in a terrifyingly efficient manner, but Hamilton at least gave the other chickens he was protecting a chance to get away and no one else was hurt. It was all so fast, but afterwards I donned a black armband and made my condolences and apologies to Jessica at the bank who donated him to me. At least we have 12 young offspring of Hamilton’s, though we can’t yet determine there’s a rooster or two in the hen house among that brood. We waste little to nothing here at Faux Farms, and Hamilton was summarily scalded, gutted, plucked and turned into dog food…but not for Albert!
The joys are many. There was a great goat chase where one of the Angoras got free and wore me out in a few short minutes as I tried to corner her in the pasture. Not long after I had the epiphany of hopping on the four-wheeler, putting a slip knot in a length of rope and lassoing that goofball goat like some Cidiot Cowboy in jammie pants (this happened first thing in the morning, of course!). As to why goats don’t come when called is beyond me. Then came the doctoring of Matilda’s foot, which she cut while nesting on top of a rabbit cage. You remember her, the Lone Chicken of the Apocalypse that has survived (somehow) the destruction of no less than 3 broods. Personally, I think she masterminded the entire holocaust, but regardless there we were, my wife still in her fancy work clothes and holding Matilda while I applied Neosporin to her foot (the chicken’s, not my wife’s).
We’re also planting grape vines and fruit trees here, most of which are from seeds in ordinary fruit you buy at the store which I save for that purpose. Soon I’ll get out the hydroponic equipment and the kiddie pool from Wal-Mart and show off to my neighbors how one can grow the most luscious tomatoes and cucumbers without so much as an ounce of dirt, and bug-free to boot. It’s a trick I learned back in the city where gardening space was at a minimum and works like a charm.
But best of all is the ‘tater box, as I call it.
I’ve spoken to people about this and have come to the conclusion that despite years of physical training from experts, a potato farmer is the LAST person on earth I’d want to mess with. There’s tough, double-tough and then there’s potato farmer tough. Perhaps there are gigantic machines to do this work, but when I tried it last year it involved digging, more digging, forgetting where I dug, still more digging and all for about 3 potatoes that weren’t that impressive. Thus, the ‘tater box concept was born.
Taking some old rotten boards from around the farm I built a 12’x4’ box with walls about 3’ high. Then I filled it with every form of goop and gunk and poo you can imagine: soiled hay from our sheep stalls, those little treasures the rabbits and alpacas leave for us, our composting from the winter and even the clean-out from the chicken coop. I call the concoction “alpaca-chicka-rabba-poo” in honor of Lucille Ball and her “vita-meata-vegamin” of many years hence. Mix it all in the ‘tater box with a pitch fork and some hay, toss in some budding potatoes and voila’! As with the hydroponic tomatoes this too works like a charm, and you don’t have to dig a single hole or use that special double-shovel torture device that is far better at breaking one’s back than at unearthing ripe potatoes. You just reach down in the hay and pick your taters.
We miss Hamilton here, he was a good rooster, and I look forward to seeing his son come to maturity and look forward to a bountiful growing season. Next week I’ll give you an update on the turkeys…and I don’t mean my other friends from back in KC, but the little feathered joys that came to us from the Cackle Hatchery down in Lebanon. In contradiction to rural rule of thumb we’ve already named them. I call them Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years…my dining trio! Thanks for reading.
Faux Farms: Frantic Feeding
by S. Daily Warren
The undomestication of all animals at Faux Farms occurs precisely at 5 pm daily. At this point all heretofore “domesticated” livestock become untamed savages who will trample a man into the dirt for a handful of feed.
The pitiless sun snuggles serenely into the west as the doomsday clock of Faux Farms approaches the dreadful hour of five. A hush settles over the farm. One winter bird chirps mournfully in the distance. Then, pandemonium breaks loose.
First, the sheep begin an incessant bleating, a cacophony which rivals anything heard on any farm of any size, anywhere. Instead of the usual “baa” it’s more like an aggressive, demanding “BLAH!”, each in their own unique voices. I “blah” right back at them, usually with something along the lines of “Blah, what? What the heck does ‘blah’ mean?”. Their response is a chorus, a symphony, a bleating blah-fest across a swath of octaves in their own language. And heaven help the man or alpaca that gets in their way when grain hits bowl.
