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Earwigs

Photo by Sankax — Earwig
Mix of haiku, dialog, and prose about earwigs 3 minutes click above.

Wonders of earwigs

Her cries ring when she finds them–

In folds of white sheets.

 ***************************************** 

Earwigs drown in oil

Dog finds, drink the bugs and fat–

Tongue touch– wet nose smiles on.

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Snow is thawing; the creek is running very high; it’s so noisy I can hear the rushing water one hundred yards away.  My neighbor calls and asks, “Are you thinking about the earwigs?”

“Yes, I am –will it be another earwig year?”

“If we have a wet spring—you can count on it.”

The dread of earwig invasion. 

This is how they are outside:

Under all the flower pots, inside the cracks of the decking, hiding in the crevices of stone comprising the outside farmhouse walls, hiding inside the cap of the hummingbird feeder (how did they climb the tree, travel out on the limb, and crawl down the foot long s-hanger, and wedge themselves under the cap. This is the wonder of the earwigs. And thousands of them.

The damage they do.

They hide during the day and come out at night to eat flower buds and much of the green parts of the flowers. Young springtime flowers are especially vulnerable to earwig attack, so those lovely flats of yellow marigolds and tender purple petunias you bought at the nursery–become swiss cheese works in short order.  It’s painful to see the plants eaten alive like this, and vegetable gardeners have their own earwig tales of young-starts devastation.

Inside the house:

Imagine this. Earwigs behind the picture frames, under the soap dish, wedged in the door jambs, stuffed inside the hinges of the cabinets, inside the inner fold of the wet washcloth hanging in the bathroom.  And, I have to vacuum them up.  Then I dump them in a field away from the house.

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Takes a storm to kill

an earwig or a flower–

Inside, out –earthly hearts shake.

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We’re All Trying to Figure it Out

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com
A very short listen–click above to hear the poem reflecting on the snowstorm.
We’re All Trying to Figure it Out
 
I’ve heard that animals have prescience.
Then why are the hummingbirds and red-winged blackbirds still
here?
Don’t they know about the blizzard...?
 
They smell the walking wall advancing from the west.
The pressure falls.
They feel the moisture in the air as it breathes into their bones.
The sky is dense. 
 
Relentless oyster gauze falls in folds.
Thousands of thin sweet layers pile three feet high.
Baklava and deep silence--
but not to eat--
layers mean desperation.
 
All the food forms are covered and smoothed. 
The Junco’s black eyes glitter.
Her white tail feathers peep. 
She seeks a roost, but --
will she have enough energy to last through the night?
 
Meanwhile, a farmer looks over his accounts while the woodstove pipes along,
steam rises from the pan.
Will he have enough to buy seed for next year and what about that new tractor?
 
Price rise, fall of demand--
Creased brow.
He’s turning the numbers..
 
We’re all trying to figure it out.
 
 
 
 

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Moses Survives

Moses’s corner bed- before all the straw and shaving layers were added.
A quick listen and a quick read. Click above to listen.

Moses the Cheerful has survived several feet of snow and an extreme cold snap. A friend who raises Nigerian Dwarf goats told me, “If you’re gonna lose an old goat, it will be during the winter when it gets so cold. They can get hypothermia quickly and not be able to maintain themselves—their system just tips over.”

Recipe for success:

Ziggy, the donkey was in the stall next to Moses. Ziggy’s body must have given off some warmth.

Shavings and straw layered several feet high were piled in the corner where Moses slept. Goats will pee when they sleep. And urine, plus straw, plus shavings creates heat.

Each morning I added a new layer of straw and shavings over the old layer.

A small bucket of very warm water in the morning, and just before bedtime–Moses would come running for this and suck up several cups.

Plenty of hay.

Stall doors shut at night.

Results:

Water in the buckets inside the stall never froze, even though outside temperatures were in the teens or single digits.

Moses the Cheerful was still in his bed each morning at 8 a.m. when I opened the stall door to feed and clean. He survived.

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Good Fences

A two minute listen–click above.

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This is an illusion .

“Good fences make good neighbors” is a line from Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall”. It’s about keeping a wall between neighbors in good repair. One of the men in the poem doesn’t think the wall is necessary and the other man believes a well-maintained barrier is the best way to stay good neighbors.

 Ziggy and Moses are like these two men.

Ziggy has chosen the wall and Moses would prefer a relationship without barrier.  

We’ve taken the donkey and the goat on a walk twice daily for almost ten days. Moses is always on a leash. The donkey and the goat have shared a large stall at night separated by a wire panel. They have had lots of time to get accustomed to each other.

So, this week I let them out into the big paddock together. They grazed peacefully for 10 minutes, and then unexpectedly Ziggy turned and tried to stomp Moses. I reacted simultaneously by rushing in and yelling and diverted Ziggy just before his front hooves smashed into the goat. Stomping is serious. It’s how a donkey attacks another animal with full intent to do harm. Stomping is a rapid, multiple pummeling of front hooves – drilling the attacked into the earth.

