Tag Archives: farm

Because the Cats Were Lonely

My father reminded me of this story and declared it must be on the blog.

When my parents moved into their current house 25+ years ago, Mom had grand plans to move our cats down to the basement so my father, who was allergic to them, would no longer be exposed to them on a regular basis. Our basement is partially above ground and used to be rented out as an apartment. The whole house needed a lot of work when they moved in. Though technically it was finished and dry-walled, the basement wasn’t nice enough that anyone felt like hanging out in it for any amount of time.

So, of course, my mom was worried that the cats would be too lonely if we never hung out in the basement with them. She decided we needed to refinish the basement so the cats wouldn’t be lonely.

Cats’ feelings are obviously worth thousands and thousands of dollars.

My parents dropped a second stairwell down to the basement so you wouldn’t have to enter through the utility side and knocked down all the walls between the tiny rooms in the basement apartment to create one large, fantastic family room. For the cats. They pulled out the run-down kitchen and put up walls of bookcases. They put couches around a big tv and a pre-existing fireplace. They put in new carpeting. There was also a full bath and bedroom in the basement, though it was mostly used for storage and later parrot breeding. Yes, parrot breeding. I guess I’ll have to talk about that later.

The cats’ basement turned out amazing. Clearly these cats would never be lonely because we were going to spend a lot of time in this area. In addition to a media area, there was space for a home office and a toy room. When we were kids, it was probably the best place in the house. It was really nice. In fact, it was probably a little TOO nice.

After spending thousands and thousands of dollars so the cats wouldn’t be lonely, my mom decided that the cats, who sometimes had accidents/marked their territory as cats are wont to do, would ruin the basement. That’s right, the “cats’ basement” was too nice for the actual cats.

And so, the cats stayed upstairs where my allergic dad (and later allergic my sister and I) slept while the basement became a cat-free zone.

So instead of getting rid of the cats so my dad (and my sister and I) wouldn’t feel sick, my parents spent thousands of dollars to keep them and keep people healthy, but then kept the cats where they would make people sick anyway.

If that’s not devotion to ones’ pets, I don’t know what is.

At various points in my life, there’s been talk of not replacing the cats when they die so the allergic people won’t feel sick. This has never come to pass. My parents currently have two indoor cats years and years and YEARS after those original lonely basement cats have died.

And my dad can blame my mom for the current cats all he wants, we all know that he’s deeply in love with both of them despite his allergies.

Next Thursday in “My Crazy Childhood”: You know what you should keep in the house when you are trying to sell a house? Buckets of live bait for your rescue bird.

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Because The Peacock Got Lonely

Today’s tale of animal insanity is actually 75% due to people other than my mother, if you can believe it.

You already know what happened when the horse and the miniature horse got lonely, so I bet you can guess what happened when the peacock got lonely.

I'm sure you find peacocks on your car all the time!

But, wait, you say, who the hell has a peacock on their property anyway? My mother, that’s who. What’s funny, though, is that my mom had nothing to do with the first peacock coming on her property. Believe it or not, other people collect strange pets too– and in stranger ways than my mother does.

My parents’ land is part of an old family farm with houses clustered together around a barn. It’s really a strange arrangement. Originally my parents had purchased a 2 acre parcel of the property with one house and one tiny barn on it, but several years ago two adjacent portions of the family farm with two houses, several outbuildings and 8 acres of hilly pasture became available. My parents bought the properties and now rent out the two houses that came with them.

The people who live in the rental houses live very near the barn– closer to it than my parents do, and get to live in the country and feel like they have horses even though they just happen to be renting next door to a stable.

One of my parents’ tenants decided such a life required that he get a peacock. True, he has nowhere to take this peacock if he ever stops renting. True, this peacock will probably always live on my parents’ farm. These facts didn’t stop the man, and certainly my mother wasn’t going to say no to another unusual animal joining her brood. The man bought a baby peacock named Phoenix.

See? Other people buy strange animals too sometimes!

Anyway, Phoenix the peacock boards for “free” at my mother’s stable. Mom’s tenant built him his own little roost and Phoenix has the run of the property.

When Phoenix had been around for about a year, he started getting lonely. Like the miniature horse, he showed his loneliness by acting out.

Like lonely horses, lonely peacocks hang out with llamas.


