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The Farm slowly shifts and changes



Llama Rescue came and took my final llama, Pulaini, away last week, and I’m happy to report she now resides on a llama ranch in North Carolina with ten other female llamas. The owner called to tell me she’s already been given a haircut, and she’s happy and making friends. I suppose it’s a relief for her to be able to sleep at night without one eye open, wary of the killer coyotes. She’s been through a lot.


 On the day they were scheduled to pick her up, Denver, Kent and I spent two hours catching her, mostly because I was still wearing the dang cast on my foot. Pulaini would let me approach and pet her backside, but I couldn’t get anywhere near her halter, and when the kids came near she bolted.I’d go gimping across the pasture, running like Forest Gump before his bracesfell off, cussing the cast, the llama, and life in Georgia. Eventually the llama got so hot (it was in the mid 90’s that day) that she began foaming at the mouth. Another ten minutes and I’d be foaming right along with her, but thankfully, she stood still and I just walked up through the knee deep muck she had maneuvered herself into, (as if that would stop me – certainly she should know me better by now) and clipped a rope on her halter. Then we had fun dragging her out to the barn, which was like dragging a car with no wheels over gravel for 600 feet. I had to hose my cast, my pants and all of Kent down afterwards, but the Hendry’s always get the job done.     


 Once safely in the barn, Pulaini returned to her usual friendly self. I gave her treats and put a fan on her to cool her off, and we spent another two hours together saying good-bye. Then Llama rescue showed up,which turned out to be a 60-year-old woman and a friend driving a mini van.


 Kent and I looked at that van and puckered our lips. Did they think they could get our big llama in that thing? We always move the llamas in a horse trailer. The woman assured us they’ve been picking up llamas in mini-vans for ages– the back seats had been removed and a quilt was put down in preparation.


 Having just run ten miles to catch the beast with her spitting and foaming like a mad dog had us more than a little skeptical, but I led Pulaini to the side door of the van as told (they never open the big back doorfor this kind of thing, the woman explained).


 Pulaini stood there eyeing me through her long lashes as if I was kidding.


“There’s air conditioning in there. You’ll like it,” I said as convincingly as I could.


The llama blinked drolly.


 The rescue woman slid into the van and pulled on the leadrope attached to the halter. I picked up Pulaini’s front feet to put them in the door as Kent pushed her rear. I couldn’t help mumbling, “Gee if I knew I could get my llama into a minivan, I would have taken her with me to the drive-in on Saturdays”.


I’m not sure the llama rescue woman knew I was kidding.


 Meanwhile, I couldn’t look at my son for fear we’d start laughing. It was so weird folding up and stuffing a temperamental, 400 pound pet into a car.


 We got the llama half way in, then I picked up her back feet and shoved them inside so we could push her the rest of the way in, sliding her on her knees as the quilt bunched up under her. It felt like when you have to move the dead weight of a dog that doesn’t want to get into the bathtub.  When she was in, I closed the door and went around to the other side to say my good-byes. I wasn’t very sad, because I knew this pet was going somewhere safe and I’m not so selfish I’d want to try to keep her and submit her to a potential tragic end. I like knowing she is going to llama rescue rather than to some stranger who just drops off a check and carts her away, because this way I know she’ll end up in a llama approved home with companionship, shelter and ample food.  


 Later the woman called to tell me the two-hour trip was lovely and Pulaini put her head on her shoulder the entire trip and took treats from her hand. They bonded, the woman said, and she couldn’t help but fall in love with Pulaini’s temperament. In fact, she thought this llama was so sweet, she planned to keep her.  I was jealous at first, thinking what llama are you talking about? You can’t mean MY difficult llama. Or are you implying that she is now acting perfect because she likes you and your air-conditioned van more than me. 


But recognizing envy for what it is, I quickly shifted my attitude and grew delighted because I do want my pet to be happy and I was hoping for this woman would adopt her. She usually only fosters rescue llamas until the organization finds a home for them, but I knew her llama farm sometimes adopts an animal permanently. Pulaini’s no fool. She played right into the woman’s hands and heart and was adopted right there in the back of the van.


 I’m thought she had a good chance of landing someplace great. Most of the llamas they “rescue” are given up because they are old, have bad temperaments or health problems. My llama is healthy, beautiful, has quality fiber, is of a great age, has registration papers, and has been handled a great deal this last year. This is the kind of animal people sell, not the kind you call llama rescue to cart away– but I had an emergency situation considering the marauding coyotes. So, it is a win win situation for everyone – Pulaini, the llama farm and me.


 Now, my llama adventure is over forever more. Sigh.


