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Farm Fresh Blog
Wednesday, June 29 2011
I'm the kind of person who picks up a little potted plant at the nursery and it screams to be put back in the flat with its buddies. For that little plant knows it has a better shot at survival by getting the occasional watering at Home Depot than taking its chances with me.
But this year I planted two tomatoes and a basil in one big pot on my back porch. I would water it when I watered the dogs. How hard would that be? The sheep and goats are there from time to time, but they ignore the pot because they'd rather eat my roses.
And so it was that I found soon myself with thick basil amid ripening tomatoes. Who says I have a black thumb? I examined my crop of basil last week and proclaimed it to be enough to make pesto. This is how the pesto adventure went:
Go to store. Buy pine nuts. Buy cheese. Buy garlic. Olive oil? No, have that. Get home. Discover that I have no olive oil. Cuss. Wait a week. Have even more basil now. Go back to store. Buy olive oil. Come home to discover that dairy goats have eaten all the basil while I was gone . . .
Sunday, June 26 2011
We have the most annoying Peeping Tom. Meet Redmon.
He stares through the kitchen window. He is not looking at my orchid which has finally began to drop its blossoms.
He is not reading my farm ledger. No, Redmon is fighting with the red bird he sees in the window. (Whoda thought my windows were that clean? Go figure.) After he has beaten that red bird, and himself, senseless, he flies to the back of the house to fight with the bird he sees in the bedroom window.
Each morning at 6:30 am, Redmon attacks my bedroom window . . . repeatedly. Seven dogs, three barn cats and one house cat live here. Redmon's days are numbered. One day I will find a pile of red feathers and be traumatized by the death of a stupid little bird that I don't even like.
But nevertheless, until that day, Redmon will bang his beak against the glass. He's doing it right now . . . as I type. Yesterday I lay in bed, ruminating on the problem as Redmon smashed his little red body against the glass.
It went like this:
Try to sleep. The annoying sound of feathers and beak hitting the glass keep waking me up.
Brush/bang/brush/bang/brush/bang! Over and over and over again. House cat! I have a house cat! Spring out of bed.
Locate sleeping house cat in spare bedroom. Snatch her up and carry her to master bedroom. Put dazed cat on dresser so she can see red bird. Perhaps he will find himself staring at a cat and go elsewhere. He is not that smart. Cat is perturbed. Cat stares out window.
"Bird? Hunt? Hunt bird??? I'm retired, Human. Didn't you get the memo? HOUSE cat! What part of HOUSE cat did you not understand? House cat = air-conditioning + naps Get it?"
Cat hops off dresser. Redmon continues to bang on glass. Lay back in bed and ponder the problem some more. Border Collie Lily lays beside me. Her eyebrows shift back and forth as the bird bangs against the glass. Idea forms. I can teach Border Collie to chase bird away from glass. It will take me about 1 minute 45 seconds. Hmmmmmm. . .
Do something I rarely do . . . think the idea through. Ah yes. While it will only take me 1 minute 45 seconds to train BC to chase bird, it will take Other Half several hours and about $145 dollars to replace the broken window. Scratch that idea.
Lay back in bed and remind myself that I will not cry when I find a little pile of red feathers after one of the barn cats wanders close enough to the house to hear that odd brush/bang/brush/bang sound. I will not cry. I will not cry.
Stupid little bird is gonna make me cry . . .
Friday, June 24 2011
While other parts of the country are suffering from floods, Texas has been hit with the most severe drought we've seen in 40 years.
This is a pond at the cow house.
Shortly before it dried completely, we were tooling through the pasture and Other Half noticed a flash of silver in the pond. We stopped, and much to our dismay, we found that the sludge left in the bottom of the pond was filled with catfish and perch trapped by the drought.
As if we don't have enough drama with the animals we raise, we found ourselves tending to animals that flew in on the feet of birds. But nevertheless, they were in need, so we spent the evening with nets, catching fish, and transporting them to a stock trough in the arena. It was muddy, yucky work, (mostly for Other Half) and the fish were not tremendously grateful, but in time, we got the bulk of them moved.
They are in cramped living conditions, but until the rains return, they're better off living in a water tank that gets filled with a hose daily. The next day we checked the pond.
Everyone too crafty to be caught, or too tiny for the net, was dead.
Things like this always fill me with wonder. What are the odds that Other Half would see one flash of silver in a deep pond when driving through the pasture? What are the odds that he would see this on a night when we were both available to scoop out refugees? What are the odds that these things would line up on the last night before the sun would overtake them? What are the odds that fish pray?
Wednesday, June 22 2011
Like mirrors into our souls, dogs and children can be a reflection of our own inner child. Take Trace, for instance. On vacation the dogs learned the routine pretty quickly. Sleep in horse trailer. Get up early for a run and a swim. Come back wet and tired. Wake Daddy up. Begin day of exploring county in search of New-Home-Away-From-The-City. Unfortunately there was a lot of sitting in the truck for the dogs.
So on the last day, Trace reminded me that we were still on a vacation:
Get up. Take dogs for a swim. Note the time. Head back up bluff to truck. Count dogs. One dog short. Note that Trace has decided he does not WANT to go back to truck. Trace wants to stay and play. He is hiding behind a bush.