That’s right, peacocks can act out. Just like teenagers, really.

To show his angst, the peacock started flying up to the horses and pulling their tails.

No really.

Needless to say, that’s not a smart thing for a peacock to do. In fact, my mom was sure he would get kicked to death at any minute. So, she decided something should be done. Obviously, the peacock would behave himself if he had a friend. Based on what, I don’t know. But this is what she decided.

Mom told her friend C, the owner of Annabelle the miniature donkey, she thought Phoenix the Peacock needed a friend. C used to board a horse at my mom’s farm, but the horse passed away last year. She didn’t buy a replacement horse and the only thing bringing her back to mom’s property is a) friendship and b) a miniature donkey. The donkey can’t be ridden. Annabelle just exists to be cute. So she’s keeping Annabelle at my mom’s stable for the price of food. I give you this background because of what happened next.

C decided she should be the one to buy Phoenix a lady peacock friend. The lady peacock would live on the property indefinitely as C doesn’t own her own stable or have any place to put a peacock (or a donkey, for that matter).

Two peacocks in love. At least, I think it's those two...


So C bought Penelope the Peacock. My mom offered to pay for half of the peacock, but C turned her down.

Do you know how much adult peacocks cost? It’s kind of crazy. My pure-bred Australian shepherd (bred by my mom) could have easily gone for $800, probably double that in a pet store. An adult peacock is $80.

That’s right, for less than $100 you could also have a peacock. Isn’t that insane? I would have thought an exotic-ish bird like that would cost far more. My mother used to breed exotic parrots (African greys and ruby macaws) that went for more than $1,000 in the 1980s and ’90s. I can not believe a peacock only cost $80!

What’s even more surprising is that a baby peacock costs even less. The breeder was selling baby peacocks for $25.

I think that bears repeating as a surprising statement: My DOG costs $800, but a baby PEACOCK costs $25.

In what world does that even make sense?!

Armed with this knowledge, my mom and her friend C both decided they couldn’t pass up a good deal and thus bought two baby peacocks in addition to the lady peacock Penelope. “What choice did we have?” says my mother.

Four peacocks, just like the ones you undoubtedly have at home.


Although most of us would have probably said “Not get a peacock at all because who the hell has a peacock?” the obvious answer here was buy three more peacocks.

“How could I pass up a $25 peacock?” says my mother.

And thus, because of the peacock was lonely and no one can pass up a $25 peacock, my mother now has four peacocks wandering around her property probably permanently even though only one of the peacocks is actually hers.

In case you were wondering, yes. My mother was right. The peacock was acting out because he was lonely. Now that the peacock has friends, he no longer picks on the horses.

That’s my last lonely animal tale, but I’ll have another “My Crazy Childhood” story for next week. Yes, the last three stories have not technically been from my actual childhood, but believe me they are par for the course of things that happened living with my mother as a child!

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Edit with Pictures

If you’ve already read Because the Miniature Horse was Lonely, I recommend going back for another look. My mother emailed me pictures this morning and verified a part of my story I was questioning. Plus I threw in a couple more things about free horses… so go check it out!

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Because the Miniature Horse was Lonely

As promised last week, this week you get to hear what happened when the miniature horse got lonely. Given that my parents got a llama because the horse was lonely, I’ll bet you can guess where this is going.

Shortly after Lily was born, my mother got a miniature horse for free. My mother always seems to know someone who wants to give her some sort of strange animal. It’s really uncanny how she attracts these charity animals to her.

My mother in the comment section of this very post:
“Little Charleyhorse was a freebie! How could I say no?”

There’s no such thing as a free horse. Let me assure you. There are vet bills and food and much more. BUT ANYWAY, she got Charley Horse, who is at least her second free horse, maybe her third. As anyone ever offered you a free horse? I didn’t think so.

He looks downright sexy in this picture-- like when Donkey in Shrek got turned into a stallion!

If you aren’t familiar with miniature horses, they are just that: dwarfed horses. They are smaller than most ponies and usually have the same build as horses. Word to the wise: Ponies are not baby horses. Ponies are a smaller breed of horse with a stockier build. Foals are baby horses.

If I remember correctly, Charley Horse wasn’t getting along with the other miniature horses on his farm, so my mom took him in to give my then 4-month-old a “pony”. Charley Horse is actually pretty big for a miniature horse, but so little that no adult could ride him. Therefore, he can not be broken and no child will ever actually be able to ride him. He mostly just exists for show and entertainment value.