 Last week, a realtor called to say someone wanted to fly into see our home (which has been for sale for 18 months, so this is a very goodthing) but they are interested in additional land. Actually, they would want to purchase the barn too. Would we be open to that? Since Mark and I had discussed this possibility from the very beginning, we said yes, of course.


 I spent one day in mourning and self-pity for the potentialloss of my animal playground, but then I bounced back. Denver and I cleaned the barn from top to bottom (meaning she did the upstairs where her jewelry making equipment and storage is, and I tackled the downstairs tack and feed room and cleaned the stalls.) Then I painted my chicken house, formerly weathered pressure treated wood, a cheery barn red and hung up flowering baskets and cute chicken signs. I had already removed the rabbit cages hanging on the sides and purchased paint with plans to gussy up the house for myself, so this was really just following through on previous plans. I planted some bushes around the shed too, set up a metal sun sculpture and put red mulch around the quaint building. It looks like an adorable egg–manufacturing playhouse now.  Love it.


 

It’s probably a long shot that someone will actually want the house and this much land as well (the pastures, barn and chicken houses) because that gets rather pricy. These people may not even show up, but I’m willing and open to whatever happens. In fact, it almost feels like fate, because I’m opening a new business in two months so my time for barn play will be limited soon. The fact is, I’ve learned all I needed and wanted to learn through these few years of farming adventures. It’s been wonderful, but I’m ready to explore new horizons now, so maybe this is meant to be. Of course, I’d still want to set something up near the new house to keep my chickens, for the high quality eggs, ya know (I’m a spoiled cook now), and I’d want to keep my peacocks since they are no trouble. And I don’t know what I’d do with donkey, because he is a member of the family and the star of my pending book, but beyond that, I wouldn’t mind spending a Georgia winter without having to devote hours a day in the bitter cold taking care of animals.


 For now, I’m enjoying every minute I spend at the barn because it is so neat and pretty down there, and I consider my time in nautre a precious gift. You must appreciate what you have when you have it, and not live for tomorrow or yesterday, or fail to appreciate the lovely moments life offers us,however subtle of fleeting they may be.


 I’m down to three turkeys now. As you may recall, I started with five chicks. One died early on for reasons unknown (I was at a yoga seminar – these things always happen when I’m away). Another one did not develop properly. He had splayed legs – which means his legs flail out under him so he can barely walk. As a young bird he sort of flapped his wings and nudged himself around the cage. I took pity on him, and kept feeding him in a bowl right beside where he lay in a pile of hay. But because of my diligent care, he just ate all day and kept getting bigger and bigger, until all he could do was lay in one spot and couldn’t move at all because of his increased size. The full grown turkeys needed more space, so I began keeping the cage door open and the other three birds spent their afternoons picking through the pasture for fresh bugs. They’re happy roosting nearby and laying in the grass beside the cage. They are huge and still growing.



 YYesterday, when our farmer friend Ronnie was over I had a moment of weakness and asked if he could make my handicapped turkey disappear.I didn’t want to discuss what would happen to the bird, because the poor thing seems so innocent, but I also couldn’t bear to continue feeding him, knowing he couldn’t move and was sitting in his own waste. His quality of life has been hindered, and I don’t want to have to explain this to anyone who might be coming to see the barn to potentially buy it.


 Ronnie smiled and said no problem. I felt guilty, but only for a moment. This bird’s had months of a cheesy life when anyone else would have done him in long ago. It is only a matter of time until a dog discovers the bird and brings him to a violent end if I leave him just hanging out, incapable of moving.  And the fact is, I’m not interested in killing him to eat (no comments from the peanut gallery,please). Sure enough, yesterday afternoon I went down to the barn tentatively and looked in the turkey cage. There were only three turkeys walking around the barnyard. Such is the harsh life of a farm animal.


 I confess, I named my turkeys Barb, Mike and Jodi after those who caused the demise of FLEX, thinking this would make it easier for me to slaughter and eat them later. But the truth is, their names only makes me smile and laughter only endears the birds to me more. The simple beasts follow me as harmless as any creature I’ve ever known. They don’t react to danger or shy away from problems the way an alert chicken does. They say turkeys are stupid, but I like to think of them as enthusiastic, just naive and unaware of what is going on around them. In truth, they are good-natured, which actually makes the names of at least two of them very appropriate. As you can guess, I can’t imagine hurting them now, so I’ll have turkey pets for years to come. I’ll just let nature take its course and see how long they survive living a normal, carefree life. Of course, that is not to say that come Thanksgiving I won’t have a change of heart, especially considering the pressure I get from family members still expecting organic, homegrown turkey for the holidays, but personally, I can’t imagine carving up one of my little buddies at this time. Turkey raising is an experiment still pending.          


