Last night, around 9PM, I heard a weird noise outside my door. I got up, looked out, determined that the downspout from the gutter had fallen (not unusual, it’s not properly connected), and went back to my computer. 

Then I heard another weird noise. I got up, looked out, decided that the gate (propped open for animal convenience) must have been blowing in the wind. I latched it closed, and went back to my computer. 

Then I heard the weird noise again. I should probably describe the weird noise, right? It was lightweight banging, the kind of thing that could easily be mistaken for a downspout knocking into a wooden fence or a gate swinging loose. But this time, I knew it wasn’t the downspout or the gate. I got up, looked out, and saw the back end of a dog disappearing into the garden. 

Ah, Riley (Suzanne’s dog) must have been crawling through the opening at the bottom of the gate. Mystery solved, I went back to my computer. 

But as I tried to get back to my game, I was a little puzzled. What was Riley doing running around the yard after 9PM? Especially on a cold, damp night. Sure, he might come out for a quick bathroom break before bedtime, but it was a little late for that, and he wouldn’t be raucous about it. He’d do his business and get inside ASAP. 

Also, when had Riley ever been noisy in the backyard? He goes through that opening all the time. He’s been putting on a little weight from the very bad influence of Zelda,* but not so much that he should be banging things around. 

And then I heard the noise again. This time, with enough previous information, I knew it was clearly the gate, and that Riley had crawled through the opening to go into the front yard. I got up. Barefoot, in my pajamas, I went outside. It was cold, but I didn’t intend to be out for more than the minute it would take to grab Riley and take him in to the kitchen. I didn’t know why Suzanne had let him out, but whatever he was doing, he shouldn’t be doing it. 

So I went out in the dark — it was a beautiful night, btw, with lovely stars, despite the chill — and into the front yard, where I could see the dark shape of a dog pacing along the front fence. 

“What in the world are you doing, Riley?” I was saying in my crankiest voice as I approached, my feet already cold against the rough ground. 

The dog turned around. 

It was not Riley. 

But he was happy to see me. Tail wagging, relieved doggie sigh. If he had words, they would have been something like, “Oh, Human, thank goodness. Please, Person-I-Don’t-Know, please get me home now. I thought I wanted to be here, but now I don’t anymore. This was all just a huge mistake.” 

I was 90% sure I knew who he was and where he belonged, but I was also in my pajamas and barefoot. So I ran inside and said, “Suzanne, I’m so sorry to disturb you, but I think Hank is in the yard.” Suzanne promptly got up, grabbed a leash, put her shoes and a jacket on, and took Hank home, aka next door. 

End of story. 

Until this morning.

I got up around 6:30 or so and took the dogs for a lovely foggy walk. I was just getting back as Suzanne was leaving for work. We were saying whatever good morning type things one says when one crosses paths at 7:25 in the morning when I said, “Oh, wow. The chickens are exploring.” 

Hank had apparently come in through the chicken coop. He’d managed to push the wire loose and wiggle in. Once inside, he’d gotten the lid off the can of chicken feed and helped himself to a generous serving before deciding it was time to find his way home. In the morning, the chickens wasted no time in discovering their freedom and taking full advantage. At least eight of them, maybe more, were wandering around the yard. 

The chickens, Mary-Mary in front, saying “Hmm, surely there are seeds here that we could be eating?”

Suzanne was not thrilled. She needed to get to work, not chase chickens through the garden. But I spent my summer chasing Mary-Mary-Quite-Contrary around, so after taking a couple of quick photos, I grabbed a bag of chicken treats from my stash in the tiny house, went into the coop and started sprinkling seeds around liberally. In no time, all chickens were safely at home, and Suzanne was on her way to work. 

Yep, these are the adventures of the mighty small farm. The best kind of adventures there are, I think.

*Have I mentioned before that Riley has turned into Zelda’s personal emotional support dog? Convincing her to eat is always a challenge these days — with the canine dementia, she seems to be forgetting what you’re meant to do with food. But she will sometimes eat food that has Riley’s spit on it, and once she’s started eating, she will often continue until she’s had enough, so Riley gets to lick the chicken/meatloaf/roast beef/sausage/whatever and then we take it away from him and give it to Zelda. Obviously, this is dog torture, so of course Riley has to get some bites, too. I think he thinks it’s a worthy trade-off.