Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Sleeping with one ear open

The sun is down, the kids are fed, the pots are soaking in the sink.  The babies are in their beds, books piled high around them. Mama goats are in the barn, snuffling at their now-empty grain bowl.  I don’t care if it’s only 8:00 pm – it’s time for bed. Good night.  Stick a fork in me, I am done.
Face washed, teeth brushed, alarm clock on, phone ringer off.  Kissed David good night.  Ah, at last.  Sleep, sweet sleep, rolls over me like a warm toasted marshmallow. I’m unconscious before David even gets back from brushing his teeth.
Several hours pass, then it starts: FARM NOISE.  Jesus Christ, not again.  I have trained 7 -- count ‘em, 7 -- infants to sleep through the night.  I have slept through screeching toddlers, and shunned baby monitors like the plague.  And now the animals wake me up every night.  Is this what happens when you get old?
I used to be a “good sleeper.” In high school, for example, I taught myself chemistry by the highly controversial technique of “hypnopedia.”  I recorded cassette tapes (ca. 1985) of myself reading my chem notes, and then played them on continuous loop while I slept before the exam.  It brought my shaky “C” up to a solid B+.  Good enough.  Never had to take chemistry again, either.
As a young mother, I could sleep through any movie at any volume.  The family (read: The Ex) did an experiment one night with “The Dark Knight” (2008).  There was some diabolically loud scene, which The Ex replayed ten or twelve times full blast to try to wake me.  Nope.  I did have to make a conscious effort not to surface from my deep sleep, but not a problem.  (Definitely towards the END of the marriage, though.)
So, here I am, 6 years later, living in lovely wine country.  Serene and restful, some might think.  But NOOOO. Noisy noisy noisy.
I think I’m having a PTSD experience.  I refer you back to my blog entitled, “Predator and Prey, Part 1” (June 18, 2015).  As you may recall, I was rudely awakened at 1:00 am by the sound of a baby goat screaming as a mountain lion carried it over the fence to its untimely demise. 
Trail Camera Photo
This is not my photo (thank God), but imagine a dead little goat in between Kitty’s front paws and you will get the gist of my trauma.  That was six months ago, and I still wake up a dozen times a night to listen.  The good news is that I no longer grab my arsenal and head out to battle.  Now, I just lie I bed and play “name that animal.”
Usually it’s a dog.  I have 6 of them, 7 if you include David’s dog.  These three sleep outside.


Again, I refer you back to my post “Livestock Dogs (or, Predator and Prey, Part 2” (6/22/15).  After the mountain lion episode, Katherine bought two livestock dogs to guard the herd.  Long story short, I personally “ruined” Caboose by bringing him in the house after one particularly bad dog fight he had with his brother, Google.  Caboose is no dummy and figured out in 30 seconds flat that being a family pet was a whole lot more pleasant than being a “Livestock Guardian Dog.”  No goats for that one. No sirree, Bob.  
So, we had to go get ANOTHER livestock dog to work with Google – because the dogs have a better shot at … overcoming … the Mountain Lion if there are two of them (says Katherine.) Hence, Mhysa.  She likes the house, too, but she is still willing to work with the goats. Phew.  I really don’t want to go get a fourth livestock dog. 
Anyway, each dog has a distinct voice.  Caboose has a dopey baritone.  Mhysa has a fierce staccato.  Google is the only smart one of the pack and is usually quiet.  When he makes noise, I actually get out of bed and grab my… flashlight. Yeah, that’s it, the flashlight.  That’s what’s in the safe…yup. Flashlight…
Mhysa has taken to barking at the two mini donkeys at 2:00 am. What the hell? She lives with them every single day, day in and day out, 24/7. But somehow they look different at 2 am. 

And the donkeys get sick of her commotion, so they bray back at her. Such an irritating noise, braying. Not cute at all like they teach in kindergarten.  It sounds NOTHING like “hee haw”: 

(not my donkey, but the sound is the same)
Caboose sometimes gets involved, if he forgets that Mhysa is an idiot.  So I hear him “whoofing,” and loping across The Back 40.  He figures it out pretty quick, and settles back onto his cushy bed on the back porch.
If it’s a particularly lovely evening, the neighbor’s Labrador is outside and gets involved.  But, poor guy, he doesn’t have the sense God gave a gnat, so he barks without knowing why and can’t seem to stop. 
Of course, the goats make noises too.  The goat noises are usually one of five things:
  • doe in heat screeching her sexy come on at the boys
  • buck responding to said come on
  • baby goats being weaned
  • doe in labor
  • goat being eaten by mountain lion

(not my goats, but a good video I found on Youtube)
Each sound is different – usually.  Sometimes a new goat will fool us into thinking she is getting eaten, when really she’s just in heat; and sometimes a goat in heat will sound like a goat in labor.  But I’m getting better at translating.
Little One & Blaze
This  week, for example, Katherine is weaning the baby Boer goat, Blaze.  Here she is a couple months ago with her mama, named Little One.  Blaze is, um, 10 months old…Why wean at all at this point? But Katherine has her reasons, so Blaze is in the pen across the driveway from Little One.

Yes, you guessed it, they scream back and forth to each other all night long.  It sounds like, “MOMMM, MOMMMM, MOMMMMM.” Goddamn it, stop!
Last, but certainly not least, we have the bird collection.  I can usually tell what time of day it is by the birds.  The Guinea Fowl (“Purple”) shrieks just after sundown, whereas the rooster (“Mary” – named for the friend who gave him to me) crows at dawn -- literally.

(this is not Purple, but it looks and sounds like him...)
On the one hand I should just put in earplugs and close my windows to block out the farm noise.  But, on the other hand, I still have to be prepared to leap from my bed to battle the cougar. 
Rather like the way kids condition their moms to launch out of bed at the first sound of vomit, my farm has conditioned me to spring out of blissful slumber to battle the cougar.  
Oh well, I guess I’ll be sleeping with one ear open for a long time to come.

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