The tinkling of grain in a plastic bucket is a universal signal to act like an idiot. You can call them all day long with warnings of approaching stray dogs, coyotes, wild bears and (the greatest predator of them all) Rosanne Barrs. No response. But three grains of Allstock hitting a 5 gallon bucket will send them running across 4 pastures just as fast as their stubby legs can carry them. It’s like a stampede of stupidity, and even the little ones are now adding their voices to the mix, though it’s uncertain they know what all the “blahhing” is about. This is the song of Faux Farms, and it’s not always a merry melody.
The dogs are no better. Gus the Farmdog has picked up some bad Boxer habits and now uses his forepaws in a manner unbefitting a Great Pyrenees. One swipe will send Littles playfully rolling across the lawn, and the prints he leaves on our clothes as he greets us getting out of our cars looks uncannily like a grizzly took a swipe at you. Their joy at our return, especially near the magic hour of 5 pm, is expressed by Gus squeezing 2/3rds of his voluminous body into the driver’s seat of my wife’s Toyota. We call him our lap moose.
Then the alpacas pitch in. They snort and spit and it’s the only time you can actually pet them as their pellet food hits the long trough. The sound they make reminds one of a monster from a Star Wars movie, which is exactly where the sound of the Ton-Ton from the flick “The Empire Strikes Back” comes from. These timid, gentle and inquisitive creatures become wild savages at that time, and if they co-mingle with the sheep then Pandora’s box has truly been opened as they vie for pole position at the feeding bucket. Their demanding impatience is matched only by their cleverness at thumblessly getting the lid off a 40 gallon trash container full of alpaca food, so austere security measures had to be taken and we installed a 1950’s era bomb shelter with a steel door behind which to safely store all the supplies. All for naught. How they pick locks with nothing but hooves is beyond me, but more than once I’ve found the storeroom door open and five long-necked beasts of no-burden guzzling merrily at the free feed, their heads all vanished within its confines.
Chickens and rabbits come next…and did you know that rabbits can bite? There are little holes in every pair of cotton work gloves I own and their sole purpose in life is to overturn their water dish and spill their food into the lavatory situated below their cages. This part isn’t so bad, and provides a brief respite before I brave the goats of our farm, Angora and percentage alike. Ill-mannered savages, every one.
They try to climb the fence. They stand over the bowl your attempting to fill so that the grain pours uselessly upon their heads providing more fodder for free-ranging chickens than for goats. This tiresome work is performed from outside the fence line, adding more protection for the feeder from the feedee. Entering into their pasture at 5 pm is like a doomed gladiator walking into the Roman Coliseum. It’s a fight your destined to lose, but if you go in without armor, without stretching out first, without a patented hedge wood goat stick to keep them at bay, then your end comes swiftly and without mercy. Their own goal in life is to shove their head so far into the bucket while the grain is still there that the handle becomes ensnared on their horns, resulting in the what I call the blind-wandering-bucket-goat-head syndrome.
Lastly comes the cat, Izzie-Kitty, the son of my wife’s sole deception in our sanctified marriage (she snuck him in some months ago, pleading homelessness when the culprit was actually Craigslist!). It is one of my great pleasure in life to abuse Kitty emotionally with a barrage of insults while he follows me around with an incessant “meow-meow-meow”, awaiting his turn. “Why are you still pumping air?” and “Go play on I-35” are just a few of my verbal assaults. On a good day I can spit from a distance and hit him squarely on the head. On a bad day he’s still part of the farm, and there have been lots of those lately. I read once that ancient Scythians used to throw children into pits with wild dogs to fight over scraps of meat. This is Izzy Kitty’s life. He scraps with the Great Pyrenees like one of their own, wolfing down whole chunks of dog food before anyone else can get to it, and when nudged forcefully away from one bowl he simply relocates to another like a locust swarm.
This isn’t a farm, it’s an animal rescue for the mentally deranged, and I wonder at times if I’m the warden or just a deluded inmate.
Faux Farms: Fatherhood
by S. Daily Warren
There was blood everywhere. I was in a complete state of panic. Every lesson I’d ever learned, every ounce of combat and crisis training fled in an instant, and in a delirium I scrambled for the phone and dialed 9-1-1.
