Will Knit for Spare Change

Or scoop llama beans. Or wind your skeins, wash fleece, weed your garden, or crawl under your house and clean out all the cobwebs. Whatever.

Fortunately, Michigan has a 10-cent can return. Yes, of course you pay the 10 cents when you buy the soda in the first place, but it's like a little savings account, because when you take all those cans back, it's as if they're giving you free money. Woo-hoo!

I would also knit for tattoos. Chris found this adorable t-shirt. The girl even looks a little like me, except that I have less hair and haven't worn leg warmers in 25 years. I thought I'd add it to my collection of knifty t-shirts, because perhaps for only $16 you'll want one as badly as I do.

Now on to other things. I've been accused of making farm life sound too idyllic, and now everyone wants to come and live with me. So I'm going to tell you about the less glamorous side of living off the fat'o'the land. (Geez, hasn't anyone been watching that reality show where they threw those two blondes on that farm? Oh, well, me neither.)

It starts snowing in October...

...and stops in April. (We had our last frost in mid-May.) Then a month of mud begins. Then they do road construction for four months, then it starts snowing again.

You can't keep the deer (raccoons, groundhogs, slugs, bugs, tomato worms and who knows what else) from eating whatever is that you want to eat in your garden. You can try, but it simply can't be done.

Don't even get me started on the mosquitoes. No matter how busy our bats are--and they eat thousands of mosquitoes in a single night--there will always be millions more just waiting for my ankles.

And on the subject of deer, the question in Michigan is not if you've hit one with your car, but how many times. They constantly wander in the road, and I swear they target motor vehicles and run right into them.

So far we've been really fortunate and have not yet been in a deer collision, but even a small doe will easily total your entire vehicle. They particularly love the section of road right in front of our house. And to my amazement, no one comes to clean up the carcass. If there's a dead deer in front of your property, you have to take care of it yourself, or suffer the malodorous consequences. (For more on this and other inconveniences of rural living, see my helpful guide, "You Know You Live in the Country when...")

Graty getting a nail-trimming

Okay, so the llamas and the sheep are terribly cute and lots of fun and full of personality. What I've failed to mention so far is that they poop and
need regular shots and deworming every six weeks once the ground thaws and nail-trimming. Yes, llama beans are excellent for your garden. But you still have to scoop them all up out of the pasture.

Llama beans

Then there's the occasional pizzle rot (sheep-penis
infection) to swab and disinfect and moisturize--this involves turning your sheep on end (as shown above for shearing) and cleaning it well, rinsing with hydrogen peroxide, applying bacitracin, etc. every day or two for a few weeks, and giving your cute, wooly charge some Nutra-Drench or other extra nutritional supplement to speed healing, as well as possibly a course of antibiotics.

I've also described elsewhere the sheep-testicle
removal bit and...you know, all that good stuff. Presuming everybody stays relatively healthy.

Is this sufficient to discourage everyone's fibery farm fantasies? Perhaps I should just let you all continue dreaming your bucolic dreams. Of course, I read all of James Herriot's books (All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Wise and Wonderful, The Lord God Made Them All) and he could describe to me in the goriest detail how he stood in a feezing cow pasture, soaking wet, with his arm up to the shoulder in a cow's uterus trying to help a her give birth to a calf that was turned the wrong way and I was still convinced that I wanted to be a veterinarian.

You'll have to decide for yourself. Remember that every single day your animals need food and water. This means going out to the barn rain, snow, sleet, hail, even come blizzard or tornado. Sometimes twice a day in the winter, because the water will still turn to ice even with the heated bases under the buckets if the temperature gets cold enough. (Then you get to break ice before refilling buckets. Fun!)

Fortunately, I like cold weather. Good, quilt-lined overalls and waterproof, insulated boots like these are key. Just in case you wanted to know.

As an interesting side note, when I googled "llama bean" images I found my own blog. But it was a picture of Pepper and Lacey, not llama beans. The nice wheelbarrow picture I found isn't mine, but it sure looks like our wheelbarrow, the one that's really hard to push in snow and mud and whose tire likes to go flat at the most inopportune moment (like, when it's really full of poop and you're nowhere near your destination).

And oh boy, I didn't even talk about weeding, mowing, fencing, all the sorts of things that constantly need repaired, animals occasionally escaping...but fortunately, my father likes to mow and till and put up fence and fix things, and my parents are here during the part of the year when those sorts of things need to be done. The garden is their baby, so I mostly get to ogle at it and and enjoy its bounty. (Credit where credit's due!)

