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The world ac'cord'ing to a farmer

June 15, 2009|By TIM ROWLAND

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Even part time, pretend farming can be a humbling experience. Whenever I've preserved a flower bed by outsmarting a chicken, I sadly feel as if it's been a good day.

Those days are rare, however. Last week, I needed to mow a pasture, which involved racing a donkey to an open gate. The animal proved faster than the tractor and I spent the rest of the afternoon engaged in donkey chasing, and my initial job never got done.

What should be simple chores become major feats of engineering. Our goat barn has no electricity, so to provide juice for a temporary light, I strung a heavy-duty extension cord from the donkey barn above the cow paddock to the goat barn. I want to emphasize that it was hung using only UL-approved roofing tacks.

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When I needed to plug in a circular saw in the milk room, I needed an extra 10 feet of slack in the extension cord. As anyone can see, this is a job that should require all of 30 seconds, provided no animals were present.

Animals were present.

Specifically, two donkeys (Becky and Nelson); five cattle (Cleopatra, Heifertiti, Dan the Man, Porter and House); and two goats (Heidi and Hillary).

Heidi had the first serve. When I reached for the cord, she tackled me. This was accomplished by standing on her hind legs for the space of a few seconds and then coming down full force with her forelegs around my neck. As goat take-downs go, it's pretty effective -- and very funny, from her point of view.

When I got back up and looked out the window, I couldn't help but notice Becky across the way calmly chewing on the extension cord, which I had taken down so it could be restrung.

I am not proud if this, but my first instinct was to plug the cord back in and then let the donkey do her worst.

But, being the higher animal, I instead removed the line from her mouth and secured it back out of reach -- which meant that I could no longer pull out the necessary slack.

I thought this over for a while. Time passed. It was pretty clear that Becky had all day and was not interested in relocating. So I pulled the cord back down in the donkey barn, pushed a few more feet into the goat barn, pulled it down into the cow paddock and put it back up in the donkey barn.

Check and mate, I thought. I had the donkeys covered. I had the cows covered. I had the goats covered. I did have the goats covered, right? I wouldn't have been so stupid as to -- at this point I saw the extension cord moving on its own.

Unlike most animals, goats love anything that's new and different. Throw one in their pen in the morning and they would be one of the few life forms left on the planet to be genuinely interested in newspapers.

So this new cord was exposed to standard goat procedure: Inspect. Rearrange. Destroy. Eat.

In the time it took me to drop everything and sprint to their quarters, the goats had crocheted the cord throughout the slats in the hay mow, which took about 10 minutes to detangle and gave the cattle plenty of time to move in for mop-up duty.

This consisted of trampling the dropped extension cord into about 6 inches of barnyard goo.

At this point -- when most men would have taken a seat on a rock and wept -- I reached deep down and somehow summoned the resolve to do what I do best.

I gave up.

No one needs to use a circular saw that badly.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video at www.herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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