“Send everyone!” I screamed. “SWAT, EMS, Fire, rescue, LifeFlight….anyone, everyone! Quick, before it’s too late!”
“Just calm down, sir,” the dispatcher said professionally. “Take a deep breath and tell me where you are and what happened.”
“I’m at home,” panting breathlessly. “My sheep just had twins!”
Silence on the other end of the line.
“Hello? Hello?” I pleaded. “Aren’t you going to do something? Aren’t you going to send somebody?”
Another brief silence, then that cool professional voice that can only come from seasoned law enforcement personnel.
“Oh yes, sir. Very much so. I’m dispatching two deputies with short lengths of garden hose so they can get in a good swing without leaving a lot of marks. Accompanying them will be a mental health unit, so I suggest you pack a toothbrush and call your lawyer in advance. Oh, and it would probably be wise to go ahead and take some Advil now, because our deputies just love getting calls like this. Good day, sir.”
Cops. What do they know about dealing with a crisis? Without pausing to wonder whether the part about the garden hose was true or not, I sprang into action. I’d been trained for this; aboard ship, in survival courses, EMT training, everything to prepare for the worst that life could throw at me, so it didn’t take much thought to grab the tools that I needed: an old tennis racket, a can of tuna, a photo album of my grandma’s kidney operation, a clean towel, some rubbing alcohol and scissors, along with a tube of anti-biotic ointment. And, of course, a camera.
My first view of the newborn lambs had been from the south facing window, but up close it was both more joyous and, dare I say, more grotesque. It reminded me of Bill Cosby’s old standup routine, “Fatherhood”, where he’s speaking to his wife immediately after the delivery of their first born. “Congratulations, honey. You’ve just had….a lizard.” Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but it was a bit, shall we say, gooey. By now, dear reader, you’ve undoubtedly figured out that my beloved wife and I have never had children, nor have I ever witnessed a birth except in movies where they infant comes out swathed in soft linen and as clean as a new car.
Heart racing, and taking a moment to thank our Father who art in Heaven for his little miracles, I went to work as best I could. That means I fumbled around the house like an idiot for 15 minutes looking for things that were right in front of me before the obvious occurred: I could check the internet. The web would know what to do! So I Googled, “what to do if you’re a guy and your wife’s not home and something happens and you’re a complete imbecile.” Naturally, the first dozen hits or so were all political ads, but then something useful came up about using alcohol to sterilize scissors before cutting umbilical cords, anti-biotic ointment to prevent infection, keeping the little critters as warm and dry as possible and then cleaning up the mess as best one could.
Those chores complete, and being wisely done in a separate stall where the animals could be contained and controlled, I then performed the worst yet perhaps most crucial duty of them all: I tackled a mother who had moments ago just given birth. Do they do this in hospitals as well? Who knows, but now that the young ones were warm and dry and clean, I had to take momma sheep off her feet and check her teats to make sure the colostrum was flowing freely and the baby lambs could feed and get that critical nourishment within the first 24 hours. On this all depends, I had read.
And so, once more I have the count. Of course, being a male and better suited to eating my young than actually caring for them, even at this point I still can’t make my brain add 2+2, so I have no idea what the count at Faux Farms actually is. But whatever the number, add two: one black and one white. Little gifts from God here on our little slice of heaven.
Faux Farms: Fuzzy Bunnies and Other Follies
by S. Daily Warren
Rabbits, alpacas, sheep milk and trademark composting? As far as journalism is concerned, Woodward and Bernstein I ain’t! But I sure have a lot of fun sharing the experiences of country life and most especially getting to know the people.
As mentioned last week, Grumpy Felts is a local rabbit guru and it’s his terminology I borrowed when I mentioned “Buzzy Funnies”. He’s right; they’re a hoot and a half. We’re rapidly nearing the day when we can let buck meet doe and put them all in one big box and let nature take her course. Did you ever see that Bugs Bunny cartoon with Marvin the Martian and Bugs drops the “Instant Martian/Just Add Water” compound down a sewer drain? When green antennae started popping up through the pavement by the millions then that’s what Faux Farms will look like about 30 seconds after buck bunny meets docile doe. So strange to refer to them as “bucks” and “does” though. The terms make one think of gigantic deer or clashing rams on Mutual of Omaha instead of little white fuzzballs of hilarity.
