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Goats, pallets, hay and a skunk


My plan for this morning was to spend a half hour cleaning up the barn, get the goats moved over to their new home in the barn and get all the animals fed.  Then I could sit down and weave on my linen face cloths.  I was up late last night doing the tie-up on the loom and weaving the first face cloth and I love it.  But I digress...

Ron decided not to wait and to start getting the additional boards up on the pen fence.  Yea!  He was working on that while I started to clean out the barn.

I have been adding hay to the stalls all winter long so I've been creating a nice sedimentary unit - here's where my geologic background comes into play - which includes thin beds of llama manure and llama pee interspersed with thicker layers of clean hay.  The entire unit has been compressed by being walked and laid upon.  My clean out of the barn did NOT include stripping the stalls down to the stall mats and re-bedding with new clean hay.  I picked out the piles of manure on the surface and any wet layers I came across.  Then I added more clean hay to the top.  No, it's not perfect but it will work nicely for the goats for now.  Once I get more hay the stalls will get stripped but this was more than enough work for me this morning.

We usually buy several hundred bales of hay at one time, first cutting in the spring and again later in the year as needed.  This amount pretty much fills up all the available space in my barn.  The hay can't be set directly on the cement floor or it will quickly get wet and mold.  Cement is very porous.  We use wooden pallets which keep the hay 3-4 inches off the cement floor and allow enough air movement to keep the hay dry and edible for months and months.

The pallets do provide a space for various critters to live in.  There are always spiders and mud dauber wasp nests.  As I uncover a pallet by using all the hay that was stacked on it, I usually leave it alone for several days to let the critters move on.  Then it gets stacked in a corner for use with the next load of hay.  I've been doing that all winter as we have used up our hay.  By this morning I was down to three full bales of hay and three other bales that had been eaten on by the llamas and alpacas so were falling apart.  The plan was to use the partial bales to bed the stalls and put the clean bales out for the horses and llamas.  Sounds great. 

As I worked my way along the line of pallets I kept smelling a not so nice smell.  This is obviously what Sadie has been trying to chase.  Over the last several weeks she has repeatedly dived into the ever shrinking pile of hay to find the animal living under it.  There has been a male black and white cat around recently.  He has been harassing our neutered female cats but hasn't done any real harm so far.  I assumed all along he was living under the pallets.

As I pulled the final bale of hay off the final pallet I uncovered black and white fur - Aha!  Here is the cat at last.  Nope.  It was a skunk.  The little guy decided it just wasn't safe anymore to stay under that pallet and he took off out the back door of the barn.  Interestingly he never sprayed Sadie all the times she was trying to get at him under the pallets.  He was a small skunk but our previous dog, Cash, got a full face of spray from a tiny skunk half the size of this one.

I have said before that we live in rabies central for Colorado County.  The skunk was not acting drunk and disorderly as most rabid skunks do but just to be on the safe side I called the vet.  Can I use the hay I just pulled off the pallet above this little guy?  How about all the feces I had just finished sweeping up?  All our animals get their rabies shots so I wasn't so worried about the goats that were about to inhabit the barn or the dog.  I was more concerned about Ron and me.  Neither of us have ever had any rabies shots.  Bless Micheal Ridlen, our vet.  He came up with the just the answer I wanted to hear.  Yes, we can use the hay.  No, there is no chance of getting rabies from the skunk's feces.  I should just sweep up the floor and move the goats in.

So here it is 3:00 pm.  The goats are in their new home, the boards on the bottom of the fence are continuing to appear, the barn is as clean as I'm about to make it, the skunk is off to somewhere else and finally, all the animals have been fed.  And I'm going to weave another linen face cloth or two...