 I’ve got 20 freshly hatched chicks peeping away in little cages now, and my garden is lush and filled with a zillion soon to be ripe tomatoes, peppers, melons, pumpkins, squash, eggplant, and some mystery plant(I can’t remember what seeds I scattered there. Oops.) I’ve planted three sets of cucumbers but they keep dying. No pickles for me, this year I guess.


 Last week Mark pointed out that the blackberries are almost ready to pick, and suddenly it occurred to me that my ’08 wine has been sitting in a carboy for a year now and is ready to be bottled. So I spent the daybottling and labeling 90 more bottles of wine. Blackberry/Strawberry, Blueberry (a new flavor I tried last season, which turned out refreshing, light, and lovely)and a strawberry/grape Chablis.  I need to invite some friends over for some serious country wine drinking. I’d make a few more batches, but with people coming to see the house, that will have to wait. Don’t need the place smelling like a winery – which it always does for the first two weeks. (The new house will have a wine making room in the basement for me, I’m told. Guess Mark is tired of seeing these huge bottles of fermenting wine everywhere.)  


 So, I’m all caught up on the farm chores – except for the bees,which I’ll be tackling today. I have to take the honey off the hive and cut away all the little evergreens that are growing up at the entrance of the hive (no one will mow over there, so my hive looks like sleeping beauties castlebeing swallowed by weeds.) If I get as much as I expect, I’m thinking of trying to make mead this season. Fun!


 Meanwhile, in the back of my mind, I wonder if this will be my last season of this lifestyle. It is always possible someone will come along and want to write a check to buy this life we have worked so long and hard to create (won’t be the first time), which will bring this chapter of our lives to an end, opening the door for something else. Life is unpredictable that way – flexible, every-changing and bittersweet. No reason to fight it – better to go with the flow and collect the meaningful lessons along the way. 


 Speaking of which, I passed my yoga certification exam for the Yoga Alliance last week. I still have one more intensive weekend of training and the graduation to attend, but I’m a true yogi now. Ommmmmmmmmm…………………………….   


I also attended a three-hour yoga for children workshop. Man, do I wish I had all that information when I owned FLEX. My mind was spinning with the potential for incorporating that material in the dance environment. I’m not finished with my yoga training – now I’m researching the next level of training – the 500 hour advanced course that makes you a master teacher. Heck, maybe I’ll maneuver a way to take that one in India someday. Ya only live once. 


 I’ve been doing massive research in preparation for reentry into the dance/yoga world. Stepping back has allowed me to see this business with fresh eyes, and the new resources, music and ideas available have me really excited – I feel like ten times the teacher I was before, thanks to the life experience and new skills I can draw from now. Distance is a blessing. But I’ll address that in another entry. Just know that scoop dancer is on the case and my next school will be better than the last – more authentic – and this one won’t get off lured course or dragged under water by unnecessary drama or ego mongers. The greatest gift of yoga is learning detachment and training yourself to see through the crap to what is beautiful underneath.  Nurturing it, making it glow. I’m ready to apply that to dance training.


 I even took a QuickBooks class last month so I can be incontrol of the budgeting and business side of this new school, so Mark will not have additional demands on his time. He can teach ballet, but beyond that, I don’t want him encumbered by the demands of a dance studio. He has different dreams all together. I am excited about the artistic challenges of a new school, but I’m experienced enough to know how import it is for the director to be qualified as a business manager too, so I’m working to fill in the gaps now that one person will be at the helm. Crunching numbers isn’t my forte, and I’m helpless on the computer, but I’ve tackled QuickBooks knowing it is the responsible, necessary thing to do, and I even enrolled in a class on website design in August too (because I’m resurrecting the Kiddance company newsletter and product line too). Ah, the things we do for love, as Chorus line pointed out.


 Anyway, it is time for this newbie yogi to visit the bees.  Somehow, I no longer fear being stung. Now, if only the bees were in the same yoga frame of mind…..


 

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

3 responses »

  1. Be forewarned, I’ve named those turkeys, too…Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter!

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  2. Good to see you alive and blogging. It always worries me when you vanish for long periods. Have a happy 4th of July! I will be grilling out and relaxing with friends.

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  3. Heather H ogan lospinoso

    Ginny~ OMGoddness! I am at a loss for words for all you have become….I became curious/noisey and clicked on your website…I so love how you write and have, even in my distant memory embraced life and experiences. I enjoyed reading about the farm(poor turkey and the touching lama story) and am looking forward to your new adventures. Cheers to all you can grow to be and I feel you are still a wise teacher to many. Heather~

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