Posted by: A Part of the Solution | March 16, 2010

In Which We Adapt to Our Farm

There are signs of life everywhere. All the bulbs around the house and down the border are sprouting. Corms are pushing new life into the world. Shoots are budding. There’s a light veil of green cast pale and streaky across the brown and sere fields. All of which means two things: mud and egress.

Our Buckle is an outside cat. Not that we forbid him the great indoors; more that we encourage him to get out and take the air as much as possible. This winter, he was the best of cats. He was the worst of house-mates.

Trapped by snows running  four or five times deeper than he stood high, he had nowhere to be but indoors. So he teased the dog. He harassed our feet. He menaced the throw rugs and clawed anything with upholstery without mercy.

Kaya, an Australian Cattle Dog, is both older and more philosophical than the cat. She curled up tightly and made the tiles around the wood stove her intimates. She went outdoors a minimum number of times each day. She barked when the UPS man came up the drive (as little as this was possible, she barked rarely altogether). And she guarded her rawhide chewies against the–wholly imaginary–depredations of Our Buckle.

But now we have thaw and melt and run-off. Now we have space to roam and no one to tell us we can’t go where we wish and do what comes naturally on our land. Our Buckle spends whole nights out hunting–joining me and the dog with a few leaps and bounds on our morning constitutional around the pond.

The outbuildings will serve as a playground and class room for our little one in the years to come. Right now, he’s out back of the barn stalking something hapless in last year’s meadow. Our Buckle has no idea he’s starkly black-and-white and shows up in high contrast as he slithers and hunkers and loiters around the homestead acres. Even when he’s hunting down at the spring head, more than sixty yards distant he’s sharply delineated against the indeterminate winter-kill.

Kaya prefers to keep an eye on her people. She likes to be near where we are, as long as we’re not just doing yard-work. Unlike the cat, she doesn’t find repetitive motion sequences to be soothing, reassuring and slightly hypnotic. If we start back and forth with the wheel-barrow or the logs or what have you, she asks to go in.

The farm manager seems disappointed that we don’t have a running-off dog. I’m not sure what the attraction to the archetype is–but I did have a running-off dog growing up. I rather like knowing she isn’t off testing fate against the neighbor’s chickens, or harrying skunks or facing down coyotes.

Yes, our cat is a little dog-like. He still goes on walks with us–many times those walks are more than a mile’s distance. Yes, our dog is a little cat-like. She prefers curling up somewhere warm to the call of the wild. Maybe that’s just the kind of farm we’re meant to be.

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