Speaking of Mutual of Omaha (I used to love that show, but it’s my age that’s showing, I think), remember the opening credits where the mountain sheep are rearing up on hind legs and then crashing into each other, horn to horn, with an earth-shuddering thud? Well, the baby lambs – both boy rams – are practicing their natural skills. It’s the very definition of cuteness, much akin to watching the little flag-football guys out there on the field, all armor and helmets, thumping around and bouncing off the ground on rubber boy-bones like human bumper cars. Such cuteness from the little rams demands a description.
There they are, one black and one white, and both ready to fight. Apparently we still have some integration issues here at Faux Farms, but we’re working on it and we’ve made progress because the black one has a white spot on his head that looks exactly like the little Jewish kippah hat. The rams face each other, steely eyes locked, squaring off and sizing up their opponent. You can see the little wheels turning in their eyes as they calculate speed, power, potential blunt force trauma and wind resistance. Then they begin to back up, simultaneously, step by step. Okay, they actually stumble in reverse with all the grace of a drunken rock star, but you can tell something spectacular is about to happen.
It promptly doesn’t.
They actually stop and one of them looks around as if he’s forgotten where he’s at, why’s he’s here and what he’s doing. This is more pattern male behavior than pattern sheep behavior, I’ve come to understand, but it deducts little from the suspense. Then, they’re off!
Charging at full speed, and by that I mean about a quarter of a mile per hour, they catapult themselves towards one another, head first. Then, the inevitable clash of their little battering ram heads connecting just after they launch themselves while somehow rearing up for the final blow at the same time.
You’ve heard the sickening crunch of two vehicles colliding. You’ve witnessed the massive collision of two ships at sea, at least if you watch the Discovery Channel. And many of us remember the cacophony of the two rams from Mutual of Omaha. Well, this was nothing like that. Remember those red rubber balls they gave us in gym class so we could play “Killer Ball”? If two of those somehow bumped into one another that’s about the level of impact we’re talking about. But its lack of brutal impact force is more than made up for in entertainment value alone. Again and again they go at it, practicing for the day when they’ll be true mountain sheep, fending for themselves in the Alaskan wilderness, butting heads with other male rams in competition for the most lovely female ewe. I don’t have the heart to tell them that their future at best involves grazing contentedly in a pastured enclosed in goat wire or, at worst, they’ll become wethers and end up in my freezer. But that’s in the distant future and for now they’re just cute.
And lastly, there’s Littles, the not-so-Great Pyrenees. She’s clumsily finding her place in the dog kingdom and being educated by Gus the Farm Dog in how to kill and rend one’s enemies. He teaches her by rolling on his back, tongue lolling out in canine laughter, as she gnaws on his head and furry neck, going for vitals that her tiny mouth has little hope of damaging.
She did learn a thing or two about alpacas though, a herd animal which never ceases to amaze me. Littles thinks it’s fun to chase anything and everything, slobbering in turn on the barn cat’s head or nipping little holes in my leather work gloves, and one day she thought it would be a world of fun to go tumbling and stumbling after one of the baby rams. This did not go over well with Cindy Lou, a silver-gray and stately matron alpaca who seems to run the herd. Cindy interjected herself between pursuer and pursued with nimble grace, scaring the devil out of little Littles, especially when Cindy reared up on her hind legs and came stomping down with both front feet just inches in front of a now-panicked Littles. Perhaps the baby lambs are off limits, thinks Littles, and I think she’s right, as does Cindy Lou.
So life in all its hilarity rolls on and on here at Faux Farms. It’s good to have some snow finally, and we all take turns playing in it. Life was meant to be enjoyed, and from white rabbits to chickens and the now-grown rooster Hamilton, from alpaca to goat to sheep and to our dogs both indoors and out, we all contribute to the joys (and the sorrows) that make existence worth living. Thanks for reading.
