My daughter’s friend canceled her New Year’s Bash because her two outdoor cats ate a rabid bat a couple days ago. They are in 45-day quarantine, indoors, and wrecking the house. And so 2022 refuses to pass without leaving a debris trail.
During this wretched year I have endured the death of my life partner, a flood, a car crash, a neighbor unexpectedly removed and replaced my fence in the back yard, we had three cases of covid, a major emergency home repair, all my grown children moved back in with me, and a rescued guinea pig burst open and delivered 3 ravenous piglets. I’m ready to move on but part of me wishes I could go backward instead.
Looking behind me I realize how typical this year was for my farm. Operating expenses stayed the same and the population is steady at 43 though some names have changed. I try to focus on the new pets because the losses are so hard. Rescue work is emotionally grueling.
With a bit of help from the rabbit and a squealing herd of mini-capybaras, the sheep ate their way through sixteen bales of hay. We were fortunate to receive a donation of two fifty-pound boxes of Oxbow timothy hay this month. It’s not for the sheep. But it’s a tough lesson for the apartment dweller who didn’t realize she clicked on the “AutoShip” button and then failed to un-click it before the third box arrived on her doorstep. But thank you, the Funny Farm can use it!
Speaking of hay, the quality of the gigantic sheep bales has deteriorated since the pandemic, so the piggies ordered forty-five 3# bags of nice hay that’s not as coarse and twiggy as the sheep hay. (That was before the 2 @ 50# boxes arrived.) The guinea pigs reminded me to tell you about their favorite little bags of treat and how there is never enough of that around here, but they were all pleased with the hay-stuffed play barns that Santa brought.
Nobody but me thinks much about the cage cleaning. I hoisted nine gigantic bales of shavings into their cages, not to mention twelve big bags of CareFresh for the litter boxes and other super soggy places. One week later I hoist all of it out, of course. And repeat.
That’s kind of depressing, if not back-breaking for this old lady. Let’s think about all the beautiful produce the mini-capybaras eat! Salads every night, let’s see, a bit over $900 dollars worth for the year! That’s not including the lettuce, which is mainly for the ducks and geese, of course.
Before we head outdoors to the aviary, let’s stop by the bird room. Yoshi the new conure came with his own food, but if we use the late cockatiel’s consumption as a base, we are looking at maybe twenty pounds of food a year. The parakeet
tossed around ate thirty pounds of food last year. Don’t worry, the seed gets recycled out to the aviary. The chickens don’t waste anything. The handicapped dove does her best to beat the parakeet at his own game. She accounted for twenty pounds of specific dove food but I supplement generously with wild bird food, which she prefers. How about those tiny finches? Seventeen pounds, not too shabby. Don’t even ask about the bird treats and miscellaneous bird snacks and produce.
Let’s go outside. Wild bird seed? Sure, my birds look out the window all day long, responding to the jays, shrieking at the crows. It’s called “enrichment.” Thirteen forty-pound bags, that’s 520# of entertainment and habitat enhancement. Plus the black oil sunflower seeds (200#), suet, and freshly made hummingbird nectar for the wild birds. Who else eats the black oil sunflower seeds? The sheep, of course. Hamish loves them.
What do chickens eat, besides practically everything? (“Fed a vegetarian diet” is so hilarious! As if chickens don’t eat bugs! I’ve seen them fight over a mouse.) I think we’re looking at thirteen 40# bags of layer pellets for 7-10 hens (it was a wild year.) Then there are the calcium supplements and the Pearly Mae supplement. This hen refuses to eat chicken food, but loves the cat food. So I buy her the cheapest dry cat food on the market, because it is almost the same as chicken food- all corn and fillers. Fifty pounds of it this year, but it is cost-effective, and nothing is too good for Pearly Mae.
My four drakes are all over ten years old, the geese are thirteen, only the two muscovy ducks are young. They get poultry food, cracked corn, and lettuce (432 heads) but it is the duck food they love. It floats in water and they dabble for it like it’s grubs in the grass. Two hundred fifty pounds worth this year, and counting. It comes in 50# bags (audible groans) as if it is punishment for having ducks. Even Blind Vinny comes running for his duck food, and I am a sucker for my elderly drakes. So every couple months I have to sweet-talk someone into schlepping one of those big bags back to the storage area, and deposit it into rat-proof galvanized bin #3.
Then there is the turtle food (a pound), salt licks, pasture grass seed, meds, barn boots, work gloves, bungee cords, zip ties, JB Weld, duct tape, and chicken wire.
I always forget about the cats, like they are some bizarre afterthought. That’s because they are more like “staff” than rescue pets. And they are predators and my specialty is prey animals. Half-Stache and Larry are rescued feral strays from the Seattle Alley Cat Project. Stachie (male) and Larry (female) both failed several adoptions before they arrived here, in desperation. They love being outdoor cats with a purpose, and Larry catches rats with some regularity. The rest of the time she kills catnip mice for me. Half-Stache looks on with pride, as if he had something to do with the kill. That’s worth 344 cans of cat food and thirty-five pounds of fancy dry cat food, better than the stuff I buy for Pearly Mae. (No dry cat food is good for cats, but there is bad and worse.)
My Feed Store is a Co-Op so I get some return on my purchases, but that doesn’t quite do it. I organized as a non-profit shortly after I retired and realized I can’t afford to do this work on a fixed income. Our Federal Government recognizes the effort of all charitable organizations that meet a need of our collective community, and that we do it on a shoestring budget because we care. The purpose of the §501(C)(3) IRS designation is to encourage us to continue our work by allowing people to make deductible donations.
By the time I post this blog, it will be too late for a 2022 donation, but I don’t want to compete with the bigger organizations that spent all last week begging for your dollars. Big cash donations are great, but Paypal makes it easy to donate small amounts monthly, and I love to see your name each month. Little donations are fine, and we take actual stuff, too. We’ll trade you for a bag of fertilizer! We hope we’ll be back to giving away eggs next summer, but I can guarantee we’ll still have fertilizer available!
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How’s Paco doing? Come tax refund season, I might be able to setup a bit of a monthly donation. I hope little dude is getting his meds.
Your posts warm my heart, I love reading them and showing them to my girlfriend. We both are glad these little buddies have a great home.
Paco gets his meds regularly, morning and night. He’s gotten used to the routine so I don’t even have to pick him up to give him the meds. I put the syringe up to his mouth and when he bites at it I know he’s ready for me to squirt it into his mouth! I’m no longer hearing the wheezing that initially alerted me to his heart condition, so that’s the best news of all.