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HOMEGROWN Life: The Language of Animals

| 12/5/2013 10:04:00 AM

I lost one of my cats recently to liver disease. I nursed her at home, choosing to keep her comfortable and give her the care she needed to the end. Found on the side of the road at two weeks, she was gifted to me at one month. I didn’t know what to name her when I got her. She was pretty feral from her experience of being tossed aside like somebody’s discarded McDonald’s hamburger bag. Morgan le Fay, my vet named her, after a woman of supernatural powers, according to Irish legend.

The last weeks of her life, Morgan developed her own language. She sat with me, something she never did before, lying quietly while I gave her IV fluids to keep her hydrated. She purred a lot, loudly at times. At the end, she called out a few times as her life was leaving her and meowed one last time before she took her last breath, her head in my hand. I’m glad I was there to listen.

With the change of seasons, there are quiet and not so quiet exchanges going on in the barn. It’s breeding time. Every 21 days or so, one or all the dairy girls experience body cycles signaling that it’s time for a visit to Mr. Neptune on Brian’s farm.

HOMEGROWN Life: The Language of AnimalsThere’s an order to the herd, Dollie being herd queen. In goat language, the queen goes first to the milking stand. Smooth, quiet, unassuming Dollie. Nothing fazes her. Her mere presence and body language say it all. Confident and assured. But it hasn’t always been so. In her former herd, small Dollie was the one bullied. The larger girls took full advantage. But now that Frannie is attempting to dethrone Dollie and advance as herd queen, Dollie isn’t repeating the cycle. It’s a beautiful display of compassion by one who comfortably holds the top position and doesn’t need to assert force to maintain her status. Like teaching a child by allowing him to go through his own motions, the lesson is learned. Sometimes, as in Frannie’s case, the lesson is repeated. We all learn at our own pace.

The children’s book Doctor Doolittle touts communicating with animals and witnessing their communication among one another as an acquirable skill. Farmers have opportunities on a daily basis to hone their powers of observation. Lately, for me this has included watching new turkey poults running from end to end of the barn, testing their wings, and picking at stray bits of grain, tiny bits of fluff and feathers already in full display, communicating their maleness. Amazing. The poults wander into the stalls, where 150-pound creatures gently greet them with soft pink noses. Curious. Long, agile legs move slowly as the tiny visitors wander in and out. Miraculous: sharing space with no rules except to watch out for one another.

Winter is moving slowly in. The air is crisp. Milk buckets and totes are all but stored away. One more week of milking with Sea Princess. Dollie was dried off long ago for a good, solid rest. Frannie started her process this week. Jack Fergus and Co. have been busy courting. The flock has seen its way through the heat of summer. Winter coats are already getting that wooly look to them, reminding me of last year’s snows. The days are shorter now. Color comes in long, sharp rays.

12/18/2013 7:44:13 PM

I loved your post! The quietness always draws me in too. Time doesn't register when watching them. I raise goats and sheep. Their personalities and wants are all so different. I am also amazed at how their need for closeness increases when they are getting close to kidding or lambing. I have had some, however, who have a complete personality change and become standoffish. ~Kat ~Where Caprines Reign Supreme~

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