Wednesday, March 2, 2011

House Sitting

Last week my family planned a six day ski trip to Big Sky Montana. All of my brothers got to take off school, ditch their sports teams and spend the week knee deep in powder at one of my absolute favorite resorts. I did not get to go. I had to stay home because I go to college and have to be responsible. Since I was not participating in the family fun, I was nominated to take care of their house. 

For the past 3 years since I moved out of my parent's house, "home" has been this magical place where I could drop off bags of dirty laundry and they'd magically wash and fold themselves; where the fridge is always stocked with left overs, baked goods are ever present and there's an endless supply of resources stored away in the basement. This was not the fairy tale my six days of house sitting turned out to be. These six days were, in fact, the opposite of that fairy tale. 

My family has cows. 

Don't ask me why we have cows, my father is a physician, my mom went to nursing school. They grew up in California and neither of them have any ties to agriculture whatsoever. But for some reason we have cows. And chickens. And dogs. And by no proactive means - about 12 barn cats. 

I used to tolerate animals. They have no practical purpose for me and I think they smell bad, but I've never held any REAL animosity towards them. 
I now intensely dislike animals after last week's adventures. 

In fact, I now HATE animals. 

Here's why.
I had my instructions - to feed the cows 1/2 bale of hay once in the morning - around 8, and once at night - around 6. Feed the dogs one heaping bowl each per day and make sure there was water and food in the chicken feeders at all times. The cats are on their own. 
That sounded easy enough, so I skipped the day before orientation my dad offered and opted to wing the feeding schedule once I "moved in" for the week. 
To tell you the truth I was somewhat looking forward to four stories and five acres all to myself. I shouldn't have. 

The first day of feeding went like this: 

I prepped by putting on my warm and fuzzy black ugh boots since I couldn't find the rubber ones my dad suggested. I trudged through the snow, across the field and into the barn. I found the hay. I found the Cows. I found the fence that separated the hay from the cows. Self explanatory right?


I couldn't figure out how to get the pitch fork over the fence to drop the hay in, which is when I remembered all of those Hollywood movies that depict ripped shirtless men launching Hay over fences to feed their many herds of cattle. That was the solution. I would launch the hay like the washboard cowboys from Dusty Britches. 

Problem: Hay is quite heavy. Heaving it over the fence took a little bit of staggering and quite a chunk of my ego. 

But I eventually managed to fling it over the fence.

Problem: it didn't land in the bucket... 

And they just stared at it. 

I decided they must need some coercion, so I climbed over the fence to coerce the cows to eat their dinner. 

Bad idea. Cows do not like coercion. 

In fact, cows don't even like you in their pen. They especially don't like you in their pen, touching their food and trying to force feed them. 
A vision of these rank creatures trampling me into the fence and stomping me to death suddenly flashed into my mind. I did NOT want to die in a manure pit. 
Luckily, the pitch fork was within reach. 

I barely escaped with my life. 

At this point, any person of normal valor would have clambored back over that green fence and let the cows starve to death staring at their dinner. 
Not me. I am extra courageous. 
I marched myself, wielding my weapon of course, back to the discarded hay. They were going to eat that bale if it was the last thing I made them do. 

I moved the hay exactly 4 inches to the left and into the bucket. Suddenly the cows were entirely disinterested in the fact that I was in their smelly habitat, all they cared about was the food in front of them. 

Apparently eating Hay off the ground is beneath cows. 
I got great satisfaction from the fact that I'm pretty sure I stabbed some cow excrement along with the hay, and since it went in the bucket.... 
I'm pretty sure they ate it. 

The next day I learned that cows are incapable of change. I didn't feed them until 8 at night, after the sun had set, and instead of being grateful and eating their dinner just a little late they decided to moo hungrily. 
All Night Long. 
Apparently cows cannot eat in the dark. 
Most people have to worry about their dogs barking into the night. I had to worry about the cows keeping the entire street awake - which they did, until the sun came back up and they decided to eat. 
Cows are the stupidest animals alive. 

Unfortunately, the cows were not the only problem animals last week. 
The dogs presented a whole new issue. 

My little brother recently got a new puppy - Maggie. Maggie is still too young to sleep outside in the frigid Logan winters, but my mom is adamant about her outside dog only policy. This means Maggie and Duke (the Lab I saved from the Walmart parking lot 5 years ago) get to sleep on doggie beds in the house, but only in the front hallway. 

Problem - Maggie drives Duke crazy. 

While Duke will stay on his pillow and nicely go to sleep or gnaw on his bone, Maggie never wants to stop playing. We have to hook her to door to keep her from wandering around the house, but really it just chains her within bugging distance of Duke. 
11:30 hit and I turned out the lights to head upstairs. Duke readied himself for sleep, and Maggie geared up to play with him. 

1:00 AM - I'm woken up by loud wimpering wafting up the stairs. After many attempts to yell at them from the comforts of my bed I ventured downstairs to find out what was causing the raukus. 
Duke had dragged both beds into the middle of the floor and left Maggie chained to the door. 
I can't say I blamed him. 

Nonetheless, I dragged Duke and the Puppy Pillows back to their "spot" and firmly told Maggie it was time for bed. 

I don't think she understood me... 

Translation: Duke, play with me! 

An hour later I came downstairs to more wimpering. 

I dragged the pillows back, this time separating the two just enough so that Maggie's chain ended right before Duke's bed started. 
Problem solved. Dogs mastered. 
At three A.M. I fell asleep for the final time. 
I didn't wake up until 8 the next morning, when I had to trudge out to feed the cows again, but when I got downstairs Maggie had a whole new surprise for me. 

She had thrown up, on her bed, in the middle of the night. 
Apparently a mouse, two dimes, a red shoelace and a Quarter didn't sit well with her stomach. 
Cleaning it up took two pair of rubber gloves, 14 plastic garbage sacks, half a bottle of lysol and a trip to the neighbor's trash can since I didn't want her digging it back out of ours. 
This is why I now hate animals. 
And why I'll never ever EVER house sit for my parents again. 


  1. OMG Whitney! Ok it's becca heiner, found your blog and nearly died reading this. My family has 20 cows, about 30ish chickens, 5 MINIATURE DONKEYS, 2 cats, and a dog. Same situation. I have no idea why my dad decided to become a farmer. We're living parallel lives.

  2. Whitney! I hope you don't think I'm a creeper and read your blog, but I couldn't help but notice that you referenced "Dusty Britches". That is my Favorite Book Ever! Rachel makes fun of me all the time for reading it. But I love my romance!


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