Friday, December 24, 2004


The time has come for Santa to wrap presents. Sometimes Santa leaves some presents unwrapped, also. Seeing as the boys are getting battle droids and storm troopers, that could be pretty fun for Santa...

But before the wrapping commences...

This morning when I awoke, Joyce was already putting the finishing touches on an apple pie. I wish I had been awake for that! But the kids helped her. I asked her whether her back hurt-- making apple pie often makes my back ache-- and she said it was her knees. She had one knee replaced last year, and the other one is still trouble. So, I suggested that the kids and I could manage the morning chores without her so she could rest her knees.

We put on boots and coats (Sam and I in pajama bottoms) and hats and gloves (not Sam, so I ended up giving him one of mine) and took the scraps of food for chickens and cattle and headed out. Sam and Tommy love the big walking sticks Tom and Joyce have, so each of them had one of those.

Sam went to take care of the chickens: open up the coop for them, feed them their scraps, and let them come out and walk around. They are free range chickens. Tommy and I found that the rain had filled the calves' food dishes, so the kids used their walking sticks and broke the ice and dumped it out. Is there a more perfect chore for small boys? We then each picked up a food dish and headed to the barn for grain. I am not strong, so I couldn't get the barn doors open very much, so we put the food dishes on the ground outside the barn, and I scooped grain and poured it into the food dishes (gave the last one to Sam to do). Then we closed up the tupperware container and each picked up a dish and went to feed the calves.

The calves are newly weaned and still very people shy. Joyce has to get them tamed for show in the spring, so we put the food dishes down and then stood in back of them so we could pet the calves as they ate, and we each got in a few head pats before they skittered away. The cattle are highland cows, longhaired, so when they are bent over their grain and apple peels they look more like the Shaggy D.A. than like cows.

Then, we headed up to the high fields to count the cows and calves up there, with Lucas, the big german shepherd with us. We headed up, and I marvelled that Joyce does this daily on her knees. The ground is uneven and covered with cow pies and meadow muffins. I pointed out to the kids where deer have been, and Tommy spotted more places on his own. Tom and Joyce don't like deer in the pasture because they carry disease, but I'm not sure how to keep them out if they can clear the electric fence.

We went up and counted the cows (don't count anything grey or really small, Sam told me, i.e. Molly the donkey or Lucas) and Tommy went over to pet Molly and kept calling her, "Bailey."

"Hey guys, come pet Bailey!"

"Her name is Molly."

"Bailey says if you want to pet her, you have to come up here!"

"Her name is Molly."

"Guys! Come up here and pet Bailey!"

"Her name is Molly."

Winter hats and hoods do not make for effective communication.

After Sam and I each got a count of seventeen cows, we headed back down for farm fresh eggs and bacon for breakfast. Yes, it does make a difference. Lucas found a patch of ice and started poking a hole in it to eat it and was skating around on it, so Tommy and Sam had a great time poking it with their sticks, and then we headed in for breakfast.

Christian does not come out with us, preferring the warmth of the house and his Charlie Brown book. He is afraid of the dementors and He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named from Harry Potter, so he stays pretty close. It is interesting that Sam and Tommy do not have this fear, and Christian did not have it in the theaters, so I was speculating to Tom and Joyce that it is more of an existential fear than anything else. At any rate, it means that I spend a lot of time taking Christian to the bathroom because he is afraid to go alone.

As he was peeing, he remarked on something we learned about coyotes in a Ranger Rick magazine and expanded on it: "If coyotes breed more when people try to kill them, does the female to a dead male and take its sperm and make more babies?"

"How do you know what sperm is?"

"You told me."

"Oh." pause. "Well, no, that isn't the way it works. You can't get sperm from a dead male and make babies."

I tried to explain, without divulging what sex is, (remember: Christian is only 8 years old) that when the coyotes are being hunted the males and females who are still alive make more babies to make sure they don't die out (actually, they probably just have a lot of stressed out sex, yes?).

But returning to the breakfast table, I remarked that Christian must be a born feminist because he has already figured out what women have always known: you don't need men to be alive to procreate.

I'm just sayin'.

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