Monday, December 10, 2007

A Day in the Life (This story is a long on.)

There hasn't been much excitement around the Farm lately, so I think I will just take you through one of my ordinary days, like yesterday.

First of all, we get up with the chickens or in our case, the puppies. That means it is just about the time the sun comes up. If the puppies sleep in, so do we. Since there is no time clock to punch we pretty much take the day as it comes. Most summer days we are up at 5 am or earlier, but at this time of year, it is too dark and cold to get up that early, so things move at a little slower pace.

I get up first, usually, unless the Farmer has something to do. I am one of those people whose eyes fly open early and then they are AWAKE. No lounging around in the sack or going back to sleep. That drives me crazy and I don't know how people can do that. Anyway, I get up and immediately get dressed because there are 6 dogs waiting to go outside for their morning constitutional.

For the most part, our dogs are outside, but once it gets to around 45 degrees at night, they all come in for the night. Because we follow a routine that is almost a ritual, getting everybody out is not a big deal. Of course, we aren't quiet, so the Farmer is not far behind. Usually all this is happening about 6:45 and it has been COLD for the past couple of mornings. We come back in and the big dogs go back to bed and the puppies get to run around the kitchen and play with us, get their breakfast, wrestle and then go back to their kennels until it is "outside time". Soon as it warms up enough, they go to their outdoor kennel to run and play some more. Maggie and Jack are usually wherever we are and Callie goes into her outdoor kennel. She is the official guardian of the chickens, so she spends her day patrolling the perimeter of her kennel (which is right by the chicken lots), taking long naps in the sun or barking at those big, funny looking dogs in the back pasture (they are actually dairy cows from the organic dairy next door).

After the dogs settle in for the rest of the day, it is time to feed the chickens. That doesn't take but about 20 minutes and is so boring a chore it doesn't warrant more than this sentence. After the chickens, I feed the barn cats their breakfast. Like the dogs, if it is cold, they are huddled up in a pile and reluctant to come out, so they get fed later in the morning.

The feline matriarch at our farm is Garbo and she is mother to anything and everything that comes around. She even catches mice for the puppies. The first time I saw her do that I thought she was just playing with them (pups)through the fence but when I went closer, she was actually pushing the mouse into the pen with the puppies, just like she would do with her kittens.

A couple of years ago, she stole a litter of kittens from another cat and when I went to check on her kittens in her box on the back porch, there were nine kittens instead of 4. She raised all of nine of them. The mother of those kittens was a little sad stray somebody put out and she was wild as all get out and a terrible mother. I think Garbo sensed that and decided to step in. She has never done anything like that, either before or after that time.

Garbs is also a great big cat, bigger than most toms. She is not called Garbo because of shyness but rather because she has given new meaning to aloof and haughty, even when referring to a cat. Also, IF she is in the mood to let you pet her, you better be prepared to do so at your own risk because if you don't pet properly or for the amount of time she has allotted for your attention, she will grab your hand (or anything else handy) and hold onto you until you start up again. While I don't think she means to do any harm intentionally, a 15 lb cat can hurt you with their love. The good news is that if you never start petting her, she will accept that and leave you alone. And when I said she was 15 lbs, I might add there is not an ounce of fat on her anywhere.

Garbo is also our miracle cat. Back in the summer, I was out in the backyard hanging up clothes when I saw her coming across the yard. She wasn't walking or moving any different that normal but as she got closer I noticed a gaping wound all the way across her chest.

I have to be graphic to make a point to this story, so skip this next part if you are squeamish.

The only way to describe this wound is to say that it looked like somebody had flayed this cat open. The wound was at least 4 inches long and it was so deep that you could see the bones in her chest moving as she walked. Miraculously, there was not another mark nor was there any blood on her anywhere. She just walked up to me and me-meowed like she always does when she is feeling social. Because it was late on Sunday afternoon and my vet was out of town, we decided since she wasn't debilitated or in any pain, we would wait until Monday and take her to our regular vet instead of the emergency clinic. Since she loves to be indoors, I put her into one of our pet crates, fed and watered her and made her as comfortable as possible. She purred and just rested quietly for the rest of the evening.

First thing, the next morning, I took Garbs to the vet. The first comment everybody who saw her made was that they had never seen anything like it before. The muscles were severed in two, the skin peeled back and you could still see the white bones of her sternum and her front legs moving when she walked. It was an amazing thing to see.

The prognosis from the vet was pretty bleak. She said that the wound couldn't just be sewed up because of the damage to several layers of muscle and the angle of the cut. Garbo needed major surgery to repaid the damage and then she would have to have meds, lots of follow up and a long recovery period. The bottom line cost was estimated at about $500-600 if no complications. My heart sank because I knew we couldn't afford to spend that much on a barn cat, no matter how much I loved her. The alternative was euthanasia which was something I couldn't even consider.

