Friday, May 28, 2010
We've been working on preparing the larger of our two old chestnut barns for the water buffalo. They don't strictly need a barn in our climate, but we'd like them to have a place to get out of the sun on very hot days and cold, wet winds in the winter. The lower level of this three-story barn was designed for livestock and the upper two stories were for hanging tobacco. Our plan is to let the buffalo have access to the lower level only and we'll store hay in the upper section.
Our friend and real estate agent supreme, Adam, built replacement doors out of salvaged barn wood for the four entrances that were missing doors altogether. That was important when the buffs arrived because the interior of the barn needed some buff-proofing before we could allow them to roam inside. Between the remains of the construction materials the previous owners had stored on the lower level and bits of barn that had come apart over the years, there was an amazing amount of hardware on and in the dirt floor. Nails (modern and old-timey square-head styles), screws, bolts, washers, and odd bits of rusty cans could all do a fair amount of damage if ingested by a buff. Lying down or stepping on nails wouldn't be great either. I've been using a big magnet to pick up as much metal as possible, but the collection of petrified cow doots from cattle of many years ago has made it difficult to get to the floor. So, I've also been spending a lot of time raking those out and then going over the floor with the magnet. Jim has been shoring up posts that the buffs might rub against and hammering in nails that are sticking out.
Today, I went out to try to finish up the job--just a bit more raking, take out some old hay that was stored there, and once more over everything with the magnet. But the buffs' curiosity got the best of them and they decided it was time to check out what I was doing. Up 'til now, I've been able to work in the barn with the doors open (essential for light and air flow) and they've kept their distance. Today, however, they snuck up on me almost as soon as I started raking and insisted on a tour of the barn. They checked out every stall and aisle, then came over to see if they could help. That is, if rubbing up on the rake and licking the magnet is helpful. It's not. Then they discovered the hay. I've been trying to move it out and use it as mulch since I'm not sure of the quality. It has stayed dry, but still.... Well, they thought it was Christmas. Effie went over and immediately began throwing it around (she kneels down, puts her head all the way under the bale, then tosses her head up to break up the bale). Eschol was the first to munch on it. I tried to shoo them away but I ended up in a hayfight with Effie. She tossed hay on me and I tossed back. We both ended up covered in hay. Fortunately, they didn't eat too much before heading back out for fresh grass.
They did seem to be in a playful mood today. Every time I tried to resume raking or hauling hay, one or three of them would come right up to me and get in my way. I kept shifting between tasks and they kept on helping. Finally, in time for a late lunch, all three of them stepped outside the barn, so I quickly shut the doors to keep them out until I could finish. As I walked down the hill towards the gate, all three of them decided to race me to the gate. I let them win. I can see it's going to take a lot to keep this bunch entertained. That's what I get for wanting intelligent animals. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson from the dogs.