Aunt Sue's Funny Farm
I am sitting down for the fifth time to write this post. I have had numerous titles, and different themes, but nothing. I have erased more than I wrote – wait, that doesn’t make sense. Let’s just say that my backspace and delete button got a work out. My husband recommended that I do a funny one. Wait, I’ve got a joke. Well, the problem is I don’t know any jokes. I love jokes, I laugh at them and think they are good medicine. They just don’t seem to stick around in this noggin. I have even watched my fair share of Studio C videos.
Ok, so here goes.
We have lived on our little 2-acre farm for over 18 years and in that time we have had quite a few animals. We brought our Labrador, Reba, with us from Orange County, as well as our cat, Daisy. We inherited a few barn cats upon arrival. Our very first encounter with farm animals happened one morning after a few months of being here in Northern California. While eating breakfast, I looked out in the front and noticed a very large cow in my rose bushes. Not a sight you see every day, especially for this city girl. I did what I knew to do – I called John. He suggested we chase it to the pasture. Easy for him to say, sitting in an office. Well, Andrew (age 8) and I made a run for it and somehow managed to get that heifer into our pasture, don’t ask me how, it’s a blur. Ok. We were in business. We had a farm, now we had a cow. Granted she was a lost heifer, but hey, she was eating our grass. Our neighbor, Chick, a very wizened old rancher, and a bit of a prankster, was enlisted to help us find the rightful owner. Meanwhile, this same Chick put another cow, this time a steer, into our pasture to keep the first one company. So far so good. We had two cows in our pasture. About 2 months later, the owners of the heifer showed up. Now, I wasn’t here at the time, but from the stories I heard they were a very unique couple. Let’s just say hillbilly comes up more often than not when this story starts circulating. They led their cow home on a lead rope as they walked along barefoot.
Right around this time we acquired a strawberry roan Appaloosa gelding, Rebel. He was about 23 years old when he came to us and we loved him. He was the best horse EVER. My children climbed all over him, rode him and just hung out with him. The steer, we named him Polka Dot because he had a big polka dot on his side, and Rebel got along fine. I think around this time we got some chickens, because John was a good one for going to the feed store and bringing home some kind of poultry. He couldn’t help himself. He’s brought home chicks, turkeys, and some guinea pigs. So, now we were in business. Our science experiment was in our backyard. Our homeschool was learning animal husbandry. We loved every minute of it. We were so naïve, that it scares me now to think about it.
One funny story about Rebel and Andrew. Andrew would like to saddle up Rebel and ride him around the pasture, but our steer was a bit on the mean side and he had horns, so Andrew had a rightful fear of him. If you don’t cinch the saddle on tight it slides – and Rebel was a great one for puffing up while tacking up. Andrew learned this first hand. I had come out of the house and saw him riding Rebel at a trot, sliding down in his saddle. In a split-second Andrew was pitched into a feed trough and climbing over the fence to escape from our steer. He was shaking like a leaf when I got to him. No harm done, just a story for later.
One afternoon I heard a very faint squeal coming from outside. Upon inspection, I found a piglet in a little cage in our backyard. Surprise, surprise. Mr. Chick thought we needed a pig on our farm. I still can hear him as he greeted Rebekah that day. It was love at first sight for both of them. We named him Fred. We built him a pen in the pasture and out he went. We learned a lot about animals with Fred in the pasture. He was low man on the totem pole. Nobody liked the pig. When he got out, which was quite frequent, Rebel and Polka Dot would chase him around and push his backside up with their noses. We learned too late that you can never outrun an animal. Fred got out one morning and I had the bright idea of putting him back in his pen. Now I know to use food to have an animal do what they don’t want to do, but back then it never occurred to me. Andrew and I spent about 3 long hours trying to get Fred back into his pen. We ran and ran in circles, in our pasture that’s an acre. At one point I had Andrew stationed with sticks to steer Fred to his pen when I chased him around. Nope. Once Andrew saw Fred coming, Andrew ran the other way. I don’t know how we got him in there, but we did eventually. I had never been so mad at an animal before.
So let’s talk about Polka Dot. There comes a time when you’re raising animals that they get too big and keep breaking fences. That was Polka Dot. By now he had another friend in the pasture, W, a black Angus steer.
I keep calling these two steers, but we had a valuable lesson come butchering time. Like I said, at some point, the steer needed to be in the freezer. We had had it with Polka Dot, he was huge, it was time, so John called Ernie, the Butcher. Ernie showed up with his wife and they fell to. At some point in the day Ernie asked John if we knew that Polka Dot was a bull. No, we did NOT. We city folks were soooooo naïve that we could not distinguish a steer from a bull. I think Ernie got a good laugh out of that one. He asked us if we wanted to castrate the other bull? You mean, we had two bulls in our pasture???? We had been out there riding Rebel, chasing Fred, and playing in the pasture with TWO BULLS? Praise God for His protection over us!!! So, of course we said yes. Well, out here they do things the cowboy way. Poor W was a mess. He bled all over our pasture and was getting weaker as the day wore on. We
called on our trusty neighbor Chick to help us out with our now steer. He suggested we get him into the shoot so we could man handle him in a confined space. That wasn’t so hard, since by now W was pretty weak. I will never, ever forget the scene. Towel and duct tape served at bandaids, purple gentian violet powder to stop the bleeding, a steer laying down with Andrew at his head pouring water into his mouth. Even more pathetic was Rebel with his head hanging over the fence to offer his condolences. We had done all that we could. Chick said that we should have castrated him on a full moon, as he would not have bled. What? Some Portuguese wives’ tale no doubt. Anyway, we prayed, we waited and watched. Chick said that by
midnight W would be fine. He’d seen it before, and it would be alright. We did not believe him. We do not like being cruel to animals, and this was on the border of that one. Well, we got the children to bed and would take turns doing W watch. Sure enough, at midnight W was up and he turned out fine. Right before we said goodnight to Chick, I said to him that I wasn’t so sure I wanted to be a farmer, he said, “You’re right. You were meant to be a rancher.” Haha. I was not laughing, but he was.
How can these stories show God’s care in our lives? Well, in multiple ways. We learned that nothing is too small to pray about. We had talked with our children about God’s love for us and His desire to have us in relationship with Him. This was the time we showed them that we pray about everything – even a sick steer in the pasture trying to recover from a crude surgery. We prayed when Fred got out, to get him back in. We thanked God that Polka Dot did not kill Abbey when she was out running around in the pasture, me on a lawn tractor doing leaves, when the bull got spooked by the noise. He ran between me on the tractor and Abbey on the ground (she was about 18 months old!!!!). We learned from Him how to display compassion to His creation – animals. And, we learned that some animals are for food, even the ones that raised on your own farm. If you were to ask my nieces about that, I think they would differ. We made the mistake of letting them know the name of their steak, not a great idea. It was years before they would eat meat at our house. We learned to talk about the things of God all throughout the day on the farm.
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 6:6-7
It was great fun to have the animals on our farm, Orchard House Farm. I think we all learned a good deal about ourselves and about God. He’s a good God, and He enjoys giving gifts to His children. This farm, this place, the animals, my children, homeschooling were (and are) such good gifts from my Heavenly Father. I give Him thanks.