Saturday, October 14, 2006

Out of Control

My morning routine has gotten out of control. The progression from sane to insane has gone something like this.

It started out giving the goats Chow in the mornings. During the summer, it was light out (and warm) quite early so at around 6:30am, after I had showered, I would throw my PJs back on, run outside, and give the goats their breakfast before getting ready for work. I'd leave the house dressed, coiffed and maquillaged and get straight into the car and drive into Charlotte.

But as summer wound down and the days got shorter, going outside at 6:30am in the dark seemed silly (plus they weren't always out yet). So I'd wait until 7ish, right around when I need to leave for work, and give the goats their breakfast en route to the car. The big concern here was would Elvis put his hooves on my new dress from Barney's and I am happy to say that thanks to some defensive posturing, I remained hoofprint free.

The gate in and out of the pasture has always been a problem. It's called a farm gate and it doesn't latch, rather a chain loops around the post and is secured with something that reminds me of a carabineer, only it doesn't click open, you have to unscrew it. Needless to say, the simple act of getting in and out of the pasture has always been a struggle - especially when one is trying to balance an overflowing handbag, a cup of coffee and a scoop of Chow. Additional problems reside in the fact that our gate is short, which means there is enough room for the goats to squeeze under and find themselves on the wrong side of the fence. We had propped a board up against the bottom while we evaluated a more permanent solution, but then Ann-Margaret discovered she could knock the board over so now the board is weighted down with two rocks.

Which means that every morning, in the dark, Louis Vuitton Alma dangling from my wrist, heels sticking out making the bag overstuffed and awkward to maneuver, cup of iced coffee in the same hand, and a large scoop of Chow in the other - not to mention suited up for a power day at my power job - I have to lean over, remove the rocks (which are dirty and cold and occasionally wet from the dew), push the board to the side, unscrew the cold piece of metal which secures the gate, defensively step into the pasture to prevent the goats from "hoofing" me, and dump the chow into their trough. It's a delicate balancing act but one I seem to have pretty much nailed.

Then last week, there was a disturbing new development. Elvis began to head butt Ann-Margaret out of their shared feeding trough. I discovered this after I had been into the pasture, given them their feed, left the pasture, gotten into the truck, and was getting ready to start it when I heard Ann-Margaret crying. I got out of the truck, walked outside, and saw Ann-Margaret standing off to the side while Elvis pigged out. So I ran to the fence, tried to shoo Elvis away (hard to do with a fence separating us), and ultimately found myself getting another scoop of Chow, going back into the pasture, and trying to hand feed Ann-Margaret while keeping the very hungry Elvis at bay.

Marty and I chalked up this new behavior to Elvis's testosterone levels and alpha status, but also to the fact that the trough is small and the goats are bigger. Elvis is probably twice the size of when we got him and little Ann-Margaret has baby horns, whereas before she had none.

So over the weekend we purchased an identical trough to give them more room. The troughs are side by side and we try to give Elvis about 2/3 of the Chow and the other 1/3 to Ann-Margaret. Of course, they don't realize these are their own personal troughs and they tumble over one another trying to eat what the other one is eating (thinking it is somehow better) - although they typically figure it out and finish their meal side by side. Still, it helps if you stay in the pasture to watch them feed because Elvis won't dare head butt Ann-Margaret if Marty or I are standing there. Then again, running out the door to work, I don't have time to watch them feed so the morning is a crapshoot on how much Ann-Margaret will eat.

Then came Antonio Vivaldi. Antonio is a stray kitten we found in our garage 3 nights ago in the middle of a rainstorm. He was just sitting there when Marty went to pull the truck in. Of course, we gave him a can of food, which he would only eat when we had retreated a respectable distance, and we left the truck out in the rain because the little guy wouldn't move.

Thursday night, Antonio got bolder. He began rubbing up and down against our legs. He let us pick him up. He followed me to the fence while I fed the goats their nightly animal crackers. In fact, we couldn't quite shake him - he was constantly underfoot (literally - I tripped over him numerous times).

We couldn't bring him the house, so I took the oversized carrying case we had purchased for the goats (which is already in the garage), piled up some old blankets and towels inside and tried to make a cozy nook for Antonio. I even crawled in there (that's how big it is) so that Antonio would follow me (he did) and see what a wonderful sleeping environment I had created.

We eventually managed to sneak in the house and I suppose only the strains of Grey's Anatomy on the TV kept me from hearing Antonio's pitiful meows.

Between Elvis's new alpha feeding tactics and the attention-seeking kitten, I knew Friday morning would take time. I just didn't know how much. But I planned accordingly and left the house at 6:40am. This is how it went.

Still pitch black, I step outside, bag dangling awkwardly from my wrist, a plate with a piece of turkey and a small saucer of milk balanced in my other hand. As soon as I step outside the goats start bleating for the breakfast. Then Antonio pokes his head out from the garage and comes running straight for me. I put the bag down, along with Antonio's breakfast, and get a large scoop of Chow for the goats, all the while the kitten dancing in and out of my legs. I walk to fence, rest the scoop on the post, and begin the process of opening the gate. I don't know why, but for some reason I don't want Antonio to get into the pasture. Not that the goats will eat him. Not that he'll hurt them. and frankly, he's so little he could probably wiggle through the fence and get in there anyways. But this morning, my mission is to keep all species on their respective sides and so I am extra defensive in my movements, trying to keep Antonio separated from Elvis and Ann-Margaret.

The feed is distributed. I would love to spend a minute or 2 to ensure that Ann-Margaret has time to eat but I am also worried about how to get the car out of the garage without running the kitten over. So I make a premature exit out the pasture (knowing that if Ann-Margaret doesn't eat, Marty will spoil her with plenty of animal crackers later on today), pick up my bag and the saucer of milk and head to the garage. Again, all the while Antonio is darting around my feet, nearly tripping me at least once. I rest the saucer of milk on top of the case which I hope has become Antonio's new home, scoop him up and try to put him in there. He darts out before I can latch the door. I am successful on the second try and I pull the car out without fear of running over my new kitten.

As I pull out, I see Ann-Margaret off to the side. Shit. I get out and walk to the fence. She has feed in her trough, but Elvis won't let her get at it. So back into the pasture where I have to stand watch so my baby can have her breakfast. Antonio's meows fill my ears.

Back to the garage I unlatch the gate and let the kitten out. I put down the saucer of milk and he ravenously begins lapping it up. But the dry food is all gone (we had given him a large scoop last night - enough to last Sebastian for 4 days) so I run back into the house and grab a big plate of dry food, I also add some ripped up fresh turkey because hey - why shouldn't Antonio be spoiled like every one else? I put the food down next to the milk and try to leave but kitty seems more interested in where I am heading then his breakfast. I pick him up and place him practically on top of his food and this time it takes. He starts eating. I dash out of the garage, into the car (no time for my usual morning farewell to the goats) and peel out, all the while fearful that the kitten has still managed to follow me and that I will somehow run him over.

All this before 7.

I don't know what else to say except -

If that ain't country, I'll kiss your....


ps when I relayed my tale to Marty he told me I was nuts. He said I should just feed the goats and let nature take its course (ie either Ann-Margaret will learn to stick up for herself or she won't get her chow) and not worry about the cat - he'll move out of the way when I start to back out.

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