Moses the Cheerful was completely unprepared, and he seemed not to understand what was happening. It may be old age, or he may simply be innocent from living for years around other farm animals he has gotten along with. The dislike Ziggy has for the goat is inexplicable. Goat and donkey are both grazers. They are prey animals. Moses is quiet and gentle.

Often in life things don’t turn out the way we wish, because other factors than just our wishes are at play.

So be it- but Moses stays, and going forward the goat and the donkey can be near each other with a fence line in between. Good fences make good neighbors.

 

 

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Connect

You will notice this piece lacks periods, and so it may be best experienced by listening.
Seated in a folding chair
The stall a safe cocoon
the late afternoon 
Dust motes twinkle in the sun
and slowly circle throughout the air
 
The ritual begins
 
The donkey is already soft
Thick gray hair for winter
Slumped in peacefulness
Lips loose and quivering slightly
The fine hairs on the muzzle 
Slivers of silver 
 
He’ll begin turning soon
As he chooses
A slow-slow rotation like a celestial body in a universe of constellations
His spin made possible by shifting hooves 
based on her hands
and his itch
The circular motions, the scratching, the probing of fingers
The donkey shifts, so that her hands might find a new place or linger in the right one
the grooming orbit
 
Finger sticks
Circumambulating the gray furred butt 
The donkey stops for this rub a long while
Then sweeping down the legs; her small hands brushing downward with the hair 
She finds the back hooves are cool –good
 
He’s spun to the side now 
He’s short -she’s sitting
Her hands smooth the thick coarse fur flat across his back
then her hands scrub his flank like a washerwoman, bits of debris buried deep in the donkey’s coat fall onto her lap
he twitches, blows --her hands smooth his pads of fat, the long-wide lumps signs of too much grass  
 
She reaches the donkey’s underbelly
Its hair short and stuck together in peaked clumps – an unlikely spot for the donkey to reach
so, she spends time, as the clock in the tack room clicks, clicks, clicks, working in circles underbelly to girth
then he shifts yet again to face her so she can explore his chest and neck
she checks the scars where Ziggy was bitten by the other donkey
still some areas in scab --  
she turns her palm over to brush Ziggy’s muscled neck with the back of her hand
taking care not to tear the coverings away  
The neck is rippled lightly with extra fat
Her fingers pull the black mane hairs -so much shorter than a horse’s

Reaching the poll at the base of one long ear, 
she reaches into the ear, and gently scrapes the flakey skin
and pulls the particles away in her fingernails
 
The donkey’s eyes fathomless black pools
muzzle soft as seal skin
breathing velvet
The girls’ hands cradle the donkey’s head, 
hands placed flat on each cheek
Her soft eyes
Her breath - his breath
her chest rises and falls, 
his barrel expands and contracts
soft whispered threads
synchronized 
connect
 
 

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Conversation Between Ziggy and Moses

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I hope you get to listen to this one. Sure to bring a smile, so click on the link above.

When a donkey has never met a goat, and a little goat is accustomed to respect from the big ones (horses that is).  And that old goat meets a bossy little donkey, there’s bound to be some misunderstandings.

Conversations Between Ziggy and Moses

“You really stink, has anyone told you that.”

“I don’t hear you donkee… uh’ Just keep blowin’ on my white rump hairs. Ooh! Watch those lips; I’m not a lollipop you know.”

“What is this I’m smelling; it reminds me of… a mixture of pigeon droppings and chickin messin’s.”

A fair air goes ice. Moses turns around, lowers his head and moves in.

Startled, Ziggy whirls and kicks both feet up in the air.  Runs ten feet; turns to face Moses.

“Ha! The donkee’s afraid of a little-head butt?”

A truce is on for now as Moses returns to watch oak leaves tumble across the paddock. And a small group of roller pigeons stroll and peck for grit.

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Moses the Cheerful

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Click to listen –less than 3 minutes.

Meet Moses—not a donkey but a Nigerian Dwarf goat.

He’s quite the old man.  These goats normally live 12 – 14 years, and Moses will be 15 this spring. Moses has lived his entire life at a farm across the valley from ours. He came to our neighbors when he was four days old, and he was bottle fed by our neighbors’ children. He was neutered and had his horns removed early. Later Moses became a 4H goat, and he went on to become a reining county champion.  He was brushed, clipped, he traveled, walked on a lead, hiked with the family, was given treats, and doted on.

His companions the past 14 years have been a horse and another goat. Recently the horse died, and six weeks ago his goat friend was taken by a cougar. Seemed like sad times for Moses.

Then my neighbor heard I was losing one of my donkeys, and she called to see if Moses might come here to live and be a companion for Ziggy.  I’ve never had a goat, but I have heard they can be good friends with donkeys, so I said yes.

Moses has been here a week, and he’s captured all the human hearts, but he and Ziggy don’t quite understand each other yet. And our dogs, the three bird dogs—are just a little too interested in Moses.  I’d say everyone was in a transition except for Moses.