So if James Herriot's frozen arm up a cow's birth canal on a rocky English countryside left me convinced that I was destined to be a country vet, maybe you still think farm life sounds pretty dandy, too. Most days, it truly is.


Anonymous said...

Okay, you've convinced me....I don't have what it takes to be a farmer. LOL

But, your llamas are still cute!

Chris said...

Hee hee - having grown up on a farm... there's a reason I live in an urban condo now! :D That t-shirt totally rocks, doesn't it?!??

Puss-in-Boots said...

I think one of the yukkiest things on a farm is when you're milking, washing the cow's udder before attaching the cups and she lifts her tail and gives you shampoo and rinse! Or when a cow stands on your foot...just because.

Your deer sound like our kangaroos, we have fur lined roads, not necessarily out in the bush, either but on the motorways, freeways and highways. Stupid animals...no road sense whatsoever.

Elizabeth said...

It's funny how when you grow up in one place (city or country) you crave the experience of the other. Both have good and bad to live through, that's for sure. It all sounds dandy there, except maybe the pizzle rot....

Was that a wee strawberry plant peeking out of the straw?

Gattina said...

You can't discourage me (grin*) I am safe behind my desk and just participate from far and that is wonderful. Although I am convinced your life is much more interesting then sitting in an office and counting seconds until the day is over. At least you can poo talk or complain when a llama spit in your face. You can disturb hen mothers and make a mess in her eggs. You can count the little chicken then and you have to go out everyday which is very healthy (when I don't have to do it) see, there are only advantages. Anyway I find it wonderful that you gave up city life for a farm !

Obsidian Kitten said...

Oh Puss-in-Boots, I've never milked a cow--but ewww!

Over here we think kangaroos (and koalas, of course) are just SO adorable and cute and exotic--we don't have any of them. It's hard to imagine the roadways littered with kangaroos...but I imagine you're right, and they're much like our deer.

Raccoons and opossums (the American sort) are almost as plentiful dead on the road as well. Both are nocturnal, and have a nasty habit of stumbling with full bellies (they're notorious garbage-pickers) into the road and getting hit, probably in no small thanks to the fact that many people leave their trash cans out by the curbside overnight for the garbage men to pick up in the early morning hours. But I suppose there are worse ways to go than in a blinding flash of light with your stomach full of all your favourite treats...

And yes, that's what was left of a strawberry plant after it was decimated by the deer. (The link goes to our various and rather humorous attempts to thwart them.)

I did spend enough time in an office counting the seconds left in my day to truly appreciate all the good things about living here. (And the bad isn't at all bad, really, considering I spent a much of my childhood fantasizing about being a country veterinarian anyway.) I just thought it would be fun to post about the less romantic (but still entertaining!) side of things on the farm.

Carrie K said...

Glamour! Excitement! cute but possibly not very cuddly animals.

It still sounds like loads of fun. To read about. Cold? There's a reason my parents left Michigan for California....

LesleyD said...

LOVE that Natalie Dee pic so much that I bought a knitting bag with that pic on it!!! I love the bag too!!

roxtarchic said...

PIZZLE ROT... okay... i wanna rename our band to PIZZLE ROT.. that is just beyond HYSTERICAL... pizzle rot pizzle rot pizzle rot..

ooooh i'm gonna be entertaining on the train tonite!!!! hahahahahah

pins&needles said...

Even though you are trying to convince me/us that country living is not as glamorous as you are saying, it still sounds fun. I'd probably would do it for a week and say no more. But the "you know your in the country" list is a lot like what my friends did growing up. I've never lived in the country, but I knew a lot of people who do. My roommate was telling me the other day about how she grew up raising and eating her own chickens. Plus, be thankful that you can see the milky way.

Obsidian Kitten said...

"Pizzle rot" may just be my new favorite curse. Or, well, a great name for a band...rotfl

And by the way, if you feed your dog "pizzle sticks"--they are a *very* healthy treat made from the bull's pizzle...which, incidentally, can be up to 4 or 5 feet in length. They also make walking sticks out of them. (Do a search on eBay for "bull walking stick." I couldn't make this stuff up.)

and ah, yes...the Milky Way! not just a candy bar any more. and the meteor showers in late summer ~ absolutely spectacular. it's as if it's raining shooting stars for hours on end.

in Hoboken if there were six or seven stars in the night sky it was a really, really clear night...