Faux Farms: Follies
by S. Daily Warren
(We interrupt this broadcast for an important announcement – Faux Farms will not be shown tonight so that we can bring you this special presentation)
Tonight, on CNN…or Fox…or whatever…we bring you: Rescue Goat 5000!
Not since the heady television heyday of “T.J. Hooker” and “Joni Loves Chachi” has our network been able to broadcast entertainment tripe of this caliber. Soon to overtake such hit shows as “Jersey Shore: STDs” and “Grandma’s Gall Bladder Surgery”, Rescue Goat 5000 (RG5K) is a sure fire winner in the ratings game. More pedantic than the NASA Archives Channel, more preachy than the last season of “M.A.S.H.”, more preposterous than “The Return to Gilligan’s Island”, this holiday show is family-oriented viewing that you can’t afford to miss!
Rescue Goat began humbly as a pilot show last month when two young does were introduced to Faux Farms and immediately started tearing up the place. When my wife gets home she’ll find a smoldering ruin where our farm once stood, a vast wasteland devoid of life and common sense, with two young goats standing majestically upon the wreckage, casually chewing wind-strewn financial statements and other important documents.
Our story begins, as all great stories do, with a goat getting a bucket stuck on her head. But first, an introduction.
Genetically identical to the aardvark, Appaloosa and Attila the Hun, Webster’s defines “goat” in the following manners: 1.) any of a species of small to medium-sized quadrupeds known to produce vast quantities of poo while consuming equally vast quantities of my wife’s flower garden, 2.) a race of super-intelligent, hyper-dimensional beings who came to Earth in distant antiquity to bring peace to mankind and to eat my wife’s flower garden, or 3.) my publisher on a bad hair day.
Rescue Goat 5000 is the story of a dynamic duo of destruction, destined to defy direction and to decimate the delights of our domestic endeavors. No one can stand against the awesome power of Rescue Goat, especially since her chronic condition compelled her to nibble the last vestiges of all-stock from the galvanized metal bucket, thereby getting her single horn caught in the bucket handle. I’ve now discovered that goats are easy to feed, impossible to train and really, really opposed to having a bucket on their heads.
It was a dark and stormless night. The crescent moon cast a silvery hue upon peaceful Faux Farms. All was silent…until suddenly, without warning, our barndominum began ringing like a bell. The violent incessant clanging sounded like King Kong in the hold of a cargo ship after someone had thrown him a gigantic sledge hammer. I of course sprang to action and did my husbandly duty of protecting the farm by hiding under the covers shivering and muttering prayers in Hebrew, Arabic and Sanskrit. But my wife propelled me into action by whispering in my ear that I was her man, she needed my help and I had to go see what the sound was. No dice, so she stuck the soles of both her freezing feet into my belly and that got me up.
Have you ever seen those videos of the Spanish Bull Run where angry bulls are released in the streets of Seville and Cordova, hurtling after ironically panicked Spaniards while wildly swinging their heads left and right in an effort to gouge folks who didn’t have the sense to stay inside that day? Well, that’s what it looked like, except with a goat…and a bucket on her head. She clanged into the side of my car, she rammed into the BBQ smoker, she plowed into the patio furniture, giving the impression of the Tin Man on PCP. When I caught this rampaging idiot and tried to remove said bucket, she did her part by pulling the other way and nearly choking herself.
I retired Rescue Goat into her pasture along with her trusty sidekick, Einstein. Now according to a certain cattle rancher you can’t have a real farm without a real fence, and I of course have neither. I now know why they call the 4”x4” square fencing goat wire because a goat’s head fits perfectly into it. Horns, however, severely restrict extraction so once again it was Rescue Goat 5000 to the rescue.
The stories go on and on. Incredible tales about Rescue Goat trying to head butt a ram 3x her size but being afraid of our Rooster. Or Rescue Goat climbing into the cab of the UPS truck whose driver howled in laughter. And for some reason Rescue Goat believes her outhouse to be the hood of my Crown Victoria. I originally bought that retired cop car to stay under the radar in traffic, but since cops tend to notice subtle nuances like a goat standing on your hood I think my cover is blown.
