My job lately has been feeding the animals, something Michele usually does, but she’s still recovering from foot surgery she had three weeks back. She’s doing great, but she moves a little slower with a big surgical boot on her foot.
This morning I went over to the grain barrels and lifted the cover, but before I could start counting out scoops of grain into a bucket, I stopped and looked around. My buddy the cat usually hangs out in the barn, but he (or she, since I have no idea what sex it is) was mewing from by the house. I stopped and listened. It was a plaintive, troubled mew. “Cat?” I said, “Are you okay? Where are you?”
I walked over to the deck and looked underneath, thinking he might be hurt and stuck under there. He kept mewing, then stopped when I stuck my head under the deck, then started again when I stood back up again. “I can’t see you,” I apologized and went back to my grain scooping.
One of my duties is to feed the chickens and the peeps, who were tiny in August but have grown big enough so that my buddy the cat probably won’t try to eat them.
They’ve been cooped up in a brood box inside the hen house the whole time, but Michele decided last week that we could open the top of the box and let them get out if they wanted to. One brave speckled peep immediately fluttered out and started exploring.
Today was the first day that NONE of the peeps were in their brood box when I came in. I have to be careful because the brave peep always wants to try to get out the door to the outside world, but I happen to know that she’ll quickly be chicken dinner for a certain Flemish Bouvier named Grungie. When I go in the hen house in the morning, I shoo all the geese and chickens out the little door to the outdoor portion of the coop and then put a bucket in the doorway so they won’t come in, because I’m scared of the geese and the rooster. Then I refill the peeps water bottle if they need water and give them some 4-way grain. They think I rock. They mob me like I’m a rock star and peck inquisitively at my boots, peeping the whole time. After I’ve made sure there’s enough food for everyone, I gather whatever eggs are lying around, remove my protective bucket from the chicken door, and try to extricate myself from the hen house without any of the peeps escaping, Kittie, the Australian Shepherd, from darting in to look for any eggs I’ve missed, or the geese returning and screaming geese cuss words at me. I stole two of their eggs last week, and I think they’re still sore. Boy, are those things big!
Since all of the peeps were out of the brood box, and I’m not convinced they all know how to get back in, I try to keep plenty of water within easy reach in the water buckets the rest of the poultry use. I’m afraid they won’t know how to perch on the edge of the buckets and lean over to get a drink. So I hooked up the hose, turned on the water, and went down the hill to get the other end. We always stretch the hoses out to drain after we use them in the winter, because otherwise they’ll freeze solid and become useless.
I was trudging back up the hill with the business end of the hose when Michele called to me from the back door asking if I would take her offering to the chickens with me. Her offering was the remains of canning beets the day before. Then she turned and looked up. “Oh, the cat is on the roof.” Sure enough, right above her, the cat was perched at the edge of the gutter, stretching his neck toward her and pleading with her to bring the ground closer. “How are we going to get her down?” Michele glanced at me.
“I’ll get him down,” I said, taking the chicken offering.
“How are you going to do that?”
I shrugged, “I’ll think of something.”
“Okaaay,” Michele said doubtfully, but she hobbled inside anyway.
That’s why the cat stopped mewing whenever I ducked under the deck. He couldn’t see me anymore from up on top of the roof.
I dumped the beet carcasses between the chicken wire, and the geese’s screaming turned to more of a honking-with-food-in-your-mouth kind of sound as they dug into the tasty, red garbage. Then they hopped out of the way quickly as I squirted water into the first of the water buckets. When I had filled them all, the peeps hurried to the shallowest and gulped down muddy water thirstily.
Next I turned my attention to the cat, who was above the gas grill, tentatively poking a black paw out into the air, trying to judge the distance down. I looked around and decided the extension ladder was the way to go, propping it up on the gutter. I climbed up to the roof line and called coaxingly to the cat. He said he was glad to see me but the grill was just too far away. I told him to come over to where I was, but he was too busy telling me what a pickle he was in. So I climbed up onto the shingles and walked over to him. He happily rubbed up against me like he does every morning when I feed him and let me pick him up and carry him back over to the ladder. He’s one of those cats that doesn’t mind being picked up and actually seems to crave it. For the first couple months I knew him, he would throw himself into my arms every time I came into the barn, whether or not I was paying attention to him. After being thrown back behind some hay bales (gently) a few times when I was too busy to be petting him, he stopped that and was content to bat at the baling twine when I cut loose a new bale or just sit at my eye level and tell me good morning over and over again.
To remount the ladder, I put him back down on shingles, where he looked at the narrow steps and said to me, “You’ve got to be kidding.”
I told him, “Don’t worry, I’ll carry you down.” We did a little dance while I tried to pick him up without freaking him out and he balanced a desire to be close to me with a wariness of being pulled too close to the edge. Finally, I got a good hold around his belly with two hands and climbed down holding him away from the ladder so he wouldn’t panic and try to reach for it. When we got close enough to the ground, he started doing his cat wiggle to get loose, so I lowered him to about a foot above the deck and dropped him. He turned and gave me a satisfied mew, then ran off to find his breakfast, while I put the ladder away.