After Charley had been on my parents’ land for a while, he started bothering the other horses. He had absolutely no fear and would do things well worthy of getting kicked in the face. The thing is, he was so small that if he was kicked by one of the full-sized horses he could easily be killed.

As you can see, Charley was being pretty stupid to pick on a full-sized horse, no?

My mother decided he was acting out because he was lonely due to being the only small horse on their property. Basically he needed to have someone his own size to pick on to prevent getting killed by someone bigger.

And that’s why my mom logically bought herself a baby miniature donkey named Gizmo.

See? A free horse is never free! He needed his own donkey.

Gizmo was only a little baby when my mom bought her and wasn’t weaned yet. The donkey breeder let my mom temporarily take Gizmo’s mother home with her while Gizmo was adjusting to life in a new place. Gizmo’s mother never went back, though. One of my mom’s boarders/friends fell in love with the mommy donkey (now named Annabelle) and bought HER.

So now my parents have two miniature donkeys on their property and probably always will.

Best friends for life!

I mean, it was the obvious choice. How could they NOT get a miniature donkey? The miniature horse NEEDED one. Or two.

Next Thursday: What happened when the peacock got lonely.

No, really.

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Because the Horse Was Lonely

The following is a strange true story about life with my mother.

Seven or eight years ago, Mom lost one of the two horses on her property to old age. The remaining horse, Snuffy, had a long life ahead of him and was used to being a pack animal. Mom was worried about him being lonely, so she started hunting for animals to keep Snuffy company. Instead of looking for another horse like one would expect in such a situation, she looked at cows, miniature donkeys, miniature horses, alpacas and llamas.

“Another horse is just too expensive,” she said.

I was holding out hope for a cow. Ever since I read “Little House on the Prairie” and Laura got that cow with roses on its back, I’ve hoped that we would get a cow. For some reason, milking a cow sounds fun to me. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me either. In any event, a cow seems like a pretty normal thing to put in a barn next to a horse. Whenever you get a farm playset, there is a horse, a cow, a chicken and a goat. We’ve had horses and goats, but we’ve never had a cow. Or a chicken.

But they didn’t get a cow. They got the next most natural animal for a farm. They got a llama.

This isn't actually the llama they got. That llama is pre-digital for me.


I don’t get it either. Have you ever seen a farm playset with a llama in it? No. We actually have a PETTING ZOO playset with a llama in it, but not a farm one.

Now, you may be wondering how on earth a llama would keep a horse company. I wondered the exact same thing. They are different species and, let’s face it, llamas are just plain weird. I thought my mom was insane. She probably is. It turns out she was right though. Snuffy and Buttercup the llama became best friends. Everywhere Snuffy went, Buttercup went. Snuffy was very protective of Buttercup and when my mom’s dressage horse came home over the summer, Snuffy would protect Buttercup from the other horse so the other horse wouldn’t “take” her.

Unfortunately a couple years after my parents got her, Buttercup the llama died of a congenital problem with either her kidney or her liver. It’s been so long and she wasn’t my pet, so I can’t quite remember which, but Buttercup died ridiculously young despite the best efforts of the vets at Purdue University. By the time that happened, my parents had bought the property next door to them and had other horses boarding with them in their new, larger stable, and perhaps even another horse. The progression of animal acquisition gets a little fuzzy to me.

The horse still missed the llama. Or my parents missed the llama. Whatever the case, they got a new one named Chewy a year or two later. Chewy is Snuffy’s best friend. In fact, Chewy is the llama you saw in all the pictures in this post thanks to him being post-digital and Buttercup being pre-digital– or at least so far back that I don’t have pictures of her readily available. The horse and the llama are inseparable. The horse doesn’t like it if other horses try to “take” his llama. The llama doesn’t really want other horses to talk to his horse. They love each other.

And so, Snuffy isn’t lonely anymore and is carrying out another love affair with the llama.

Next Thursday: What happened when the miniature horse got “lonely”.

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Pig

Last week, my mom texted me a picture very similar to this one with one word below it: “Name?”

