Wednesday, May 12, 2010

At the Circus

So far this trip to Idaho (we arrived Saturday evening around 6pm) has been just as beautiful as previous trips, but it's definitely been wetter (the ground, fortunately, not the air, so if you wear rubber boots for walking around and don't gallop too much in the sopping trails you're okay), and the animal care has been bumped up yet another notch from what I'm used to in the city. Everybody and their son is in Greece right now, on a ship sailing around the Dodecanese. By that I mean K&A, and their son Dr Jason and his wife and two teenagers, and my mom and Marsh, and G&N, who live up the Jerome Creek Road and would normally be my backup plan here at the Idaho ranch were anything to go wrong, but who have, instead, left me with 11 more animals to keep alive.

Several years ago, Mom and Marsh took a boat trip in France with K&A and four other of their friends; at that time, I had Mom's dog Loper with me as well as K&A's animals, but Loper's about 14 now and, while still full of life force and happy to be around, is deaf, walks like a self-animated puppet—i.e. as if his various parts are attached only by loosely-tied bits of string—and he's got a non-painful growth in his throat that makes his bark sound very like the cough of an old lady who had gotten her main sustenance for the past 3 decades from cigarettes and dry martinis, two olives.

Anyway, Loper is at home, being cared for by M&M's neighbors through the woods, who dote on him and give him treats as flagrantly as my mother does.

Nevertheless, I do have, with the 11 from G&N, 19 animals to take care of here, 21 if you count Ian and me, and we (well, at least me), as you know from reading I Thought I Was Done With This, need a lot.

The day begins between 7 and 7:30 with Ian jumping out of bed to feed our four dogs, while I take slightly more time to throw on my first outfit of the day: fleece pants, yesterday's shirt, a sweater and a knit cap. It's chilly here in the mornings. I then put on my rubber boots and let our three horses out of their pens and into their pasture for a day of grazing. This is the earliest in the season I've been here to take care of things, and it took me a bit of time to realize that the grass wasn't grazed down already; it hadn't begun to grow yet. In the last couple days, I've seen more and more green shoots coming up above last year's harsh yellow stalks.

I come back in and have a small latte, then jump in the old Nissan pickup to take care of G&N's animals. Their horses, who are young and somewhat wild, are down here for ease of care, in a small pen on the creek which is currently a churned up mud pit without graze of any sort. Every couple days I pull a 150 lb bale of hay into the back of the pickup and, morning and evening as I'm heading up to G&N's place to take care of the rest of their menagerie, I stop by and toss four flakes of hay over the fence. Strider and Palantir whinny and cavort and kick up mud on their way to the meal.

Up at G&N's, which is a true modern-day pioneer place at the top of a mountain at the end of a long road (i.e. off the grid), there are five young chickens still growing in a box with a heat lamp, until they're fully fledged, so they're mostly very easy to deal with (must take them out of their big box and clean it every 5 days or so but otherwise I just check to make sure they still have feed and water). There are evidently two cats; I haven't seen them, but the litter box gets filled quite extravagantly overnight, and at least once a day they clean out their food bowls; and there are two dogs, Dusty and Kalluk. I let them out in the morning and feed them, and put them in at night and feed them again. They're supposed to stay up at their place, but Dusty, the female, is more sociable and appears down here every morning about 30 minutes after I've driven away. I can hardly blame her. G&N, who haven't had a vacation in years and years, have been gone since the end of April. In the evenings, Ian and I load the back of the little pickup full of dogs (K&A's dog Sadie refuses to ride in the back with the other dogs; she sits behind the seats in the cab), and even homebody Kalluk gets some playtime before everything is battened down for the night.

We take a walk with all dogs in the late mornings as Ian's long lunch; on Sunday Ian and I rode together in the afternoon but since he's actually working from here this week, I ride alone in the afternoons now.

Yes, I wear my helmet.

Chickens. They really do race around and cluck frantically when you try to pick them up.

The home of the pioneers, and six dogs.

Farm Work.

Farm Fun!

Three labs in a truck.

Early Spring.

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