Out of sight. Out of mind.
Send Lily (who is carrying the Stick-Of-The-Day) back down the bluff in a mock search for her little brother.
"I can't find him."
At this point, they are so cute that I give in and say, "Okay, we can play a little longer."
Trace springs from behind the bush and all is well in their little world. I have been conned by not one, but two Border Collies. (remember, when you have intelligent dogs, they spend as much time trying to shape your behavior as you spend trying to shape their behavior.)
But if you look past naughty, if you look into the soul and find your inner child, you will see that
1) Schedules aren't as important as you think.
2) Play is more important than you think.
Monday, June 20 2011
While this was a working vacation for us, it was a boring vacation for the dogs - lots of waiting in the truck, punctuated by playing in the water, long walks down red dirt roads, and chasing sticks.
Before playing fetch, all stick must be brought to an official from the Texas Department Of Stick Inspections for approval.
(Note the Inspector's toes. Return to Hobbit Feet.)
The Inspector carefully examines the stick for length, sharp ends, jagged branches, and anything else that could otherwise result in a trip to the vet's for the playee or the playee's companions. Thus Lily spent most of her vacation in search of The Perfect Stick.
"How 'bout this one?"
"Wait! It hasn't been inspected yet!"
It fails inspection. . .
And so, like a treasure hunter in search of the elusive sunken ship of gold, Lily continues to hunt North Texas for The Perfect Stick.
Friday, June 17 2011
Everything I know to be true in life I learned from Scarlett O'Hara's father:
"Land . . . it's the only thing that lasts."
Yes, as a child of the South, I grew up on Gone With The Wind, and those words branded themselves deep into my psyche. And so it is that Other Half and I once again left in search of ranch land far away from The City. We had narrowed our search to one area and this time, we went with a realtor - who had to use a jeep to take us there. (my kind of place!)
We stayed with friends and each morning the dogs and I rose to greet the day and play while Other Half slept in. It didn't suck.
The dogs vote for here!
Wednesday, June 08 2011
Yesterday evening, while hustling to finish chores, I got an excited phone call from my Other Half.
"You know what we forgot tonight?" he asked.
There were so many possibilities, I didn't even bother.
"The Youth Rodeo! Cooper's in Lead-Line!"
Background information: Other Half loves all things Rodeo. Other Half is BIG into supporting kids in any kind of rodeo or agriculture (thus we have multiple high-priced show heifers in the back yard . . . ) Cooper is the son of Kindly Rancher Next Door who is a Good Friend to Other Half and a God-Send to me when Other Half is out of town and I am stuck with a calf hanging out of the back end of straining cow. But I digress . . .
The Youth Rodeo was tonight and Other Half wanted pictures for the blog. I was still an hour away. I reminded him that he had a camera in his truck - for crime scenes - Oh! He forgot. (yes, crime scene cameras CAN be used to take pictures of our nation's youth doing things other than vandalizing rail cars, and selling dope.) He was getting off work, so he and his camera headed over there.
When you've had enough of sagging britches, tattoos, nose rings, and narcotics, go to a county fair or a youth rodeo. You will be inspired that yes, there is a future, and these kids are it.
I once walked into an apartment complex and saw a little boy playing in the sand with his trucks. He saw me, in a police uniform, . . . and threw a dumptruck at me.
What are his parents teaching him?
But here, in the shadow of The City, parents are still teaching rural values to their children. Here the county fairs and the youth rodeos are still alive.
And they start young!
Object of Game: Get the ribbon off the goat's tail
Reel in goat
I love that face!
And this face!
This is the serious face of a young rancher. His grandpa is a rancher. His daddy is a rancher. Roping is serious business.
(Grandpa behind him.)
His little sister
A lot of stick horses get ridden.
And then the real horses get ridden.
The kids got older and the horses got faster as the night wore on. By the time I joined them, the horses were MUCH faster, but the atmosphere was still the same - good, clean fun.
My Other Half helped build this arena when he was eighteen years old. At 55, he's still playing here. As I sat in the bleachers, eating a greasy cheeseburger, I watched our future, and pondered life. The kids who built this very arena are grown. Their children played here. Now their grandchildren play here. Each generation leaves a gift for the next generation.
It is our responsibility to give them the values they need to survive in this world and make it a better place. As I watch farmers and ranchers struggle to make a living in a rapidly desolving world, I marvel at how well they manage. These children, who are using computers by the time they can walk, are riding horses even before then. They are learning to care for, and live with, the world around them.
It isn't technology, or MTV that is destroying our nation's youth, it is the lack of one generation to instill the proper values in the next generation.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. It does, but it starts at home. And, there's this: some villages are doing a better job of it than others . . .
I'm just saying . . .
Tuesday, June 07 2011
I should know better. No matter how cute goats are, there is still a criminal mind lurking behind those floppy ears.
