Children of the Earth

I have never thought of my dogs and cats and other animals, both pets and farm, to be my children.

It just wasn’t what they were to me.

That does not mean that they aren’t important to me. That does not mean that I don’t love them dearly.

But they are not my children.

Now I do have siblings that see their dogs and/or cats as their children. It was never strange to me that this could be. We each need different things as we are all different people. The reasons for why some of my siblings look at their pets and think, ‘this is my child,’ just as there are reasons where I don’t.

What I do see when I look at my cat, or my dogs is a companion that is a part of my family, but not my child. They are dearly loved and I am ever grateful for the years that we travel through life together. There have been times when they were watching over and taking care of me and just as many times where I was taking care of them. Both instances were also hand in hand with us having our own lives separate though we do take time to just sit and be with one another.

For are those not things that companions have with one another?

I had a friend ask me once if I understood why others would look at their pets and think ‘children.’ I answered that I understood in a way. One of my siblings and his wife are unable to have children. They have two little dogs and three cats and are parents to those five little furballs. These are the grandchildren they show to my mother when she goes to visit and these are the grandchildren that my mom greets and loves just the same.

I have a sister that has two fine human boys as well as several other children in the form of a little dog and several cats. She loves them all just as much as the others. She mourns when some of her children reach the ends of their natural life long before she does, but that pain doesn’t stop her from loving them just the same.

I have another sister who is single with no human children, but has an aging cat that she took in as her child when the cat was already half-way through the cat’s natural lifespan. For a short time we had that cat with us at the last house when my sister was staying at a place that didn’t allow pets. Said sister rejoiced when she got a new apartment because it meant she could live with her little daughter again.

Again, I have another sister (yes, my parents had eight kids, there’s a ton of us) who does not view her pets as children. She still loves them and mourns them when they reach the ends of their lives. She has always been the quickest of my siblings to bring home dogs and cats because those animals actually followed her home of their own free will. They are still considered members of her family, but they are not her children.

Family and friends come in all shapes and sizes and species. They come at different times in our lives. Many come as complete surprises while others were carefully planned, but they come all the same. But just as humans need different things at different times, the same is true of dogs and cats.

Each being on this planet is different, even, or maybe especially, those that are of the same species.

There are, after all, just as many stories out there about animals adopting orphaned young from a completely different species. (In fact, I have a pair of ducks that hatched and raised a pair of chickens who follow them everywhere, as well as a pair of dogs that have three young, two of which are cats while the third is their own actual blood offspring.)

It’s Hard To Be

It’s hard to be vigilant when things feel comfortable and convenient. – Matt from mustbethistalltoride.com, Diagnosing Relationship Failure is Not for the Self-Assured

If there is one thing I have learned about living out on a farm it is that the convenience of living in the city was hard won by those who came before us. But at the same time we take most of it for granted.

It takes twenty minutes for us to get into the nearest town. Just to get to town, not the store or the gas station or a specific place, just the outskirts of town where the first houses are. And that’s if the weather’s good and there’s nothing wrong with our car. (The car wouldn’t go over 60 mph for a while there without overheating within 10 minutes. In hindsight, it was only a matter of time before it died and we had to get the truck.)

I grew up in a small city. I have to call it a small city because  to most people that’s what it is. It’s not a small town because it’s bigger than that, but if you compare it to any other size city anywhere else (including Denver, Colorado, just one state over) it really is just a small city. But that didn’t mean it didn’t have it’s conveniences just the same. I grew up being able to walk to a 50 cent and then dollar movie theater, a community swimming pool and a public library (although that last one was a bit further away and up a very steep hill that was more a part of the mountain we lived right up against.)

Now the only library that’s convenient is the one that I’ve spent my whole life compiling. The movie theater is what movies my niece buys at the thrift store to go with the old VCR that her brother found at the same thrift store (those VHS tapes are the sturdiest things outside of a nokia phone, I swear) and we try to visit one of my sisters who live in an apartment at least three times during the summer to go swimming there.

But we have our own animals that have helped supply a good portion of what we would be getting at the store: milk, eggs, cheese (we have to make it), sour cream (ditto), and meat. We try to grow our own vegetables, but something always goes wrong. (It’s funny that the garden that had goats and pigs getting into it actually fared better and gave us more crops than the one that three chickens got into. The irony.) We gather wood and straw for the winter and have to repair the shelters and sheds that we use for the farm ourselves.