Tune in next time for another exciting episode of Rescue Goat 5000. As a preview, Rescue Goat will once again stun the world by taking a ride-along with the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department and going after that hardened version of criminal who persist in discriminating against goats. And don’t miss our upcoming mini-series, “RG5K: Election 2012”, where Rescue Goat will simultaneously run for the offices of Clinton County Prosecutor, Assessor, Clerk and most notably, Mayor of Buenos Aries. Stay tuned…and hello to my wife who taught me that laughter is the best medicine. Get well soon and hurry home!
Faux Farms: The Matriarch Conspiracy
by S. Daily Warren
First, a warm-hearted thank you must go out to Jessica Howard of family-owned Hamilton Bank in Lathrop for her generous donation of a rooster to augment our decimated flock. For a quasi-urbanite schmuck like myself it was quite an experience to drive into town and have my banker hand me a perforated cardboard box with a young red rooster in it. Call me a cidiot but I’ve just never withdrawn a chicken from an account before.
As some readers know, we have on our farm the Lone Chicken of the Apocalypse who wanders the yard blithely disregarding the chilling facts that she is the last of her kind and her home is basically a mass murder scene. What you don’t know is that she is of the Wyandotte breed and a fine specimen with steady egg production, and that her name is Matilda. I’ve been told not to name livestock, effectively making them into pets, and I can see the wisdom of that counsel. You’re at the dinner table and say…what? “Can you pass the mashed potatoes and gravy? Oh, and slice me off a little more ‘Fred’, would ya?” See, it just doesn’t work. But Matilda has history and one could even say that Faux Farms has made her world famous…in Lathrop that is.
Matilda was a member of my first flock, beautiful and proud and apparently a resourceful survivor. A silver-white breast and a plume of black feathers make her lovely to behold and more fun to watch than YouTube. A friend back in KC who’s into urban organic, self-sustaining agriculture originally split a flock with me composed of pure bred Wyandottes and Sussex, with the Sussex having a rich chocolate brown color with speckles that reminds one of a quail. But be warned, dear reader, it gets gruesome from here.
A neighbor dog hopped my neo-hippy friend’s ineffective fence and wiped him out in a single night. Being an understanding sort who sympathized with his plight I sold him back half of my own flock at a 200% mark-up (just kidding). After my donation I was left with a half dozen Wyandottes and one Sussex who seemed victimized by some kind of chicken racism because she was picked on constantly by the majority Wyandottes. This resulted in her nickname, “Fussex”, because she just wandered around the yard making throaty grumbling sounds that weren’t quite clucks. Fussex was with us a long time and passed away right here in Lathrop. But the queen of them all, the regal yardbird lady lord, was Glamour Chicken.
I’m no expert on chicken breeds and could never judge a county fair (my favorite breed of chicken is fried), but this was one good-looking bird. And she knew it too. She’d stand in the yard, instead of scattering like the others, her pert head held high and her wings on her hips and simply dare you to walk by without acknowledging her scintillating beauty. But most things have their opposites, their dark sides, and Glamour Chicken was no exception: she had Matilda, the evil step-sister who despised her beautiful sibling for her vanity and wicked pride. I’ve harbored the suspicion that Matilda was somehow connected with Glamour Chicken’s admittedly mysterious disappearance, but every other fowl was strangely mum on the subject when queried in the coop, and I couldn’t get a cluck out of anyone. It seems no one would cross Matilda.
I’ll never forget that fateful morning when I went out to check our feathered and fuzzy children only to find Albert the Boxer, whose name has been changed to Know-Nothing-Bozo-the-Non-Wonder-Dog, gulping down what was left of our last rooster. A terrible day that was, possibly predicted in advance on the Mayan 2012 calendar as the Chickpocalypse. And the feathers! If you locked 20 teenagers in a pillow store over night and dared them to fight then that’s what our yard looked like. But then, as I’m waving good bye to the hearse driven by a weeping chauffeur in a black suit, I hear one quiet and inquisitive “bwock?” from the bushes. Matilda had survived.
Perhaps she organized the entire disaster, who knows? In a dank cell on a metal table with one light shining in her face I interrogated her for hours, but she would only cluck out an ironclad alibi that she was at a county commissioners meeting when the slaughter took place. Her key witness, Commissioner Charlie Dawson, declined to comment on the matter. Matilda is not only a deadly assassin but a political mastermind as well, truly a chicken to be feared.