Shaken, I called The Farmer and he said to get some antibiotics from the vet and bring Garbo on home. The vet hooked us up with antibiotics, pain meds, something to irrigate the wound and something extra for the last moments. I brought Garbs home and we again put her in the kennel and made her comfortable. This was mostly for my benefit because she still acted like nothing was wrong. I brought her home to die but she seemed to be in complete denial.

But then the miracle continued. I tried to give her the pain meds but she resisted to the point that I decided it would hurt her more to be jumping around so I put that away. When I tried to clean and irrigate the wound, she let me know very quickly that she could do a much better and efficient job and so that item, too, was put away. I did crush up the antibiotics into her food because I knew that trying to shove a pill down her throat would be worst than the other two "treatments" I had tried to administer.
(Let me point out here that this is the way it is on a farm. Taking every sick or injured animal to the vet is usually not an option. You have to learn how to treat wounds, deliver meds, give injections and so on, so this is not something I recommend for you to try with your pets at home. I know what I am doing and have been an animal rehabber. The Farmer is also a licensed general falconer and we have kept a red tailed hawk for the past 9 years, so our combined experience and varied knowledge is way past the average person's.)

By the next morning, I was beginning to have a little hope, although I figured that she would be damaged beyond having a normal life and would spend her days sitting around the house. Of course, Garbo had other ideas. She finally decided that she was hungry enough to eat the food with the crushed pills in it and didn't object after that point. She simple spit out any pieces big enough for her to detect. Her tongue must be ultra-sensitive because there was dust in the bottom of her bowl. I tried dissolving the stuff in some milk, which she hates anyway and that was just a waste of a pill and a bowl of milk.

Finally, after about 3 days of trying to trick her into these meds, I gave up. She looked fine, the wound was starting to heal and I figured what the heck. If she was doing that well with the relatively small dose of meds I had managed to get into her, we'd just chance it.

On the fourth day, she wanted to go out and stayed out for most of the day. The other cats came up to greet her and she warned them off with a hiss, which is all it has ever taken, so there was not a major confrontation in the backyard. She hung around the back steps and lounged on one of the yard chairs and came back in to eat, etc. a couple of times when I came in from the field to check on her. At the end of the first week, she was almost completely back into her regular daily routine, except she was smart enough not to go out hunting or stray too far from the house and yard because that gaping hole in her chest remained. Every day she seemed to be a little more her old self, just a little more restrained. After 3 1/2 weeks, there was little sign that she had ever been injured so severely, just a little bare patch on her chest and a little pink spot that took a while longer to heal over.

Garbo is now 100% back to her old self. There is not even a scar where she was hurt. Her beautiful soft white fur has completely grown back in and you can barely feel a little bump under it where that awful wound was. We can only speculate but think that she may have jumped up after something and gotten caught on a barbed wire fence and her weight caused the barb to slice through her. We haven't come up with anything else that makes any sense because that wound looked very much like an incision.

We will never know what really happened, but I am just thankful that we made the decision not to have her put down. She is totally Garbs again, the Queen of the Farm and everybody knows it. Now, she is as powerful and graceful as she was before the accident...the tiny lioness once again.

She is also the keeper of a secret that we will never have the answer to. The miracle of her recovery from what should have been a devastating injury is something to ponder. Was it the incredible healing power of a predatory animal, or her instinctive knowing what to do to heal herself that saved her life? Who knows? The fact remains that she showed us just how much faith she had in her own ability to recover and she never waivered in that. There was a profound lesson to be learned here and it was not wasted on me.

This is Garbo today. Garbo showing her love.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

What a great kid's book!!!

I’ve just finished reading a WONDERFUL new book that I’d like to recommend to
anyone who has kids, knows kids, likes kids, works with kids or has ever been a kid!

This is a story about the “search for intelligent food on planet earth” and
tells the adventures of a hungry alien looking for some REAL food here on earth. Although
“No Eat Not Food” was written for 8 to 12 year olds,
I’m sure anyone would find it a delightful romp
through the principles we hold so dear: biodiversity, sustainable
farming practices, food ethics and a healthful, natural lifestyle for all.
The book is funny, sweet, informative and the artwork is excellent.
I am just thrilled to help to spread the word about it.

The book has won two national level book awards, and I personally give it
the official “New Moon Farm Sustainable Stamp of Organic Approval!”

To order go to or call 888 224 9997.
Order directly from the author and get your copy personally autographed!