Within hours he was napping twice a day on a straw bed in Ziggy’s stall, relishing Ziggy’s grass hay, and savoring the trees, donkey toys, earthen mounds, and fresh winter air blowing through Ziggy’s paddock. Meanwhile the dogs and the donkey stand outside the fence transfixed by this strange looking bearded creature who has taken over the barn.

Moses the Cheerful lives on, so stay tuned, and we will see how everyone else fits into his life.

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Donkeys Separate

Listen to “Donkeys Separate.” Prose.

The miniature donkeys, Chippo and Ziggy arrived as yearlings to the farm in 2012.  They were sold as a bonded pair.  Bonded in equines means fast buddies, a team that stays together while grazing, a team that grooms each other, plays together, and feels distress when separated. Normally a pair bond lasts a lifetime.

In January 2020 we discovered a sarcoid skin tumor on Ziggy’s sheath.  The tumor grew from an insect sized bite to baseball-like very quickly. We decided to treat aggressively, and we had a vet give Ziggy four chemotherapy injection treatments under anesthesia over a period of five months. During the second treatment in March, the tumor was surgically removed. Right after the surgery we noticed a change of behavior in Chippo.  He started pinning his ears and squealing at Ziggy. We had to separate them to keep Ziggy safe and to allow him time to recover from surgery.  The surgery wound healed quickly, but the relationship between Ziggy and Chippo did not return to the easy going and close friendship they once had.

We noticed an underlying irritation between the donkeys all the time, and often this tension would break out into a full-on fight. Chippo always gained the upper hand, because he is the more powerful donkey—though Ziggy had been the lead donkey before his illness.

By October problems had escalated, and Chippo was actively trying to hurt Ziggy by biting him in the neck. This resulted in open neck wounds, and it became apparent the donkeys needed to be permanently separated.

We believe the relationship between the donkeys changed because of Ziggy’s illness, and possibly because of the chemicals that were added to Ziggy’s system during chemotherapy.  Ziggy was weakened and Chippo sensed this.  Illness and weakness make prey animals more vulnerable to predation, and sometimes weaker animals are left or pushed out of the herd.  Although we don’t see any return of the cancer, and prognosis is good, it is possible Ziggy is still ill. We may never know the exact cause for this pair bond to be broken.

Several days ago, Chippo returned to the farm where he and Ziggy were born, and now Ziggy is our sole donkey. Chippo has other donkeys near him, horses, and goats—plus a home he likely remembers.  The old saying goes–donkeys never forget, and we have found this to be true in our experiences with these donkeys over the past eight years.

 Ziggy has a new friend who has come to the farm to live with him.  His name is Moses, and I will tell you more about him soon.

Chippo returns to the farm where he and Ziggy were born nine years ago.

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The Residents

This poem is best when you listen…
Cracking for kindlin’
and sometimes 
the hatchet sticks.
 
Fancy pigeons struttin’, growlin’ and cooin’.
Watch the hatchet don’t slip.
 
Water drips chatter into whiskey tubs
and overflows through tubing 
hydrate the oaks.
 
Donkeys crunch acorns and
crush others beneath their weighted hooves.
 
A Jay mimics a hawk’s scream 
and blows the songbirds away.
 
Leaps to ground and dabs at the woodstove ash
fired wood- bones – wisps of ghost smoke rise.
 
Meanwhile,
piles of dirty hay ferments
and
the vegetable garden waits.
 
Split the wood,
take a walk
donkey, dog, and she 
threads the meadow
swishes Great Basin Rye 
before this dark rain comes.
 
Overhead crossing the bleakness
a resident raven croaks. 
While the world outside the farm 
tilts just a bit more
toward      
half a bubble    
off              plum.

On the eve of the United States Capitol being stormed by protestors trying to disrupt the government’s certifying of the presidential election results.  January 6th, 2021.

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New Year’s Eve 2020

With the dawning of a New Year, I am always drawn back to Thomas Hardy’s (1840-1928) poem “The Darkling Thrush.” Written in December of 1900 this atmospheric work heralds a new century – a new year. 

Deep winter and a frosty suspension of time and movement isolates everyone behind their heavy doors. Like at our farm and in this poem each year on December 31st– all landscapes are touched by clinging hoarfrost and quiet musing.   A New Year, in Hardy’s poem, is announced by the frail singing thrush.  Its joyful song cuts through the gloomy air and banishes specters from the previous year. 

December 31steach year also marks the day when we do the Christmas Bird Count at the farm. And, to my absolute delight—I saw a new species this morning – a Varied Thrush. A solitary black and orange thrush emitting its buzzy police whistle. “Wake up, Wake Up.” Must be Thomas Hardy’s bird come to visit!

The Darkling Thrush
BY THOMAS HARDY
I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.
 
The land's sharp features seemed to be
      The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.
 
At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.
 
So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.
 
 
 
 
Varied Thrush
Photo by Nicole Beaulac Varied Thrush