How do I know this? Because the first thing she did when I brought the young rooster into the henhouse was to beat the living snot out of him.
I ask my lady readers, if you were back in high school say about the tenth grade and a varsity cheerleader, would you have gone and found a 6th grade boy and beaten him up in front of everybody? Traumatizing, to say the least (I’ll probably have to call the rooster Norman now, of “Psycho” fame). It was awful! She chased him around the coop, pecking him on the head while he screeched like a little girl and tried unsuccessfully to squeeze through the chicken wire, getting only about as far as the comb on his forehead.
Then she turned her back on him and (I’m serious now, I watched the whole thing) starting scratching the hay-strewn floor, kicking hay and less mentionable material right into his face. Then she’d peck once at some seed I’d thrown down, look over her shoulder at the terrified rooster, peck once more, look back again. I don’t know what she was doing; eating his food to spite him, daring him to come over and get pecked in the eye, waving her fluffy tush at him in bawdry disrespect. She was probably doing all those things….AND already planning his imminent demise.
That’s Matilda, the evil step-sister. Perhaps no longer the Lone Chicken of the Apocalypse but certainly still ruler of the roost.
Be Still And Know That I Am Gus
by S. Daily Warren
A man has to know when he’s beat, to know when to throw in the towel. In fact it’s one of the definitions of insanity to keep doing the exact same thing while expecting a different result, and that’s where I’ve been this last week.
Beaten. I was so sure it was all over. A city boy can’t make it in the country, especially when said boy is middle-aged and foolish. Perhaps I never even had a chance. I’ve studied hydroponics and organic produce production, built greenhouses, experimented with bio-mass composting and small-field crop rotation. The result of all my citified book learning? I now have 20 acres of ragweed which even the llamas turn their nose up at. I attended a Planning and Zoning meeting the other night, not in my capacity as a reporter but to appeal to the merciful board to rezone me as “agricultural disaster” and award me some get-the-heck-out-of-Dodge stimulus money, but no dice. I’m stuck here and have to tough it out.
But at the last minute I was saved, a genuine praise heaven miracle in the name of Gus the Farm Dog. He has shown me the way, and done so in his own gentle manner without all the finger pointing and guffawing that I’ve grown accustomed to in Lathrop when I ask brilliant questions like “How come the cows don’t die without air conditioning?”. Gus understands; he’s a Great Pyrenees and not a bonehead Boxer like Albert!
First of all, Gus was born knowing two important things: one, that he’s huge and the world simply has to deal with that. Two, that only an idiot doesn’t know the simple basics of hard work, honesty and loyal integrity that makes country living work. When Gus was born he entered this world without fanfare, merely barking once as if to say, “Okay, when do we start?”
When strangers pull up in the drive old Gus informs them that he’s already eaten two just like them today and could they come back another time. When the lambs get out of line and start boomeranging themselves off the fence line he simply chuffs at them and they settle down, safe in the knowledge that this big dumb dog loves everybody and everything except mutton and bad guys. Even the llamas respect him; you can tell by the way they play with him when he’s happy and book plane tickets to Hawaii when he’s mad.
It hit me like a ton of bricks when I realized all the money I’d wasted back in the city to stay sane and healthy. What teams of psychiatrists, psychologists, psycho therapists and counselors managed to foul up at exorbitant rates couldn’t match for a moment what Gus the Farm Dog does naturally. Much like I’ve watched the honesty and toughness and good old American ingenuity of your average Clinton County-ite I have likewise watched Gus and learned the lay of the land, learned how to endure and make do. Ever-faithful, ever watchful, ever loyal…isn’t it funny how a dog can show us what is best in men?
But please, dear reader, allow me to introduce you to the words of a real writer on the subject of dogs, Steven Pressfield who wrote “Gates of Fire” (a book which the commandant of the Marine Corps once ordered every Marine to read): Tireless, ever faithful, the landsman’s Number One bounds to his heel at cock’s crow and toils there daylong, unshirking, ever cheerful, craving no wages save the sound of his master’s voice and a quick pat and ruffle at labor’s end. Lord of all beasts, night sentry, bulwark of the line, the farm could not survive without him.