I have learned things that I never thought I’d learn (how to midwife for a goat is always the first thing that pops into my mind).

But while there’s a lot less convenient things out here, it’s also the place I’ve been the healthiest and happiest since I was a small child. It’s hard work, but it’s work that I have found to be very satisfying. Most of all, I’m happy here.

(Though I will still be grateful that the store is less than an hour away.)

He’s Up All Night To Get Funky

So we’ve been having skunk problems. Every night they try to get our chickens or ducks or rabbits. So our dogs (mostly Vincent) keep guard all. Night. Long.

We wake up in the morning and the dogs are exhausted and sleep most of the day away. They’ve earned it without a shadow of a doubt because we can certainly smell how much they’ve been working. Even if they aren’t sprayed, the backyard is definitely smelly from the skunks they’ve chased off.

(I’m so glad, now, that Vincent is so good at dodging things, because we don’t have enough tomato juice to bathe him in.)

We’re trying to get another dog, because Vincent might be young and spry and energetic (and super protective of ‘his’ animals), but Sissy is getting up there in years and there’s no way she’s going to be able to help Vincent out with guard duty once the temperature drops like lead in water. I have no idea how she’s keeping up with him now.

Seriously, though, Vincent does a head check on the rabbits every morning whenever we open up the rabbit garage (there are no vehicles or machinery housed in the rabbit garage, just rabbits and animal feed). He walks through and touches noses with all of our long-time residents and even some of our short-time residents, then he turns and walks out with me as soon as I’m done filling up their water bottles/bowls.

He takes his duties very seriously and won’t let us go to bed until we’ve made sure to let him outside to start guard duty, even if he was napping when we were getting ready for bed in the first place.

Now if only we could find a way to stop the skunks from coming over in the first place so that our backyard would stop smelling skunky in the morning.

One Word To Describe

Usually overlooked by so many

Not often thought of in grander schemes

Caring though they have always been

Only shying away when new or afraid

Not counting, of course, those that are friendly anyway

Don’t forget the startled looks with joy

Innocent for some mischief, but only just

They make each day a treasure

In one way or another

Out of all the things in my life

Not having one at my side has hurt the most

All I could think whenever I cried was how

Long it would be before family was at my side

 

This kind of family is definitely the kind that you choose and then they choose you back, because your love is returned. Animals are loyal and loving and so incredibly exasperating, even more so because all of our communication is very much sign language from two different kinds of language.

I wrote this after a news article on a German Shepherd that had died in the line of duty in protecting his partner of three years. That dog took three bullets to protect his friend and family member. He was honored as all fallen police and military are. When asked to describe his partner, the officer said simply, “Unconditional, that was one word to describe him in everything he did.”

I spent an entire day chasing after pigs that would not stay in their pen, in the goats’ pen or even in our own yard. I walked half the town looking for them time and time and time and time again (yes, four times). Once they were home and it was dark and they finally stopped with their shenanigans (but only because they were wanting to sleep) all I could think of was how grateful I was that they were home and safe. They ran me all over town looking for them (I now know how to track pig tracks…in the snow, because of course it snowed the night before and I had to slog through it all, but at least the youngest kids helping to look (my neighbor’s girls) had snow pants on) and I spent most of the time looking forward to never having to do that ever again. But I find that I couldn’t say anything harsh to them (other than scolding them and laughing at how they must have decided, like an old dog I had as a child, that their humans needed some exercise) once I had them again.

My life would be very poor without the animals we have.

Truly Blessed – Thankful Thursday

I’m grateful for doors getting stuck for half the winter and bottle lambs ending up at neighbor’s houses and all other things that many would think were a right pickle at first. I’m also grateful for the timing of everything, because without it, I’d have found four tiny goatlings frozen to death this afternoon instead of one goop-covered tiny goatling (the tiniest I’ve ever seen!) and a doe still in the middle of labor. Now we have four tiny goatlings (several weeks early even, but isn’t that just the way for us with our goats?) all clean and snuggled down in the play house that we only recently were able to get back into through the door. There was also enough first milk for the babies to boost their immune systems because of the bottle-fed lamb at our neighbors because they had extra for the first feeding.

Truly, we are blessed.

Check out the original Thankful Thursday. (Will update link when able.)

(Remember, this is an old post written a few months ago. In fact, I’m writing this on February 11th.

