Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer Days on the Farm

     It's July 2nd and I want to put a stop/pause button on summer already.  We've been working on lots of projects here on the farm. One of my top projects has been monitoring the nest of barn swallows that sits atop what I believe is some sort of alarm box inside the entrance of the barn.  As the five babies grew it came to resemble a Keystone cop nest, with puffy chests and tail feathers brimming over the sides. I've taken such an interest in their progress that you'd think I'd hatched the little buggers myself. While doing chores I often take a moment to talk to the babies. At first they would shrink back at the sound of my voice (I don't think it was my breath), but eventually they got used to the crazy lady talking to them and just looked at me with solemn expressions.  Lately the babies have been flapping their tiny wings in preparation for the first flight. Yesterday marked the official fledgling launch day.  When I came down to feed there was one lone baby left in the nest.

 "What are you waiting for?" I asked the wee one. "Fly, already!"

 One of the parents swooped in and the lone baby opened its beak. He/She was rewarded with some fresh bugs and no competition from hungry siblings. Aha, smart kid! There is something to be said for being the last child.  As the afternoon wore on, one by one the babies returned to the nest, stuffing themselves into position. I congratulated them on their flying skills and they looked at me, with blank, solemn expressions. Baby birds aren't frivolous and goofy like other baby animals.  The barn swallow kids are a sober group. They don't cavort, or play with each other. They eat, they flap their wings, then one day...they take off. Still, despite their grave demeanors and lack of humor, I've really enjoyed this group, especially since none of them were nudged, or fell from the nest. Since they were so stuffed in ( the parents really scrimped on the size of this thing, talk about poor planning), I was sure one of them would crash to the concrete floor.  Chalk it up to good balance, or teamwork, these babies held fast and now they've graduated. This morning the nest was empty. I'm not sure if they'll be back this afternoon, but if not I'm a little sad the my baby bird reality show is over.  There is another nest at the opposing end of the barn, but the parental birds are total assholes. Unlike the first set of parents, who seemed to appreciate my attention to their kids, this set dive bombs anyone who comes near and if you try to look at the kids they buzz your face and give you a sense of what Tippi Hendren went through during the filming of "The Birds".  On Saturday afternoon while I was feeding the horses, my worst fears were realized.  I could hear intense yelling from the mother swallow, so I peered around the corner of the barn, full of trepidation.  There was a small form on the ground directly under the nest and it was moving a little.  Without taking any time to think, I upended a muck tub, scooped up the baby and in two seconds he was back in the nest.  Yay me!!! I saved a baby bird!!  I was rewarded by having the parent bird swoop past my nose, shrieking and flapping her wings like a deranged bat.  Staggering off the muck tub, I shook my fist at her and yelled, " You dumb bitch, I just saved your baby! You're not even a good mother, letting it fall out of the nest in the first place! I should report you! The other parents didn't let any of their kids have this kind of an accident! "

She responded by aggressively dive bombing me as I retreated down the barn aisle. Clearly, she has anger management issues and I pity those poor children.  If I don't get my eyes pecked out by this set of parents before this group makes their first flight it will be a miracle.

 What else have we been up to?

A.) Finishing projects. Jonathan had started 10 projects at once, leaving all of them unfinished and we were feeling defeated. So, we took the bull by the horns, spent a crapload of money at the hardware store and now we're checking them off the list, one by one. Very satisfying and the place is looking nicer by the day. We are sunburnt, covered in paint blotches and have blisters on our hands. It's a small sacrifice.

B.) Mowing and weed whacking. It rains, the grass grows, we mow, it looks nice for three-four days, rains, the grass grows, we mow...  You get the cycle.

C.) Riding, teaching and horse showing. Our season is in full swing and our students are all keeping us busy. I find show prize lists in my tack trunk, subtle hints of which shows they'd like to attend.  My young horse has been coming along so well. He's only four, so he's not on the fast track, but each day we make more progress and that is far more fun than any competition for me. Yesterday, we went on our first proper trail ride, with a solid trail partner to accompany us. No sooner did we get into the big open field when twin spotted fauns leapt across our path. Whee!!!  The mother deer did what mother deer do. She frickin' froze like a dipshit and didn't follow her kids. I've made the mistake of thinking that the deer have brains before, so I knew if we tried to proceed she would wait until we were directly in line with her and then run like a maniac right in front of us.  A quick about face and we made a nice loop, sans deer. Dan seemed to enjoy our walkabout, despite the fact that walking downhill required more balancing skills than he originally anticipated. After a few wobbly, sideways steps, he upped his game and figured it out.

D.) Enjoying every day for what it brings! I know thats super cheesy, but it's true. Having a great ride, saying hi to the small bunny who nibbles grass in the lane between the paddocks each day, painting jump poles in the broiling hot sun (sweating off calories is the bonus to that job), admiring Jonathan's carpenter handiwork, watching our pets lounge on our front porch amidst large pots of colorful flowers,  all good things.  And at the end of the day, a cold martini and a sense that we're doing exactly what we want to each day and we like it, fills my soul with a mid-life kind of mellow happiness.  Maybe the booze has something to do with the mellowness, but whatever, I'll take it.

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