Our farmhouse sits on about five acres of ‘yard’. These five acres are much more trouble than the other 25+ acres of ‘pasture’. Why, you ask? Because, they’re encircled by a wooden rail fence.
Although the fence is fairly aesthetically pleasing, it has a serious downside. You can easily spot the downside when you notice the sheep’s reaction to it. They don’t wander about inside it. They don’t poke their heads through its gaps and graze on the other side. No! They put their hooves over their mouths in a failed attempt to smother laughter as they run straight through it in the ovine equivalent of ‘Red Rover, Red Rover, Can Number 31 Come Over’!
This means that the entire ‘yard’ must be MOWED…and weedeated! We have a riding mower and willing teenage drivers. However, we also have weird Texas weather and oolie-goolie black clay soil. With all the unseasonal rain, (Who ever heard of rain in July…in Texas?!?), the grass (Ok, really it’s mostly weeds.) has shot up and the mud goes deep down!
Our elderly, yet intrepid, riding mower would choke, cough, backfire, and die if it tried to battle the resulting rainforest. It would also sink into the mud, resurfacing later in the Zhejiang province of China!
Jonah has done fierce battle with the encroaching green hordes! He fought valiantly armed only with a push mower and an iPod. But frankly, it’s like trying to clean the hay out of our SUV with a pair of tweezers and a lint roller. Each time he does a section, the clouds roll in. Then, some malevolent god from Greek mythology zaps the ground between Jonah’s feet with a lightning bolt. As the sizzle from the electric vendetta clears, Zeus signals the beginning of the next monsoon.
Actually, did Ancient China have a god of unkempt weeds? Perhaps, that’s it! I think the goal of this entire cursed weather is to suck the riding mower through to a remote shrine in the Chinese countryside! The Ancient Chinese god of Dallas grass, hairy vetch, and dandelions really wants a venerable riding lawnmower! I know! The mower is to become an altar on which slow growing weeds are sacrificed to ensure mucky muddy wet springs!
Ok, Anne, reel it in a little. Back to jungle warfare.
After acknowledging defeat, Gasoline and Steel slunk away from the field of battle. Thus, for a while, the water and vegetation were victorious. Then, in time-honored homestead tradition, Liam and I brainstormed for a viable Plan H. In case you don’t know, Plan H is what we rely on when all the easy, pretty, practical solutions fail. Plan H is the work hard, try not to swear, it-doesn’t-have-to-look-good-it-just-has-to-work, git’er done, last-ditch backup plan. Our Plan H happened to be twofold.
First, we fenced in a small section with electric netting. Into this, we placed the sheep. I’ve shared our sheep moving adventures before. We’ve had sheep flop on the ground and refuse to move like two-year-olds being dragged from an episode of Paw Patrol. We’ve had sheep leap lemming-like into the deep end of the swimming pool.
We once had a sheep run head first into the fifteen-inch gap between two parallel fences, wedge there like a fat lady stuck in a cheap plastic chair, and force us to pry slats of wood from the fence and climb into the (spider infested) gap. Only then, did the sheep manage to squirm further back leaving us no option, but to toss the hairy escapologist over the fence into the ‘loving’ arms of a family member. Said family member reported a sudden inexplicable craving for mutton stew! (Yes, that was Number 29. Yes, I keep reminding myself she’s a terrific mother. Yes, some days she still makes me crave gyros and tzatziki!)
However, on this occasion, the sheep took one look at the lush green grass and shouted, “Last one in is a carnivore!” They raced for the pen like teenage boys headed to an all-night pizza buffet. No drama, no trauma, no sweat, and no swearing! It was a sheepish miracle!
Part two of operation Tame the Jungle was the deployment our two herbivorous bottomless pits. Believe me, Finnbarr alone can take out more grass than a John Deere combine harvester! Our wooden fence won’t hold sheep, but it does a pretty good job keeping horses in. Unfortunately, our vegetable garden and shop (which holds hay and horse feed) are inside the wooden fence. So, although the fence would keep horses in, we needed to keep them out of certain spaces. We’ve had the horses up by the house before and apart from some nibbled wandering jew, there were no issues. So, Liam and the kids ran an electric wire around the shop and the exposed side of the garden. We opened the pasture gate and the horses strolled in like they owned the joint.