Not Goodbye

My heart beats unevenly

Only to choke me on my breath

Reality is not my friend now

Taking the small figure in shaking hands

And leaning over the too stillness to cry

Letting parts of prayer soothe the ache

 

The first time I had an animal die on the farm, it wasn’t just one. It was a whole litter of seven little bunnies. I sat and held their mother and cried all over her. I think she took it a lot better than I did, though she let me cry into her soft fur for over thirty minutes after Sissy (dog) had abandoned me for somewhere with less excitement. (Sissy doesn’t take people being upset very well…or at all…she hates crying and yelling with a passion and will leave the house to get away from it if she has to.)

The next three times it happened all I could think about was how I was always the one to find the bunnies after they’d died instead of anyone else.

By the sixth time, it was a goose that had been sick and not adjusting to its new home well.

Each time it happened (bunnies, bunnies, bunnies, goatling, bunnies, chickens, geese, chickens, bunnies, more bunnies, we have a lot of bunnies…) I would wrap the body (except for the goose) in bags and say a small prayer before burying the bodies in the only place available at the time (the garbage, because the ground freezes really hard). I still don’t like it when one of the animals dies, but I know that this life isn’t the end, so that when they die they aren’t vanishing while leaving only a body that will crumble and decay behind. No, they’ve gone somewhere else.

This isn’t the end of it for them, nor is it the end of this for us.

There is more. What we each believe that more is will change, but there is something there and I take comfort in that.

This isn’t a goodbye, just a see you later.

Re-visit of Dungeon Prompt: Mortality and the Human Psyche.

Welcome, Chickies!

Several weeks ago, before we got rabbits, we got chickies.

image: from martha0stout's phone

image: from martha0stout’s phone

image: from martha0stout's phone

image: from martha0stout’s phone

This is from the first day that we had them. The brown ones are egg-layers and the yellow ones are meat chickens that sadly only live for two months after they are fully matured, which also happens faster than the egg-layers. They are adorable and make tiny little cheeps that would keep my sister (whose room their little protected tub and heat lamp were placed in) up all night.

image: from martha0stout's phone

image: from martha0stout’s phone

IMAG2218

image: from martha0stout’s phone

 

She ended up sleeping in our sister’s room upstairs after our sister and her husband had to head back into the Valley we’d just left. (Adam couldn’t breathe out here, so they’re getting an apartment with his sister and another of our sisters in April. They will be back for their furniture in April as well.)

The chickies don’t bother my niece and I, who can hear them from our room, but we’re heavier sleepers than Julia.

The cats and Sissy are very interested in the chickies as well! (I tried to catch a picture of Iris as well, but she’s like this ink blot that soaks up all light without reflecting any back!)

image: Sissy, from martha0stout's phone

image: Sissy, from martha0stout’s phone

image: Cotton, from martha0stout's phone

image: Cotton, from martha0stout’s phone

image: Usako, from martha0stout's phone

image: Usako, from martha0stout’s phone

Family In All Shapes and Sizes – Thankful Thursday

It’s that time again, but this time I think I’ll focus on a few little things once more instead of just one theme. Not because there aren’t big things or people that I can focus on, but because there are a lot of little things I can think of at the moment and I want to share them.

This week I am thankful for:

Company during filing
image: older family phone
image: older family phone
Tommy
 
The best of friends
image: old family phone
image: old family phone
Tommy and Oz
image: old family phone
image: old family phone
Tommy and Oz
 
Peace at home, goodwill between cats and dogs
image: martha0stout's phone
image: martha0stout’s phone
Usako and DA
 
Comfy places to sleep
image: martha0stout's phone
image: martha0stout’s phone
Cotton

 

 
Companionship
image: martha0stout's phone
image: martha0stout’s phone
Sadie and Sammy
 
Curiosity is better with siblings
image: martha0stout's phone
image: martha0stout’s phone
Dora and DA
 
Random camera shy cat
image: martha0stout's phone
image: martha0stout’s phone
Usako
 
Adorable puppies
image: sister's phone
image: sister’s phone
Dora

Really, I’m grateful for animal family members today, both past and present.