Now, most people would assume this was some type of joke, but if you’ve ever spent any time with my animal-hoarding mother, you know she doesn’t mess around with pet names. If she asks for a name, the new pet is in her lap. And he was, the pig that is. Believe it or not, he is far from the strangest pet they’ve ever owned (but definitely the strangest one who will be living in the house).

The logic for getting the llama was so it could keep the horse company. Someday soon I'll expand on that logic.

There were times in my childhood where we had at least 30 pets at one time– 3 indoor dogs, 3 house cats, 4 pet parrots, 8 breeding parrots for her small business, 3 horses, 2 goats, several barn cats, fish, lizards, hamsters, bunnies and various wildlife rehab animals, especially raccoons. The amount of furry pets (Do fish really count? I think not.) in the house was usually on the sane-ish side considering the size of the house, but when you added everything up with the outdoor pets things got insane.

Have you ever held a sleeping pig on a couch before? I'm guessing probably not.

Aside from the iguana, exotic parrots and occasional temporary orphaned raccoon, our indoor/outdoor pets were generally pretty run-of-the-mill for a farm. I mean, yeah, most kids haven’t had to wake up early for school to bottle-feed the baby orphaned raccoon but… I think I just ruined my run-of-the-mill argument.

Not a stock photo, but from my parents' barn. I wish I had one of the raccoon in the house photos on file, but that was pre-digital.

BUT our odd childhood animals have nothing on the animals my mom has now (except for maybe the raccoons).

In the past 5ish years, they’ve acquired a llama, a miniature horse (different from a pony), two miniature donkeys (one technically belongs to a friend who boards it there) and a squad of peacocks. The llama is pretty weird, don’t get me wrong, but the weirdest pet they’ve ever owned was a rhea. A rhea is a lot like a emu except it’s from South America instead of Australia. There’s an episode of “Go Diego, Go!” about them.

Source: google.com via Jenica on Pinterest

 

Sadly, the rhea died prematurely from an infection caused by a mystery injury we think was inflicted by a some unknown predator. That’s the trouble with outdoor pets. They kind of live in the wilderness even though they are technically in your barn.

A llama hanging out with a peacock. I'm sure you all have this in your backyard.

So, all that preamble explains why I wasn’t all that surprised when I saw that my mom had gotten a pig without warning me. He’s a baby pot-bellied pig she rescued from an animal sanctuary in Southern Indiana. Pot-bellied pigs usually cost about $600. Mom rescued the pig for a $25 donation (plus $100 in gas to go get him). Wuzzle the Pig is an indoor pet who wears a sweater to go outside because otherwise he gets too cold.

I hear my dad is surprised by how awesome his new baby is. Me too!

We didn’t warn the kids that Nonni had gotten a pig and instead just showed him to them when we got there last week. Both kids thought he was a cat at first. He’s so small and black with pointy ears that I can understand the confusion. Now they know it’s a pig.

When Rose saw this picture, she again thought the pig was a cat. I can kind of see the resemblance.

Some crazy things about this pig, which was still feral when my mom got him:

*Though he was terrified of humans the day she brought him home, within 24 hours all he wanted to do was cuddle in people’s laps. They say pigs are something like the third smartest type of animal, ranked below primates and dolphins and above dogs. I believe it.

*She didn’t have to housebreak him despite the fact that no one had worked with him on it before. He has peed in his litter box EVERY SINGLE TIME. He’s 6 weeks old. I can’t get my 2 year old human to pee in the right place.

*Pigs are known for being clean. The pigs you see in farms roll in the mud to keep cool. This pig is so clean that he refused to poop in his litter box or anywhere inside the house and held it for FIVE DAYS until my mom let him lose in a barn stall. He didn’t want to poop in his home. Again, this is a 6 week old we’re talking about!

Of all their bizarre pets, I think I can get down with this one the most even though it means that when they come to visit me a pig will be sleeping (perhaps illegally?) in my house!

What? You've never seen a pig in a coat before?

On that note it’s a good thing a) that my husband is totally against getting a pig and b) we live within city limits and our city (like most cities apparently) has an ordinance* against livestock. Even though I don’t consider a pot-bellied pig livestock, the law does. We legally can not have a pig. If not for this, I might be tempted to drive down to Southern Indiana and get my own “$25″ 6-week-old pig.

*Despite this being a toy blog, I’m going to rant about city pet ordinances tomorrow because I have a lot of things to say about them. A LOT.

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