That moment was just before our plans went awry.
The Lawnmower Cut Liam Off!
You see, I envisioned pastoral scenes of beauty! I intended to take my tea on the porch while looking out at the grazing grateful horses. In short, I was expecting this:
Instead, I got, well…Finn. And, like rowdy teenagers, he seems to be having a bad influence on Ronan. (If you’re new to the blog, the palomino is Finnbarr the bum-biting quarter horse. The buckskin is Ronan, who lives in search of equine prozac.)
It all started at feeding time. Liam made the mistake of bringing the feed out before tying the horses. (Finn has to be tied, because, he’s a bully and will chase Ronan from his food.) So, Liam came ambling out of the shop carrying two buckets of feed. Finn’s ears perked up and he came marching over fully intending to shove his head in a bucket. Liam moved the buckets to his other hand. Finn, annoyed at this guff from his servant, picked up his pace and tried to get around Liam. Liam swung the bucket and bonked Finn on the nose with it. Then, he sped up and walked past the totally cheesed-off equine.
At this point, Finn, a retired calf roping horse, seemed to become possessed by the spirit of some cutting horse ancestor. He kept pushing ahead of Liam and pivoting to the side in an attempt to stop Liam from reaching the posts where we tie them. I swear I’ve seen cutting horses isolate a steer from a herd, with less skill than Finn was showing. Liam kept fussing at him, speeding up, and intermittently swinging the bucket to clonk him on the nose, but nothing deterred Finn from his quest to shove his ten-ton head into the grain bucket.
Finally, Liam had the ‘brilliant’ idea to avoid Finn by crossing the front porch. Finn doesn’t like stepping up onto concrete, so Liam figured he could use it as a shortcut. Unfortunately, in making this plan, he forgot to consider Finn’s professional level of bloody-mindedness! Finn stepped onto the porch without hesitating. In fact, the only benefit to the porch was the steel columns. They prevented further displays of cutting horse prowess. Finn was restricted to trailing Liam, intermittently stepping on his heels, and trying to get into the bucket from behind. Finally, Liam reached the area where we feed. He shoved the buckets through the fence, which ratcheted Finn’s attitude up several notches, but allowed Liam to tie them before bringing the food back into play.
We thought this was the end of the lawn mowing issues, but little did we know that Ronan was making notes. Mostly, he noted that Finn walked across the porch and was neither swallowed by the earth nor attacked by hobgoblins. It took him a while to mull it over and pluck up courage, but this is what greeted us when we came down for breakfast:
It was rather disconcerting first thing in the morning! We also discovered, that he must have been lying in wait for a while, because, when we went out to feed, we discovered this outside the window:
On. my. front. porch… It didn’t end there. Once Ronan had decided the porch was a ‘safe zone’, he was thrilled! He’s taken to lying in wait for one of us to come out. Believe me, there’s nothing quite like walking out your front door and being confronted by a ginormous horse bum!
Ronan even became fascinated by watching the dog eat. Our big male dog is so passive we have to feed him alone, because, he’ll share with the cats or let his sister eat the lion’s share. However, Cathal simply ignored Ronan.
When Cathal was finished and went back inside, Ronan couldn’t resist tasting that last remaining bit of kibble. Let’s just say he was unimpressed. He wandered around snorting and doing that prehensile lip thing that horses do.
What has Finn been doing during all this ‘peeping tom-ery’? Apart from bullying the dogs every time they step out to potty, he has developed an unhealthy obsession with…my car!
He hasn’t hurt anything. He just hangs out by the car…all the time. He occasionally licks the windshield. Once, he bumped a tire with his hoof. He just did it the one time. I swear it reminded me of old movies where the guy kicks the tires before buying the car. If I try to move the car, he gets directly behind it and refuses to move ignoring my shouting, engine revving, and horn honking. The last time I left for work, one of the kids had to take him by the headstall and march him away!
So, how is Plan H working? Well, it isn’t pretty, but considering the crashes and booms rolling in and the streaks shooting through the sky, I think it’s working pretty well. After all, I have the only landscapers willing to work in a deluge for room and board! I guess I can live with peeping-toms, poop on the porch, and Finn’s pursuit of my car. Now, if I could just get them to weed the garden…………
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