For the original Thankful Thursday post today: http://mithriluna.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/thankful-thursday-the-goodness-of-life/

Turn My Day Around – Thankful Thursday

Things I’m thankful for:

Racing an oncoming storm

IMAG1916

Feline forgiveness

IMAG1940

Short Family Car Trips

IMAG1935

Thoughtful gifts from Cotton

(That makes 3 live garden snakes, 2 live birds that can still fly, a duckling, numerous mice (dead and alive), one full grown duck (living), numerous shrews the size of an average guinea pig, numerous gophers/prairie dogs, several dead birds, etc.)

IMAG1899

Family support at a talent show reading

IMAG1891

Success in baking homemade bread

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Children bringing me fruit home because it had the name ‘star’ in it

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all images: from marth0stout’s phone

This morning was pretty down for me, but then I stumbled across a prompt called “Thankful Thursdays” and I felt a lot better. After thinking it over for several hours and watching my niece hug my cat after accidentally stepping on her tail, I realized that I didn’t need to be so down when I have so much looking up for me right now. Most of these pictures were taken within the last month or at least within the last 30 days. There were more I wanted to add, but I realized it would make for a super long post which I wasn’t certain I should do.

But I just wanted to make a quick little list of things off my phone that I actually had pictures of to remind myself that there are many things to be thankful for today. No matter how dark things seem, there’s always going to be sunshine at the end, or at least puddles to jump in during the downpour.

Hope that y’all find something that will cheer your day up as well! If not, go on over and checkout the latest post for the Thankful Thursday challenge: http://mithriluna.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/thankful-thursday-gratitude-is-a-life-saving-remedy/

It just might do you a world of good like it did me.

 

Favorite Pet

There have been mentions of animals in the news. There have always been mentions of animals in the news and this is a trend that will likely continue. I honestly can’t think of a reason why there wouldn’t be. These animals, whether they be exotic or wild or domestic seem to speak to us in a way that means we can’t ignore them and their own feelings and thoughts even though we don’t understand their own language.

I was going through my bookmarks on my laptop (I have way too many) when I realized that I had a lot about animals. I won’t mention them all in here, but it didn’t surprise me at all just how much animals are talked about online. I know that I love reading about them and talking about them and looking at pictures about them…

Anything to do with animals really makes me smile or cry.

(And as I sit and write this my cat Usako is staring out the back door, with occasional glances in my direction, just waiting for her mother Cotton to want back in.)

It has been mentioned that I should write about my favorite family pet in my life. I can’t pick one, unfortunately, because each animal member of my family, past and present, have been my favorite for this or that. Their personalities are very different, just like the human family members that I have.

My favorite mothering pet was Ginger, a husky-golden retriever mix who was absolutely convinced that my younger siblings and I and some of our friends were her puppies. She would try to get us to eat this or that and drink and would shoo us into her doghouse when it was nap time before curling up around us to make sure we were warm enough.

My favorite teddy bear pet was Taffy, an orange tabby that followed me everywhere when I was a toddler. He let me cuddle him however I wanted. Unfortunately this meant that sometimes when I’d wonder off after a nap I would tug him along with by his tail or a paw. Mom says he was totally fine with it and thought I was awesome.

My favorite guard dog/exercise trainer was Rascal, a black mutt who my brother brought home from the street after he’d escaped previous owners who were not good to him. (No one ever came to claim him, so he was ours.) He was super protective of our family (especially Mom) without actually attacking people. (With the exception of my dad after our parents divorced.) He never actually bit anyone that I can recall and he thought that Mom was the most precious person in the house. He also ate everything except carrots.

My favorite ambush pet is Usako, my tortoise shell cat. She is absolutely awful at actually attacking anything. She is not the cat that defends her territory. She is excellent at waiting for the right moment to strike and then dashing off before her victim can retaliate. She’s also great for cuddling at night when it gets cold. She manages to do that without making it hard to breath and is as soft as a bunny. (She also likes salt and vinegar chips and low-sugar sugar cookies.)

My favorite boss pet was Tommy, a grey tabby long-hair. He would often glare at me until I went to bed. He had something like 60+ different looks that all boiled down to “Why are you doing that? Stop being an idiot.” That cat saved my sanity in my teen years when a lot of crap went down for my family. He was always very good at curling up on my back with just the right amount of warmth and weight to ease the tension running through it. (I had a lot of trouble with my back and neck during my teen years and he was one of the best parts of my physical therapy.)

I really can’t pick out of those mentioned and I have too many to write them all down. Each animal that my family has had have been a part of us and integral to our continued health and growth as people and as a family. They protect a part of our hearts and souls in a way that humans aren’t always able to do.