It all started with Ingrid Birdman (aka: Ingrid The Evil). Ingrid has not softened her attitude toward her juvenile roommates. She is, to put it bluntly, a bitch. I tried putting them in a pen inside the bigger area to give her a chance to get used to them, but it's so hot in the barn during the mid-day hours that I don't like to leave them there. So I spent an entire morning tacking up plastic netting on top of the cattle panels to allow the chickens into the smaller goat paddock. It sounded good in theory. BUT . . . I didn't factor in the goats . . .
They immediately began to rip up netting. Fun! Fun! Fun! Fun! FUN!
Goats! Goats! Goats! They eventually lost interest and left the netting up. I turned the chickens out. Ingrid immediately mutated from innocent Little Red Hen to Lizzy Borden chasing family members around with an ax.
Evil Ingrid Attacks Victim
"Where dat chikken go?"
Oh well, lesson learned. Clearly Ingrid doesn't want company. The young hens will be going back to Dear Friend's farm tomorrow. Sigh . . . At least Ingrid lays eggs, and entertains baby goats.
Friday, June 03 2011
This dog has never quite found her niche. She started out life as a Narcotics Dog doing locker checks in schools, but that really didn't float her boat. Then she became a Cadaver Dog. The slower pace appealed to her, but there simply was not enough work in that region to keep her employed. Then she was re-homed with me as a playmate for her littermate.
They enjoyed each other until he passed away last summer, and then, she was once again, out of a job.
After her brother's death, she rose to become Leader Of The Pack. Everyone kisses her butt, so she is relatively happy, but still, she is a working dog and wants a job - any job.
And that's when we hear the baying, screeching, battle cry of The Black Wolf.
Black Wolf shoves Border Collie out of her way and pounces on Roach. She bites him with a crushing blow and flings him across bathroom. Border Collie snaps him up. Black Wolf roars. Border Collie drops Roach - slack jawed. Black Wolf pounces Roach again. Grab! Smash! Fling! Very Happy Black Wolf smiles at me with a roach leg stuck between her teeth.
She is Warrior. Hear her roar. Roaches will soon tremble in fear at her name.
And thus began the career of the Roach Warrior. (Cue Chariots of Fire soundtrack.)
Border Collie has settled into her role as Second String Roach Warrior while The Black Wolf waits, waiting for the scream of a Naked Woman armed with a toilet brush. She is a happy girl. She finally has a job.
Thursday, June 02 2011
One would think that when you make a living standing over dead people, you'd have more important things to do than involving yourself in the politics of chickens. And yet, I still do. I cannot seem to help myself. Perhaps it's because my world is filled with murder, suicide, (and murder-suicides), that I feel the need to right the wrongs in the chicken coop. I wonder what Freud would say about that. Scratch that thought. Perhaps I'm better off not knowing.
Ingrid Birdman (no relation . . . )
The chickens were at the cow house - 3 red hens and a little Silver Duckwing Banty Rooster (that I didn't want to begin with!) Like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the other chickens wouldn't let Ingrid play "reindeer games" with them. They would saunter off, leaving Ingrid to scratch and peck by herself, all alone. She had the last laugh though. The neighbor's dogs got in our yard and ate them. Now Ingrid is really alone. Or she was . . .
I bought a couple of pullets from Dear Friend, a Rhode Island Red and a New Hampshire Red.
I moved Ingrid to the goat stall at the other house and put the pullets in with her. She hated them on sight. No, that's not true. She loved them. She loved bullying them. They were terrified of her. They huddled in a corner while she pecked them. Bitch!
So I called Dear Friend. She suggested I put them in a pen to protect them from Ingrid The Evil until she got used to them. So I did. They cautiously came out of the corner. She stuck her head through the bars and hissed, "Get BACK! Get BACK TO YOUR CORNER! You peons!"
Instead of shrinking back into their corner, they danced away from her vicious beak and laughed. She was furious. That little red hen paced the bars like a frustrated prison guard, pausing occasionally to stick her head through and snap at the inmates. They happily scratched and pecked at oats and sunflower seeds, ignoring her. Ingrid was beside herself.
I watch, mildly amused, wishing life in the barn yard was a bit more idyllic, and less like life on the streets.
The Abused become The Abusers. The Innocents are locked away in their happy little sheltered worlds to protect them from Those-Who-Lack-Social-Skills. And the police patrol, like Border Collies maintaining order in the Barn Yard.
Wednesday, June 01 2011
I had a dilemma. The dairy goats need an area for "free play" where I can keep an eye on them. I don't want them in the pasture with the sheep because I don't want my milk goat eating poison ivy, poison oak, and other weeds that I don't want to drink. Thus, they can stay in the back yard (and eat my roses!), or the front yard.
From kitchen window
The down side to the front yard is that it borders the street. Problem: They eat goats in Texas. These are friendly goats. These goats would crawl in the car with you and expect to be strapped into the child seat.
"My Mum says I have to ride in a car seat!"
Uhm, Negative GhostRider. No car seats for you!
I have something better than a free ride to the butcher shop. I have a Warrior Dog for you.
Yessiree! A dog! A dog who earns her puppy chow!
A dog who has already informed the mailman . . .
. . . and the neighbor . . .
. . . that goats are not on the menu.
Last week there were two burglaries at the other end of the road. Briar is making sure they don't come to this end of the road.
Good Dog, Briar!